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CONNECT THE WORLD

Yemen Fast Descending into Civil War; Saudi-backed Militias Battle Houthi Rebels; Revisiting Afghanistan's Gulnaz, Forced To Marry Her Rapist; Former Prime Minister Tony Blair Backs Labor's Ed Milliband in Upcoming Elections. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired April 7, 2015 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:00:08] BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: The conflict in Yemen is climbing. 100,000 displaced from their homes, hundreds dead, dozens of them children.

For the Saudi government, all this is a price worth paying for long-term stability in the region. Diplomatic channels remain open as Riyadh's

regional rival, Iran, returns to the international fray.

But as new candidates emerge for the most influential job in the world, crucial questions remain about future allegiances.

For now, Saudi Arabia lies at the heart of matters, an Arab powerhouse pushing for a new Middle East order on its terms.

I'm Becky Anderson and this is Connect the World coming to you all this week from Riyadh in Saudi Arabia.

Welcome to Riyadh, a city at the center of a power struggle and the capital of a country determined to retain its regional dominance.

Now, throughout this hour, we'll look at how Saudi Arabia is asserting itself in the Middle East, starting with Yemen.

Well, the humanitarian situation there is growing worse by the day. These images show you the destruction caused by airstrikes carried out by the

Saudi-led coalition targeting Houthi militia.

Now the fighting has killed hundreds of people in less than two weeks, about 16 million Yemenis, nearly three-quarters of the population, have no

electricity. Many are now worried they'll lose access to clean water.

Meanwhile, the Saudi military and border guard have joined forces and are standing by at the border, which overlooks what is a complicated

battlefield with too many factions to count.

CNN's Nic Robertson has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Bone shaking tracks so steep Saudi security trucks struggle. A slip down the wrong side here lands you in Yemen. On the peaks,

something new, Saudi army and border guards joined forces sharing fresh dug trenches. Servicemen here say Houthi attacks are rare, the last a week ago.

The commander says they are ready.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): When we see them approaching, we treat them as enemy and we protect ourselves. And we don't want an incident

like what happened to the first martyr.

ROBERTSON: Three border guards killed since Saudi airstrikes over the border began almost two weeks ago. No shortage of expensive top class new

weapons here.

It's what's happening beyond this border front line that's less well known. Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Houthis, loyalists to the former president, loyalists for

current president, the army, southern separatists, people's movements, tribes. It's all competing interests.

Competing interests on what may be temporary alliances. You only have to look at the most intense fighting in Aiden to see how that's playing out.

Several hundred dead, a humanitarian disaster looming.

Houthis apparently gaining in a battle for control of the deep water port attacking Saudis, as well allies, loyalists of the current president,

people's movement and separatists. These allies don't all back the Saudi goal, a united country. But if together, they can hold the port, Saudi

reinforcements could land and help defeat their common enemy, the Houthis.

Along the coast, Al-Qaeda in (inaudible), Al-Qaeda defeats the southern separatists, but further north Al-Qaeda kills the enemy of the southern

separatists, the Houthis. Around the capital, Saudi planes bomb Houthis and allies, the Yemeni army, HQ, a loyalist of the former president.

Across the country, the tribes looking out for their own have fluent allegiances. Houthis in some places, Al-Qaeda in others, and some support

the Saudis. Back on the Saudi side of the border, things seem simpler, only soldiers and border guards.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): we all have one mission here. And we are working hand in hand with the army to achieve that.

ROBERTSON: Sounds easy, but beyond Yemen's silent peaks, a multisided war looms where anything can happen.

Nic Robertson, CNN, on the Saudi-Yemen border.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[11:05:05] ANDERSON: Let's get more analysis now on this. Nic joining me live from Jizan (ph) on the Saudi-Yemen border.

Nic, I want to get your report making it clear just how complex things are on the ground.

From the Saudi perspective, is this a fight they believe they are winning?

ROBERTSON: It is. I mean, when we hear from the military spokesman who briefs every day he says that they're acting on plan, that this is going

according to the way they want it to go. They've been asked should you be using helicopters, should you be using drones in your attacks in a way to

sort of accelerate or augment what the air force is doing?

But, no, the message at the moment is this is on plan and no need to worry at the moment. But clearly that question about is it going well enough,

you know, really hangs in the air at the moment, Becky.

ANDERSON: Nic, stay with me. I want to get the view from inside of Yemen.

Journalist Hakim al-Masmari joining me on the phone from the capital Sanaa.

From a Yemeni perspective, Hakim, who has the upper hand in this conflict?

HAKIM AL-MASMARI, JOURNALIST: Right now no one has the upper hand. The Saudi airstrikes were targeting to weaken the Houthis, but they have not

done that. The Houthis still are expanding throughout the south of Yemen. They were only in Aden when these strikes took place. Now they're in Aden,

Lahatch Audi (ph) and Havamouk (ph) and Chagua (ph). And all these are southern provinces.

So they have not weakened the Houthis when it comes to their movements. But their military infrastructure, their military depots and storages were

destroyed to a big extent.

Right now President Hadi's forces in Aden are gaining ground, but again two hours ago they took over Anwar Allah (ph), a strategic district in Aden,

the port city, but now the Houthis have controlled it again. So it's going back in circles here and there. And this war is expected to be long-term

because of the Houthi experience in fighting and the lack of experience of the Hadi forces.

ANDERSON: Hakim, thank you.

Let me bring Nic back in. Nic, Hakim on the ground saying so far as the Yemeni perspective is concerned, this is going to be a long and drawnout

war, clearly not something the Saudis are going to want.

But if you talk to most experts, they say this is not going to be one from the air. We've seen those efforts in Iraq, for example, and it's clear you

need boots on the ground. The question is, is that something the Saudis are prepared to do?

ROBERTSON: Well, the Saudis say the option of boots on the ground is still on the table. And they've certainly within the last 24 hours or so asked

the Pakistani government to contribute more to the coalition in terms of soldiers and aircraft and other military equipment. But let's just look at

that one incident today that, you know, for the Saudi airforce, the Saudi- led coalition at least, is something that gives them cause for concern before they launch any airstrike.

A school was hit today, three children killed, six injured, the school was about 400 or 500 meters from an army base. The army base being used by the

Houthis to distribute weapons. It had been hit before. And this is the nature of air campaigns that often you're left going back and rehitting

targets, becuase the bomb damage assessment says they're either partially standing. You don't know if they're being used or not. And in this case,

nobody in that military base today when that strike happened was in it and was injured, and it was the schoolchildren nearby that weren't.

Those are the risks of an extended air campaign, which therefore puts pressure on you if you are determined to influence events on the ground.

This puts real military pressure on you to consider going in with boots on the ground.

So at the moment it really seems an option. The question is where would you do it? Precisely how? And then always in the military thinking about

an exit strategy, the more complicated it is on the groun, and in Yemen it's incredibly complicated, that makes it much harder to consider what is

achieving your goals and then a quick timely exist strategy.

I don't think anyone is looking at this, and particularly the Saudi military planners, as a quick and easy operation if they do go in on the

ground, Becky.

ANDERSON: Nic Robertson there on the border for you.

I want to bring in Saleh al-Mani now. He's the former dean of political science at King Saud University.

I wonder whether given what we've seen over the last 12 days, sir, you are seeing a more or less assertive campaign from the Saudis.

SALEH AL-MANI, KING SAUD UNIVERSITY: I think it's getting less and less. At the beginning it was very powerful. And the campaign is against the

Houthis. And the aerial campaign was very successful in the beginning of the war. And I think it's still successful.

But, however, we are going through different phases of the war.

ANDERSON: I wonder, I heard King Salman making a point on Monday thanking the Yemeni community here in the kingdom -- and there are viewers, some

near 1.5 million Yemenis living here in Saudi, thanking them for their support, the longer this war goes on, the more likely it is that people

will lose relatives at home.

How important is that support from the Yemenis here. And what happens if they start to agitate?

MANI: I think it's going to the supporters there that I think their light forces have been -- there are light forces have been very careful in trying

to avoid civilian casualties as much as possible and therefore minimizing the casualty -- the civilian casualties relieves, at least, some of the

tension.

And you will have that -- we've always have had a lot of Yemeni migrant workers in this part of the world for many years, even before the oil boom.

And so the -- there's almost a continuation of that relationship.

There is also -- if you think about the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Yemen has always been, you know, a good relationship in the sense we

have even in Sanaa the base of the Houthis, there are and still continuing hospitals built by Saudi Arabia and in other cities as well.

ANDERSON: We're going to talk more later this hour, but thank you very much indeed for joining me just for the time being.

And we're going to continue to follow this chaos and why it matters wherever you are watching in the world. We're going to get the view from

Tehran this hour as the conflict in Yemen pits the region's top players against each other as they compete for regional dominance. We'll also

cover the worsening humanitarian situation as countries rush to evacuate their citizens out of the conflict zone. We're going to go to djibouti and

to New Delhi where some of the evacuees have arrived.

This is Connect the World with me Becky Anderson out of Riyadh tonight.

Coming up, it's said that a mother's love has no boundaries. In half an hour, we meet a mother who married her rapist just so her daughter could

have a future. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Welcome back. You're watching Connect the World with me Becky Anderson from Riyadh with the call to prayer as the sun goes down here.

We're going to talk more about what is going on in this region shortly. I want, though, to get you first to an exclusive update now on a story that

we first told back in 2011. And believe me when I tell you it's not the sort of news that we hope to bring you. This is an Afghani woman named

Gulnaz. You first met her after she was raped by her cousin's husband, then jailed for adultery under Afghan law.

The attention that CNN and others brought to her case led to a global outcry for leniency, but her freedom has come with a high price, marrying

her rapist, a price she says she was willing to pay sot that her child might have a b etter future.

Well, our senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh is the one who brought that story to our attention back in 2011. He joins me now from

Beirut, recently back from Afghanistan -- Nick.

[11:15:49] NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's nobody...

ANDERSON: All right, it sounds as if we are having some technical issues.

Let's run Nick's report and see if we can get him back as we reestablish communications with him.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Here is one portrait of how an Afghan family formed, and of women's rights in Kabul in 2015.

First, Asadullah raped his wife's cousin. He was convicted and jailed for it. The beautiful girl here whose name means smile, is the child from that

rape. Born in jail because her mother, Gulnaz here was charged with adultery under what passes for Afghan justice as her rapist was married.

Yet it got worse for Gulnaz still, to be accepted into Afghan society again, she had to marry, to marry him, because her rapist's second wife.

Now, things are said to be OK, settled. Their third child is on the way.

ASADULLAH, HUSBAND AND CONVICTED RAPIST (through translator): If I hadn't married her according to our traditions, she couldn't have left back in

society. Her brothers didn't want to accept her back. Now she doesn't have any of those problems.

GULNAZ, FORCE TO MARRY HER RAPIST (through translator): I didn't want to ruin the life of my daughter or leave myself helpless so I agreed to marry

him. We are traditional people. When we get a bad name, we prefer death to living with that name is society.

WALSH: This is a home built around crime where Asadullah's first wife lives unseen, where little smile has a home among his seven other children.

Global uproar led the then President Hamid Karzai to pardon Gulnaz of adultery in 2011. She was offered asylum abroad, but was pushed into this

deal living here.

He still denies the rape happened, saying she was told to make it up.

ASADULLAH (through translator): Now she's beside me and knows that it was not as big as they had shown.

GULNAZ (through translator): No, I am not thinking about it any more. I don't have a problem with him now. And I don't want to think about the

past problems.

WALSH: Gulnaz did not look at her husband once in our meeting.

GULNAZ (through translator): My life is OK. I am happy with my life. It is going on.

WALSH: While he lets her talk alone. He still stands outside.

Four years ago, she told me she was raped, but now backs his story. Yet she says her family wouldn't have taken her back until she married hi.

GULNAZ (through translator): My brothers opposed the marriage and told me to take my daughter and go to Pakistan to live with them instead. But now

we're married. They disown me and won't see me again.

WALSH: At 23, could anyone have imagined that their life would have turned out like this?

GULNAZ (through translator): No. I couldn't fulfill my wishes in life. I married this man. I cut relations with my family only to buy my daughter's

future.

WALSH: Global outcry, a presidential pardon, billions of American dollars on women's rights. And still it ends like this: a family built on one act

of assault.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Kabul.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: And Nick Paton Walsh joining me now. Nick, what's the atmosphere like in the house for that young woman?

WALSH: It is strange, because there's a sense in the family that they've found some sort of resolution to that enduring problem in conservative

parts of Afghan society of what of the daughter's future that now Smile is part of a husband and wife parental setup that enables her future to be

simpler. And then this is also that sense of tension, too.

I mean, obviously I can't speak for how Gulnaz and Asadullah get on with each other when we're not there, but it was a strange atmosphere to

observe. She did seem subdued and obviously after the years she's been through and the choices she's had to make you can understand how that could

be the case.

But it's also I think fascinating having been involved in that story and reporting it back in 2011 to see how these four or so years, three-and-a-

half, have enabled that level of sort of falling off the radar for this one originally very key global case to have allowed this strange resolution

there, something which many thought was unthinkable way back when Gulnaz was in jail for adultery to now actually to have come from fruition. And

she now, bearing the third child of the man who years ago was her rapist -- Becky.

[11:21:08] ANDERSON: Nick Paton Walsh reporting.

Well, women in Afghanistan who promote human rights are facing, and I quote, a significant increase in threats and attacks.

That is according to a new report by Amnesty International. The group interviewed 50 women human rights defenders from 13 provinces. Amnesty

says the women are targeted because they are perceived as defying cultural and religious norms concerning the role of woman in Afghan society.

Now the report accuses Afghan authorities of failing to provide a safe environment for these women. And it says officials are failing to bring

perpetrators of abuses to justice.

Amnesty also calls on the Taliban to stop targeting women human rights defenders.

Well, it's hard to even picture an Afghanistan where women lived a similar life to their western counterparts, but that time did exist not that long

ago. And when you see the comparison back to back you realize just how far this country has regressed when it comes to women's rights.

These are just a few of the photos you will find in a gallery that we've posted online. It's not just about whether they're wearing skirts of

burkhas, it documents things like educational opportunities then and now.

Take a step back in time on our digital page, CNN.com.

Well, live from Riyadh, this is Connect the World with me Becky Anderson. Coming up, another U.S. presidential hopeful is expected to officially kick

off his 2016 campaign in less than an hour. The latest politician to throw his hat in the ring, and whether he has a solid chance of winning.

First up though tonight, can family values reverse the sliding fotunes of the world's casino capital? We're in Macao for One Square Meter up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOATPE)

JOHN DEFTERIOS, EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: Macau, the glitz gambling mecca of the east. Almost seven times more lucrative than the entire Las Vegas

strip, attracting hundreds of thousands of poker faced players every year from across the border in Mainland China.

But all of that is set to change. Beijing's recent crackdown on corruption and a slowing economy on the Mainland has led to a steady dip in gaming

revenues, sliding 2.6 percent from 2013 to last year. It may not sound like much, but it's a first for the territory and extremely bad news for

the government.

Typically, taxes on gaming revenues make up more than 88 percent of its total annual income.

[11:25:21] UNIDNETIFIED FEMALE: So, I think the important thing for the government right now is to, you know, enhance the product offering in terms

of what we call non-gaming elements.

DEFTERIOS: The plan is to flesh out other parts of Macau's tourism appeal, betting big on a different kind of visitor: the family instead of the cash

flush gambler.

UNIDNETIFIED MALE: The premium mass market in Macau over the last few years has really been dominated by people who are willing to gamble very

high amounts. We've think that segment is mature and the opportunity going foward for the casinos is to target the dry mass market customer.

DEFTERIOS: Kotai (ph), this five square kilometer strip of reclaimed land, is where most of the action is. New integrated resorts are rising from the

sands with a strong focus on family friendly amenities.

The first such development to come online is Galaxy Macau phase II, which opens in May of this year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A full 95 percent of the development of phase II is dedicated to hospitality.

DEFTERIOS: The $5 billion project will add more than 1,000 hotel rooms, 70 food and beverage outlets and a lot more entertainment.

UNIDENTITIFED MALE: Right behind us is the world's largest rooftop wave pool. We're adding the adventure rapids, the longest lazy river ride in

the entire world, over 580 meters long.

We're going to be opening the Broadway Theater, a 3,000 up close and personal theater.

DEFTERIOS: This resort company has also invited several small and medium- sized businesses to take part in the new project, providing a boost to the local economy.

Another project opening later this year is Melco's (ph) $3.2 billion Hollywood themed resort with Asia's highest Ferris wheel.

These are just two of 13 projects in the pipeline to be rolled out in the next couple of years. The government hopes they will help cushion the

slowdown at the slots and keep its economy spinning. Now it just needs to wait and watch where the chips fall.

John Defterios, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:30:07] ANDERSON: You're watching Connect the World with me Becky Anderson tonight out of Riyadh in Saudi Arabia for you. The top stories

this hour here on CNN.

Officials in the Yemeni City of Ibb say Saudi-led airstrikes have hit a school, wounding at least a half a dozen students. One source from the

education ministry says three students were killed. Thre strikes apparently targeting a nearby military base controlled by Houthi rebels.

Well, Kenyans are gathering in Nairobi for a vigil to remember the 147 people killed in last week's massacre at Garissa University. This vigil

was held for the victims on Saturday. Earlier, protesters in Nairobi rallied to demand better security at universities. The government's rapid

response force has been crticized for taking too long to reach the scene on Thursday.

Well, jurors started deliberations today in the trial of the Boston Marathon suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. His laywers don't dispute his

involvement in the bombings, but argue he fell under the influence of his older brother. Now if he's found guilty of just one of the 17 federal

charges, he could face the death penalty.

Well, next year's race for U.S. President has another contender: Republican Senator Rand Paul. You're looking at live pictures from where the

conservative is expected to announce officially his -- he will run for the GOP presiential nomination.

Well, he's already announced that on his website. In just about a half hour, he's expected to kick off his campaign officially at a rally in his

home state.

So, could Rand Paul rally enough GOP support to win the Republican nomination?

To help answer that, I want to bring in senior reporter for CNN Politics, Step[hen Colinson who joins me from Washington. And it's a pleasure to

have you, sir.

How realistic a bid is this?

STEPHEN COLINSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's an interesting gambut that Rand Paul is trying to do. He's from the libertarian wing of the party, which

hasn't providing a presidential nominee in the past, but he's trying to reach out to more -- a more diverse coalition of voters than is typical for

Republicans. He's courting Hispanics, African-Americans, other minorities. And he's very popular among young voters.

I think the most interesting thing about Rand Paul is he is of a persuasion in international relations that's much more non-interventionist than you

likely often see among most Republicans who tend to be a pretty hawkish bunch.

About a year ago, he looked like he was in a real political sweet spot. He was against the Iraq war and against more involement in Syria and that was

where the American people were at that moment. But things chaned when ISIS came along about a year ago.

ANDERSON: Well, to suggest that U.S. policies in Yemen were a failure is as more than one commentator in this region would point out an understatement.

Across the Arabian, or Persian Gulf, whatever your persuasion is, in Tehran, you might find quite a different perspective on the sucess or

failure of what's known as the Obama doctrine.

What is Rand Paul's foreign policy spectrum? You've suggested its more liberal than we might otherwise expect from a Republican. But for example,

on Iran, U.S. relations with Iran and Saudi.

COLINSON: Right. Rand Paul has -- you know, as I said, Public opinion has changed a little bit in the United States. The pictures of Americans being

beheaded by ISIS cahnged the public mood and made a more robust foriegn policy more acceptable in the mainstream.

So, Rand Paul has looked for several occasions where he can sort of match that mood.

You mentioned Iran, you mentioned Iran, he was one of 47 senators, Republicans who warned the supreme leader in the letter that the future --

that the Iran deal may not be accepted by a future Republican president. And a future congress. And he's also now on board with airstrikes on

Syria, on ISIS in Iraq and Syria after you know a year ago questioning whether they would be, you know, worth it whether they would work.

So, he's tried to modulate his positions even though he still says that, you know, a strong defense is a core libertarian foreign policy. And he

doesn't want to go around like the Bush administration, for example, getting the United States involved in a bunch of new foreign wars in the

Middle East, that it will take years to get out of.

ANDERSON: Thank you, sir. Out of Washington for you tonight. Some analysis.

Well, you heard there that Rand Paul involved in that letter to the Iranian leadership.

Despite all the criticism Iran and six world powers have agreed to a framework for a nuclear deal. And with progress on that front, it seems

Iranian leaders are now working to repair regional ties, well at least that's how it looks.

Tehran says it's interested, for example, in a diplomatic solution in Yemen. And that was high on the agenda as the Turkish President Recep

Tayyip Erdogan met with Iranian leaders today.

Now Turkey has backed the Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen. And President Erdogan has accused Iran of trying to, quote, dominate the region.

Interesting times.

Well, dominate or not, there is no doubht that Iran has influence in this region. And it seems Tehran has decided to launch a diplomatic bid to deal

with the situation in Yemen.

Foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will be heading to Oman, Muscat tomorrow for talks with officials there. Now, you remember Muscat's

crucial mediating role in the past.

Zarif is expected to head to Pakistan afterwards, another country that may get involved in the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen.

So what is Tehran's endgame in Yemen and beyond?

Foad Izadi, from the University of Tehran joins me live now from the Iranian capital.

What is -- let's start with Erdogan. What is he hoping to achieve in Tehran so soon after (inaudilbe) himself back into the Saudi fold?

[11:36:24] FOAD IZADI, UNIVERSITY OF TEHRAN: Well, I think Mr. Erdogan has a lot of economic interests in Tehran, the trade between Iran and Turkey is

about $14 billion. And today they discussed the idea of doubling that to about $30 billion.

So, although there are tensions between Turkey and Iran on political matters, on geopolitics, on their take on Syria, on economic issues they

have no difficulties, they're on the same page and they want to actually improve economic relations.

Erdogan was asking for cheaper gas prices from Iran. And he was also suggesting that both countries should use their own currencies instead of

using dollars.

ANDERSON: All right.

It's interesting, when you talk to experts here in the region, there are a lot of people who say Tehran has four capitals these days -- Iraq, Sanaa,

Damascus and Tehran. Some say the U.S. president has conceded too much to Iran with the new nuclear deal.

In a recent interview with the New York Times Barack Obama insisted at the end of the day he won't allow Tehran to obtain a nuclear weapon. Have a

listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And the doctrine is we will engage, but we preserve all our capabilities. And I've been very clear

that Iran will not get a nuclear weapon on my watch.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Well, despite that tone, the U.S. is clearly warming to Iran by reaching an agreement over its program.

Sir, how do you think it affects relations with U.S. allies in the Gulf?

IZADI: You know, there's competition between Iran and Saudi Arabia. And as you know, and you have reported, I think, the Saudi government does not

really like to see warming of relations between Iran and the United States.

They are basically on the same page as Benjamin Netanyahu with regard to how to deal with an Iranian government that is gaining more influence in

this part of the world.

Buit I think the United States will have to choose between stability in this part of the world on one hand and the chaos that you are seeing in

some parts of the Middle East. And if the U.S. wants to see stability I think it is crucial for U.S. policymakers to make sure that they have good

relations with Iran and I think President Obama has actually made that decision with the nuclear talks and other steps that they may take later

on.

ANDERSON: All right. Well, a lot has been made about the presumed influence of Iran in the Yemen context. But here's another take, CNN's

chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour spoke with the Saudi- born journalist and filmmaker Safa Al Ahmad who recently completed the documentary The Fight for Yemen. Here's what she had to say about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[11:40:06] SAFA AL AHMAD, JOURNALIST: I think the whole influence of Iran on the Houthis specificially is completely overblown. There's very, very

little journalism to prove that.

I am not disputing that there is a relationship between the Houthis and Iran, but not to the extent that keeps being repeated in the media.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Sir, we heard from the Saudi ambassador in Washington just earlier this week saying that this country believes there are assets from

Iran's elite military guard on the ground in Tehran. What is the true color of Iranian influence in Yemen today?

IZADI: I think I agree with the documentary filmmaker. I think Iran does have ideological influence in Yemen. I think the Yemenis people,

overwhelming majority of them, do not like to see their country being attacked by the Saudi government.

Yemen, as you know, is a poor country. It doesn't have a big military. Its people don't enjoy the oil wealth of the Saudi royals. So when you see

women and children being bombed on a daily basis in Yemen, that's a big tragedy.

And geopolitics, as you know a lot of oil and goods go through Babal Mandip (ph), you know, the place that the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea meet. And

if you have continuous war in Yemen, you're going to have results in destabilization of the world economy if you havel, for example, the Saudi

troops coming and invading Yemen. You're going to see the war escalating.

I think the continuation of the bombing is not only bad in terms of human rights and human suffering, I think it's going to cause a lot of difficulty

in terms of stability.

I think one thing Iran is worried about is another war in this part of the world. We already have one in Syria. We already have one in Iraq. And we

don't need a big military like the Saudi military with a lot of American weapons killing innocent people on a daily basis.

ANDERSON: Right. The perspective from Tehran tonight. As I say, many people here would accuse Iran of meddling in not one, two, three, but four

conflicts going on in this region.

Live from Riyadh, this is Connect the World with me Becky Anderson. Coming up, those of you who caught last night's show will remember the Indian

evacuation flight taking people to safety away from the chaos in Yemen. After the break, we hear from some of the people on that flight. Do stay

with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:46:14] ANDERSON: Well, you're watching CNN. This is Connect the World with me Becky Anderson live from Riyadh. Welcom back.

Day by day Yemen appears to be descending further into chaos, doesn't it? But the crisis reaches far beyond Yemen's borders and even the Middle East.

If you remember, we brought you these exclusive images yesterday of people racing towards an airplane in Sanaa, desperate to get away from the death

and destruction there.

CNN was on board one of the evacuation flights which are being carried out by India.

So far, the Indians have evacuated 2,500 people to the small African country of Djibouti.

Well, today, I want to get you an in depth look at another side of this story. CNN's Sumnima Udas has been talking to the Indian pilots involved

in this complicated and potentially dangerous submission. Joining me now live from New Dehli.

What have they been telling you, Sumnima?

SUMNIMA UDAS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Becky. We were just with the 81st squadron of the Indian air force as they were preparing their

aircraft to heat towards Djibouti now. We (inaudible) these planes actually can't enter Yemeni airspace, because of that no-fly zone and also

because the de facto government in place right now does not allow for military planes.

And so the way it works, these aircraft go to Djibouti and then wait for passengers that Air India flights have been ferrying back from Djibouti and

also the Indian navy has been ferrying back from places -- from Aden, sorry.

So, that's how it works.

This was the seventh mission in seven days. Even though they are not flying into Yemen. They are preparing to go to what is effectively a very

dangerous part of the world. So a whole airplane has been equipped. They've got bulletproof cockpits in place, all of this was really part of -

- prepared just for this mission -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Is it clear, Sumnima, how many Indians are still in either Yemen or Djibouti? And what's the prognosis for them?

UDAS: The Indian government says there's about 4,000 Indian nationals in India.

Now 3,700 of them, roughly, have already been evacuated. And the ministry of external affairs here actually put out a statement a little -- about an

hour ago saying that tomorrow will be the last evcuation. So, to spread the word, to get as many people, you know, as possible to get on those Air

India flights from Yemen to Djibouti, Becky.

ANDERSON: All right, Sumnima with us out of India tonight.

We're going to take a very short break. Live from Riyadh, you're watching Connect the World with me Becky Anderson.

Coming up, we'll give a rare slice of everyday Saudi life in tonight's Parting Shots. Before that, in the UK, general election campaign fever is

one. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair endorsing one of the candidates. But will that be a help or a hindrance for the Labor Leader Mr. Ed

Miliband? That after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[11:51:22] TONY BLAIR, FRM. PRIME MINISTER OF BRITAIN: The Tory campaign I hear talks of chaos should Labor win. Think of the chaos produced by the

possibility, nevermind the reality, of Britain actually quitting Europe. Jobs that are secure suddenly insecure, investment decisions postponed or

canceled, a pall of unpredictability hanging over the British economy, and for what? To satisfy the insistent Europhobia of a group who will never be

satisfied.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Well, you are watching CNN. And this is Connect the World with me Becky Anderson. Welcome back.

We're in Riyadh for you tonight. That, though, was Tony Blair, Britain's former prime minister warning of the possibility of the UK holding a

referendum on EU membership.

Well, Blair also said he would be backing Labor's Ed Miliband 100 percent, heir to the May election. Well, Blair was in charge of the UK under a

Labor governmen for 10 years, winning three elections for them. And his legacy has been felt both at home and of course around the world, no more

so than here in the Middle East.

Max Foster has more from London for you.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A left leaning British newspaper compared Tony Blair to an embarrassing aging relative that

everyone would prefer not to invite to the family wedding. Certainly he's politically scarred because of his decision to go to war in Iraq, but also

in the way that he's capitalized on his political career since he left 10 Downing Street.

He's not a natural bed fellow with a Labor Party leader Ed Miliband, but on one thing they are agreed, and that is that Britian is better off within

the European Union.

And Tony Blair hit out at the prime minister David Cameron for putting exit on the agenda. David Cameron has offered a referendum on EU membership.

David Cameron responded that actually Brits should have a say on whether Britain should be in the European Union.

Meanwhile, David Cameron is traveling the length and breadth of the United Kingdom as polls show that his Conservative Party is neck and neck with the

opposition Labor Party of Ed Miliband.

One of them will be the prime minister walking through that door in May, but in order to do so, they're probably going to have to do a deal with a

smaller party after the election on May 7.

Max Foster, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Well, let's bring back Dr. Al-Mani for another look at how the situation in Yemen is impacting Saudi foreign and domstic policy.

I want to start, though, with Tony Blair. Many of his dectractors will say that his legacy is tarred by supporting the Americans in the war in Iraq in

2003, playing divide and conquer, looking only at a military solution and not understanding the complexities of the Middle East, not least those of

the tribal makeup of this region. And that is something we must understand and consider when we look at Yemen.

MANI: Yes, but Yemen is different than Iraq. Iraq has always had a central government, a very strong central government throughout history.

And Tony Blair's invasion with Mr. George Bush in 2003 broke an old government, old system of government in Iraq and brought about (inaudible)

and...

ANDERSON: Chaos.

MANI: Chaos and sectarianism in this region. And the result of that sectarianism is now felt very heavily in Yemen.

What we have in Yemen is a problem brought about by that spirit of sectarianism that was brought in the first place by the invasion of Iraq.

[11:55:11] ANDERSON: Fascinating, all right.

Let's finally close out with your thoughts on how waht is going on at present affects Suaid domestic and foreign policy going forward.

Firstly, how much support is there here for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen?

MANI: I think there's a lot of support, huge support for that war -- it's not a war against Yemen...

ANDERSON: In the short-term.

MANI: ...as much as it is a war against the Houthis. And we are not really, you know, eager for a continuation of that war. We think that war

should be ending very, very fast.

But first of all, the Houthis must go back to the UN security council and pull back from the cities and abide by the rules of the game, by the

constitution of the Yemeni government, by going back to that -- to the negotiation and accepting all the parties of Yemen on equal footing.

ANDERSON: The Houthis have said that they will talk. They haven't said to whom they will talk. At this stage it remains to be seen whether we can

look at a political solution going forward.

Sir, it's been an absolute pleasure to have you with me while I've been in Riyadh. And we'll talk again. Thank you very much indeed for joining us.

All this week, we are broadcasting to you live from the Saudi capital Riyadh. And in tonight's Parting Shots we want to bring you a glimpse of

what this city is like. And it's not a destination that many can easily visit. Its name comes from the Arabic word for gardens, but it's not a

particularly green city, aside from a few trees. Far away from the Yemen border, life in Riyadh relatively unaffected by the conflict. But as the

Saudi fight continues, people here have confidence in their countries actions.

(BEIGN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We (inaudible) because we are as the Saudis to trust our government and our military. So...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: You've been watching Connect the World with me Becky Anderson live from Riyadh. We'll be here again tomorrow. All this week at this

pivotal time for Saudi Arabia and the whole of the Middle East.

From the team here and those working for us around the world, thank you for watching.

END