Return to Transcripts main page

Hala Gorani Tonight

Interview with Azadeh Moaveni; Queen Issues Statement Following Meeting; Half a Million Residents Evacuated Near Philippines' Taal Volcano; CNN Reports From Air Base Hit By Iranian Missiles; Examining The Trump Administration's Goals For Iran; U.S.: Naval Base Shooting Was An Act Of Terrorism; Oscars Snub Female Filmmakers In "Best Director" Race. Aired 2- 3p ET

Aired January 13, 2020 - 14:00   ET



HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everybody. Live from CNN London, I'm Hala Gorani.

Tonight, we will show you the violent crackdown on Iranian protestors, angry at their government for acknowledging that it shot down a passenger


And this hour, some clarity from the queen. Find out what came out of the royal summit on Meghan and Harry's future.

Then, this volcano is showing signs of an explosive eruption any time now, we'll bring you that.

Plus, "Joker" leads the pack of Oscar nominations. Has the academy done any better than the BAFTAs on diversity? We'll explore that question.

Death to the dictator, that fiery chant heard today on the streets of Iran, a country not known for tolerating dissent, as protestors yet again risked

their lives to vent their fury at the government.

Dramatic and chaotic scenes are circulating on social media, showing a crackdown by riot police firing teargas and reportedly even live bullets.

Protestors are furious about the government's delayed admission that it shot down a passenger jet last week, killing everyone on board, all the

civilians traveling out of Tehran.

Let's get right to our international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson for more. He's following the story tonight from Abu Dhabi. What's the latest

after all that violence over the weekend, coming from the security forces against the protestors?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes. The prospect, Hala, doesn't look very good at the moment. Overnight, a senior military

commander in Iran said that this was the sorriest day of his life, apologizing that he wished he'd been on the plane for the mistake that was


And this has been the narrative coming from senior politicians, senior military officials. But this contrition just doesn't match up with the way

that the leadership is responding to the protests on the street.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): On the second night of protesting, violence in Iran is escalating and spreading. In Tehran, security forces shoot into

crowds of protestors. People scream, "They shooting at us, go down." Many people are hit.

A woman shouts, my foot, my foot! A man nearby sees her, yells, oh my god, she was hit. Iran, denying it fired at protestors, saying it only used tear


Chaos and confusion as crowds rail on Iran's leaders in bitter response to the downing of the Ukrainian passenger jet last week.

The protests, spreading across the country to Kermanshah in western Iran, and to the northern city of Babol, where police arrested protestors,

loading them into large vans. Clashes with police were reported in more than a dozen cities where chants of "Death to the supreme leader" have

become widespread. And in contrast to pro-Soleimani crowds last week, protestors now burning his picture, calling him and the supreme leader


These protests, a throwback to a few months ago, protestors clashed with police over price hikes. The anger now, the same, protestors, believing the

leadership does not care about the people, could have saved lives by grounding civilian flights the night of their attack on U.S. bases.

In an incredibly rare admission, one of Iran's top commanders apologized for the mistake, said he wished he'd died on the plane. But on the streets,

his apparent contrition seems to count for nothing. The regime, intent on crushing these protests despite President Trump's warnings not to, just as

they have in the past.


ROBERTSON: And all indications tonight is that the possibility of violence again on the streets in Iran exists. Large numbers of anti-riot police have

been seen on the streets in an effort to sort of damp (ph) down any protests before they get started -- Hala.

GORANI: Yes. And the U.K. ambassador was arrested over the weekend. What happened there? He was released shortly thereafter.


ROBERTSON: Yes, he was released after a couple of hours, then called in the following day to the Iranian Foreign Ministry for a dressing-down.

Following that, the British Foreign Office, the foreign secretary there, called in the Iranian ambassador to London and the wording was to get an

apology from the Iranian ambassador for the arrest of the British ambassador.

But now we've heard from the Iranian foreign ministry warning the United Kingdom against making a mistake, in saying that if they have a -- if they

threatened Iran with more sanctions, then that is going to raise tensions.

Now, we don't know from the British Foreign Office if they actually did threaten more sanctions, but this is very rapidly developing into a tit-

for-tat, escalating rhetoric between Iran and the U.K. right now -- Hala.

GORANI: Nic Robertson, thanks.

Let's get some perspective on these dramatic developments. Journalist Azadeh Moaveni is an Iranian expert and author of the new book, "Guest

House for Young Widows: Among the Women of ISIS." She's also a contributing writer for "Time Magazine." Thanks for being with us.

Your thoughts on what happened over the weekend with these anti-government protests and angry demonstrators blaming their government for belatedly

acknowledging that they shot down this civilian passenger plane?

AZADEH MOAVENI, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, TIME: I think there was a lot of grief and anger at what had happened, frustration with the period of time

it took for the government to come forward and make clear that it had been, you know, inadvertently responsible.

I think it also reflects that Iran is a very polarized society. We saw the scenes from the mourning for General Soleimani, millions of people in the

street. Now we see thousands of people in the street because people have serious legitimate grievances against their own government.

And at times like this, times that feel so tense and -- the country feels like in such crisis, I think people feel emboldened and inclined to come

out and register their anger. And, really, they're feeling, I think, being pinned between a government that seems to not be able to be transparent, at

least at important moments, and a kind of crushing American response that, you know, has resulted in really the kind of terrible economic situation --


MOAVENI: -- that they find themselves in.

GORANI: It's possible to hold these two positions simultaneously, though, to be angry at America for killing this military commander, Soleimani, and

also at their own government for not being transparent about shooting down the plane.

MOAVENI: Precisely. I think that is a crucial thing to recognize about Iran. You know, I see people sort of say that the people out in the street,

the mourners, were paid government --


GORANI: Right.

MOAVENI: -- stooges, and that these people, you know there will be another group that says that these people are sent out by foreign powers.

I mean, Iran is a sophisticated country with a long history of political dissent and engagement, and these protests started in universities that

have a long history of being -- you know, young people being the first to come out. So I think this just reflects the deep frustration in Iranian

society at both the international context that has led us to this moment, and their own government.

GORANI: And the president of the United States, Donald Trump retweeted just an absolutely shocking image -- I don't know if you've seen this --

showing Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate, wearing traditional Iranian headgear.

TEXT: The corrupted Dems trying their best to come to the Ayatollah's rescue.

GORANI: You're an Iranian-American. When you see this, what goes through your mind?

MOAVENI: It's slightly macabre to see the U.S. government descended to such a point where, you know, its lead executive will put out such an

image. But I think importantly --

GORANI: I mean, he retweeted it, it was from another account --

MOAVENI: Retweet -- yes.

GORANI: -- but -- yes.

MOAVENI: To share it. But I think, you know, for Iranians who'll be watching what the president is saying, Iranians inside, it just underscores

how little credibility he has. Of course, he inaugurated his presidency with a ban on Iranians in the United States, he's overseeing a sanctions

regime that won't even allow medicines into the country. You know, there are children in Iran dying of cancer because of that -- the block on

medicines. And of course, the threat to annihilate Iran's cultural sites.

So, you know, although he does seem to seek to ride this wave of protest, I think people are very much aware that he doesn't seem to have, you know,

their best intentions at heart.

GORANI: Right. And you talk about these sanctions -- briefly, just to finish -- you wrote in "Time," "The Iranians' country remains by the design

of American policy, sanctioned and cash strapped, their horizons and potential extinguished by visa bans, medicine shortages and inflation."

So -- but what I found interesting in this weekend's demonstrations is that some of the blame was overtly directed at their leaders rather than the

United States and Israel.

MOAVENI: Absolutely. I mean, I think people --

GORANI: Which is the common outside enemy that the regime would like them to blame for everything.

MOAVENI: There's a whole spectrum of internal change that people want with legitimate grievances directed around political repression, economic

reform, political reform. And I think we're seeing that, and I think people can pivot to who they hold most accountable in that moment, while bearing

in their minds at all times that there are an array of forces responsible internally and externally for their situation.


GORANI: Azadeh Moaveni, thanks very much, as always, for joining us. Really appreciate having you on the program.

Now, we know how the Ukrainian airliner went down last week, but there's still a lot that we don't know. Ukrainian investigators continue their

arduous task of sifting through the debris field.

For the victims' loved ones, that search for answers is agonizing. CNN's Scott McLean has more on the political crisis that is also, for 176

families, a very personal tragedy.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This was the moment the Ukraine International Airlines' Flight 752 went down, just

minutes after takeoff, setting off a diplomatic standoff in a region that was already a powder keg.

The head of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council told CNN that when Ukrainian investigators arrived on the crash scene, the Iranians had

acted quickly so everything was hidden. A lot of debris had been cleared away.

OLEKSIY DANILOV, SECRETARY, UKRAINIAN NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL (through translator): We understood that it was a rocket three hours after our

specialist began working at the site of the tragedy. They were involved in the investigation of the Boeing disaster, brought down by the Russian

Federation in the Donetsk region.

MCLEAN (voice-over): It may have taken just three hours to discover that a missile brought down this plane, but six days later, the questions of

repatriation and compensation are still far from settled. Ukraine will immediately pay $8,000 to the families of its 11 victims, but insists it's

Iran that needs to pay, though it's not clear when, how much or how Iran can truly make amends.

DANILOV (through translator): Justice in this situation is rather complicated. Eleven Ukrainian citizens who died in Tehran, they have

parents, children, relatives and friends. This is a very painful story. Psychologically, it is a very heavy burden.

MCLEAN (voice-over): Pilot Volodymyr Gaponenko's widow, Ekatarina, is carrying that burden.

EKATARINA GAPONENKO, PILOT'S WIDOW (through translator): It is a matter of my husband's honor and my mission now, with his enormous experience and top

qualifications, my husband deserves only the highest praise.

MCLEAN (voice-over): Iran has admitted to unintentionally shooting down the Ukrainian plane and has apologized, but many wonder why the flight was

allowed to take off in the first place. Just hours earlier, Iran launched missiles at U.S. targets in Iraq. Even Iran's aerospace commander had asked

authorities to keep civil flights grounded until tensions cooled off.

The Iranian strikes were widely reported by the media, but the airline's CEO insists it didn't know of any potential danger because Iranian

authorities hadn't warned them.

YEVGENIY DYKHNE, PRESIDENT, UKRAINE INTERNATIONAL AIRLINES (through translator): The safety of the airspace is determined by the country that

regulates the airspace. And if somebody could have known something from the media, that something was happening in that area, we definitely did not

know about it.

MCLEAN (voice-over): Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says the remains of the victims could return to Ukraine this week, small consolation

to families still waiting at the airport for their loved ones to arrive. Scott McLean, CNN, Kiev.


GORANI: A real tragedy for the families there.

Now, to a very different story, one that's making headlines around the world even though it's unfolding here in the United Kingdom. The crisis

that is rocking the House of Windsor: Top members of Britain's royal family huddled today over Prince Harry and Meghan's plans to curtail their

royal roles. And we're getting some idea where that plan stands.

CNN's Max Foster is outside the queen's Sandringham estate, where this meeting took place. It's a crisis summit, and we -- it's almost like one of

those big G7 meetings, where we all wait for a communique at the end of the day, and we got one from her majesty, the queen herself -- Max.

MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Effectively, giving a very positive spin to today's talks, saying that they were very constructive and

that the family effectively agree on the Sussexes' plan to split their time between Canada and the U.K., and expressing some regret that the couple

have chosen not to continue as working royals, although there's a sense that they understand that.

What is interesting is, later on in the statement, they talk about -- she talks about the complex issues involved here, and she wants the final

decision in a matter of days, implying that there wasn't a final conclusive moment in the day. Rather, they've made some progress and all agree that

the Sussexes are going to step back.

So while this has a positive tone to it, there are still many unknowns here and it's going to be playing (ph) out for probably the rest of the week --



GORANI: Yes. And so Meghan is in Canada. So she, I understand, dialed in to some sort of conference number? How did that play out?

FOSTER: Well, I think it seemed to work. We were given the statement, we were told there wouldn't (ph) be any extra commentary added to it and

didn't say what the duchess' role was. But we have to assume that she did dial in, and we have to assume that both she and her husband dug their

heels in about what they want in the future.

They outlined it all on a website last week, and I was told by people on the other side that they weren't happy with that, it wasn't workable. So we

need to find some workable solutions to discuss today. It does suggest that the Sussexes are insisting on their plan, so now it's a case of trying to

make that work.

And there are very complex issues here, as the queen says. There are the residency issues, the financial issues, the tax issues and also whether or

not they will continue any public roles, and how they will be defined.

I think one of the big concerns here is allowing a couple of senior royals who have a lot of resource behind them -- which are effectively publicly

funded, a lot of it from Prince Charles' private estate. But are they allowed, then, to go out into the private sector and cash in on that

towering royal brand when the other members of the family aren't allowed to?

So they're going to have to put some restrictions on that, and try to decide how that's going to be workable. And I think that's going to be the

really complex bit, where the disagreements will arise. Because Meghan and Harry seem pretty uncompromising on this one. They know what they want,

they feel they deserve it and they're going to fight for what they want as well, which actually a lot of their supporters are cheering today.

GORANI: All right. Max Foster, thanks very much.

So it appears this royal drama, as Max was saying, is not over yet. Our royal commentator Victoria Arbiter is watching it play out from New York.

Thanks, Victoria, for being with us. Your reaction to the queen's statement? You told my producer, "I found it incredibly sad. Meghan and

Harry are referenced by first names, not duke and duchess. That was unprecedented." Why do you think the queen chose to use that language?

VICTORIA ARBITER, CNN ROYAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it was very striking, in a statement that certainly has a very personal tone to it. And I felt it was

probably the biggest clue in terms of how the meeting went down today.

The British monarchy is an institution steeped in tradition and precedent and more importantly, formality. So normally, Harry and Meghan would have

been referred to as their royal highnesses, the duke and duchess of Sussex.

So on the one hand, this could be interpreted as the queen writing as a grandmother, she does refer to them as valued members of her family. But at

the same time, it could be a clue as to the type of role Harry and Meghan are going to have, moving forward, and whether or not they are going to

embrace life as private citizens versus members of the royal family.

GORANI: So the big picture here is, of course, over the last several days since this shock announcement was made by the couple, the tabloids have had

a field day, some of them have blamed Meghan as though she's some sort of modern-day Yoko Ono, pulling Harry away. Some commentators have also

attacked her in ways they never attacked, for instance, Kate, who's Prince William's wife. Do you think there's any racism at play here?

ARBITER: A lot of people will vehemently deny that racism has played any role in the coverage of the duchess of Sussex, but I'm afraid I disagree.

It's not been everywhere; some of it has been an unconscious bias, some of it has been blatantly overt.

But there's no question, where we've seen, in some areas, Kate commended for her actions, and Meghan has been vilified for her actions.


ARBITER: One classic example was the duchess of Cambridge wearing a one- shoulder dress, she was called "ethereal." The duchess of Sussex wore a one-shoulder dress, and she was referred to as "vulgar." Now, that may not

be a racist comment in some quarters, but I would never presume to say to somebody who has been the victim of that type of slur, as to what their

experience is. So there's no question that --

GORANI: Right.

ARBITER: -- racism has played a role.

GORANI: Yes. And also, there's a very structured class system in this country --


GORANI: -- and this notion somehow that an outsider comes into this royal family, steals away, you know, Prince Harry and breaks up a family as

though somehow he's not a fully grown man who can make his own decisions, there's a bit of that as well, I get the sense, that the class system is

very, very established in this country.

ARBITER: Indeed it is. And Kate struggled with that as well, of course, the famous "doors to manual," referencing her mother's role with British

Airways back in the day; Kate was called -- Kate and Pippa were referred to as the "wisteria sisters," for their fragrant smell and ferocious ability

to climb. So the class system is not kind. But my apologies to any men that might be watching, this is a terrible generalization, but women are often

blamed for whatever unfolds in any kind of drama.


And I think here that Harry has played a very significant role as well. He has talked, long before Meghan came on the scene, about the fact he has

struggled with life in the royal family. You can go back to footage of him leaving preschool, and he's sticking his tongue out at the photographers.

He hates the press. And that was before anything ever happened with his mother.

So I think there are a number of people that we can point gingers at and blame here, but Meghan is not one of them. This is a decision that was made

between the two of them, and it's something that is going to play out in the coming days.

GORANI: But very briefly, one of the questions I have is, there have been reports that she signed some sort of voiceover deal with Disney; that, you

know, maybe they will market and profit from the Sussex Royal brand. And I guess people are asking the question, can they do that, keep their royal

titles and the public money?

You know, basically have their cake and eat it too, have all the advantages of being royals and not many of the obligations, and also profit from the

brand and the name. I mean, is it a fair criticism or at least a fair question?

ARBITER: It is a fair question. It has never happened successfully before. You go back to 1999, when Edward married Sophie, she had a very successful

public relations firm; Edward was working for a television production company. It lasted until 2001, 2002 because they were accused of cashing in

on their royal connections, cheapening the monarchy, commercializing the monarchy. So how this is going to work for Harry and Meghan truly remains

to be seen.

GORANI: Victoria Arbiter, thanks so much.

ARBITER: Thank you.

GORANI: Still to come tonight, startling pictures from this volcano in the Philippines. It could erupt again any moment. We'll bring you the latest.

Plus, the U.S. president is lashing out -- guess where? You guess it, on Twitter. Guess against who? You guessed it again, against House Democrats.

We'll bring you the latest. We'll be right back.


GORANI: It is considered one of the world's most dangerous volcanoes, and it could erupt again within days, possibly even hours. The Philippines'

government is urging a total evacuation for nearly half a million people. Blake Essig reports.


BLAKE ESSIG , CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After more than 40 years of relative peace and quiet, Taal Volcano, one of the

smallest in the world, started making a whole lot of noise.

ARMANDO MENDOZA (PH), PHILIPPINE RESIDENT (through translator): We were afraid and in a panic. We're thinking of how we can save our lives.

ESSIG (voice-over): It all started Sunday afternoon, about 60 kilometers south of the Philippine capital of Manila, a violent eruption sending

steam, ash and rock roughly 15 kilometers into the sky, raining down on the roughly 25 million people, like Noel (ph) Soares (ph), living below.


NOEL SOARES (PH), PHILIPPINE RESIDENT (through translator): It's difficult to get food because it's difficult to move. We cannot use the vehicle since

it's muddy, and we cannot even clean it since there's no water. Almost everything is a problem now, and then you have the volcano spewing again.

ESSIG (voice-over): And after nearly 150 small earthquakes, Philippine officials believe it's going to get worse before it gets better. Nearly

half a million residents have been ordered to evacuate immediately, believing another much larger eruption and possible tsunami could be


ERIK KLEMETTI, VOLCANOLOGIST: The real hazard is that it has the potential for explosions --

ESSIG (voice-over): That's volcanologist Erik Klemetti. He says that despite Taal's small stature, it's one of the most dangerous volcanoes in

the world, a volcano with a deadly past, claiming more than 1,300 lives in 1911 and another 190 in 1965.

KLEMETTI: For the people living nearby, the combination of explosions and a large population can really -- are the things that volcanologists really

hope don't get combined.

ESSIG (voice-over): A combination that could be fatal, and has already proven to be destructive.

MENDOZA (PH) (through translator): There are many destroyed houses. It's almost like a desert there because of the thickness of the mud.

ESSIG (voice-over): Leaving those like Armando (ph) Mendoza (ph) to wonder what might be left of his community when he returns home, a decision

ultimately decided by Taal. Blake Essig, CNN.


GORANI: We are watching how the impeachment process against U.S. President Donald Trump unfolds this week. The House needs to hold a vote before it

can send those articles of impeachment over to the Senate to get the trial started. Lauren Fox is on Capitol Hill with what we can expect.

So Pelosi still holding onto these two articles, but she's under a lot of pressure to get things moving now, isn't she?

LAUREN FOX, CNN POLITICS CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Hala. And this stalemate is expected to come to an end this week. Here's

what we know is going to happen. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, will name who the House managers will be, those are the individuals who are

going to make the case, over during the Senate trial, on the House's behalf.

TEXT: Next Steps Expected This Week: Pelosi meets with caucus on Tuesday; House managers selected; House votes to formally send articles to the

Senate; House mangers hand-deliver articles to Senate lawmakers; Brief prepared by lawyers on each side

FOX: Then they'll have a vote, sending those individuals over to the Senate. They will actually deliver the articles of impeachment. Then we

will see sort of a formal Senate impeachment swearing-in of the U.S. senators. They'll all take an oath of office, swearing to do impartial

justice. We expect that will happen a little later this week.

Then there might be a brief break for a little while, that's because lawmakers are going to have to turn over their briefs to make the

Democratic case. We expect that the president's lawyers will have to turn over their own briefs.

Then we expect this could all get started, the House managers making their case and the president's lawyers making their case, as early as next

Tuesday, Hala, so that might be the soonest that we'll see sort of this formal impeachment trial get started in the Senate.

But of course, this comes after weeks of a showdown between Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell, the majority leader of the U.S. Senate. In the end,

Pelosi got very little in terms of what the Senate trial structure is going to look like, but things look like they're going to get moving this week --


GORANI: All right. Lauren Fox, thanks.


Still to come tonight, an exclusive look inside a base that was attacked by those Iranian ballistic missiles last week. And we'll hear from the U.S.

soldiers who survived, that's coming up.



GORANI: Let's return to the tensions between the United States and Iran. You'll remember last week Iran fired missiles at bases with U.S. troops in

Iraq as retaliation, it said for the killing of a top general.

One of the sites hit was al-Asad air base. CNN was the first network to report from al-Asad after the attack. Arwa Damon has more on what happened

in this exclusive report. And a warning, some of the language may be offensive, but it captures some terrifying moments.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Holy (BLEEP). Good damn. Oh, shit, bro (BEEP)

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): American forces are not used to being on the receiving end of this kind of


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Another one, another one.

DAMON: They are usually the ones delivering it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, like I was scared at the moment, but it happened. It's something that we were ready for, ready as can be.

DAMON: Ready for some sort of ground attack by Iran's proxies, ready for mortars and rockets, but this base is not equipped to defend against

ballistic missiles.

On any other night, some of the 2,500 troops and contractors would have been in the areas hit.

LT. COL. TIM GARLAND, U.S. ARMY: The ballistic reporting started to come in a couple of hours before the event. And so at that point, we were really

scrambling on, you know, how to protect against that.

And so it really came down to dispersion, you know, putting space between people and then also getting them into hardened bunkers just to provide

that protection.

DAMON: At 11 P.M., those who could started to hunker down in bunkers built by their former enemy.

DAMON (on-camera): This is a Saddam Hussein-era bunker.

LT. COL. STACI COLEMAN, U.S. AIR FORCE: It is. So we felt we'd be somewhat safe in here because it was designed to take, you know, some kind of hit,

or it was built for, you know, ballistic missiles.

DAMON (voice-over): At 1:34 a.m., the first missiles hit.

COLEMAN: And these doors, every time one of the missiles hit, the doors would kind of sink in.

DAMON: Dozens of troops were still out in the open, holding their positions to protect the base. There was still the threat of incoming rockets,

mortars and a ground assault, pilots were still at their stations operating drones.

CHIEF WARRANT OFFICER MIKE PRIDGEON, U.S. ARMY: As I was going across the gravel, I could look up to like the eastern sky and I see there's just

orange streak. So I started spreading yelling and come and getting everybody kind of warning, and then it hit, so.

DAMON: Flames swallowed up the drone team's living quarters, some 30 troops would have been sleeping here had they not been ready. Others rushed around

the base as missiles came down, looking for anyone who may have been injured, checking on the base's defenses.

Along the base perimeter, young soldiers on their first tour fought the instinct to flee and stayed, manning the guard towers.

SPECIALIST ERIC KNOWLES, U.S. ARMY: It was definitely scary at first, but we both knew we had a job to do, manning the tower, keeping eyes front, so

we had to do that more than anything, focused on that, tried not to focus on everything behind us.

DAMON: When one strike hit too close, they vaulted into the back of a truck and held their position there. It was a night unlike any here had

experienced, hunkered down for about two hours, unable to fight back. Some crammed into bunkers that weren't built to withstand missiles like these.

DAMON (on-camera): These kinds of small bunkers exist throughout the base but they're meant to protect against rockets and mortars. The ballistic

missiles that were fired are about 3,000 times more powerful than that.

The blast from this one knocked over a four-ton T-wall. But if that hadn't happened, those who were sheltering here probably would not have survived.

DAMON (voice-over): Come daybreak, fear of finding out who was killed or wounded was eclipsed by the joyous shock that no one was.

DAMON (on-camera): It's like what are those reunions like when you kind of see someone who you're close to and you realize that you're both OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a warm feeling deep in the heart that all your friends, your family here is OK.

SGT. 1ST CLASS DANE KVASAGER, U.S. ARMY: It just felt like forever since I've seen my guys and there's a lot of hugging and a lot of tears and a lot

of -- it's just -- it's just a great feeling knowing that all of your people are OK.


DAMON: And this is where you used to --

KVASAGER: Yes, this is my room, a little bit more open floor plan now, but, yes, my bunk was right in the corner right there, and this is my neighbor

up here. Everything is obviously gone. I'm just happy no one was inside.

DAMON: It's kind of freaky, looking at it like this, isn't it?

KVASAGER: Yes. It's surreal. I'm not bothered looking at it. It's just -- it's a reminder, threat still exists.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think, you know, we had each other. We had together that night and will always this brotherhood that will never break because

of it.

DAMON: Does it change your perspective on life?

COLEMAN: It does, it does. It could -- you know, it could be over in an instant. It really does. And it really makes me value mostly my team.

DAMON (voice-over): The base is still on high alert. The dining facility is open but people eat elsewhere to avoid a large crowd gathering. The

military says they are ready for what may come next.

Iran's proxies on the ground continue to vow revenge. Even for those who have seen more before, this was unlike any other battlefield experience,

the overwhelming feeling of helplessness that comes with being under ballistic missile attack, to be at the mercy of the enemy, one that could

strike again even if it's not like this.

Arwa Damon, CNN, al-Asad air base, Iraq.


GORANI: Let's talk more about this and what the U.S. maybe trying to accomplish with its Iran policy. Does it have a policy? James Stavridis is

the former NATO supreme allied commander, a retired U.S. Navy admiral and author of "Sailing True North." Just out. He joins me from Jacksonville,

Florida. Thank you for being with us.

I want to ask you first about what you wrote recently in Time Magazine. You said you wrote more death and violence seems inevitable. Why do you -- why

do you write that?

JAMES STAVRIDIS, FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: Well, look at that terrific piece that Arwa Damon just did for CNN, Hala, and just think how

close we were just really an almost random piece of physics that avoided a massive set of U.S. casualties. No doubt whatsoever in my mind the Trump

administration would have responded with significant force against the Iranian homeland. And then we would see that cycle of violence continue


So we avoided it by a hair's breath. And unfortunately, the fundamentals remain bad here. There's really no immediate sense of agreement coming out

of this. Maybe a tiny window for diplomacy. We'll see. But I'm pessimistic about where the situation goes.

GORANI: But do you think we got to this missile strike because the president decided to target Qassem Soleimani, that that was sort of the

flame that lit the fuse here?

STAVRIDIS: Well, I think, Hala, you know this very well. You can go back a year or five years, seven years, and there are plenty of things going back

to the Iranian revolution ...

GORANI: Yes, Admiral, but this was a real provocation. I mean, this was whether you believe he should have been taken out or not, this was kind of

a notch or two above anything else. Right?

STAVRIDIS: Yes, I think it was. And therefore, it is fair to say that this particular strike moved Iran to launch ballistic missiles.

But by all intelligence that is being reported, Iran was about to go after several American embassies as well. So how we end up in this ongoing tit

for tat, I think, is less important, Hala, than how we get out of it.

GORANI: And how do you get out of it? Because that's the big question. And you saw these demonstrators in Iran. They're just desperate. They just want

to live their lives.

STAVRIDIS: They do. And I think the regime is under a great deal of internal pressure as well as enormous pressure from outside the economic

sanctions most significantly. When you put all that together, I think there's at least a sliver of a possibility that the regime would be willing

to come back to some level of negotiation.

Here's who's important. It is our colleagues in Europe. I look at someone like Ursula von der Leyen who's just taken over as the head of the European

Union. I know her well from NATO command, German defense minister. I could see the Europeans being in a position to mediate. It's not inconceivable to

me, Hala, that China might have a role here. China gets all of their oil essentially from the gulf. They have zero interests in ongoing hostilities.


So there are potential international actors out there who might be willing to do some level of negotiation, and I've heard the Trump administration, I

think sincerely would like to get to the table, because President Trump is facing an election, news flash, in 2020. So he would like to put a positive

on the table in terms of this relationship with Iran.

GORANI: From Iran's perspective, and obviously sanctions are squeezing the regime, they're certainly hurting ordinary civilians. But they'll say look,

we signed a deal. We were -- we were abiding by the terms of the Iran deal. We didn't walk away from it. The U.S. walked away from the deal. Why would

we sign another deal? What's to say the next administration won't do the same, tear it up, walk away, say they want different terms?

STAVRIDIS: I think everything you just said is true. On the other hand, the possibility of a hanging in the morning has a tendency to focus the mind.

And what I mean by that is I don't think the Iranians have a whole lot of good options here. They can either continue to try and ratchet up pressure,

maybe close the Strait of Hormuz, do something even more dramatic to try and break out of the box.

I don't think that's going to work for them. On the other hand, the Trump administration would like to get to a deal. I think it's possible there is

room for negotiation on both sides of that. Let's hope so.

GORANI: Do you think this is going to change Iran's expansionism at all? I mean, Soleimani certainly was no angel. He personally became a battle field

commander in Syria, commanded over operations that were -- I mean, you could argue some of the worst humanitarian disasters in the Middle East in

a long time.

Iran is so desperate to keep Syria under its control. So it continues this line to Hezbollah in Lebanon, this supply line. Will any of this change

that? Because fundamentally, the U.S. wants Iran to change its fundamental behaviors in the Middle East. Why would they?

STAVRIDIS: I think -- you're right to flag that. I think at a minimum, Iran would have to begin to constrain some of its activities. Perhaps, for

example, walking away from the Yemen conflict. Perhaps --

GORANI: Right.

STAVRIDIS: -- reducing some level of activity in Iraq itself, because also of domestic pushback from the Iraqis.

But I think you're correct, Hala, that the primary Iranian geostrategic ambition is this crescent that would run from Tehran to the shores of the

Mediterranean. They will continue to press hard for that.

Again, they don't have a lot of good options now. They might be willing to come back to the nuclear deal as outlined, stretch the timeline for it,

reduce their ballistic missile program, and somewhat reduce their terrorist activities. I think there's trade space there that could find a meeting of

the minds.

Again, these are small possibilities. I remain overall pessimistic about where this is headed.

GORANI: So in 2016, you were vetted for vice president by Hillary Clinton, and you were invited to Trump Tower as well to discuss a cabinet position

in the Trump administration. You met with President Trump.

Do you think he has an Iran strategy or is he just shooting from the hip? Because as you know, the New York Times reported that one of the things he

was trying to do with this Iran strike was to keep some of the Republican senators on side, this is according to the New York Times like Tom Cotton

of Arkansas.

Does he have a strategy, do you believe?

STAVRIDIS: I don't think so. I think President Trump is kind of an instinctual actor. He kind of lunges at different opportunities as he sees

them. Sometimes it works out well for him, sometimes it does not.

What I do think is lacking is any sense of an interagency strategy on the part of the United States. It seems to be very much a military-led strategy

without the attendant, diplomacy, economic, cultural tools that would be potentially so effective in many of these situations.

And, of course, it's not just Iran, it's Venezuela, it's dealing with North Korea, it's dealing with Russia, that interagency strategy doesn't appear

to be many in place, and then I'll close by saying, Hala, that the other lacking element is a real appreciation for our allies.

After four years as supreme allied commander, I came away with a pretty positive set of impressions of our European allies, partners and friends. I

don't think the U.S. is using them very effectively, particularly in the Iranian situation. Again, that is a potential set of relationships that

could nudge Iran back to the bargaining table, and even do mediation.


GORANI: Sure. Were you offered any kind of position in the Trump administration?

STAVRIDIS: I was never formally offered a position, but we had very serious conversations about it. At the end of the day, I don't think I would have

been a good fit in that administration.

But like any other serving military officer like Jim Mattis or John Kelly, I certainly was willing to go down and have the conversation. I had too

many policy disagreements with the Trump administration that ranged from pulling out of the transpacific partnership to pulling out of the climate

accord, to the approach toward NATO.

I had many fundamental disagreements. So I don't think I would have been a good fit.

GORANI: Admiral James Stavridis, thank you very much for joining us. Really appreciate it.

The admiral's book is "Sailing True North". Really appreciate your time.

Coming up, a shooting at a U.S. naval base killed three sailors. Now the Department of Justice is sharing the results of the investigation. We'll be

right back.


GORANI: Retired Pope Benedict has made a rare rebuke of his successor, Pope Francis. Benedict is weighing in on the issue of celibacy for priests in a

new book.

Now, it comes as the Vatican considers whether or not areas with a shortage of clergy like near the Amazon, for instance, should allow priests to


The 92-year-old Benedict is telling to Catholics he can no longer remain silent. Quote, celibacy must penetrate, with its requirements, all of the

attitudes of existence. There can be no stability if we don't put our union with God at the center of our life."

The rift is an example of a widening divide between conservative and more liberal members of the church.

The U.S. attorney general says the shooting at a Florida naval base that killed three sailors is now officially considered an act of terrorism.


WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: On December 6th, Second Lieutenant Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, a member of the Royal Saudi Air Force entered a

building on grounds of the Pensacola Naval Air Station and killed three U.S. sailors and severely wounded eight other Americans.

He was killed during the attack. This was an act of terrorism. The evidence shows that the shooter was motivated by jihadist ideology.


GORANI: Well, William Barr, that's who you just heard there, the attorney general speaking a short time ago in Washington about the Justice

Department's investigation of the December shooting.


CNN's Jessica Schneider is in Washington.

So what happens next with some of these young sort of recruits coming from countries like Saudi Arabia to the United States? Will anything change?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's the other part of this press conference in the announcement from the attorney general, Hala, is

that 21 Saudi nationals who have been training at these military bases throughout the country, they will be expelled for various reasons here. So

really, the announcement kind of three-fold.

The attorney general labeling this an act of terrorism. Also laying out some of those facts that they've uncovered leading to this conclusion. You

know, saying that the Saudi national was, in fact, motivated by jihadist ideology when he shot and killed three U.S. sailors.

Also that this Saudi national posted a message on social media on September 11th of last year that was three months before the attack, saying, quote,

the countdown has begun.

In addition, the attorney general revealed that the gunman visited the 9/11 memorial in New York City on Thanksgiving Day. Though they say they don't

really know the purpose of that trip, and then the gunman also posted anti- American, anti-Israeli messages on social media including one post, at least two hours before that attack on December 6th.

So, you know, the investigation crucially, perhaps, it is not revealed that this Saudi gunman was assisted by anyone or motivated by any particular


But, of course, this has been a wide-ranging review. And as I mentioned, the U.S., as a result of that review, will expel 21 Saudi nationals.

They've been training at various military institutions. This review has found evidence from those 21, evidence of anti-American sentiment, and also

several Saudi nationals were found to have come in contact with child pornography.

So because of this, today, we understand that those 21 will immediately be leaving the country, sent back to Saudi Arabia.

But the program still continues where several -- many, actually, hundreds of these Saudi nationals do train at military installations. And the

attorney general making it clear that that continuation of the program is crucial.

And one last thing, Hala. The attorney general also talked about the fact that the FBI needs to get access to the two iPhones from the gunman.

They've been unable to get into these phones because of the passcodes that exist on these Apple iPhones. This has been a continuing problem for law

enforcement. The FBI sent Apple a letter requesting assistance to bypass these passcodes.

They say that Apple has not assisted at all in this, despite a court warrant for it. This is something that the attorney general has repeatedly

spoken out about how tech companies really need to do more to assist law enforcement.

So a lot coming out of this press conference today, Hala, including the fact that this was an act of terrorism, and now as a result of this

investigation, 21 Saudi nationals have been expelled from the country. Hala?

GORANI: Jessica Schneider, thanks very much.

Still to come tonight, the nominees are out for the Oscars and the list is stirring up controversy again. We'll be right back.



GORANI: Nominations for the Oscars have been announced.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One small thing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you bring me out, can you introduce me as Joker?


GORANI: "Joker" is leading the pack with 11 nominations, including best picture, best director and best actor for its star.

The newest adaptation of "Little Women" are in several nominations for its casts, as well as best picture. But it was left off the short list for best

director. The academy shut out women from that category this year completely.

Frank Pallotta is in New York.

First of all, reaction to the big nominations, best picture, best director.

FRANK PALLOTTA, CNN MEDIA REPORTER: Well, what's really interesting is that you kind of see a full range for best director and best picture. I should

not say best director, if anything, you don't see a range at all. You see just men.

But with best picture, you see a range from everything like "Joker," a comic book movie that made a billion dollars. To Netflix films with "The

Irishman" and "Marriage Story," to Fox films like "Ford versus Ferrari" and "Jojo Rabbit." And foreign films like "Parasite." It's kind of all over the

place in terms of best picture.

In terms of best director, as you were saying, there's kind of a missing aspect to it. Things like -- people like Greta Gerwig deserve to get

nominated, she was not. There was no women brought into it whatsoever.

GORANI: Yes. And yet again, which is really surprising. And only one woman of color nominated for an acting role, Cynthia Erivo playing Harriet

Tubman. She sat out or decided to sit out the BAFTAs. What will happen here?

PALLOTTA: Well, you look at it back a couple years ago, there was the whole Oscar is so white controversy. And the Academy so-called made some changes

to push itself forward to progress forward.

And what you see here is that there is some progress in the academy looking outward of just stateside and domestically, it's bene very global with

things like "Parasite." But where the progress is lacking is giving people of color and women more opportunity to get nominated.

You're seeing people like Jennifer Lopez get snubbed. You're seeing -- you know, Scarlet Johansson was nominated for both best actress and best

supporting actress. Not to say she's not deserving, but that's a spot where maybe you could have had more diversity there.

And it's not just diversity for diversity's sake. There was a lot of great performances this year and great direction from the women who directed

"Hustlers" and "The Farewell" that deserved recognition. And that's where the conversation really lies.

GORANI: All right. Frank Pallotta, thanks very much. We'll be discussing also Netflix, some other time, though. How Netflix has a lot of entries in

the Oscars. The streaming world, certainly, is being recognized. It's a whole brand new media landscape out there. You got to stream these days.

Thanks, Frank.

PALLOTTA: Thank you.

GORANI: Thanks for watching to all of you tonight. I'm Hala Gorani, "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is next.