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One World with Zain Asher

Two Deadly Explosions In Iran Kill More Than 100 People; The Killing Of A Top Hamas Leader In Lebanon Raises Fears Of A Potential Escalation In Terms Of Fighting In The Region; Japan Airlines Flight Crew Manage To Evacuate Over 300 Passengers From A Burning Plane In 90 Seconds; U.S. House Republicans Set To Visit The U.S. Southern Border Amid The Migrant Crisis; U.S. Senator Bob Menendez Faces A New Charges Involving Qatar; The Search Is On For A New President Of Harvard University; Senior Hamas Member Saleh al-Arouri Killed In An Apparent Drone Strike In Beirut; Chinese Student Rescued From Cyber Kidnapping; Like Littler Makes His Debut In This Year's World Dart Championship. Aired 12-1p ET

Aired January 03, 2024 - 12:00:00   ET




ZAIN ASHER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, coming to you live from New York, I'm Zain Asher. My colleague, Bianna Golodryga is off today. You are indeed

watching ONE WORLD. We want to begin here with two deadly explosions in Iran that have killed more than 100 people. And we're hearing right now the

death toll could indeed rise.

State television in Iran is saying that the blasts erupted near the tomb of the Iranian military commander, Qasem Soleimani. That is one of Iran's most

influential, most senior military leaders who died about four years ago. People had gathered at his grave to pay their respects on the anniversary

of his death. Soleimani was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Iraq four years ago today.

So far, though, there has been no claim at this point in time in terms of any group claim responsibility. But it is important to note that today's

explosions come at a time of rising tensions throughout the Middle East. I want to bring in CNN's Nada Bashir who's been following this story from

Beirut. Nada, what more do we know so far?

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: This is certainly a developing story and we are just getting more details around the incident that took place a little

earlier today. As you mentioned, twin blasts, the first said to have taken place at around 3 P.M. local time.

According to state media, a bomb was placed in a suitcase in a car about 700 meters away from the burial site of Iranian military commander Qasem

Soleimani. A second blast said to have gone off about a kilometer away from that site about 20 minutes later.

Now, of course, important to note, as you mentioned, this was the day of the anniversary -- four years since Qasem Soleimani was killed at U.S.

Stripon Baghdad International Airport as ordered by then-U.S. President Donald Trump. There would have been, as we have seen in video, hundreds of

pilgrims gathering to pay their respects to Qasem Soleimani, visiting his burial site.

We have heard from Iran's interior minister, who spoke to the state broadcaster just a little earlier today, he said that majority of those

killed and as we understand it at least 103 people have been killed according to state media, so far. The majority said to have been killed in

that second blast as they were running to assess the situation around the first explosion and to provide help.

And of course we have seen that dramatic video of crowds running away from the site of emergency services gathering around there to provide support to

those injured. At least 188 people said to have been injured, so far. Some of them said to be in a critical condition and rushed to nearby hospitals.

Of course, we are still waiting for more details around the possible motive behind what is being described by officials on the ground as cited by state

media as a terrorist attack. No clarity on who may be behind this or what that potential motive may have been. But of course, authorities now are

declaring a national day of mourning tomorrow in response to this attack.

We have also been listening to the Secretary General of the Iran-backed group in Lebanon, Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, currently speaking. He

addressed this briefly at the beginning of his speech, which was scheduled to mark the four-year anniversary of Qasem Soleimani's death. He mentioned

this briefly at the beginning, expressing his condolences to the men, women and children, he said, were targeted and martyred today in this attack.

And, of course, there are mounting concerns over the repercussions and the ripple effect this may have across the region with regards perhaps to what

was behind this attack. Again, still waiting for further details on that, but certainly, a point of concern in raising alarm bells more generally as

we see those tensions escalating across the region, particularly with regards to groups that are back to or allied to Iran.

ASHER: All right, Nada Bashir, live for us there. Thank you so much. And in addition to the twin blasts in Iran that Nada was just talking about,

the killing of a top Hamas leader in Lebanon is also raising fears of a potential escalation in terms of fighting in the region, as well. Saleh al-

Arouri -- this man you see on your screen, is a founding member of the Hamas military wing.

He was killed in an apparent drone strike in Beirut on Tuesday. Israel has long accused him of orchestrating attacks on Israeli citizens, but worth

noting that at this point in time, Israel still is not claiming responsibility for his death, but a U.S. official has been telling us that

Israel did indeed carry out this deadly strike on him.

Lebanon's Prime Minister is also pointing the finger squarely at the IDF, as well.


And this is what the senior adviser to the Israeli Prime Minister had to say in a televised interview. Take a listen.


MARK REGEV, SENIOR ADVISER TO ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Israel has not taken responsibility for this attack, but whoever did it, it

must be clear that this was not an attack on the Lebanese state, it was not an attack even on Hezbollah, the terrorist organization. Whoever did this

did a surgical strike against the Hamas leadership.


ASHER: I want to bring in CNN's Jeremy Diamond live for us from Tel Aviv. A really interesting characterization by Mark Regev. As I mentioned, Israel

not claiming responsibility technically but worth noting that this is somebody who has been in Israel's sites for quite some time. What more can

you tell us Jeremy?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah the most important part of what you heard there from Mark Regev was not the, you know, refusal to take

responsibility or to say who is responsible but rather the message to the Lebanese people talking about the fact that this was a surgical strike.

While he wasn't saying that Israel was responsible, he was clearly trying to say that this was a targeted action at one of Hamas' top leaders.

And we have heard a range of veiled comments today from other Israeli officials, as well. Danny Danon, the former Israeli Ambassador to the

United Nations, a member of the Knesset, today saying -- congratulating the Israel Defense Forces, the Shin Bet, the Mossad, the security services of

the country for carrying out this attack, saying that everyone who was involved in the October 7th massacre needs to know that we will get to you

and close the account.

We also heard comments today from David Barnea, the head of the Masad, as he was delivering remarks at the funeral of a former head of the Masad,

saying that the Masad is, quote, obliged to settle accounts with those responsible for carrying out and planning the October 7th attacks and also

making clear that it will take time.

But our hand will get them wherever they are, clearly indicating that Israel's intelligence service abroad is prepared to continue to carry out

the same types of targeted attacks, assassinations and strikes to take out those who were responsible for the October 7th attacks.

We know of course that Israel's political leadership in the past has also indicated that it would go after top Hamas officials wherever they are

including outside of the country. But now of course, the question is the broader political implications of this for the region.

We have seen in the 24-hour since this attack occurred, taking out the deputy political leader for Hamas as there have been questions about

whether or not this will lead to a broader escalation. There have been those questions of course for months now since the beginning of this war.

There have been some skirmishes across the Lebanese-Israeli border between Hezbollah and the Israeli military.

So far, there is no indication that there is an uptick in those skirmishes. But it is certainly a subject of concern and this is potentially something

that could be viewed as a red line by Hezbollah's senior leadership. So far, though again, no clear uptick in escalation across that border, but

certainly eyes here in Israel, as well as in Washington are watching this very, very closely.

ASHER: All right, Jeremy Diamond life for us there. Thank you so much. Right. We are learning more details about how the crew of the Japan

Airlines flight managed to evacuate over 300 passengers from a burning plane in a little over a minute.

The airliner burst into flames after colliding with a Coast Guard plane upon landing, and not only did the crew manage to get everybody off the

plane safely in 90 seconds, they did it without the in-flight communication system. They used a megaphone instead. Here's our Will Ripley with more.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A Japan Airlines jet touches down in Tokyo, the cabin calm until passengers look

out the windows.

SATOSHI YAMAKE, JAPAN AIRLINES PASSENGER (through translator): We saw fire coming out of the engines and I found it strange, Satoshi Yamake tells CNN.

Within seconds, black smoke billowing through the aircraft. The Airbus A350-900 packed with nearly 400 passengers and crew, including parents with

young children.

He says some passengers were scared, especially the kids and women. The scene outside, even scarier. People on other planes captured the chaos.

GUY MAESTRE, EYEWITNESS: And just as we were starting to reduce speed, we heard that big bang and I turned and I saw that flame that was making a

trace. And then we saw the plane that was inflamed.

RIPLEY (voice-over): The runways full for a Tuesday evening. Haneda Airport in the heart of Tokyo, handling extra holiday traffic, and a Japan

Coast Guard plane with six crew members, carrying badly needed relief to parts of Japan jolted by a massive 7.5 magnitude earthquake.

The quake causing widespread destruction, dozens of deaths just hours into the New Year.


Japan's Transportation Minister says the two planes collided on the runway. The Coast Guard captain badly hurt. Five other crew members killed. A very

different outcome for the Japan Airlines jet. With just seconds to spare, 12 crew members safely evacuated all 367 passengers, including eight

children under the age of two. Only a handful had to go to the hospital. Everyone walked away as flames fully engulfed the plane.

For a nation obsessed with transportation safety -- one question. How could the New Year begin like this?


ASHER: Will Ripley reporting there. Also, in Japan, rescue crews are desperately searching for survivors after Monday's 7.5 magnitude earthquake

which killed at least 73 people. There are fears that some people may still be trapped beneath the rubble. And just the last day or so, officials say

they've rescued 70 people.

And I want you to take a look at these roads as well which have been completely, I mean, you see cars literally on their sides there. These

roads have been torn apart by the earthquake, which is making it so much more difficult for rescue crews to reach the hardest hit areas.

All right, happening today -- U.S. House Republicans are set to visit the U.S. southern border amid the migrant crisis. House Speaker Mike Johnson

heads the group, which is looking to draw a lot of attention to the surge in migrant crossings. The White House accused Speaker Johnson and the other

Republicans of blocking President Biden's proposed funding for the border and making extreme partisan demands, as well.

In December, border authorities encountered more than 225,000 migrants trying to cross the largest number of border crossings in more than two

decades. Amid the U.S.-Mexico border crisis, a source is telling CNN that a House Committee will formally begin impeachment proceedings against

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

A Committee Spokesperson accuses the Secretary of egregious misconduct and refusal to enforce the law in terms of his handling of the border crisis.

The Department of Homeland Security responded, saying that House Republicans are pursuing a baseless political exercise.


ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security: With respect to the interests of the United States and our southern border, most

particularly, it is Congress that must act. And I am hopeful that the bipartisan group of Senators will achieve a legislative solution that the

entire Congress will pass and we will see reform that has long been needed.


ASHER: All right. U.S. Senator Bob Menendez has a new slew of charges against him, this time involving Qatar. Federal prosecutors say that he

accepted tickets to Formula One races, gold bars, really fancy watches, and other gifts from a Qatari official, all part of a years-long corruption


They accuse Menendez of using his influence to help Qatar and also secure a financial deal with the Gulf nation for a friend. Prosecutors also accuse

the senator of abusing his position to promote Egypt's interests, as well. I want to go straight to Congressional Correspondent Lauren Fox. Lauren,

what more do we know about these new charges against Senator?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are waiting to see what the reaction from Senate colleagues will be. Senator Chuck Schumer is

in Washington today for a pro forma session. You can expect that this is going to be among the list of questions that reporters press him on.

Specifically though, there are questions about whether or not it would be appropriate moving forward for Senator Menendez to be part of classified

briefings up here on Capitol Hill. Part of being a U.S. Senator is that you have a security clearance, which means that you can attend briefings on

national security issues, whether that be on Israel, whether that be on Ukraine.

And one of the biggest questions that some Democrats have been pushing for is why is Senator Menendez still able to go to those classified briefings

given the allegations against him?

Now, Senator Schumer was pressed by reporters in December on whether or not it was appropriate for Menendez to continue receiving those briefings. He

said that because Menendez is a Senator, it's his right to attend those classified briefings, but that's one area that you can expect senators may

push for when they return from their holiday break.

The other key question, of course, is whether or not Senator Menendez remains a sitting U.S. Senator. He has said that he plans to continue

serving out his term, but obviously there are questions about whether or not more pressure will mount from Democratic colleagues or Republican

colleagues for him to step aside.

So, those are two areas that we are keeping close tabs on. Lawmaker is mostly gone for the holidays, but Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is in the

Capitol today.

ASHER: And let's talk about Mike Johnson and this trip that he's leading to Texas, to the U.S. southern border, just really to try to draw attention

to the migrant crisis and the surging migrant crossings there.


It's really part of Johnson's getting much more vocal about this issue. And of course, 2024 is an election year, and the Republicans are really making

this a major issue for them to campaign on to.

FOX: Yeah, it also complicates an ongoing discussion in the United States Senate over border negotiations. If you recall, there are a bipartisan

group of lawmakers who have been working for the last several weeks to try to find a compromise on a border security package that could be included in

order to advance the supplemental package that includes additional aid for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan, and the U.S.' southern border.

Without that border agreement, it's unclear how more funding would ever get to Ukraine. But because you have Johnson today down on the southern border,

also, House Republicans planning to move forward with an impeachment against Alejandro Mayorkas, the DHS Secretary, there were questions about

whether or not Mike Johnson is ever going to be in a position where he's willing to put some kind of border compromise on the floor of the House of

Representatives. If it falls short of the fuller bill that the House Republicans passed last year.

So, I think there's a lot of complicating factors right now, but the fact that Johnson is on the border today, the fact that House Republicans are

planning to move forward when they return next week with this impeachment against Mayorkas, I think those are all signs that it's going to be very

difficult for them to move forward with any kind of border compromise. And it casts doubt on whether or not more funding can ever get to Ukraine at

this point.

ASHER: All right, Lauren Fox, live for us there. Thank you so much. And you can hear more from U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson a little bit later

on. He's going to be speaking with our Jake Tapper on his show, "The Lead", that's 4 P.M. if you're watching from the U.S. East Coast. Nine o'clock in

the evening if you're watching London time.

All right. Former U.S. President Donald Trump wants a court to overturn a decision removing him from Maine's primary election ballot. Maine Secretary

of State Shenna Bellows said she was legally obligated to remove him because of his role in the January 6th Capitol insurrection, adding that

the U.S. Constitution prohibits those who engage in insurrection from holding office.

Trump is accusing Bellows, who's a Democrat, of bias. Evan Perez is joining us live now from Washington with the very latest. So just walk us through

this 11-page appeal coming from Donald Trump's lawyers. What was the sort of crux of their argument in terms of their basis for filing this appeal?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR U.S. JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the crux of it, Zain, is that the former president is pushing back on the idea that he's an

insurrectionist. He also says that the main Secretary State is abusing her position --abusing her discretion and her power really to disqualify him

from the ballot in the primary in Maine.

And this is obviously an argument that we're going to hear a lot more about in the coming weeks. This is something that almost certainly the U.S.

Supreme Court will have to take up simply because now we have a number of states where this has happened, where along with Maine, the state of

Colorado, judge there declared Trump to be an insurrectionist and said that under the 14th Amendment, the section thereof, that he cannot be placed on

the ballot -- in the primary ballot there in the state of Colorado.

That decision by the Colorado Supreme Court now is something that we expect Donald Trump will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn. Now, the issue

here, obviously, for the former president is that the next few days are very, very key. On January 5th is when Colorado certifies their ballot and

the state of Maine is a little bit later on.

But what we're seeing is that because of these rulings or these decisions in these states, you're seeing a lot more of these challenges coming up in

other states. And the former president is going to have to spend a lot of money fending these things off. There's already a new one in Oregon that is

now pending.

So, for Donald Trump, everything relies on him being able to stay on the ballot and in his view, obviously trying to become president again so he

can try to wipe away all of his legal problems. So, the next few days, the next few weeks are key for all of this. Zain.

ASHER: All right, Evan Perez, live for us there, thank you so much. All right, still to come here on ONE WORLD.


RANDALL KENNEDY, PROFESSOR OF LAW, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: The fact that a black woman was the head of the most famous university in the United

States, maybe the world, has actually deranged a lot of people.

ASHER: All right. That's one Harvard Law Professor expressing his view after the resignation of Harvard's President, Claudine Gay. We'll have much

more details and more reaction ahead on the show.




ASHER: All right, the search is on for a new president of Harvard University after Claudine Gaye announced that she is stepping down just six

months into her tenure. By the way, that is the shortest in Harvard's history. It comes after weeks of controversy, after not only a plagiarism

scandal, but also a disastrous -- disastrous testimony on Capitol Hill about anti-Semitism on Harvard's campus.

Gay, along with the presidents of the University of Pennsylvania and MIT, gave answers that were widely criticized. Gay is the second Ivy League

president to resign. The first was Penn's president, Liz Magill. One Harvard law professor told "The New York Times" that he was saddened by

Harvard's inability to defend against what he called a campaign of misinformation and intimidation.


KENNEDY: What is true is that there has been a well-orchestrated attack from various quarters to try to oust President Gay, and they have


I think that the fact that a black woman was the head of the most famous university in the United States, maybe the world, has actually deranged a

lot of people including some of her colleagues at Harvard University. And it's very alarming. It's very disappointing. But it's part of our reality.


ASHER: Well, let's dig a little bit deeper here. Jason Shepard is a media law scholar and a professor and Chair of the Communications Department at

California State University Fullerton.

Jason, thank you so much for being with us. I mean, when you think back to last year, I mean, the news of Claudine Gay's appointment as president of

Harvard University -- I remember that moment. It was monumental, right? It was a breakthrough moment. You had a daughter of Haitian immigrants, a

black woman, the second woman to lead Harvard. Your thoughts on how it all came crashing down for her.

JASON M. SHEPARD, MEDIA LAW SCHOLAR: Well, it was a short-lived six-month tenure and you know it really started with those that, as you said,

disastrous congressional hearing in which the three presidents that were called really tried to provide a, you know, legal answer to a kind of

gotcha political question. And I think the -- President Gay could have survived that and had seemingly the support of Harvard's board.


But then as these plagiarism allegations continue to drip out, I think that's -- that's what did her in. So, it was a short-lived presidency for

President Gay whose appointment was celebrated by many when it started.

ASHER: I mean, it was a terrible hearing, just in terms of her answers. And not just her answers, by the way, but all three. I mean, as you point

out, they gave really sort of canned, rehearsed answers where they really should have spoken with heart and emotion. What should Claudine Gay have

said during her testimony but didn't?

SHEPARD: You know, these are really difficult positions for college presidents to be in because on the one hand, all three of the presidents, I

think, answered the questions accurately about the context of First Amendment Law in the United States. And so legalistically, they were spot

on. The problem is the congressional hearing was not a court of law. It was really in the arena of public opinion. And they needed to do the


They needed to walk multiple fine lines between speaking directly to the American people through emotion and values, but also not undermine First

Amendment values and free speech principles that college campuses are supposed to embrace, which often or sometimes means embracing the right to

be very offensive and hateful in speech that is protected by the First Amendment in the United States.

So, they were really in a -- all three of those presidents were really in a difficult position. And I have sympathy for all three of them in trying to

balance those issues.

ASHER: What happens now to MIT's president?

SHEPARD: You know, that's a good question. Several of the Republican political leaders in the congressional hearing were, after the Penn

president was forced to resign, said one down, two to go. So, I don't know if the MIT president will continue to have a target -- be a target, but it

really does seem to have inflamed a certain segment of the political right.

And I don't know whether -- in a lot of contexts, the importance of the board leadership of a university is critical to protecting and defending

presidents when they come under controversy. University presidents face political controversy, every single day and they need the backing of their

boards when controversies like this arise and if they don't have that support, their tenures may be short-lived.

ASHER: The problem of anti-Semitism on college campuses across America is still a problem. I mean, even though you have Liz Magill, you have Claudine

Gay who have left their positions, it's still a problem. The problem doesn't just sort of go away. What do the universities need to do now?

Because obviously, there must have been so many lessons learned from the past two to three months.

SHEPARD: You know, I don't know if there are lessons learned yet. Universities have to protect students' free speech rights while making

universities a place where all students can feel physically safe and be able to express a multitude of views and listen and learn from a multitude

of views.

And in today's polarized political environment, it's very difficult, but important for university leaders to embrace the free exchange of ideas, but

also cultivate a learning environment that is conducive to the pursuit of truth and the dissemination of knowledge.

ASHER: All right, Jason Shepherd, live for us there, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

SHEPARD: Thank you.

ASHER: All right, still to come. A senior Hamas leader is killed in Lebanon, raising fears that tensions, which by the way are already very

high across the region, could boil over. We will have some analysis after the break.




ASHER: All right, welcome back to ONE WORLD, I'm Zain Asher. I want to return now to one of our main stories today, the killing of the most senior

member of Hamas since the Israel-Hamas war began nearly three months ago. Saleh al-Arouri was killed in an apparent drone strike in Beirut on


Israel, at this point, is neither confirming or denying that they were involved, that they were responsible, but Israel, worth noting, has long

accused him of orchestrating attacks on Israeli citizens.

Tensions across the region are rising even higher now, along with fears that a wider conflict could erupt between Israel and Hezbollah, the most

powerful parliamentary organization in the Middle East and, of course, an ally of Hamas. And while Hezbollah and Israel have engaged in skirmishes

and exchanges of fire across Lebanon's border since the war in Gaza began, this is a bold strike on foreign soil.

In Lebanon, Hezbollah's stronghold and also more specifically in Beirut, the country's capital. Hezbollah's Chief, Hassan Nasrallah, who has

repeatedly vowed to retaliate for any strikes on Lebanese soil, is speaking right now. He said that Chuzo's attack was flagrant Israeli aggression. And

a top European official called the situation a tinderbox.


HASSAN NASRALLAH, Cuban Prime Minister

JOSEP BORRELL, E.U. HIGH REPRESENTATIVE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (through translator): If this tragedy does not end soon, I fear the entire Middle

East might end up in flames. There's so much to unpack here. Let's bring in -- let's bring in Josh Rogin, "Washington Post" columnist, who covers

foreign policy for the newspaper. So, there's so much talk about here. We want to talk about Iran in just a moment.


But let's first talk about the killing of this Hamas leader. Just explain to us at this point in time how much of a bold move this is, the fact that

this strike took place in Lebanon, not just Lebanon, but Beirut more specifically. It was targeted. Also worth noting that Israel at this point

still is not claiming responsibility though, Josh.

JOSH ROGIN, COLUMNIST, "WASHINGTON POST": Right, well on its face, this attack can be considered a successful killing of a globally designated

terrorist, a man who had the blood of innocence on his hands. And although the Israelis have not admitted perpetrating the attack, they haven't denied

it either. And I think what we see is a wink and a nod, because of course they're the ones who have the most to benefit and they're the ones who are

engaging in a war with Hamas.

But although the attack itself may have been a success, the repercussions may absolutely redound to -- not to the benefit of the Israeli government

or the Israeli strategic objectives. And what I mean is that this Hamas leader had been very involved in not only negotiating over a potential day

after plan with the Palestinian authority on who would rule Gaza, but also in interacting with Hezbollah and Iran.

And now that he's removed, I think, the risk of an escalation with Hezbollah and the risk of an escalation on Israel's northern border have

greatly increased. And so, although the Israelis don't want to have a -- all-out war with Hezbollah, they don't want to have a second front, this

attack may actually have the effect that they were exactly trying to avoid.

ASHER: I mean, it's interesting because Mark Regev, just in a TV interview, essentially said, listen, obviously Israel not claiming

responsibility, but he did say that this was not an attack on the Lebanese people. This was not an attack on Hezbollah, but rather a targeted -- a

specific targeted strike on a Hamas leader.

Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, is speaking now. He mentioned the killing of this Hamas leader, but he didn't call for any kind of escalation. He is

usually quite cautious? I mean, what do you make of what he said so far?

ROGIN: Right, no, I think it's been clear for the last two months that Nasrallah and Hezbollah have been resisting the urging of Hamas to get more

deeply involved in the war against Israel. And I think that resistance is part of a -- overall strategy amongst Hezbollah, the Houthis, and other

Iranian proxies, especially in Iraq, to harass and intimidate U.S. and Israeli forces in the region without sparking the all-out war that nobody


And that's a very tricky calculation that Israel has now dropped a bomb in the middle of. In other words, all sides are trying to provoke without

going over some imaginary line of deterrence that's in their head. And Israel has now scrambled all of those calculations. So, I think Nasrallah

and Hezbollah will take a beat and think about what happens next, especially considering what happened inside Iran today.

ASHER: Just explain to our audience, who might not necessarily be familiar with al-Arouri, why he is such an important figure. I mean, this man, aside

from being, you know, part of the political wing for Hamas and a founding member of its military wing, he essentially was a sort of go-between, the

liaison between Hamas and Hezbollah, almost like a Hamas ambassador for Hezbollah. Just explain to us why he's such an important figure.

ROGIN: Right, over the course of his -- he's been something of a Hamas terrorist diplomat, if you can call him that. And his job was to encourage

Iran and Hezbollah to become more involved in the Gaza cause. And he had mixed success in that.

But now that he's gone, someone else will have to do that job. And, you know, make no mistake, Hamas will have a steady stream of terrorist leaders

to fill the place of the ones that get killed. And that's the problem with these targeted attacks, is that they'll always find another guy to take

that terrorist leader's place.

But in the best case scenario, it slows down Hamas' effort to coordinate a wider regional war. But in the worst case scenario, it forces Hezbollah and

Iran into a position where they feel they have to retaliate and actually escalate, which is exactly against not only Israeli interests, but also

puts thousands of U.S. troops at greater risk in the region.

ASHER: Let's talk about Iran now, because there were those twin attacks that took place near the burial site, near the tomb of General Soleimani,

who was killed in a U.S. airstrike four years ago today. I mean, the timing is significant, but again, we don't want to speculate in terms of who might

be responsible. There's been no claims of responsibility, so far.

However, Iran hasn't waited to investigate before pointing the finger at Israel.


What are the risks in the next 48 to 72 hours just in terms of more escalation?

ROGIN: Right. We don't know who perpetrated the attack but there's only really two choices, an internal force or an external force. And, of course,

the Iranian government doesn't want to think that it's an internal force, even though this pattern does fit a -- this attack does loosely match a

pattern of Sunni militant attacks on Shia institutions. We can't rule out that it was something else, but of course the Iranian government is going

to point the finger at Israel.

So, what does that mean? It means that they're going to have to retaliate somehow, and they're going to retaliate against Israel whether Israel did

it or not. And considering what we just went through in terms of the tensions in Gaza, the tensions on Israel's northern border, the tensions in

the Red Sea, this adds one more match to an already very, very brittle tinderbox.

And, you know, I think the Iranians don't want all-out war either, but in that sort of risk of how far can you retaliate without the re-retaliation

spilling into a re-retaliation, somewhere in that calculation lies a risk of a -- the all-out regional war that nobody really seeks.

ASHER: I mean, yeah, when you think about what has happened in the last, I don't know, one to two weeks, and obviously yesterday we got the news of

the Hamas leader that was killed in a drone strike in Beirut, you know, Lebanon's capital.

I mean, that is a really sort of bold move, even though it was targeted, as Mark Regev pointed out, but you've also got these Iran twin attacks

happening when you think about the timing on General Soleimani's anniversary -- the anniversary of his death.

And you also have the Houthi attacks in the Red Sea, which the U.S. also retaliated against as well in terms of them taking out three boats. Just

give us the sort of overall risk here when you think about the different facets that could lead to a much broader escalation.

ROGIN: Right, from the view of the Biden White House, this is the most dangerous and sensitive time that they've ever faced while in office. And

their main goal is to respond proportionately, but without triggering the re-retaliation that would really just set the whole region on fire.

And they're getting criticism, frankly, domestically, for not responding to these attacks, especially in the Red Sea, forcefully enough. But they have

a big responsibility here, which is to try to manage all sides of this conflict, which in the end can only be done through diplomacy.

And that's the bottom line, is that the absence of a real diplomatic effort that involves the United States in an earnest way will prevent the Biden

administration from having the leverage they need to de-escalate. So, now, everyone's just holding on tight and buckling their seat belts and

hopefully the worst doesn't happen. But hope is not a strategy.

ASHER: Yeah, diplomacy, as you point out. There really is only one way out of that, and that is through the diplomatic channels. Josh Rogin, live for

us there. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

All right, still to come. A victim of cyber kidnapping has been found safe after he went missing in the US. His incredible story of betrayal and

survival -- next.




ASHER: All right. Police in Utah say that a 17-year-old exchange student from China has been reunited with his family and is returning home. They

say that he was the victim of a cyber kidnapping plot that cost his family tens of thousands of dollars. Here's our David Culver with more.


DAVID CULVER, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Found cold, scared, but alive. Riverdale police in Utah, seen here rescuing 17-

year-old Kai Zhuang. Missing for three days, the Chinese exchange student had trekked to this back country area, sleeping in this tent, running low

on food. With him, several cell phones.

That's how police say virtual captors manipulated and controlled the teen, likely from thousands of miles away. They call it cyber kidnapping. The

cyber kidnappers convinced the victim under duress to take photos of themselves that make it appear they are being held captive and send the

photos to their parents. In China, Zhuang's parents equally terrified, unable to reach their son, reportedly receiving threatening messages and

contacting his school in Utah.

CASEY WARREN, RIVERDALE, UTAH POLICE DEPARTMENT: The reason why they have him seclude himself in the woods or away from somebody, everybody in

society, is so they can continue to extort as much money as possible.

CULVER (voice-over): In recent months, police across China warning Chinese students in and out of China that the scammers often impersonate officials.

They then intimidate international students with threats of immediate arrest, deportation, and harsh sentencing if they do not cooperate.

Police advising students, if they get a call like that, hang up immediately. Contact the Chinese embassy or consulate, your teachers and

classmates at your school, or the local police.

In November, Shanghai police reported a couple getting a threatening call while on the highway. They could hear their son's cries over the phone. The

scammers demanding the equivalent of $70,000.

While on the phone, the couple spotted a police officer at a toll booth who suspected it was a scam and stopped the mother just as she was about to

transfer the money. There've been similar cases targeting folks across the U.S. in recent years.

UNKNOWN: If I didn't do what he said, he would kill my mom.

UNKNOWN: It looked exactly like that -- like my sister was calling. It was a man's voice on the other end screaming at me.

UNKNOWN: If somebody told me that wasn't my wife, I'd say you're lying.

UNKNOWN: It's so hard for me to describe to you how real this all sounded.

UNKNOWN: You're in that crisis mode, and you immediately want to try to fix it, which in most cases means money.

CULVER (voice-over): Police say Zhuang's family did just that, ultimately transferring the equivalent of roughly $80,000 into Chinese bank accounts.

When they found him, officers say Zhuang asked for two things, to talk to his family in China to be sure they're okay, and to eat a warm


CULVER: And the FBI is warning that these scammers are growing increasingly sophisticated in their techniques because of technology,

specifically A.I. In some cases, the FBI says they're able to impersonate the voices of your loved ones. David Culver, CNN, Los Angeles.


ASHER: All right, still to come here on ONE WORLD, a teenager is right on target at the World Darts Championships. We'll tell you about Luke

Littler's history-making run to the final.




ASHER: All right, in about two hours from now, 16-year-old Luke Littler will be making sports history.


UNKNOWN: He's done it again.

ASHER: Easy does it. What a talent. Littler has become a global star since making his debut in this year's World Dart Championship.


ASHER: He is, get this, the youngest player ever to reach the final in the competition after defeating veteran Rob Cross six to two. He's just 16

years old. Don Riddell joins us live now from Atlanta. Don, this is -- what a story, right? What a -- this is incredible. So, he's 16 years old. He's

already banked, what is it? Two hundred grand, also? And he's about to make history as the youngest ever player to make it to the finals. Walk us

through it.

DON RIDDELL, CNN WORLD SPORT: Yeah, I mean he's been making history pretty much ever since he arrived at this tournament, Zain. He had never played in

the World Championship before. He'd only played actually a handful of senior professional matches before he arrived at the World Championship.

And he has just absolutely taken the place by storm.

He is so much fun to watch. And he plays with so much confidence and so much swagger. It's just impossible not to want a roof for him. The TV

viewing figures in the U.K. for this tournament are going absolutely through the roof. He has made bank and then some, as you say, GBP 200,000,

which is what, a quarter, $250,000.

If he wins it later today, he'll have more than $600,000 in his pocket. Just incredible for a man who is still a couple of weeks shy of his 17th

birthday. He is still finding or struggling to find the words to describe this fairytale but he knows how he's going to prepare for the final. Have a



LUKE LITTLER, DARTS PLAYER: It's crazy -- crazy to even think I'm in my World Championship final, on my debut. I was happy winning one game, but I

could nearly go all the way.

UNKNOWN: Does the approach change tomorrow night? You're in a World Final, it's the biggest game in the sport, or is it just do what you've been


LITTLER: Do what I've been doing. In the morning, go for my ham and cheese omelet, come in here, have my pizza, and then on the board. That's what

I've done every day.


RIDDELL: Omelet, pizza, Zain, and if he wins, it will be a kebab later on this evening.

ASHER: So healthy.

RIDDELL: I know, but it's working. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?

ASHER: Right, right. What an incredible story. So, the crowds at Alexandra Palace, right, as I understand it, they serenade him, they just love him.

But this is a guy who obviously came from very normal, very ordinary, very humble beginnings. But I actually saw a video of him online playing darts

as a toddler. So, this is the turn that has been groomed for over a decade now.

RIDDELL: Yeah, I mean, he talks about this. He said he got his first darts board at the age of just 18 months. They were magnetic darts. I guess his

mom and dad didn't trust him with the pointy ones until he was four. But that's when he got his first proper dart set and he's just never looked

back from there.

He's had an incredible junior career, but of course, only people who are really intimate with the darts world would have known that. So for most

people, they've only just heard of him. And boy, as he burst onto the scene. He arrived as the world number 164 at the start of this tournament,

he's going to end up in the top 10. He's going to have an absolute fortune in the bank, win or lose today.


And the people around him and around this sport saying that he has absolutely huge marketing potential. So many people are in love with him,

including a lot of Premier League football players. They are his heroes, and now all of a sudden, they want a piece of him. So, I mean, this young

man is just in dreamland.

ASHER: I mean, it's interesting because it's one thing to win, right, as an athlete. It's another thing to be able to win when the entire world is

watching you and you have that pressure of the spotlight. I mean everybody's going to be watching today. He's playing the other Luke. Luke

Humphreys as I understand it. I mean how much of a formidable foe is his opponent do you think?

RIDDELL: I mean, looking at the players he's already beaten in this tournament, including the man he knocked out Rob Cross in the semi-final,

who was a former world champion, I don't think Luke Littler really has anything to fear. And he was already saying before the last match that he

doesn't really think anybody can stop him. So, I mean, he is just oozing so much confidence. But the way he plays, it's not just that he has the


ASHER: Not worried about jinxing himself at all.

RIDDELL: No, but the way he plays, it's just like he's almost in a bubble. It doesn't look as though the pressure's getting to him and he plays in a

way that just shows you he's having so much fun, which sometimes is interpreted as disrespecting his opponents. I don't think he's doing that.

I think he just loves the game so much, and he's just doing what he does.

ASHER: Yeah, and the world loves him. As you mentioned, it's going to be, he wins either way, right? He loses, he still wins. Don Riddell, live for

us there. Thank you so much. And that does it for this hour of ONE WORLD. I'm Zain Asher. "AMANPOUR" up next.