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Moscow Launches Air Strikes in Syria; Abbas Declares End to Oslo Accords; Uber Under Fire in Europe. Aired 3-4p ET.

Aired September 30, 2015 - 15:00   ET




HALA GORANI, HOST: Tonight Moscow launches air strikes against what it says are ISIS targets inside Syria.


GORANI: What this means for the country's civil war.

Then as the Palestinian flag is raised for the first time at the United Nations, Mahmoud Abbas declares an end to the Oslo Accord.

And a woman executed while her children pled for her life. More on the U.S. death penalty case in Georgia, hours before the next prisoner is set to


Plus Uber is under fire across Europe. How the taxi service is trying to defend itself.


GORANI: Hello, everyone. Busy hour ahead. Thanks for joining us. I'm Hala Gorani. We're live at CNN London and this is The World Right Now.


GORANI: We begin tonight with a major escalation in the Syrian civil war and a big move from Moscow, one that could alter the course of the

conflict. According to Syrian state media, Russia has carried out multiple air strikes inside that country. We're hearing that from other sources as

well this evening.


GORANI: You can see the aftermath of one strike here in the city of homes. We can't independently confirm that these images are authentic but they

show destroyed buildings, injured people. Russia's defense minister says the strikes were aimed at ISIS but the U.S. Defense Secretary says the

bombs may have struck other targets.

ASHTON CARTER, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: One of the reasons why the Russian position is contradictory is that exactly the potential for them to strike,

as they may well have, in places where in fact ISIL is not present. Others are present. And this is one of the reasons why the result of this kind of

action will inevitably simply be to inflame the civil war in Syria.


GORANI: So that's Ash Carter, the U.S. Defense secretary. Is Russia targeting more moderate rebels as opposed to Bashar al Assad. After all the

strikes occurred hundreds of kilometers away from their main central de facto capital in Syria, Raqqa.

Matthew Chance joins me now live from Moscow with more on behind -- what is behind Russia's latest move. Matthew.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hala, thanks very much. Well, it's been a day of dramatic developments here in Moscow and of

course in Syria as well. This morning the Russian parliament approved a request from the Kremlin made by Vladimir Putin himself to use military

forces abroad, specifically in Syria. Within a few hours, Russia had carried out its first air strikes and had formally got itself involved in

the Syrian conflict.


CHANCE: This is the aftermath of Russia's first air strike in Syria, and it's violent announcement of involvement in this brutal war. The Kremlin

says it's targeting is forces, but these chaotic images are from the province of Homs where other rebel groups hold sway. Moscow draws little

distinction, it seems, between the enemies of its Syrian government ally.

It took Russia's parliament less than half an hour to rubber stamp the use of military force, albeit temporary and limited to air power. But Russian

officials justify it as legal under international law. And like the air strikes, they say, carried out by the United States and its allies.

SERGEI IVANOV, KREMLIN CHIEF OF STAFF: (As translated) and I want to inform you the President of the Syrian Arab Republic addressed the leadership of

our country with a request for military assistance, so we can state that it is necessary to fight terrorism. International efforts should be united but

complying with the norms of international law is preferable.

CHANCE: But few expected to see Russian military action so soon. Despite emerging evidence over the past month of a Russian military buildup.


CHANCE: Moscow has good reason to support its Syrian ally, including military and economic interest in Syria and a genuine concern about the

spread of radical Islamic groups like ISIS. But the Kremlin also seems driven by a desire to reassert its power and to show that Russia remains a

global force to be reckoned with.


CHANCE: It was a message delivered by Vladimir Putin so forcefully that the U.N. General Assembly earlier this week. Western policy on Syria and

elsewhere, he said, had failed, leaving chaos in its wake.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT: (As translated) I'm urged to ask those who created this situation, do you at least realize now what you've done?

But I'm afraid that this question will remain unanswered because they have never abandoned their policy which is based on arrogance, exceptionalism

and impunity.

CHANCE: But now it seems Russia is offering its own answers. These are the first official images from the Russian defense ministry of its air strikes.

Military equipment, communication centers and motor vehicles were among the targets attacked, it says, and this is just day one of what could be

Russia's open-ended Syrian war.


CHANCE: Right well Hala, there's been a bit more detail in the last few minutes as well from the Russian Defense Ministry. They say that they

carried out up to 20 sorties in the skies over Syria, striking at least eight positions of the Islamic state. They've listed targets like arms and

munitions dumps, weaponry, control positions, means of transportation, all for Islamic state militants, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. But

clearly there may well be other rebel groups and the United States has pointed this out as well as other analysts. There may well be other rebel

groups that fall in the firing line, Hala.

GORANI: All right, Matthew Chance is our senior international correspondent in Moscow with the very latest on what Russia is doing inside Syria. Let's

look at the diplomatic and strategic implications of these actions today. Big major development. For that I'm joined by Robert Ford. He's a former

U.S. Ambassador to Syria. Also with us is Colonel Peter Mansoor, a CNN military analyst and a former aide to U.S. General David Petraeus in Iraq.

Namely and notably during the surge in 2007.

Ambassador ford, if I could start with you, how do you think this changes things inside of Syria as far as the civil war is concerned?

ROBERT FORD, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR OF SYRIA: I doubt very much that it will change the course of events on the ground significantly. For a long

time the Assad air force has used air strikes to try to impede advances by the opposition, by the rebels. Throughout calendar year 2015 the Assad army

has been in retreat. They're losing a bitter war of attrition. It's not a surprise.


FORD: It's a government based around a minority, that's its core. And so minority governments usually don't do well in wars of attrition and I don't

think the Russian air strikes change that. It's very interesting to me that the Russians struck forces that have nothing to do with the Islamic state

and in their strike in Talbiseh, they hit a group called the Unity Army, the (inaudible) which was actually fighting the Islamic state just a

couple of weeks ago on that area. So it's clear that the Russians are interested in trying to prop up a steadily failing and flagging Assad

government more than it is in taking shots at the Islamic state.

GORANI: Colonel Mansoor, do you agree that this will have no impact that it will not change the course of the war in any significant way, that the

Assad regime is failing and retreating? What is your opinion on this?

COLONEL PETER MANSOOR, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, it's clear that the Assad regime is losing the war, which is why they needed the Russian



MANSOOR: Unless Russia gets into the conflict in a big way, not just air strikes but perhaps ground troops as well, I don't think this will change

the conflict in any meaningful way.


MANSOOR: But let me address why they're hitting the targets they're hitting. It's if you want to back Assad and his government, you want to

destroy every other rebel group in the country except for ISIS and then at the end it will be Assad's regime versus ISIS. And given that choice, the

thought is the world will back the Assad regime as the lesser of two evils.

GORANI: All right, but here you have still a major power not just conducting air strikes but according to satellite photos and intelligence

released by the Pentagon and other independent European agencies, also building extensions to runways, installing barracks, APCs, tanks, et



GORANI: I mean Russia is choosing this time to get involved in the Syria war. Is it not going to at least prolong indefinitely Bashar al Assad's

hold on power inside Syria, Ambassador Ford?

FORD: Well I think it will give Assad some confidence that he does not need to present any serious concessions. It will certainly impede efforts to

find a political solution. A solution in which both sides, government and opposition, would have to present serious concessions. I can't imagine that

Assad will present serious concessions as long as he believes that he has the Russians' full banking. But militarily unless the Russians were to

introduce quite a large number of ground fighters in the thousands, I can't imagine it's going to really affect the ground campaign. The Syrian air

force has been bombing the opposition consistently for more than four years now.


GORANI: OK, but let's talk a little bit about the United States. It's not like what the U.S. has done the last several years has been a success

either. You have U.S.-trained rebels, just a handful of them. Some of them losing their equipment, others getting kidnapped. I mean when you compare

what Russia is doing to the United States, is Russia not in fact achieving a scenario in which it has an upper hand inside the country right now?

FORD: Well, I don't think the effort we had to raise a force that would fight only the Islamic state went anywhere. It was obviously an abject

failure. But I don't think the Russians hit any Islamic state targets today either.


FORD: So I would say both the United States and Russia haven't done anything against the Islamic state, at least on the ground. And ultimately

to contain and eliminate the Islamic state from Syria, it will take ground forces.


GORANI: OK. Let's talk about ground forces. Colonel Mansoor, you know a thing or two about ground forces. You were in Iraq during the surge in

2007, you were an advisor to David Petraeus. When you look at the situation on the ground in Syria, OK, it's a different scenario. But when you look at

it, you say to yourself what in terms of trying to at least bring this to some sort of ending where the bloodshed in its current form stops.

What do you think needs to happen now?

MANSOOR: The best way for negotiations to begin and to succeed are when both sides feel vulnerable. And now that Russia is backing Assad in a big

way, he doesn't feel as vulnerable as he did perhaps a month or two ago. We have to create viable ground forces that can make headway against the

forces of the Syrian regime so that they're brought to the negotiating table in good faith and that they're serious about it.


MANSOOR: And so it's going to take a lot of ground forces. We can't do it with just 50 or a half a dozen guys, whoever we've been training. It's

clearly an effort that's failing right now.

GORANI: But there's no - there's clearly no - there's clearly no plan, no appetite for that in the United States. So in the absence of that, this

seems like the kind of conflict that's going to go on for quite a while. Robert Ford, I've got to ask you a little bit about also what Barack Obama,

the President of the United States, said at the U.N. saying the U.S. is willing to negotiate with other partners or to at least consider the

positions of other partners, Iran and Russia. Is the U.S. coming around to the idea that it rejected for years that perhaps Bashar al Assad could be

part some of sort of transition?

FORD: Well first Hala, we need to finish the point about the ground forces. Nobody is calling for foreign ground forces. We need Syrians to fight the

Islamic state and we need a government in Syria that will mobilize many, many, many more Syrians to fight the extremists. Bashar al Assad has had

four years to mobilize Syrians to both fight extremists, and the extremists problem in Syria is worse now than it was a year or two ago. So ...

GORANI: ... well he's too busy fighting the rebels.

FORD: As Colonel Mansoor said - as Colonel Mansoor said we need credible ground forces. Now, with respect to Russia and Iran and what the President

said, obviously Iran and Russia have interests in Syria. They too need a stable region. However, their analysis, their analysis of the cause of

instability is dramatically different from the American analysis or that of our friends in Europe, places like Great Britain, France, Germany or the

analysis of friends in the region like Jordan, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Our analysis shared by the countries I just mentioned is that Bashar al Assad

is the root cause of the instability, the brutality of the Assad regime, barrel bombs, chemical weapons, mass arrests, torture, killing, is what has

driven so many people from inside Syria as well as outside Syria into extremist groups.


FORD: The Russian position that we should all help Assad fight the Islamic state, as if Assad who created this problem suddenly will be part of the

solution doesn't fit with the American analysis and I don't think you will see any big change in American policy as long as that American analysis of

the root cause of the problem remains unchanged.


GORANI: And, Peter Mansoor, I want to end with you. Ambassador Ford said the root cause of ISIS is Bashar al Assad but of course it's precursor, Al

Qaeda, in Iraq came to being during the American occupation of that country. So looking at this situation, when you look at ISIS and the areas

it controls, what can be done there, because this is a big concern for western countries.

MANSOOR: Well, I think much more can be done on the Iraqi side of the border than in Syria right now. There, even though the campaign is pretty

ineffectual at the moment, there are forces of a government that we can work with and make capable and bring them into the fight. It will take a

long time, but I think what we can do is fight this in sort of a sequential manner, working the Iraqi side of the border and ejecting ISIS from Iraq,

and then you have a more manageable problem in Syria.

Meanwhile your trying to train that Syrian army that Ambassador Ford so rightly pointed out is much need.


GORANI: All right. It's going to be complicated. There are many conflicting interests there right now and a very complicated situation. Peter Mansoor,

thank you very much. Robert Ford, the former U.S. Ambassador to Syria, thanks very much to both of you to this in-depth discussion on this

important day.

A lot more coming up after an important break. The flag of a stateless people now has a home at the United Nations.


GORANI: We'll take you to a historic event that the U.N. Chief calls a day of pride and hope for Palestinians. Not everyone is happy about it, though.


GORANI: Plus the controversy around a law-breaking American county clerk grows. Her legal team says she had a private audience with the Pope. Some,

though, are doubting her story. The latest when we come back.




GORANI: The Palestinian authority President Mahmoud Abbas calls it a historic moment on the road of independence. A short time ago the

Palestinian flag was raised at the United Nations for the first time.


GORANI: The move is symbolic. It doesn't change Palestine's nonmember observer status at the U.N, but it does reflect widespread international

support for a Palestinian state. The U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly approved raising the flag earlier this month. The U.S. and Israel objected

to this. Mr. Abbas addressed the assembly a few hours ago, he accused Israel of trying to destroy the two-state solution by continuously

violating peace accord. Mr. Abbas says that leaves Palestinians no choice.

MAHMOUD ABBAS, PALISTINIAN PRESIDENT: As long as Israel is not committed to the signed agreements and undermined all agreements, we for our part are

not committed to those agreements and Israel must bear full responsibility for this development and this situation.


GORANI: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls that speech deceitful, saying Mr. Abbas is encouraging incitement and destruction.

Robyn Curnow is at the United Nations. So Is Mahmoud Abbas essentially leaving the Oslo Peace Accords? Is he leaving the peace process, so to


ROBYN CURNOW, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Indeed and it certainly marks a new level of tension with Israel, Hala and he has essentially

walked away from the Oslo Peace Accord which of course form the foundation of a two-state solution.



CURNOW: But analysts tell me that really practically is this going to make any difference on the ground? It's a bold move, yes. A move welcomed

perhaps here at the U.N., but there's also the realization that the Oslo Accords have ever really been fully implemented and everyone agrees that a

new type of accord is needed if there is going to be some sort of peace process.

I think there is some pragmatism, some understanding to the context of his decision and as you said, the reaction coming from the prime ministers of

the - the Israeli prime minister's office pretty also strong worded saying you know that this was a deceitful peace, it encouraged incitement and

lawlessness and he called on the Palestinian authority to join Israel in direct talks without any preconditions.


CURNOW: So, you know, same-same perhaps but either way you know, marking on the day the flag went up, the Palestinian flag up, also marking a real

sense of how intractable this conflict continues to be.

GORANI: All right. Robin Curnow is at the U.N. thanks very much, covering the U.N. General assembly this year.


GORANI: This is The World Right Now, a lot more coming up as we show you images of the flag raising.


GORANI: The U.S. State of Georgia executed its first woman prisoner in 70 years. And Oklahoma is expected to execute another in the next hour. We'll

tell you about the controversial aspects of both cases.





GORANI: Convicted murderer Richard Glossup is scheduled to die in an hour just about in the U.S. state of Oklahoma. He'll be the first person

executed with a controversial sedative since the U.S. Supreme Court approved the drug's use this summer.


GORANI: Glossup was convicted of hiring a man to kill a motel owner in 1997. He maintains he was framed and is innocent. And for the second time

this week a representative of Pope Francis has asked that a death row prisoner's life be spared.


GORANI: But a written appeal on the Pope's behalf did not stop the execution of Kelly Gissendaner from going forward in Georgia. Martin

Savidge has that story.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: 47-year-old Kelly Gissendaner, the only woman on Georgia's death row and the state's first

female prisoner to be executed in 70 years, put to death by lethal injection.

Gissendaner, who was convicted of murder for convincing her lover to kill her husband, Douglas, almost 20 years ago was pronounced dead at 12:21 a.m.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kelly is a woman who made a drastic mistake and a tragic decision. I'm not even going to call it a mistake. She's paid her dues for


SAVIDGE: In the five hours leading up to her execution, her legal team desperately tried to find a Court that would order a stop, including

appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court three times. Every effort was turned down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We chose to try and save her life and they still denied us.

SAVIDGE: Georgia's supreme court, the U.S. Supreme Court and Federal Appeals court denying all of her appeals. The effort to spare her life

reaching as far as the Vatican. A letter on behalf of Pope Francis urging the parole board to exercise mercy.

POPE FRANCIS: Every life is sacred.

SAVIDGE: Gissendaner's lawyers arguing she had undergone a spiritual transformation in prison. Media witnesses say she sobbed as she apologized

to the victim's family and asked her lawyer to tell her kids she went out singing "Amazing Grace."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I asked her if she wanted me to give any messages to give to her kids because I was there in place of her children. I said I

need a statement to give to each one of them, Kelly. And she said it's easy, Mark, I love you, I love you, I love you, I am so proud of you.



SAVIDGE: With her execution, Gissendaner earns two very different distinctions. The first woman executed in Georgia in 70 years and the last

woman on Georgia's death row.

Martin Savidge, CNN center, Atlanta.

GORANO: Victor Blackwell joins me now from CNN Center in Atlanta with more details on these two cases. She's been -- first of all, we're talking about

Kelly Gissendaner -- on death row for 20 years at this point. What was the rush now, did she not have an appeal left?


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Hala, she did have one final appeal to the Georgia board of pardons and paroles but this

was in many ways asked and answered. I mean this was actually a reconsideration of clemency that her two children had to decide if they

were either going to make that case or spend the last two hours with their mother.

As you heard there from Kayla Gissendaner they decided to try to make the case. The argument here not just the turning of the page as Martin

mentioned, but also proportionality.

Because you'll remember that Kelly Gissendaner was convicted of planning this and convincing her then lover to kill her husband. That killer, the

man who actually stabbed him in the neck, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. She was sentenced, as we know, to death. So that's one of

the arguments.

But also that turning the page, you heard her saying -- the witness saying she sang "Amazing Grace" but also "apologized to what she called an amazing

man who lost his life because of her."


BLACKWELL: Of course the victim's family says that she is just as guilty as the man who killed Doug Gissendaner, her late husband, but also that

this punishment fits the crime.

GORANI: Now, we know that the Pope weighed in on Kelly Gissendaner's case. We know that many states in the United States by the way now are suspending

or applying a moratorium on the death penalty while they consider methods of death that could be seen as not being -- as being even cruel in terms of

putting people to death. In Georgia, how are people reacting to this?

BLACKWELL: Well, in Georgia, I mean it's split. There are many people who agree with the family that she is as guilty as the man who actually killed

Doug Gissendaner. But there were many people there who were there outside holding vigil. 90,000 people signed a petition to try to save her life.


BLACKWELL: But as you commented on the Pope's letters or letters on behalf of the Pope I should say, that's not uncommon for an emissary to write a

letter to try to plea for clemency on behalf of the Pope. It's happened several times.


BLACKWELL: You may remember back in 1999, then Pope now St. John Paul II actually spoke face to face with the then governor of the state of



BLACKWELL: And when that sentence was commuted to life in prison instead of the death penalty, the then governor said he did it because the Pope asked

him to do so.

GORANI: All right we'll see if it has any impact on the Oklahoma case.


GORANI: Thanks very much, Victor Blackwell is in Atlanta this evening.

Still to come tonight, the fight for Kunduz.


GORANI: Afghan forces struggle to regain control of that a strategic city from the Taliban. I'll speak with an Afghan government official straight


And a major escalation in the conflict in Syria as Russia conducts its first air strikes inside the country. How will that move change things






GORANI: Our top stories, Russia has carried out multiple air strikes inside Syria for the first time.


GORANI: You can see an aerial view of one of those strikes here. Moscow says it was targeting ISIS, but U.S. Officials say opposition forces may

have been the real target.


GORANI: A dramatic declaration from the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas as he addressed the U.N.


GORANI: He said Palestinians are no longer committed to peace agreements with Israel because of what he calls repeated Israeli violation. Mr. Abbas

spoke shortly after the Palestinian flag was raised at the U.N. for the first time in history.


GORANI: The U.S. State of Georgia has executed its first female prisoner in 70 years.


GORANI: Kelly Gissendaner died by lethal injection just a few hours ago despite a written plea from a representative of Pope Francis. She was

convicted of murder for persuading her lover to kill her husband. The lover who killed the husband got life in prison.


GORANI: The United States is pulling its spies from China after a huge cyber-attack that was revealed earlier this year according to a U.S.



GORANI: Hackers stole the personal data of more than 20 million current and former government employees. The U.S. suspects Chinese hackers are

responsible and that intelligence operatives are at risk of being exposed.



GORANI: Let's return to our top story. Russia is conducting air strikes inside Syria.


GORANI: It started doing so today for the first time. Syria's state-run news agency says the strikes targeted areas near Homs as well as

(inaudible) Province, which is south of Damascus.


GORANI: The thing is though ISIS is not in those areas, it's about 300 kilometers away in Raqqa and other parts of the northern part of the


Speaking at the U.N. General Assembly in New York, the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, said his country carried out the strikes following

a request from the Syrian President.


LAVROV: (As translated) On the 30th of September in response to a letter by the President of Syria, the President of Russia asked and received the

consent of the Council of Federation for the use of the armed forces of the Russian Federation in the Syrian Arab republic.

We're referring here exclusively to operation of the Russian air force to carry out strikes against ISIL positions in Syria. We have informed the

authorities of the United States and other members of the coalition created by the Americans of this and are ready to forge standing channels of

communication to ensure maximally effective fight against the terrorist groups.


GORANI: Sergei Lavrov, I'm joined here by our international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson. Nic, first of all, this complicates the situation

immensely. I mean now you have I don't know how many countries, I think at least 12 countries conducting air strikes inside of Syria, including Russia


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Doesn't it just. I mean look just two days ago we were at that point of discussing what kind

of transition are we talking about for President Bashar al Assad. Is there this - is there this closeness between the United States, their allies, the

Russians and their allies over a transition in the future of Syria. I mean look, President Putin barely gets back to Moscow after a 90-minute meeting

with President Obama and is asking the government there to sanction the use of arms overseas and there are strikes in Syria. He is striking at the very

people the United States says that it's arming to overthrow Bashar al Assad. If this was ever --

GORANI: I think mess - I think mess is the word you're looking for.

ROBERTSON: Two large powers facing off against each other.

GORANI: Absolutely. Is this a return to some sort of cold war scenario? I'm not saying it's a return to the cold war but some sort of cold war scenario

where you clearly have proxies fighting each other in a foreign land in a third country, Syria. In this case Russia, for instance, if it is targeting

rebels that are opposed to Bashar al Assad, the same rebels that the U.S. and Qatar and Saudi Arabia may be supporting, I mean this is really turning

into a proxy battle.

ROBERTSON: I think it's worse than a simple old cold war proxy battle. I mean we know it's been proxy for some time. Go back to the Geneva talks,

Geneva 2, beginning of 2014. The Russians were going to bring President Bashar al Assad to the negotiating table, get him to compromise. The United

States would work with the rebels. It absolutely didn't happen.



ROBERTSON: But everyone could see where people were aligned. But now you have Russia joining the fight, putting aircraft on the ground. Essentially

it will be viewed in the region, and you can't help but view it in this way as well, we've seen Syria as something of a sectarian conflict, as well

Shia versus Sunni. People don't want to cast it that way but now you have Russia essentially aligning itself with Iraq, Shia dominated government,

with Iran, Shia dominated - Shia country.


ROBERTSON: You have the United States with its allies, mostly Sunni. This problem -- you know, we look at the exchange of harsh words between Saudi

Arabia and Iran today or Iran towards Saudi Arabia --

GORANI: Even over a tragedy like the Hajj stampede they're still blaming each other.

ROBERTSON: Exactly, so this is the picture of the Middle East, and Russia steps right into the middle of this clearly taking one side.

GORANI: Let me ask you maybe a controversial question. Is Russia not just playing its cards well? I mean when you look at how the United States has

tried to sort of help its case and cause inside of Syria, training rebels that get lost, lose (inaudible) get kidnapped. Here you have Russia coming

in at this stage of the game, establishing itself militarily, expanding runways, apcs, tanks, now air strikes, propping up the regime of Bashar al

Assad, it's major ally. Is it not just playing its cards well if we're going to be cynical about it?

ROBERTSON: If we're going to be cynical then you can say that the cards are being played very well at home in Russia. But you know card games like

chess, because is it you know a game of chess here because it's multi- dimensional and this isn't a short-term situation. It's not a quick game of cards here. So is Russia playing its cards right in the longer run, that's

much harder to judge at the moment because it is putting itself in the place where it can get targeted on the ground by factions on the ground.

It's putting itself in a much more dangerous, harder to win long-term position. How long will it continue to support Bashar al Assad.

GORANI: And we all know the history -- we all know the history of big empires, huge superpowers getting involved in conflicts very far from home

and how in the end it's not something that ends up being necessarily beneficial.

ROBERTSON: It looks good right now for Russia but in six months' time, it could look a whole lot different.

GORAN: And of course those suffering, as always, the Syrians, who have had to flee in their millions. Thanks very much, Nic Robertson, we appreciate

it this evening.

Don't forget you can go to my Facebook page, We'll put up some of the interviews, the one with Robert Ford, the U.S.

Ambassador and you can also weigh in on the stories we've covered.

A NATO spokesman says coalition forces are on the ground in the Afghan city of Kunduz to support government troops against the Taliban. As Ivan Watson

reports They are trying to reverse the Taliban's biggest victory since 2001.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Automatic gunfire shakes Kunduz for a third day as Afghan forces struggle to retake the city

from Taliban insurgents following a surprise attack on Monday. While the fighting rages on, many families are fleeing, picking up and getting out,

by truck, rickshaw, horse, some on foot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (As translated) The situation is very bad. All of the residents are fed up and thousands of families are escaping the province.

WATSON: some of the heaviest fighting is reported at the airport, where Afghan forces drove back Taliban fighters overnight with the help of

several NATO air strikes.

But Afghan officials say they're suffering from a shortage of ground troops. Hundreds of reinforcements are stuck in neighboring Baghlan

province where insurgents have blocked the highway. And while a small number of coalition special forces are in Kunduz, U.S. officials say

Afghans have to lead the effort to reclaim the city.

JOHN KELLY, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: This is their country. The whole idea of this mission is to have them secure their own country, make

their own citizens stable and they're working through that.

WATSON: In the capital of Kabul, there was shouting in parliament where Afghan lawmakers called on the President Ashraf Ghani to resign over his

government's handling of the battle for Kunduz.

Many Afghans are angry at their government over the siege of the city. Angry that the Taliban have achieved their biggest success since being

toppled from power. Angry that this battle appears to have re-energized an insurgent group that appeared split only months ago.

Ivan Watson, CNN.


GORANI: Before the show I talked with a spokesman for the Afghan Interior Minister who was very optimistic about the government forces prospects and

retaking the city. I began by asking him about what the major challenges were in this fight.


SEDIQ SEDIQQI, AFGHAN INTERIOR MINISTRY SPOKESMAN: Yes. We are trying to retake Kunduz city and that's our ultimate goal now. But of course we do

have our challenges.


SEDIQQI: First of all, the city, you know, there's civilians in the cities and the Taliban are using civilians as shelters. But in the past 48 hours

we did everything to make sure we have enough resources to retake the city, so that's the plan. And now we are in a good shape now and very soon we

will retake the city.


GORANI: We understand that some of the troops that the government was counting on to retake Kunduz were actually stuck in a neighboring province.

What does this say about the organization and ability of the security forces in Afghanistan?

SEDIQQI: Well they faced some challenges on the way to Kunduz in the past two days but most of them reached today. And we also did reinforcement

through air.


SEDIQQI: So right now we have enough resources and there's a good mobilization of forces, so the operation has already started in some part

of the city and right now as I'm talking to you, we are -- our forces are ready and within hours or within the next ten hours at least we will have

good news about Kunduz and we will clear the city so that is the status at this moment.


GORANI: All right, the Taliban, though, still in control. How much help did the Afghan government get from coalition forces, not just from the air but

on the ground as well? It has been reported that there have been coalition ground troops in the area.

SEDIQQI: We do have the support of our partners.


SEDIQQI: Of course they are there to help us advise how we can do these difficult and complicated operations. It's still a partnership. Of course,

yes, with the help and support of our partners, we are going to achieve our goals and retake Kunduz city.


GORANI: So there are troops, coalition troops on the ground helping Afghan security forces, is that correct?

SEDIQQI: Well, we -- our forces in Kunduz, yes.


SEDIQQI: They do have their advisers there and helping them with the planning and all the support we need there so that we can conduct these



SEDIQQI: So there's a level of support from our advisers and partners in Kunduz right now.

GORANI: OK, thank you very much Mr. Sediq Sediqqi, the Interior Ministry Spokesperson joining us from Kabul. We really appreciate it.

SEDIQQI: Thank you very much.

GORANI: All right. This is The World Right Now.


GORANI: Just ahead, a controversial woman says the Pope told her he supports her cause even though she broke U.S. law by denying gay couples

the right to marry. We'll have the latest.

Plus Uber is dodging lots of roadblocks in Europe. Some Uber executives are even on trial, accused of running an illegal taxi service. We'll be right






GORANI: The Vatican is not denying that the Pope met privately with a county clerk during his U.S. tour.


GORANI: Not just any county clerk. I'm talking about this woman, Kim Davis who was jailed, you'll remember, for six days for refusing to issue

marriage licenses to same-sex couples. She says she's biblically opposed to same-sex marriage. Davis' attorneys insist the meeting took place. Davis

says the Pontiff thanked her for her courage and told her to stay strong and even gave her, she says, his rosaries.

CNN, religious commentator Father Edward beck joins me now via Skype from New York.


GORANI: So, father, let me start by asking you, now, the Vatican is not confirming nor denying. What does it usually mean -- do they usually deny

things that aren't true or is this kind of a standard, you know, sort of -- a standard response to questions to the Vatican?

FATHER EDWARD BECK, CNN RELIGIOUS COMMENTATOR: Hala, it's standard when it's a private meeting not meant for public consumption. There have been

other meetings that the Pope has had for people and they have not commented on the meeting, such as with the transgender person because they consider

it a private meeting and that is what they said about this one.


FATHER BECK: They're not denying it happened, but they will say no more about it other than that.

GORANI: So can we assume then that it did happen?

FATHER BECK: Yes, I think we can probably assume it did happen.

GORANI: OK, now, why would he meet with Kim Davis, a polarizing figure, that is being utilized by politicians in this Presidential race in the

United States, you know, who went to jail for breaking the law and not giving same-sex couples marriage licenses? Why would that be a decision

that the Pope would make on his U.S. Tour?

FATHER BECK: Well, again, we don't know who made the decision. First of all, we heard it was an apostolic government Vatican official who requested

it. We don't know who that official is. We don't know exactly how clued in Pope Francis was to the significance of the meeting. He meets with a lot of

people, so let's keep that in mind as well.

But with the focus afterwards when he was asked a question not about this case in particular, but on the plane he was asked about conscientious

objection. And he said, yes, I support conscientious objection. It's long been supported in the Christian Catholic tradition. I think you'll recall

when he spoke to congress he mentioned two luminaries in the Catholic tradition, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merchant, both conscientious objectors,

so it's a revered tradition.

So he put his comments in the context of conscientious objection. And someone said then, the reporter said what about a government official? And

the reporter was referring of course to Kim Davis, and the Pope said, well, if a government official is a conscientious objector, they have that right

too. So he's supporting that as a right, a human right of someone.

GORANI: He also, according to Davis at least, told her that that she was courageous. He told her to stay strong, gave her rosaries as well. How is

this perhaps going to impact the image of Pope Francis? I mean he -- this is a little bit different than talking about traditional Catholic issues

like abortion and marriage, et cetera. This is meeting with an extremely polarizing figure.

FATHER BECK: Well, again, he didn't say that he thought she should keep her job, from what we understand. Be courageous, stay strong. He said that to

many people including to the women religious.

As for giving her a rosary, it causes me to wonder how clued in exactly he was to the particulars of this issue because she is an apostolic

Pentecostal Christian. They do not pray the rosary. They're pretty anti- Catholic and anti-Papist.

So there she was meeting with the Pope. And I begin to wonder who was using whom, since in her tradition really they're not fond of the Pope.

GORANI: Okay. Well, it's Kim Davis is the story that just keeps on giving every day something different.


GORANI: Thanks very much, CNN religious commentator, Father Edward Beck, for joining us this evening. We appreciate it.

Coming up, the Bahamas could take a direct hit from a hurricane and will it head for the U.S. Next. Tom Sater is coming up.




GORANI: The Bahamas is bracing for hurricane Joaquin. The storm strengthened to a category 1 over the Atlantic. It's expected to impact the

island nation in the next few hours. Forecasters say the storm could travel north so it could cause some major trouble. If you're on the U.S. East

coast, you might feel it. Tom Sater joins me now with the latest. Hi Tom.

TOM SATER, CNN METEROLOGIST: Hi, Hala. Anybody that has interest in you know flying to the U.S. for pleasure, business, this is one to watch.


SATER: It's been ten years since the U.S. has had a landfall with a major hurricane which is category 3, 4, 5. Dry in the Mid-West, they need the

rain in California, you can see our category 1.

It's expected to be a category 2 in the next 24 and then a category 3. That's a major hurricane. Where will it go? But first, this area of parts

of the Great Lakes in the northeast have had in some cases their warmest August and September on record. In many cases, it was the driest in the

last couple of decades. In fact Massachusetts was looking at their driest September on record until the last two days. And then they were inundated

with a month's worth of rain, they're back to where they should be, drought conditions.

What does this mean? Take a look. We had a couple of storms. This has nothing to do with a hurricane. This is a storm in the Gulf of Mexico that

merged with a cold front. This (inaudible) eye reporter, you can see it submerged, that was in Massachusetts. Now Portland, Maine, here's another

video and you can see a submerged parking garage.

Now look at what's in the forecast for the next six days. Well come back and you'll see there it is, Portland and watch the moisture. We're talking

200, 300, 400, maybe 450 millimeters of rainfall and some of this due to our hurricane.

Category 1 inundating now parts of Nassau, on the Bahamas islands, they could see 400 and 500 millimeters of rainfall. But no one is sure exactly

where it's going to go. The steering currents, we have what we call a negative tilted trough that goes back toward the northwest, so our system

may get pulled up to the U.S. That's uncertain. It could move off toward the west. So again the models are in different agreements. Spaghetti plots

are kind of now in better agreement, maybe towards the Carolinas as a major hurricane again.

First time we'll have seen this in 120 months. You know it was 2005, it was Wilma, that was a category 3. This model takes it up toward New York

like a track like Sandy. So again, uncertainty. Low confidence. But as the next 24 to48 hours European model kicks it away. We do know one thing for

sure, there's going to be a lot of rainfall in the Bahamas islands, this is going to cause flight delays, heavy amounts of rain from Florida all the

way to Virginia, already you've seen over 200 mm, and then more flooding expected along the entire east coast, Hala, we'll keep an eye on it.


GORANI: Thanks Tom Sater. Let's bring you an update on a story we told you about earlier.


GORANI: The execution of Richard Glossip in Oklahoma. This just in, that execution is now on hold as the state's department of corrections waits to

hear the Supreme Court's decision on his latest appeal.

Glossip was convicted of hiring a man to kill a motel owner in '97. He maintains he was framed. The man who killed the motel owner is serving a

life sentence in prison. We'll keep you updated on that controversial story.


GORANI: Uber once again is under fire in several cities across Europe. Authorities are seeking to tighten control on the ride-sharing app in

London. Right here where we are, Paris and Amsterdam. Samuel Burke is in New York where Uber also faced some challenges and he joins us with more on

the latest fallout over what's going on in Europe.

All right, let's talk about some of the proposed London rules first, Samuel.

SAMUEL BURKE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: All right well Hala, transport for London has published 27 pages about these proposed rules on

their website. Among them, let's just go through a list of the top ones that I saw.


BURKE: Number one, an English language test. Number two, these companies like Uber would have to notify TFL prior to any updates to apps. But keep

in mind some of these tech companies update their apps on a daily basis. And number three, driver information must be sent to a passenger five

minutes before pickup time. And Uber thinks that will have passengers incensed.


BURKE: So they've been sending out these e-mails to all of their London users and in the e-mail it says the following "if adopted they will mean an

end to the Uber you know and love today. There will be a mandatory five- minute wait time even if a car is available just around the corner."


And Hala, I'm sure you've used Uber like me and you know when it says it's one minute away, you think oh great I don't think anybody will like having

to wait an extra five minutes. So I think Uber has learned a lot from the public campaign they had against the Mayor of New York here. Very

successful, Uber got these rules off the table and I think by sending out all these e-mails to its London users, they're trying to do a repeat, get

the public on their side to fight these rules.

GORANI: Well and now we're used to everything becoming available in one minute. Five minutes is an eternity in 2015. I don't know how that's going

to go down. Let's talk about Paris, though. Things have turned quite serious for two executives there.

BURKE: That's right. This has been going on quite some time now but the trial in Paris has actually started. Two of France's -- two of Uber's most

important executives in France.


BURKE: You see them entering the court. Basically this is all about Uber pop, that service. That's the service that allows anybody, some Hala Gorani

or Samuel Burke to see if anybody else wants a ride where we're going and we can just become drivers. Now, France said that this service was illegal.

Uber said it wasn't clear whether it was legal or illegal and so they kept on operating. And as a result, the two executives face six charges, very

serious ones.


BURKE: Some fines, hefty fines and even possible prison sentences after the hearings today. That got pushed at least the next court hearing was pushed

until February of 2016.

GORANI: All right, thanks very much. Samuel Burke.

Five minutes, five minutes is too long. How long does Uber usually take in New York?

BURKE: About five to eight minutes. Longer than an eternity, Hala.

GORANI: Well, here in the U.K. I think it might be probably shorter in London, right? What's been your experience?

BURKE: Yes I've been, well, you know I'm in northwest London when I'm there and so it's not quite as close to Oxford Circus and the places that you

are, and so I think it takes about 8 minutes.

GORANI: OK, all right we'll see how it goes and whether these rules are applied and what the future for Uber ends up being. Thanks very much,

Samuel Burke is in New York.

This has been The World Right Now." thanks for watching. I'm Hala Gorani. A little bit less than an eternity, three minutes away Quest Means Business

is on the other side.