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Violence Escalates after U.S. Jerusalem Decision; Battle against ISIS; Trump Presidency; California Wildfires; France Pays Tribute to Rock Icon Johnny Hallyday. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired December 10, 2017 - 03:00   ET




CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Tensions escalate in the West Bank in Gaza, more clashes and protests over President Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Plus this. Iraq declares victory over ISIS. But the threat of terrorist violence remains. We'll be explaining later in the show.

New discoveries of ancient treasures. A look inside some of Egypt's tombs.

I'm Cyril Vanier. Good to have you with us. We're live from CNN Headquarters here in Atlanta.


VANIER: There's growing unrest in the Middle East after a U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. At least four Palestinians have been killed in Gaza and protesters have clashed for days with Israeli forces in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Arab League foreign ministers on Saturday called on the U.S. to cancel its decision. Tensions are also impacting U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and his upcoming trip to the region. There are reports Egypt's Coptic Church will not meet with him, neither will Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas. Here's what the Palestinian foreign minister said about that on Saturday.

PALESTINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): President Trump's decision strips the United States of its legitimacy to play the mediation role in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Therefore, with this decision, it excluded itself from playing any role, not just a role, any role, whatever it is, in the peace process in this region, even its role in the quartet.


VANIER: U.S. president Donald Trump has been both praised and criticized for his Jerusalem decision. It's a clear break with past administrations. The status quo has never led to long-term Israeli- Palestinian peace, we've seen that over the last few decades.

Here's CNN's Nic Robertson now on whether Mr. Trump's gamble can actually pay off.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): Clashes like these in the past few days, stone-throwing Palestinian youths goading well-armed Israeli security forces, a part of what world leaders openly worried might happen following President Trump's announcement, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Their fears weren't misplaced. There have been casualties.

ROBERTSON: Yet this is only a partial picture. Many of the Palestinian protests have been relatively peaceful and, overall, have lacked the scale and zeal of past Palestinian actions.

But although it is way too soon to know how all of this is going to turn out, it raises the question: can President Trump capitalize on his announcement?

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: We're profoundly grateful for the president, for his courageous and just decision to recognize Jerusalem...

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Israelis from the prime minister on down have been gushing in their praise.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a good step forward toward peace.

TRUMP: When I came into office...

ROBERTSON (voice-over): On lawmaker suggested Trump's name should be carved into Judaism's sacred Western Wall. Another said he'd name a park after Trump.

ROBERTSON: Of course there has been much speculation about why Trump made the announcement. His critics say it was just to fulfill a campaign promise. Yet the careful framing by the White House and the positive Israeli response perhaps gives Trump leverage other U.S. presidents lacked.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Throughout the region, pro-Palestinian protesters have united to say Trump is biased towards Israel and the U.S. can't be a fair peace talks negotiator.

The Palestinians' chief negotiator told CNN, Trump had effectively shut down talks for a two-state solution.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump made the biggest mistake of his life.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): At the Palestinian protests, I talked to people who said this, too. But they also told me they aren't happy with their own leadership. GEORGE ASSAD, CHRISTIAN CONSULTANT: I think the leadership has had many opportunities in terms of a wake-up call and they haven't listened to the street. I hope that it is a wake-up call for them to pursue a different course of action.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Frustrations hang in part on Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas. His post-Trump statement was seen as weak.

But also with regional leaders...

AHMAD TIBI, PALESTINIAN MP: Some of the Arab states are not -- are acting in a very vigorous and obvious way. The statement was dangerous. The reaction should be strong.

ROBERTSON: Helping Israelis and Palestinians find peace has been one of the bigger challenges for recent American presidents. It's bedeviled the best minds and negotiators, the U.S. has been able to muster. Too soon to say if Trump's gamble, against advice and orthodoxy --


ROBERTSON: -- will pay off -- Nic Robertson, CNN, Jerusalem.


VANIER: Staying in the region, here's a scene Iraqis have been waiting for, for three years.

Celebrating in Baghdad after the announcement that ISIS has been driven from their country. The Iraqi military says it has fully liberated Iraq from what it called ISIS terrorist gangs and retaken full control of the Iraqi-Syrian border. Iraq's prime minister said the dream of liberation was now a reality.


HAIDER AL-ABADI, PRIME MINISTER OF IRAQ (through translator): We announce to our people and to the whole world that our heroes have reached the final strongholds of daish and purified it, raising the Iraqi flags over areas of Western Anbar, which were the last Iraqi usurped territories.

The Iraqi flag flies high today over all Iraqi lands and over the remotest border areas.


VANIER: With us now is CNN military analyst and retired Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, who knows the Iraqi battlefield well.

Rick, good to have you back.

Are you confident that ISIS has been 100 percent defeated in Iraq? LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I think we have to be careful what terms we use. I think it fair to say that ISIS has been driven mostly from Iraq. There are still pockets left. But to say that ISIS is defeated I think is a stretch right now.

The group lives on. It's changed its tactics and its model but it still is a terrorist organization that has inroads in Iraq. It's seeking to change its methods inside Iraq by going after the Iraqis, the Sunnis primarily, that they believe are susceptible to recruitment, because they're going to continue their organization.

They may have to change who they are; they're going to revert back to being the Islamic State in Iraq, maybe Al Qaeda in Iraq. But the group is certainly not defeated but they have been driven territorially from Iraq.

VANIER: That would explain why the State Department communique was more nuanced than what we heard from the Iraqi prime minister. It says, this does not mean the war against ISIS in Iraq is over. I was going to ask you and you started touching on this, could the radical Sunni insurgents reappear, perhaps under a different name?

We've seen this happen before.

FRANCONA: Yes, I think so. We've already seen ISIS shift their tactics, their social media campaign continues. And they're trying to appeal to that Sunni population that feels disenfranchised by what they believe is an Iranian dominated Shia government in Baghdad.

It resonates with many of the young people who find it hard to believe that this, the new government under Haider al-Abadi, is going to really represent them. So we've got a long road ahead of us. ISIS is not defeated, they're still there. They'll be somebody else.

But let's not forget the Iraqis have achieved a substantial victory on the battlefield, they've secured that Syrian border, which is very important and there are small pockets of ISIS fighters left.

They will be dealt with. There's no question in my mind that the Iraqis are capable of eradicating them.

It's how do we deal with what is becomes?

VANIER: Do you think ultimately the same thing will happen in neighboring Syria, where ISIS still has a foothold, smaller than what it once was but still has a foothold nonetheless?

FRANCONA: Syria is a different problem, because you've got different actors in play here. You know, in Syria -- sorry, in Iraq, where we have a definite role for the Kurds in the north, in Syria that's not been defined. We've got so many international players with their feet on the ground there -- the Americans, the Russians, the Turks and, of course, the Iranians, who probably hold the biggest sway there with the Syrian government.

So Syria is a much more difficult situation to project. We see the Assad government, which I believe is going to be able to remain in power, trying to exert its control over the entire country, with no concern for the Kurds, who did a bulk of the fighting up there in the north. So Syria is a much different problem set.

I think Iraq is on the path to recovery. Syria, the jury is still out.

VANIER: What about the attacks that we know were terror attacks, carried out in Europe, that were centrally planned or ordered from Syria and Iraq?

What does that mean for that type of action?

FRANCONA: Unfortunately, what we're seeing is ISIS writ large, say like the headquarters of the organization, the brain trust. We see that moving out of the country. You know, ISIS has known for some time now that this was going to happen, that they were going to lose their territorial base in both Iraq and Syria.

So they've looked to different countries. They look for areas where there are failed governments and we see this mostly in west Africa, south Asia, even Afghanistan. So the planning function will move elsewhere. I think where I would look now is probably in the Maghreb area of West Africa.

VANIER: Preying on weak states as Al Qaeda once did and continues to do. Lt. Colonel Rick Francona, thank you so much for joining us.


VANIER: British foreign secretary Boris Johnson is in Iran for meetings with top leaders.


VANIER: Part of the reason he's there is to appeal for the release of jailed British Iranian citizens, including aid worker Nazanin Zaghari- Ratcliffe. She's been held since April of last year on charges of spreading propaganda, charges which she denies.

On Saturday Johnson spoke with Iran's foreign minister and will hold talks with President Hassan Rouhani. That'll happen on Sunday. They'll also be discussing other issues including Britain's support for Iran's 2015 nuclear deal.

To U.S. politics. The U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday honored U.S. civil rights heroes of the past. But he's also getting slammed by civil rights activists of the present. Mr. Trump attended the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. He toured the building and spoke to those gathered there.

Several prominent civil right leaders did not attend the opening however. They say the president's policies insult those honored by the museum.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHOKWE LUMUMBA, JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI, MAYOR: It is my appreciation for the Mississippi martyrs that are not here, the names both known and unknown, that will not allow me, that will not allow many of us standing today, to share a stage with the president.


VANIER: Here's Athena Jones' report on the opening of the civil rights museum.


ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hi, there. President Trump spent about 40 minutes here at the museum, touring the facility. He saw an exhibit on the Freedom Riders, who helped desegregate the interstate bus system.

He also saw an exhibit on Medgar Evers, the civil rights activist who was assassinated right here in Jackson in 1963. And then he delivered brief remarks, lasting about 10 minutes, to a small group that accompanied him in the museum.

We're talking about civil rights veterans, museum patrons and elected officials. Listen to some of what he had to say.

TRUMP: The civil rights museum records the oppression, cruelty and injustice inflicted on the African American community to fight to end slavery, to break down Jim Crow, to end segregation, to gain the right to vote and to achieve the sacred birthright of equality. Here --


TRUMP: That's big stuff. That's big stuff. Those are very big phrases, very big words. Here we memorialize the brave men and women who struggled to sacrifice and sacrificed so much so that others might live in freedom.


JONES: So there you heard the president honoring a civil rights activist, honoring those who fought to end slavery, fought for their right to vote, people he called American heroes.

But one of the big criticisms that we're hearing from folks who decided to skip this event, including the head of the NAACP and U.S. congressman Bennie Thompson from right here in Mississippi, and John Lewis, the Georgia representative who is a civil rights icon, they say that Trump's inclusion in today's event is an insult to the very people being honored in this museum.

They have a long list of grievances. Overall, they say the president hasn't been a defender of civil rights and he's been criticized in the past for racial insensitivity. Some activists have pointed out the fact that he questioned the legitimacy of America's first black president. They also mentioned that he has endorsed the Alabama Senate candidate,

Roy Moore, who, when asked when America was last great, talked about the era of slavery. He said families were more united, even though there was slavery.

John Lewis and Bennie Thompson, in their statement, highlighted the fact that the president has been bashing NFL players, mostly black football players, who have been kneeling to protest racial inequality.

And several folks also brought up the Voter Integrity Commission the president has set up, they believe is a veiled effort to suppress votes.

So those are some of the criticisms that face the president here, along with about 100 protesters who turned their backs on the motorcade -- Athena Jones, CNN, Jackson, Mississippi.


VANIER: For all things Trump, let's talk to Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at The University of Virginia.

Larry, good to have you back on the show. Let's begin with Mr. Trump at the opening of the civil rights museum in Mississippi. Some civil rights leaders boycotted the event and essentially said that Mr. Trump's record in and out of office just doesn't square with the civil rights movement so he shouldn't have been there.

How do you feel about that?

CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Well, he is President of the United States. And in a sense you would rather him be there than not, you would rather him show deference to this new museum than not.

But the civil rights leaders absolutely have a point. I think the most popular sign outside that museum was Donald Trump is neither civil nor right. And that is basically true in matters of civil rights. He has a terrible record and had a --


SABATO: -- terrible record in civil rights long before he started running for office. I think most people associate him with the birther movement, to delegitimize the Obama presidency.

VANIER: But this accusation that he's being hypocritical by being there, because his policies don't square with that.

Well, if you believe that, then wouldn't you rather him make up for what you see as his negative record by actually going to this museum and shining a spotlight on it?

SABATO: In a sense, yes. But cutting a ribbon at a new museum is far less important than the policies of his administration, which have not exactly been pro-civil rights. And there's a long list of those. And we'd need a whole program to cover them. VANIER: On Tuesday, we're going to find out whether Alabama voters --

switching to a different topic now -- want to send a man who's been accused of pursuing relationships with teenagers, molesting a 14-year old and sexually assaulting a 16-year-old when he was in his 30s, to the U.S. Senate.

Here's what Donald Trump feels about this candidate, Roy Moore.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We need somebody in that Senate seat who will vote for our make America great again agenda. And we want jobs, jobs, jobs. So get out and vote for Roy Moore. Do it. Do it. Do it.


VANIER: So look, Larry, Mr. Trump has chosen political expediency over morals. And he explains this. But is there a point where that could catch up to him?

SABATO: It's going to catch up to him and to the Republican Party if Moore wins. Look, why would Donald Trump care about allegations of sexual harassment?

He faced down more than a dozen women with pretty compelling stories about Donald Trump's sexual harassment during the campaign of 2016. If anything, he probably identifies with Moore about that struggle.

But Moore himself is simply a Republican vote. Trump hopes -- I can see Moore deviating from the party line on more than one occasion if he's elected.

But for Trump, he's a Republican vote. But for the Republican leadership in the Senate, like Mitch McConnell, he is daily troubled. And that trouble is going to boil over again and again and permit the Democrats to run against not just Donald Trump but Roy Moore in the fall of 2018 for the midterm elections.

VANIER: On the Jerusalem issue, earlier this week the U.S. President, Donald Trump, decided to name and recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. There's been a lot of pushback from Arab countries.

But what do you think of the fundamental argument that's put forward by the White House?

SABATO: All of the other presidents who have also pledged to move the capital from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem have resisted the temptation to do it, which would have greatly pleased at least certain Jewish voters in the United States, as well as donors in the U.S.

Now why did they resist doing it?

Because they did not want to throw a hand grenade into the tinder box known as the Middle East.

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, we're starting to see what could possibly go wrong. Violence, days of rage and everything that comes with it.

VANIER: All right, Larry Sabato, joining us from The University of Virginia, always appreciate having you on the show, thank you.

SABATO: Thank you, Cyril.

VANIER: Still to come after the break, firefighters finally turning the tide on the aggressive fires in Southern California. How the forecast could impact their progress.

And archaeologists show off what they found in two newly explored Egyptian tombs. Stay with us.






JERRY BROWN, GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA: We're facing a new reality in the state where fires threaten people's lives, their property, their neighborhoods and, of course, billions and billions of dollars.

VANIER: California governor Jerry Brown speaking there about the raging wildfires devastating the southern parts of his state. He surveyed some of the damage Saturday. Meanwhile firefighters have been battling flames nonstop since the first inferno erupted almost a week ago now on Monday.

But crews finally turned a corner on Saturday. The smallest, the Liberty Fire, is now 100 percent contained. However, strong winds are expected. So those could possibly fuel the flames again.

The six fires have already scorched more than 73,000 hectares; 85 percent of that is just from the rampaging Thomas Fire we've been telling you about mostly for the last few days.

Almost 200,000 residents have been forced to leave their homes. Some of them are now returning but only to find scorched earth and rubble where their neighborhoods and homes used to stand. CNN's Kyung Lah has the latest from Ventura County, California.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is what the Thomas fire in Ventura County, California, did just to one neighborhood. You can see that there are cars still in the driveway. And what remains of a house, just rubble. The fire pushed through this community, burning house after house;

just where we're standing, we can see more than half a dozen houses on this block alone. Firefighters extremely concerned about the deteriorating conditions and trying to prevent more people from losing so much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lifetime, couple lifetimes. Like I said, they're 84, 83, my mom and dad. They have been living here for 30 years, they built it themselves. There is not much. But if there is a few things that will help them, you know, have some connection to the past, then that's what I'm trying to do.

It is what it is, material stuff but, like you said, memories of a lot of years. And we'll see where it goes from here. I don't know what they're going to do.

It is a process. It is shock, still shock, still trying to understand.

Little box. It is a little lizard. Don't ask me but, you know what, if it helps, it helps.

Despite all the loss, we're fortunate. We have family close by. We have other options. And, you know, it is material stuff. Other people are doing so much more, have so much more tragedy in their life that we have nothing to complain about. You just got to focus on that. Kind of makes the rest of it easier to deal with.

LAH: Those Santa Ana wind conditions are expected to increase throughout the weekend, especially as the weekend ends, making the job for firefighters even more dangerous. They are trying to fight the flank of the fire as it grows on the northern side.

They say they need this weather forecast to turn around for them -- Kyung Lah, CNN, Ventura, California.


VANIER: One bit of good news, several states across the U.S. contributing their firefighting resources to help combat the fires in California.



VANIER: In France, hundreds of thousands of people are paying tribute to rock 'n' roll icon Johnny Hallyday. People lined the streets of Central Paris on Saturday to watch as the man known as the French Elvis was escorted down the Champs-Elysees by hundreds of motorcycles.

This is a very rare honor, usually reserved for dignitaries. French president Emmanuel Macron was there. He said Hallyday was more than a singer, that he was a part of France itself. On Friday night, the Eiffel Tower also paid tribute, lit up with these words "Merci, Johnny," "Thank you, Johnny." Hallyday was a household name in France, selling more records than any

other singer there in a career spanning five decades. He died on Wednesday at age 74 from lung cancer.

Finally we want to take you to Egypt, where archaeologists unveiled artifacts found in two tombs over the past six months.

What did they find?

A linen wrapped mummy, skeletons, funeral masks, statues and shrouds, some of them gilded in gold. Officials say see of the artifacts date back to Egypt's 17th dynasty, that's around 1580 B.C. The tombs were located near Luxor, Egypt, and discovered in the '90s but they've never been fully explored. Now we know what's in them.

Thanks for watching. I'm Cyril Vanier. I'll be back with the headlines in just a moment. Stay with us.