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Isa Soares Tonight

U.S. President Joe Biden Says He Has Decided How He Will Respond To A Deadly Drone Attack In Jordan; Israeli Army Disguised As Civilians Kill 3 Palestinians At A Hospital In Jenin; Nicolas Maduro's Opponent Says She'll Not Give Up Chasing The Venezuelan Presidency; 2024 Venezuela Elections; Following Opposition Candidate's Suspension, U.S. Reinstates Sanctions; Press Briefing Of Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder; Interview With Venezuelan Opposition Presidential Candidate Maria Corina Machado. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired January 30, 2024 - 14:00   ET



ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: A very warm welcome to the show, everyone, I'm Isa Soares. Tonight, U.S. President Joe Biden says he has

decided how he will respond to a deadly drone attack in Jordan. So, how will he deter Iran while avoiding further escalation?

Also ahead, undercover Israeli agent. Some disguise as medical staff carry out a rare and risky raid in the West Bank. Details on what they went after

coming up. And neither Nicolas Maduro nor supreme court ban will deter her. Maria Corina Machado says she will not give up chasing the Venezuelan

presidency, as the U.S. warns Venezuela to let her run. My interview with Venezuela's main opposition leader coming up.

But first, tonight, we still don't know the where, the when or the how? But Joe Biden says he has decided on a response to the deadliest attack on U.S.

forces in the Middle East in years. The U.S. President blames Iranian- backed militias operating in Syria and Iraq for Sunday's drone strike that killed three U.S. soldiers at a remote military outpost.

He essentially has to thread the needle with a response strong enough to deter future similar attacks, but not enough to trigger full-blown regional

war. Mr. Biden is under pressure for -- over pressure, I should say, from Republicans at home too in an election year to hit back hard.

Some saying his policy of deterrence against Iran has quote, "failed miserably". All this taking place, of course, in the context of Israel-U.S.

backed war on Hamas, which is already spread beyond Gaza's borders. (AUDIO GAP: 14:02:17-14:03:17]

STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Into a bigger problem. And then Biden has to consider the political consequences back home, the

Republicans on one side as you said are increasingly calling upon him to be very strong, even to attack Iran. Having said that, his likely 2024

opponent in November, Donald Trump is accusing him of getting the U.S. once again sapped into Middle Eastern wars.

This is an exceedingly potent argument in the United States. Going right back to Barack Obama's victory in 2008, which was largely based on

opposition to the Iraq war. So all of the different pressures bearing down on the president, it's not clear that he can satisfy his political concerns


SOARES: Yes --

COLLINSON: While carrying out his national security responsibilities, which are paramount, and most national security responsibility is very thorny as


SOARES: And let's flash out what we've heard from some of those GOP members. Some of them -- we've got some of their tweets in fact. Some of

them have been saying, first, Lindsey, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham saying "hit Iran now, hit them hard", he tweeted.

We've got all of them actually on screen right now. Then we have Graham Senate colleague, John Cornyn writing also on X, "target Iran". And Senator

Tom Cotton as you see there on your screen, "I've warned for months of President Biden's weakness and unwillingness to respond to Iran's proxy

attacks would result in American deaths."

Now, they have -- and we'll have -- we'll follow, unless we respond with massive retaliation. I mean, how is he -- how does he respond to these

sorts of comments in an election -- and critically in an election year?


COLLINSON: Well, this is the luxury of being a senator when you don't have responsibility for really anything. You can pretty much say what you like

for your own political goals and hammer the president without having to consider, OK, if I strike Iran, what's next? What comes after that and what

comes after that?

The cycle of escalation, the way that Iran can make things very difficult for U.S. interest in the region, and the very real likelihood that a U.S.

strike on the soil of Iran, which is hardly if ever happen in the 40, 50 years of this simmering cold war between the United States and the Islamic

Republic would cause an all-out war.

So, you know, the senators can say that, but Biden has to consider what is the best for United States. We're coming off a two-decade period when the

United States has been embroiled in foreign wars which were expensive and bloody, and which turned the American people against these kind of --

SOARES: Yes --

COLLINSON: Operation. So, that's the political context. And just in terms of the national security area here, the president is trying to deter these

attacks and to protect U.S. troops. But he also has to remember that there are a massive installations --

SOARES: Yes --

COLLINSON: Throughout the Middle East, U.S. installations. The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad for instance, which is vulnerable to attacks from militia

groups. All sorts of other U.S. troop positions around there. So, while, this is likely to be a powerful response, he must also consider the fact

that, you know, in trying to protect U.S. soldiers and forces, that he doesn't make their position even more perilous.

SOARES: Yes, and we saw yesterday on the show, we had a graphic yesterday on the show, just how sprawling the U.S. presence is across the Middle

East. So, it's not just taking into consideration, Stephen, as you're saying -- you were laying out there, that one action.

He also needs to consider how they will respond. That means only yesterday in the show as this was happening, the press briefing that we heard from

Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, he said, "I would argue that we have not seen a situation as dangerous as the one we're facing now across the

region, since at least 1973, and arguably even before that." What is the mood within the Democratic Party? Are there any divisions here?

COLLINSON: Yes, there certainly are. There are those who are of a more sort of national security outlook, who understand that the president needs to

take steps here to protect American troops, but is under exceedingly difficult political pressure inside his party. He cannot really go to a

campaign event without being interrupted by pro-Palestinian --

SOARES: Yes --

COLLINSON: Demonstrators, calling for a ceasefire, calling him "Genocide Joe". These are divisions which are inside the Democratic Party especially

among younger voters, Arab-American voters in the key swing state of Michigan, which could really hurt Biden coming towards the general election

in November.

Both on the national security front and on the domestic political front. The administration really needs this war in Gaza to end as quickly as

possible. Even though there's no sign that the --

SOARES: Yes --

COLLINSON: Israeli government is particularly listening to the administration anymore. If the war could end, that might take down the

temperatures in the region that might make it a little bit less dangerous to be an American service stationed in Syria or Iraq for instance.

It would take away the justification, if you like, for some of these groups to attack U.S. forces, domestically that might sort of ease the concerns

among many Democrats. So the president's coalition, which he used to beat Trump and would really -- relies on minority voters, younger voters, and

getting progressives who are already fairly suspicious of Biden, a centrist to the polls, back there in November to beat Donald Trump. So he has -- the

president has very difficult political and --

SOARES: Yes --

COLLINSON: International security considerations as he makes this decision about where to strike back.

SOARES: Very fine balancing act indeed. Stephen Collinson, always appreciate your analysis. Thank you, Stephen, good to see you --


SOARES: Well, let's get a military perspective from retired U.S. Army Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt. General, thank you very much for joining



SOARES: You heard the president today, I'm sure you heard him say today that he made up his mind about how he's going to respond. How do you think?

What do you think that response will look like? What options do you think he will be offered here?

KIMMITT: Yes, well, first of all, I certainly hope the options are not as your previous speaker said, politically-motivated. Winston Churchill once

said it's hard to lead from the front when you have your ear to the ground. And this is one of those periods of time where President Biden should not

worry about his second term, like Lyndon Johnson in 1968, who said I'm not going to run for president again during the height of Vietnam war.

This is such a significant situation that trying to focus his decisions on the security of America and the security of our allies on his chances to

get re-elected.


That's not the Joe Biden that I know -- and I've known for many years. And it's certainly not somebody that I want to be the president of the United

States. This has to be about security, and it has to be in the best interest of the United States and its allies. So at this point, I think the

decisions are leaning far more towards the middle ground, which again is a President Biden characteristic.

Probably not a direct hard strike on the geography of Iran., perhaps in small strikes against some of their fast boats in the gulf. But more than

likely, the primary kinetic option is going to be focused on those elements, probably in Iraq, probably Iranian-backed PMS, probably senior

leaders that were responsible to the attack, which are probably in the crosshairs right now.

SOARES: So when Secretary Blinken said on Monday that the U.S.' response, he said would be multi-leveled, I think he said, come in --


SOARES: Stages as sustained over time. Just break that down. What does that actually mean?

KIMMITT: Well, I think coming from the Secretary of State who doesn't have any military experience, I think that was -- I don't know either

intentionally or unintentionally confusing. That sounds like what you do with the Houthis, it's not what it sounds like a campaign to respond in a

punitive way towards the attack and deaths against the number of American troops.

What it may mean is that they're not going to own these military, but some sort of diplomatic messaging to Iran to try to break ranks with the PMS and

the proxy groups, possibly cyber operations, probably some more economic operations. So I think it may be a comprehensive approach, but may -- many-

layered and over time, that's just confusing talk that I don't think a military officer would understand.

SOARES: Right, so economic sanctions could also be part of this, you think?

KIMMITT: Yes, but we've used that kind of sanctions for years, they have not been effective against Iran.

SOARES: Yes --

KIMMITT: I think we're running economic sanction targets, so limited value there.

SOARES: And you would have heard our conversation that we had with Stephen Collinson where he was giving us a taste of what we heard from some

Republicans who clearly voiced their opinions on wanting to strike, saying that Biden should strike, President Biden should strike inside Iran. Is

that even a serious proposal in your own opinion?

KIMMITT: Oh, it certainly is, and if it was Tom Cotton or John Cornyn and others that were present, they would use that option. But you see, as he

probably said, number one, they're not in charge. Number two, they can bark from the sidelines, but they don't bear the responsibility or the


So Tom Cotton has got a brilliant military career, but on this case, this is fairly typical of his view that harder is better, much like John Bolton

and much like Lindsey Graham believed that this will continue for years until we have a hard strike against Iran, possibly a regime change.

And candidly, the record of the Americans in the past 20 years on a regime change, that's not all that admirable.

SOARES: And one of the concerns, General, and you can correct me if I'm wrong is how to calibrate this response, right? U.S. has a sprawling

military presence across the Middle East. What conversations would they be having right now with allies about this response?

KIMMITT: Oh, I think that's exactly what they're doing, is they're having conversations with all their allies -- no way we are going to be conducting

an operation at this level without consulting with our allies and letting them know it's coming.

And for that matter, we're also going to be talking to all those military, diplomatic and commercial bases that we have throughout the Middle East to

make sure they're aware and have a heightened sense, of course, for protection at this time.

But this is not the time for the United States or its allies to be hunkering down to worry about the consequences of what's coming next. The

most important thing is that President Biden, those are his constitutional responsibility, conducts whatever necessary actions are in his judgment

appropriate and legitimate in terms of responding to the death of the American troops.

I would note, however, that I think many people are making somewhat too big of a deal out of the tragic and sorrowful deaths of three American soldiers

at the hands of some Iranian-backed proxies. We in Iraq, you had three or four per week that were killed directly by supposed foreign penetrators

provided to the Iranian, to the Iraqi proxy groups by Iran. So I think we've got to keep this in perspective, we've been doing this for years and


SOARES: Yes --


KIMMITT: And there are going to be a lot of people in America that don't see this as the cause belli to go nation on nation against Iran.

SOARES: General, really appreciate your insight here, thank you very much for joining us this evening. Thank you.

KIMMITT: Thank you. All right --

SOARES: Well, an absolutely stunning scene at a hospital in the West Bank undercover, really, special forces disguised as medical staff and civilians

entered the facility in Jenin and killed three Palestinian men. Israel says they were terrorists linked to Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Hamas says the men

were part of an umbrella group of Palestinian fighters, there were no other casualties reported.

We'll have much more on this story a bit later in the show in about 20 minutes or so. And still to come tonight, Venezuela's leading opposition

candidate says she's pressing on with her campaign to unseat President Nicolas Maduro, even though she's banned from running.

She'll join us here on CNN after a very short break. Plus, farmers in France and across Europe have boarded their tractors and taken to the

streets. We'll discuss what's behind all the anger next.


SOARES: Welcome back, everyone. A new proposal for a potential pause in fighting in Gaza and the release of hostages is being presented to Hamas.

It is a melting of different proposals from Hamas itself, Israel, Qatar and Egypt. The United States has weighed in to the new framework for a possible

truce came out of international meetings in parity, if you remember, over the weekend. And here's what the Qatari Prime Minister had to say before

the proposal was sent to Hamas.


MOHAMMED BIN ABDULRAHMAN AL THANI, PRIME MINISTER, QATAR: We have -- I think yesterday was good progress made to get things back in shape, and to

at least today, a foundation, for the way forward. We cannot say that this will make us, you know, in better shape very soon, but we are hoping

actually to relay this proposal to Hamas, and to get them to a place where they engage positively and constructively in the process.


SOARES: Well, for more details on the truce proposal, we now turn to CNN's chief national security correspondent, Alex Marquardt.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Isa, I think we need to be careful about calling this a framework as opposed to an

agreement. Every source we speak to, every official we hear from cautions that this is not yet a done deal.


That there are still details that needs to be worked out to get an agreement across the finish line. But it is clear that momentum is

building, that progress has been made, and that there is optimism that a deal can be struck. There was this meeting in Paris over the weekend on

Sunday with the CIA Director Bill Burns, his Egyptian and Israeli counterparts as well as the Qatari Prime Minister.

The Qatari Prime Minister then coming here to Washington and talking about a broader framework that they made progress on. And a source familiar with

the discussions described it to me like this, that there would be an initial phase of a pause in the fighting, a truce that would last around 6

weeks and see the civilian hostages who were being held by Hamas and other groups released at the same time.

Three prisoners for every hostage would be released by Israel. Israel holding thousands of Palestinian prisoners. And then, the deal would move

on to more phases where the IDF soldiers, the men and the women and the bodies of hostages who have been killed would also be released.

And there would be more Palestinian prisoners that would be released by Israeli officials. But that's where it could get a little bit complicated,

the expectation is that, then Hamas would ask for a higher ratio, more Palestinian prisoners to be released for every Israeli hostage.

Now, there are a lot of complicating factors that is just about the hostages and the Palestinian prisoners. There are also questions about

whether IDF soldiers would remain in the Gaza Strip. There are questions about security in the Gaza Strip, the future of governance of Palestinians.

But the major sticking point, Isa, appears to be right now that Hamas is demanding a comprehensive deal that would end the war while Israel is not

committing to ending the war, they say they still have a lot to do in terms of complete victory over Hamas as they've said, eradicating Hamas as

they've stated their goal to be.

But I did ask Secretary of State Antony Blinken about how he feels about this broad framework that is on the table. He told me that it is a strong

and compelling proposal, and there's some real hope going forward. So there's optimism, but again, this is not yet a done deal. Isa.

SOARES: Thanks very much to Alex Marquardt there. Well, back now to what the Palestinian Health Minister in the West Bank calls a war crime. Israeli

special forces who were dressed as Palestinians infiltrated a hospital in Jenin today, killing three men affiliated with militant groups. The

hospital says they were shot at close range in their beds as they slept. Our Jeremy Diamond joins me now from Tel-Aviv. So Jeremy, what more can you

tell us happened here?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is simply a remarkable video that we are able to see of about a dozen Israeli operatives inside a

hospital in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin. And what's particularly remarkable is the fact that many of them are disguised in either civilian

clothes or in a couple of cases in disguises for medical personnel.

There's one person wearing a lab coat, a doctors lab coat, another person wearing what appears to be medical scrubs. And that's raising major

questions among international legal experts who say that disguising forces, disguising themselves as civilians, as medical personnel could potentially

be a violation of international law by deceiving and using the protections that those individuals are typically afforded.

Now, we're actually learning more about who exactly these soldiers, these operatives, I should say were there with the Yamam Unit, which is part of

Israel's border police. So these were not actually Israeli soldiers, but rather operatives with Israel's border police.

And the chief of staff of the Israeli military actually said that the soldiers entered the Yamam Unit, and that Israel is determined to ensure

that terrorists, as he says, are not allowed to use hospitals, whether in Gaza, in the West Bank and Lebanon above-ground or in tunnel shafts for

those to become places that he says would be quote, "cover for terrorism". But major questions being asked about the tactics of the --

SOARES: Yes --

DIAMOND: Israeli operatives who went into this hospital today, Isa.

SOARES: And on that, on those tactics, Jeremy, what is the -- Israel -- what is Israel saying to that -- to that response?

DIAMOND: Well, as of now, you know, the Israeli military, the Israeli government always maintains that they are maintaining international law.

They say that they are allowed to enter this hospital because they say that these operatives were planning attacks. In fact, a statement from the

Israeli military earlier today asserted that these -- that one of these operatives, I should say, was actually, actively planning an imminent



I want to show you our report just now, Isa.



DIAMOND (voice-over): Israeli forces disguised as civilians and medical staff storming a hospital in the occupied West Bank, weapons drawn as they

move through the hospital corridor, one man is temporarily detained, shouts of army ring out through the hospital corridor. Several are wearing hijabs.

Two of the operatives could even be mistaken for new parents, baby carrier in tow. A dozen Israeli forces infiltrated the Ibn Sina Hospital in the

occupied West Bank city of Jenin, killing three Palestinian militants affiliated with Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The Israeli military claiming this man, Mohammed Jilamna(ph) planned to carry out a terrorist attack in the immediate future without providing any

details. In a statement, the Israeli military said for a long time wanted suspects have been hiding in hospitals and using them as a base for

planning terrorist activities and carrying out terror attacks, while they assume that the exploitation of hospitals will serve as protection against

counter-terrorism activities of Israeli security forces.

Legal experts say the Israeli commandos may have violated international law by disguising themselves as civilians and medical personnel. One of the men

targeted, Basil Al Hazawi(ph) was being treated for injuries from a rocket explosion. The hospital said he was sleeping in his bed when he was killed.

He and his brother Mohammed(ph) also killed by Israeli commandos in the same hospital room were affiliated with Islamic Jihad. The Israeli military

said, one of the men carried this gun, but did not say their troops had been fired upon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They killed the three youths, Basil and Mohammed Al Hazawi(ph) and Mohammed Jilamna(ph) in their room while they were sleeping

on their beds in the room. They killed them in cold blood with direct gunshots to the head.

DIAMOND: Fierce battles later broke out in Jenin, where the Israeli military has been cracking down on Palestinian militant groups, killing at

least 381 Palestinians in the West Bank since Hamas' October 7th attacks, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.


SOARES: And our thanks to Jeremy Diamond for that report. We're going to take a short break, we'll be back after this.



SOARES: Welcome back, everyone. The United States is reimposing some sanctions of Venezuela. A slew of sanctions were lifted last year as

President Nicolas Maduro said he'd welcome free and fair presidential elections this year. On Friday though, Venezuela's top court upheld a ban

on the main opposition candidate, casting doubt on that promise coming true.

CNN's Stefano Pozzebon now reports.


STEFANO POZZEBON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It seemed a rare victory for diplomacy in a year of conflict. October last year, the Venezuelan

government and the opposition signing a deal that opened the door to a peaceful transition and brought hopes of an end to years of political

crisis in the South American country. Authoritarian leader, Nicolas Maduro, pledging to release political prisoners and allow free and fair elections.

In the United States, assisting the opposition, offering to lift the sanctions in exchange for a return to democracy.

Five days later, an opposition primary with more than 2 million votes selected Maria Corina Machado to challenge Maduro for the presidency as a

unitary candidate. Then in December, a prisoner swap brought home 10 U.S. citizens detained in Venezuela in exchange for a closed ally and alleged

personal financier of Maduro himself.

National Security Adviser Juan Gonzalez, showing cautious optimism that Venezuela could finally turn on the page.

JUAN GONZALEZ, DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY, BUREAU OF WESTERN HEMISPHERE AFFAIRS (through translator): Part of the deal was releasing U.S. prisoners

and Venezuelan political prisoners. They are respecting the deal and doing even more. We know this is a long process, but we are committed step by

step with democracy in Venezuela.

POZZEBON (voice-over): But with the new year, things started to sour.

NICOLAS MADURO, VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Nothing will stop me. I will keep campaigning and protecting the people and just so it

hurts them the most. I will keep ruling this country.

POZZEBON (voice-over): Until Friday, when the Supreme Court stacked with government allies ruled that Machado is banned from holding public office

on corruption charges. Machado denies the charges as well as accusations that she conspired to forcefully remove Maduro from power. Instead, she

accuses Maduro of breaking his word and called on the support of the International Community.

Republicans in the U.S. urging President Biden to restore the sanctions lifted last year, including oil sanctions which could impact gas prices

back home. And the White House, on Monday, saying Maduro still has until spring to commit to what he pledged in October.

With both Venezuela and the United States are set to go to the polls this fall, one presidential campaign already leaking (ph) onto the other.

Stefano Pozzebon, CNN, Bogota.


SOARES: And I'll be speaking to Maria Corina Machado in just a moment, who'll be joining us from Caracas.

But first, I want to go to the Pentagon because we've got press conference on the way right now. Let's listen in.

MAJ. GEN. PAT RYDER, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: To launched to a regional medical center in Germany. One of whom is reported to be in critical but

stable condition. The other two service members are in fair and stable condition. After further examination by Landstuhl Trauma Team, a

determination will be made by medical staff whether any of these injured service members will require transfer back to the U.S. for further


In terms of additional details about the drone attack itself, we know there are still many questions, to include how the one-way attack drone could

have penetrated the facility's air defenses, its point of origin, and which specific Iranian proxy group is responsible. I can tell you that U.S.

Central Command is continuing to look into all those important questions, and that we'll keep you updated as new information becomes available as we

are able to.

What we do know is that Iran-backed militias are responsible for these continued attacks on U.S. forces and that we will respond at a time and

manner of our choosing.


While we do not seek to escalate tensions in the region, we will also take all necessary actions to protect our troops, our facilities, and our


Shifting gears, yesterday, the U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic, Bijan Sabet, and Czech Defense Minister Jana Cernochova signed a contract for the

purchase of 24 F-35 fighter aircraft. The acquisition of these F-35s will increase the combat capability of the Czech military and strengthen NATO

and the bilateral security of Czechia and the United States. With this signing, the Czech Republic joins 18 countries, including 10 in Europe,

that employ the F-35. As you know, all foreign military sales are coordinated through the U.S. State Department, so I would refer you to my

colleagues at State for more information.

And finally, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Western Hemisphere Affairs Dr. Daniel Erikson hosted the prime minister of Trinidad and

Tobago, Dr. Keith Rowley, at the Pentagon yesterday. Performing the duties of deputy under secretary of defense for policy, Melissa Dalton also joined

the meeting to emphasize the department's strong support of the U.S. defense partnership with Trinidad and Tobago.

DOD leaders expressed appreciation for Trinidad and Tobago's leadership in the Caribbean community and in cohosting the upcoming Caribbean Nations

Security Conference alongside U.S. Southern Command in November of 2024.

They further commended the robust partnership between the Trinidad and Tobago Defense Force and Delaware National Guard, which celebrates its 20th

anniversary this year, through the State Partnership Program. The senior officials exchanged views on illicit trafficking, maritime security,

defense force modernization and training, cybersecurity and frameworks to facilitate expanded bilateral security cooperation.

The meeting also reaffirmed the U.S. and DOD's commitment to partnership with Trinidad and Tobago and to working together to improve Caribbean

regional security and resilience.

With that, I'd be happy to take your questions. We'll go to AP, Tara Copp.

TARA COPP, ASSOCIATED PRESS PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, General Ryder. Has Secretary Austin provided the President response options at this point

or is the building still looking at the best way to deter future strikes? And I have a few -- couple others.

RYDER: Yes. Thanks, Tara. So, I'm not going to get into the specific conversations that the Secretary's had with the President. As I've

highlighted, we will respond in a time and manner of our choosing.

COPP: Is the building still evaluating options on how best to respond at this point?

RYDER: I'm not going to get into the specifics as it relates to potential future operations, other than, again to reiterate that we will respond in a

time and manner of our choosing.

COPP: Well, then --

RYDER: John.

COPP: -- let's take it in another way. You said from the podium, the U.S. does not seek to widen this war, but how do you deter Iran, which has

clearly supplied and endorsed some of these attacks from -- keeping from doing this again and leading to another proxy attack on U.S. forces?

RYDER: Yes. So, again, as a reminder, our forces are in Iraq and Syria and in the region supporting the lasting defeat of ISIS. That's the mission

that we've been focused on. When we need to, we will protect our forces. Again, I'm not going to get into telegraphing or discussing potential

future operations, other than to say again we will respond in a time and manner of our choosing.


JENNIFER: General Ryder, have you attributed to Kata'ib Hezbollah or any other group who was responsible for this drone strike?

RYDER: So, Jennifer, Central Command is still assessing, but again, we are confident that these -- this attack was sponsored by Iranian-backed


JENNIFER: So Kata'ib Hezbollah has just put out a message on Telegram suggesting that -- telling its fighters not to attack U.S. bases in Iraq

and Syria, suggesting that they will support the fight in Gaza in other ways and suggesting that, even if the U.S. strikes them, not to respond.

What is your response to that?

RYDER: Yes, we've seen those reports. I don't have a specific comment to provide, other than actions speak louder than words. Thanks.


LARA: Thank you. A couple questions. First of all, can you speak a little bit about the drones that are based at Tower 22 in Al-Tanf? We saw some --

we had some reporting yesterday that the -- there was some confusion over whether the drone coming into the base was friendly or -- was friend or

foe. And I know that these -- most of these drones should have IFF software allowing them to distinguish between the two. So, I'm just wondering if you

could tell me whether those drones do have that software?

RYDER: Yes. Thanks, Lara. So -- so no, I'm not going to get into the specifics on the kind of capabilities as it relates to intelligence,

surveillance, reconnaissance capabilities that we have.

In terms of the reasons behind how this one-way attack drone was able to penetrate the facility's air defenses, that's something that Central

Command is looking at now. And I'm just not going to get in -- be able to get into the specifics of that.


LARA: The second question then, actually on a different topic, but there was a -- another report today saying that the U.S. is open to reopening

discussions with Turkey to let them buy F-35s. I was wondering if you can speak on that from the DOD's perspective? Are you aware of those


RYDER: I've seen the comments by our State Department colleagues on that. I'd refer you to State to discuss. As you know, right now, with Turkey

maintaining the S-400, that is currently not something that is on the table, but I'd refer you to State.

Let me go to Missy.

MISSY: Just a couple questions, Pat. Thank you. I -- is there any update on whether Secretary Austin will come and talk to us sometime soon? First


RYDER: Again, I don't have a date to announce. Certainly aware of the request and we'll keep you updated.

MISSY: OK. And on Jordan, can you just clarify is -- are -- the troops in Jordan at Tower 22 and other bases, are they under OIR authority or are

they -- they're under some other authority? Can you specify that? And is it right that there are about 3,000 troops in Jordan?

RYDER: Missy, I'll have to come back to you on the total number of U.S. forces deployed to Jordan. So, we'll take that question.

The forces that were -- you know, that -- the three soldiers that were killed, again, as we have highlighted, they were there in support of

Operation Inherent Resolve, supporting the Defeat ISIS mission.

MISSY: That means that they're under OIR authority at Tower 22?

RYDER: Operating in support of OIR.

MISSY: OK. So, does that mean they report to the commander of OIR?

RYDER: It's -- I mean -- and I'm not -- don't want to get into the chain of command process here but if they're there supporting OIR, then certainly

OIR Commander can request assistance from those forces. So --

MISSY: OK. And then the last question -- and I think we asked Sabrina this yesterday but I -- I think it was maybe something that you guys were still

looking at -- just wanted to ask if there had been any new information about any steps that may be taken to protect American forces in the region,

like in terms of air defense or new steps to make sure that something like this doesn't happen again?

RYDER: Yes. So, you know, for operation security reasons, I'm not going to be able to go into specifics, other than to say that U.S. Central Command

of course is taking this very seriously and that we will take necessary measures and steps to ensure that our forces are protected, recognizing as

well that this is a dangerous neighborhood, but again -- yes, to answer your question, we will take steps to ensure that our forces are protected.

Let me go to Will.

WILL: Two questions. First, Qatar's Prime Minister expressed some concerns yesterday that the U.S. response to the Jordan attack could potentially

affect the negotiations over a new hostage deal. Is that part of the Pentagon's calculus in determining a U.S. response to this?

RYDER: Will, I don't have anything specifically on that, other than to say again, you know, as part of any decision-making process, we take a wide

range of considerations into account -- again -- to include what our broader regional goals are, which from the very beginning has been to

prevent the situation in Israel and Gaza from, you know, expanding into a broader conflict. I'll just leave it there.

WILL: Second, it's been two days since the attack in Jordan. Is there a concern that this -- the -- that delay in -- in a -- in responding could

give these groups time to prepare to, you know, disperse from likely targets, et cetera?

RYDER: So, Will, what I -- you know, again, I'm not going to get into any details of what -- about what a potential future operation could look like.

You've heard both the President and Secretary Austin say that we --

SOARES: You have been listening that to the Pentagon Pence -- press secretary giving us an update, really, on that attack on those three U.S.

soldiers that were killed, if you remember, in Jordan. They -- the press secretary, Major General Pat Ryder, said that CENTCOM is looking into all

aspects of this drone attack, which proxy group is responsible. Had the drone, as well, he was asked several times, was able to pierce their

security in Jordan, that Tower 22.

He did say that Iran-backed militias are responsible. And he said, as we have heard time and time again, the last two days that we will respond in a

time and a manner of our choosing. Adding, that we do not seek to escalate tensions. But he added that sent -- from CENTCOM is confident the attack

was sponsored by Iranian-backed proxies.

We'll stay across what we hear, of course, from The Pentagon press secretary. If there any major headlines, of course, we will bring that to

you. We're going to take a short break. Be back after this.



SOARES: Welcome back, everyone. As I was telling you in the last 10 minutes or so before we went to that press conference, Venezuela's top court on

Friday, if you remember, upheld a ban on the main opposition candidate, Maria Corina Machado.

Maria Corina Machado joins me now. Welcome to the show. Thank you for bearing with us. I wonder now what your move is going to be after the

Venezuelan Supreme Court blocked you from running. Where does this lead you?

MARIA CORINA MACHADO, VENEZUELAN OPPOSITION PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, thank you very much, Isa. As you all know, we had a wonderful primary

process with up -- almost 3 million Venezuelans last October. And they gave me a mandate over 92 percent of those who participated voted for me, and

the mandate is to lead all our courses to free and fair elections in which I will compete and defeat Nicolas Maduro.

We knew that this route was going to be full of obstacles, because Nicolas Maduro knows that running against me means he will lose those elections.

But Venezuela has been changing. He has lost total support of the base. The Tavista (ph) Movement once had, over 80 percent of the population rejects

the regime and wants change.

And now we are receiving more and more and more support of international allies, pushing for free and fair elections. So, we have time in front of

us that we need to use to build as much citizens, friends and organization to reach a point in which Maduro will have to accept that he will have to

face me.

SOARES: But Maria Corina Machado, just explain. I mean, I spoke to you last time I was in Venezuela. This is a fight that you have been battling for

some time. And I just think it's important to clarify here. You are not stepping aside despite the rule from the courts. And are you considering,

at this stage, a substitute candidate at all or is that out of the picture?


MACHADO: Absolutely out of the picture, because this is not a judicial decision, this is a political decision. And that's why a negotiation is

going on right now. So, it is not Nicolas Maduro the one who is going to handpick his -- the candidate of the opposition. It's the Venezuelan people

who already did that in the primary process.

SOARES: You would have seen as well today that the U.S. government has reimposed sanctions on Venezuelan state-owned mining company, but has

stopped short off going after oil and gas sector. I just want to play what we heard from John Kirby. Have a listen to this.



that kind of thing that we could take. They've got till April. They need to make the right decisions here and allow opposition members to run for

office and release the political prisoners that they're holding right now.


SOARES: Should the U.S. be waiting until then? Should they trust Nicolas Maduro here?

MACHADO: Well, I think the message is loud and clear. If they don't accept that the Venezuelan people already decided who their candidate is and

accept that I will run against Nicolas Maduro, then the licenses will not be extended. That's the message.

The fact is that Nicolas Maduro signed an agreement in October. He has violated his commitment. The other part, we have complied with everything

that we committed to do. So, it's in the field of the regime. If you want this process to continue.

SOARES: Only last week, though, you would have seen this. President Maduro said -- speaking to public, that nothing is going to stop me -- this is

what he said, his quote, and to make them burn -- talking about Americans, I'm going to continue governing.

So, if Venezuela is unable and to hold free and fair elections, what impact -- just explain to our viewers around the world. What impact, do you think,

this will have not just on Venezuela but also on migration where a large percentage of those arriving in the United States, Maria Corinna Machado,

come from Venezuela?

MACHADO: That's the main issue, Isa. Already one fourth of our population have been forced to leave our country for humanitarian and political

reasons. The only way people will stop fleeing is that they see a future in their country. And that is only possible if we defeat Nicolas Maduro.

So, if Maduro, you know, doesn't allow or blocks this route. that would mean that over 2 or 3 million Venezuelans could leave our country in a

couple of years, and that would be devastating for the whole region. But on the other hand, is that the energy crisis, Venezuela can be the energy hub

of the Americas. But that has to do in a serious, an open government such as the one we will put in place.

SOARES: And just -- in the last few minutes, we've heard from the vice president of Venezuela, who said that Venezuela is going to reject migrant

flights if U.S. intensifies economic aggression. So, clearly, Venezuela is saying to the United States right now, if you impose -- reimpose sanctions

on us, those migrant flights will not be happening. Your reaction?

MACHADO: Well, you can imagine that it breaks my heart to see our people being used in such a hard and unlawful way. I want Venezuelans to come back

to our country and to come back freely to our country because they have future in our land.

So, this is a critical moment, Isa. I think the eyes of the world should be put in Venezuela. We have a real opportunity to go to a specific transition

through fair -- free and fair elections. Nicolas Maduro should comply with the agreement he signed. And I heard that all international actors,

including those governments that are clear, that are closer for ideological reasons to Maduro need to understand that it is the best option for all,

including Maduro. The best option for Maduro is to sit and negotiate with me, a peaceful transition for our country.

SOARES: Do you think he will though? Do you think he will sit down and negotiate with you? Because so far, he has made that clear, he has showed

no will and willingness to negotiate.


MACHADO: Certainly, he has said that, but things are changing rapidly in Venezuela. And it will have to do at the end with the relative forces of

each -- on each side. Every day that goes by, we have more and more strength. More and more people are coming from the Tavista (ph) side,

joining us because they know they have no future, in that -- with that destiny.

So, I do think that this is a time to the International Community to -- raise their voices and understand this is a true chance and that we have to

protect it.

SOARES: Maria Corina Machado, always great to speak to you. Hopefully next time we'll speak in person if I get to Venezuela. Lovely to see you. Thanks

very much.

MACHADO: Me too. Thank you very much, Isa. Bye-bye.


And finally, tonight, every night, we end the show with a quote of the day. Today, I am dedicating the slot to my friend and colleague and mentor,

Richard Quest, who is celebrating 15 years of hosting this show, his own show, which I was part of right from the beginning, "Quest Means Business."

So, today, we'll end with a saying from the man himself, the news never stops, and neither do we. "Quest Means Business" is up next. Richard and

"Quest Means Business" happy birthday from IST.