Return to Transcripts main page
CONNECT THE WORLD
A Look At Middle East Crises of 2015; Belgian Authorities Arrest Two Terror Suspects; Chinese Diner Cutting Out Middleman. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired December 30, 2015 - 11:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:10:55] BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: Well, the very latest then from the U.S. on the breaking news that actor Bill Cosby has been charged in regard to a
2004 sexual assault incident and more on that in the hours to come on CNN. I am Becky Anderson with Connect the World in Abu Dhabi.
Let's turn to another developing story out of Turkey. Now a potentially deadly New Years attack may have been foiled there. Authorities say that
they have arrested two people who they say have ties to ISIS and allegedly had what
you are looking at now a bomb vest and a backpack laden with bombmaking gear.
Now, authorities say they were out scouting for locations to attack in the capital Ankara at the time they were apprehended. The interrogation is
said to be underway now.
And the fear of an attack is looming large in many European capitals ahead of New Year's celebrations as well. There is heightened security over in
Brussels where authorities say they arrested two members of a Muslim biker gang for allegedly plotting attacks there in London, in Paris and
elsewhere. Police ramping up their presence right now.
Well for more on the situation, let's bring in CNN's international diplomatic
editor Nic Robertson who is joining us tonight live from the Belgium capital.
Nic, you have been talking to authorities there. What are they telling you?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They're telling us that because they have arrested these two men and because of knowledge about
these two men that they didn't feel the need to raise the threat level here as we saw shortly after Paris attack when they raised the threat level from
three to four.
But what they have done is raised the preparedness level, the threat level, if you will, for the army and the police who were also potential targets
for these two men who were arrested a few days ago. They've raised the threat level for the army and police from two to three, so this puts them
on a much higher footing, a level -- a higher level of security, awareness.
We've seen them out here on the streets in the center of Brussels this evening patrolling, groups of soldiers patrolling with automatic weapons.
Police the same.
We're right now located in one of the targets for these two men who were arrested, the Grande Place right now there's a huge music and lights
spectacle going on, many tourists, many Belgians here to watch that. And tomorrow night, New Year's Eve, which was when this attack was planned,
believed to have been planned, there would have been many, many thousands - - will be many, many thousands of revelers in the square.
Right now, the official I spoke to earlier on today told me that they were looking into how possibly these men were connected to ISIS. This is what
had he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTSON: Is there any reason to suppose that these two men had any connection, however tenuous, to ISIS, IS, Islamic State?
ANDRE VANDOREN, DIRECTOR, BELGIAN COORDINATING BODY FOR THREAT ANALYSIS: I will say following prosecutions is under way, but we can not exclude that
there were relations.
ROBERTSON: Between them and ISIS?
VANDOREN: I say we can not exclude it. We have -- we will be obliged to wait the evolution of the investigation, but we cannot exclude it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTSON: Now, this is the man who is responsible for the raising and lowering of threat levels in Belgium. And he is briefing government
ministers this afternoon on whether or not the fireworks displays and other celebrations
on New Year's Eve can go ahead.
The assessment here at the moment is that there's the threat of these two men now and neutralized because they're arrested, but as he told us that
right now they are facing a threat that they haven't seen before, this global terrorism of ISIS where a terrorist -- counterterrorism officials
like him know that they could strike any country any time.
So on very high alert here, Becky.
[11:15:00] ANDERSON: And one assumes coordinated intelligence being shared across border, given there are serious concerns, of course, in other
European capitals as well.
Just how coordinated is this intelligence at this point?
ROBERTSON: Well, this -- this man Andre Vandoren, I interviewed, has been in his current position of heading the center that assesses and helps
determine a threat level here in Belgium. He's been in this position for seven years. And I asked him what is the one piece of advice that he would
give his successor, what is it that's most significant that he's learned.
Evolving -- the evolving terror threat, the fact that ISIS is -- has this global reach he said a key point.
But also not just evolving the response -- the evolving terror threat, but the coordination, the coordination between countries, because of course
there's a lot of criticism between France and Belgium over the handling of the Paris attack, was there information that Belgium authorities could have
passed on between themselves and for the French as well. He says that this area of cooperation is key and critical going forward.
And we learned new details about the Paris attack here today that there was a cell phone found close to the Bataclan Restaurant -- where Bataclan
nightclub where so many people gunned down watching a band play. And cellphone found there that had text messages on that had been sent to a
cellphone in Belgium over the 24 hours previously. 25 text messages up until the moment when the attack began in coordination with Belgium.
So, that level of coordination and cooperation between counterterrorism officials more vital than ever is what he told me, Becky.
ANDERSON: Nic Robertson, live for you out of Brussels this evening on what is a developing story. Thank you, Nic.
As those it's the security fears then show conflicts in the Middle East have consequences not only for people here in this region where we are, but
across the globe.
It's been 12 months of turmoil and terror in many parts of the Middle East. And we'll be exploring some of the stories we're displaying the most
impacts a little later this hour.
Getting the view of commentators here in the UAE and in Washington for you.
Well, up next on the Connect the World, Missouri's governor says he has never witnessed high water like this before. 17 million people are are
under flood warnings right now in the United States. And the Midwest is getting hit particularly hard.
And a little later this hour, I'm going to bring you a Beijing restaurant, or take you there at least, where all you need is a smartphone and an app
if you want to get served. The details on that still to come.
Taking a very short break. You're watching Connect the World with me Becky Anderson out of the UAE. Stay with us.
[11:21:14] ANDERSON: Well deadly flood waters swamping cities and towns in the U.S. from Texas to Illinois.
Check out this video from the Midwestern state of Missouri. 17 million people across the nation are now living under flood warnings. And the
Mississippi River is expected to reach it's peak soon.
Now severe weather is blamed for at least 49 deaths this week in the U.S.
Well, the video that you just saw was from a place called Pacific, Missouri which is west of St. Louis. And that is where we find CNN's Alina Machado.
Alina, describe for the viewers what you are witnessing there?
ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Becky, I am going to move out of the way and just show them the scene here. This is just a taste of what
we're seeing in Pacific where hundreds of people have been evacuated and relief could be days away.
MACHADO (voice-over): Missouri bracing for historic dangerous flooding, dozens of counties facing a severe threat as the Mississippi, Missouri and
Meramec rivers approach record levels.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now that the rain has moved out, the threat has changed but it is not by any means over.
MACHADO: The deadly floodwaters claiming more than a dozen lives. Many fear this is just the beginning as swollen rivers rise and crest in the next 48
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're talking about almost ten more vertical feet of moving water, so the power we're talking about as well as the volume is
MACHADO: The governor declaring a state of emergency and activating the National Guard as officials predict river levels could exceed the great
flood of 1993 that claimed nearly 50 lives and damaged or destroyed some 50,000 homes, the most devastating in modern U.S. history.
In the town of West Alton, near St. Louis, the mayor urging his 500 residents to evacuate after water levels over topped the levee.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is your notice that this is serious, so you need to get your final preparations and go.
MACHADO: Parts of Union, Missouri under water with homes, cars, restaurants completely submerged. And in Bourbon, one photographer even capturing video
of this cabin floating away. Authorities urging drivers to stay off inundated roadways, fearing they'll get stuck and swept away.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The vast majority of deaths we've had, and I can't stress this enough, is people driving into water, and especially driving
into water at night.
MACHADO: It's the race against time as residents and volunteers sandbag their homes and prepare to evacuate.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am worried. I just don't know what to do. And it's still supposed to come up higher. My main concern right now is just getting
our vehicle out. So that we're not -- our truck is not trapped in here.
MACHADO: Officials now watching and hoping that the levees hold.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's more just a wait and see. Once it's over, then we'll have to go from there because we really don't know what's going to
MACHADO: So far authorities here in Pacific tell us that some 400 homes and businesses have been flooded, that number likely to rise by the time
this flood event is over, Becky.
ANDERSON: Well, remarkable.
All right, thank you for that.
Live from Abu Dhabi this is Connect the World with me Becky Anderson. Coming up, from terror attacks in the west to record numbers, fleeing
conflict. Events fell across the globe in 2015, a tide ofttimes to what is happening here in the Middle East. I want to take a look on what has been
a fairly historic year in the region.
Taking a very short break. Back after this.
[11:29:15] ANDERSON: We're going to get you back now to one of our top stories, and that is the fear of terror attacks over New Year's. In New
York, police saying there is no credible threat to celebrations there, but that security will still be very tight in Times Square.
CNN's Miguel Marquez joins us now from there. And Miguel, tight and I assume high pro file as well if for no other reason then that would deter
would be attackers.
Certainly, that's what we are seeing and expecting across some of the larger European capitals.
Is it a similar story in New York?
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, absolutely.
Look, there is no credible threat, they say, but they are planning as though just for anything that might come along. They will have the biggest
security contention out here in Times Square. This is the crossroads of the world, the ball will drop up will there. More than a million people
will pack into these few blocks here, and they will have the biggest security presence ever, 6,000 police just for this area here, multiple
gates to get into where people will have to be -- go through magnetometers just to get to the areas where they can watch that ball drop. Police say
that they will cover the city across the entire city, thousands of events going across the entire city, what used to be just a party are now
considered soft targets with Paris and San Bernadino in mind. So they will have lots of bomb sniffing dogs throughout the city. They will have
radiation detectors, nuclear detectors, chemical detectors and lots and lots of cameras, thousands of cameras to keep tabs on everything.
They're protecting the city from the air from the ground, underground in the subways and even the waterways around New York City itself. So, the
police here saying no credible threat, but they feel that they have everything under a very, very tight eye.
This crossroads of the world will certainly be one of the most secure streets in the world by
New Year's tomorrow -- Becky.
[11:31:12] ANDERSON: Tight and very high profile preparations. Miguel, thank you.
Well, perhaps more so than any other, 2015 has been a year in which events here in the Middle East have continued to be felt around the world. The
spillover wars in Syria and Iraq saw hundreds of thousands of people risk their lives flooding into Europe, but there were other nefarious
effects,too, planned in Syria attacks like those in Paris brought home the risk of inaction in that conflict, including the growth of ISIS>
Now, it lead to renewed efforts against the group, including airstrikes by Russia, the latest player to join the Syrian battleground, as you will be
And despite their opposing views on Syria, the U.S. and Iran put aside more than three decades of enmity, agreeing on a historic nuclear deal with
And then there was what has been called the forgotten war. A Saudi-led coalition launched a military campaign in Yemen against Shia Houthi rebels.
The results have been precarious with thousands of civilians paying the ultimate price
Well, all of those are stories that we have covered in depth for you here on Connect the World. And joining me now to discuss them are Emirati
political commentator Abdulkhalek Abdullah who is in Dubai for you this evening. And in Washington is Temara Cofman Wittes senior fellow at the
And I want to take a more in depth look at three specific stories and their impact on this region and the rest of the world tonight: Syria, the Iran
deal and the war in Yemen, guys.
But first to both of you, how would you sum up very briefly 2015 in the Middle East -- Temara.
TEMARA COFMAN WITTES, BROOKINGS INSTITUTE: I think there are twin crises across the region. There's a crisis of order with the break down of
states, the failure of governance in a number of places, challenged from below by the public and also challenged from some really bad actors like
There is also a crisis of authority. Arab publics are skeptical, they are suspicious. They are suspicious of western governments. They're
suspicious of what their own governments are telling them. And so it's a challenge to put Humpty Dumpty back together. I don't think that we can do
it in the same old way. It going to have to be a bottom up process.
ANDERSON: Abdelkhaleq, your thoughts briefly on 2015?
ABDELKHALEQ ABDULLA, : Becky, I can barely hear you. There's a lot of echoing in the
background in here. I'm sorry.
ANDERSON: Let's try again. I wanted you to -- that's all right, don't worry. We will see if we can -- I will tell you what, Temara, let's get
you to talk to the Iran nuclear deal while we see if we can sort out Abdelkhaleq's communications with us.
Abdelkhaleq stand by for me.
Temara, the Iran nuclear deal, heralded as a success for international diplomacy, one that essentially brings Iran in from the cold. But there
have also been concerns, especially from Israel and the Gulf states worrying about whether Iran is actually going to change
its behavior. Even last weekend, there was a near miss incident between a U.S. warship and Iranian test missile not far from where we are here in the
To your mind, Is Iran ready to change it's behavior?
WITTES: I don't see any indication of Iran changing its broad regional approach. Iran is a revisionist actor in the Middle East and it's using
the disorder in the Arab world to find openings to exploit, to expand its influence. This negotiated deal with the P5+1 addressed just one issue,
the nuclear program that Iran has been pursuing for years in violation of its international obligations. But all the other dimensions of Iranian
behavior in the region are still very destabilizing.
You mention the war in Yemen before and the role of the Syrian crisis and the rise of ISIS,
all these things are linked. And I think if the Arab states were not so concerned about these other
dimensions of Iranian behavior, they would not have intervened militarily in Yemen in the way that they have done.
ANDERSON: Temara, should Arab states, the likes of Riyadh and others, have been more involved in the Iran deal lead by Washington, but clearly
informed by five others. Should there have been more involvement? I know that Washington will say it was only ever about the nuclear deal.
You have got to split out any other issues that the west and others might have with Tehran.
But many people in this region say a better informed deal with involvement from Arab states might have lessened what could be a messy Middle East as a
result of Iranian expansionism for example going forward.
WITTES: You know, I think if that negotiation between Iran and the international community had become a broader set of talks about other
dimensions of Iranian behavior, there would have been no agreement, not on the nuclear program, and not on anything else.
So the isolation of the negotiations to the nuclear talks I think was necessary to achieve
agreement on that one very important, very dangerous dimension of Iranian behavior.
But for the Arab states, the nuclear program was never the worst or most worrying dimension of Iranian behavior, it's rather this other political
involvement elsewhere in the region that was the top priority and remains their top priority.
But the Arab states have been living across the Gulf from Iran for quite a long time. They have diplomatic relations, they have the ability to engage
in dialogue on political conflicts around the region, and there's no reason why they can't and shouldn't engage directly in those conversations on how
to move forward on some of these very thorny regional issues like Syria, and indeed we see them with leading western governments and with Iran
around the table in Vienna on the Syria conflict now.
All right. I think we have got Abdulkhaleq back. Abdulkhaleq, can you hear me?
ABDULLA: Yes, I can hear you, Becky.
I see you nodding away.
Very briefly, then. I know that we have just been talking Iran and the Iran deal and its impact
on this year and perhaps going forward. And Temara saying that this Iran nuclear deal sorted by the P5+1 won't stabilize what is a messy Middle
East. But I know that Temara believes that Arab states can.
On the Iran deal and Iran-Saudi relations, your take?
ABDULLA: Well, we're hoping that the nuclear deal will bring in a moderate Iran for sure. No country on Earth wants more a moderate Iran than the six
But six months later, we haven't seen yet that moderate Iran that everybody has been talking
about. We have seen -- we still are seeing a more revolutionary, radical expansionist Iran.
We thought that this nuclear deal will bring, will lessen the tension in the region and will bring more cooperation. So far we have not seen any of
So, I think, you know, we have been sold into a deal that is really have not yet impacted the tension in the region, and there is absolutely no
reason to believe that this deal, even in the long run, will bring a moderate Iran and the less expansionist Iran.
ANDERSON: All right, OK. We do have elections in Iran in 2016, so it remains to be seen whether we see a more expansionist, or perhaps more
conciliatory Tehran with other Arab states going forward.
Let's leave that one for the time being.
Abdulkhaleq, Yemen, that's been another huge story and one that is clearly informed by the
ongoing proxy battles between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Now, UN calls the Yemen war a human catastrophe. But the Saudi-led effort has also been
costly for Gulf countries.
The UAE, here, for example example suffered the biggest loss of its soldiers on a single day in battle. Strong images there of some bodies
But it's hit them economically, too, Abdulkhaleq, as war costs money. Saudi announcing a budget deficit of around $100 billion this week. Is
this a war the Gulf countries can afford, continue to afford economically, but also politically?
ABDULLA: From everything that I know this war is costing Saudi Arabia along something like $300 million every single day for the last six months.
It's a very costly war, no doubt about it. That's only the material cost, let alone the human cost, not just today GCC and the alliance, but also to
So, this is really a war that nobody wanted, nobody really even thought about it, but we had to somehow go into Yemen to draw a line. Iran was
becoming too close, was becoming too threatening, and Yemen was used and utilized by Iran to claim that we are now in control of the forth capital
in the Arab world beside Damascus, Baghdad, Beirut, and now we are having
Sanaa the capital of Yemen under our country. It was frightening. It was a nightmare.
And there was no choice but to heed to the call of the legitimate government in Yemen and go into it.
This is a very costly war. Nobody wants it. I hope it ends there. At the end of the year, there is
at least some kind of a hope, some kind of a dialogue that is going on in Geneva and now probably there's a, you know, we will go into a he third
round. I am hoping that we will see some breakthrough when it comes to Yemen and I am very optimistic about it. People are exhausted in there. I
think everybody knows this. And I think that the end is closer than ever.
ANDERSON: OK, all right. I know that Washington wants to see an end to the Yemen conflict, Temara as well.
Let's just move on because we haven't got an awful lot of time left. I want to concentrate now on Syria with both of you, because Sryia's war,
Temara, continues to intensify in 2015. And it had global repercussions. A key development was Russia's entry into the
conflict backing President Assad's forces, but there have also been renewed diplomatic efforts to find peace.
Have a listen to what the UN special envoy Steffan de Mistura told me earlier this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEFFAN DE MISTRUA, UN SPECIAL ENVOY TO SYRIA: Would you ever have dreamed to see Russia and America sitting on the same table and actually agreeing
on many things about Syria? Would you ever imaging Iran and Saudia Arabia sitting for seven hours in the same room and
discussing the future of Syria.
So, we gone a long way, the momentum is there.
(END VIDOE CLIP)
ANDERSON: He is looking towards talks about peace, of course, January the 25, brokered by the UN.
The key actors are now talking. Can we expect a Syrian peace deal in 2016 tomorrow, Temara?
WITTES: For the sake of the Syrian people, I certainly hope so. But I have the to say I am skeptical that this diplomatic process is going to
produce a durable end to the civil war on the ground.
Steffan de Mistura is correct to note that the external parties involved in this conflict are now all
sitting around the table. But it is also and largely Syrians who are doing the fighting, the Syrian government of course, and a variety of opposition
groups and ISIS.
Now, you know, many of these groups, particularly ISIS, are never going to sit around a
negotiating table with these external actors, but the proxy war in Syria is one dimension. It is outside actors exploiting a civil conflict, a civil
war that started when Bashar al-Assad fired on his own people. And that has to be settled.
ANDERSON: Abdulkhaleq, we have literally have 30 seconds. Are we going to get a peace deal? Are we going to see an end of this civil war in Syria in
2016? Very briefly.
ABDULLA: Look, very frankly, nobody knows, even the keenest of observer. Whether we are in the first ten minutes of the Syrian crisis or whether
we're in the last ten minutes of the Syrian crisis, the numbers are just heart breaking.
300,000 people have been killed so far, 4.5 million refuges, 7.5 million displaced. 3,000 people were killed in the Mediterranean. The numbers are
crazy, Becky. And I hope we just hang on to some kind of optimism and to this tragedy, which has lasted longer than we have expected.
But it's really, really heartbreaking when you look at the numbers of the Syrian crisis.
ANDERSON: And has a huge impact on this region and the rest of the world.
Abdulkhaleq, you have been a regular guest on our show in 2015. We're looking forward to your analysis going forward in 2016. And Temara, a new
guest to our show. I do hope you will join us in 2016 as we continue to explore and analyze what is going on here in the Middle East and it's
impact not just on this region, but around the world.
Thank you both very much, indeed.
Live from Abu Dhabi, this is Correct the World. I am Becky Anderson. Coming up, keep track of your days and enjoy pearls of wisdom from Russia's
president. We are going to take you to Moscow this evening to see where you can buy your very own Vladimir Putin calendar, and so much more.
ANDERSON: In Beijing, dining is going high-tech. One in the Chinese capital cutting out the middleman between you and your meal. Instead, it's
swapping servers for smartphones.
CNN's Asia-Pacific editor Andrew Stevens tried it out.
ANDREW STEVENS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's lunchtime in Beijing and here, indeed across the country, workers are joining their friends and colleagues
for a bite to eat. But we've found a restaurant that's offering something slightly different in the dining experience. It's linking mobile technology
with the city's deep love of food.
Welcome to Renrenxiang. The first thing you'll notice about this restaurant is there's no waiters. They've been replaced with an app; but it's not just
any app. I'm now on Wechat, the most popular messaging app in China. When I say "popular", we're talking hundreds of millions of people on this. So
I've got the menu up. I've got seven choices. I'm going for the spicy beef rice noodles. It (inaudible) a bit of a discount, so all together that is
about $5.00. It's now giving me a number, which will be called out on the speakers in a few minutes and that will be my dish.
One place there are staff, the kitchen; a team of chefs turning your digital orders into your lunch.
Okay, here we are. It's been about five minutes and there's my beef with spicy noodles.
All through the power of the smartphone and a helping hand from the kitchen; but the restaurant owner is looking at cutting his overhead even
[11:50:51] LIU ZHENG, FOUNDER, RESTAURANT (through translator): There will be four no's in this restaurant, that is: no waitress, no cashier, no
merchandiser and no chef. I did this because I'm following the technology development trend in China.
STEVENS: In an age where smartphones are signaling the end of face- to-face conversation around the dining table, why not take it one step further and
take out the need to speak to a waiter, too?
Andrew Stevens - delicious -- CNN, Beijing.
ANDERSON: You're watching Connect the World, lots more after this short break.
ANDERSON: It's surely every leader's dream to make their mark on the world. And in
Russia, it is happening for President Vladimir Putin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: For fans of Vladimir Putin, there's no shortage of o stuff with the Russian president's image
all over it. These Putin t-shirts have been around for a while, but they're still poplar new year's gifts.
All right, so this is the most popular one. It's a sami populani (ph) t- shirt.
(SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
How well do these t-shirts sell?
UNIDENITIFIED MALE (through translator): They sell really well. Many tourists buy them. But our compatriots by them as well. They love Putin.
CHANCE: Despite a deep economic crisis and international isolation over the wars in Ukraine and Syria, Putin's ratings are doing well too.
So, what about spending the entire year with President Putin? Well, that's what this 2016 Putin calendar is promising with every month revealing a
carefully picked image of the Russian leader.
This one has him in Siberia with a horse in the forest. Here, he is smelling a flower and this third one over here, he's working out in the
But photographs aren't all you get with this calendar, you get Putin's words of wisdom, too.
Some are characteristically hardline, like this one for the month of October, "no one will succeed in gaining military superiority over Russia,"
Others hinted to a softer side: "dogs and I have very warm feelings for one another," says the Russian leader for November.
One group of Putin supporters has put together an entire book of Putin's best known remarks and one liners, publishing a limited edition that is set
to go on sale next year. The book is called words changing the world and its publishers saying it makes the perfect holiday gift for patriotic
And if reading Putin isn't enough, you can now smell him too with a new men's fragrance that
just hit the shops here in Russia.
All right, well here it is. It's called leader's number one. But make no mistake with the
profile of Vladimir Putin on the side and the words inspired by Vladimir Putin, it's pretty clear which leader they're referring to.
Now the advertising bump says that it smells of citrus fruits and pine needles, a mixture of hard and soft just like the President Putin himself.
So I suppose I should give it a try, shouldn't I? Let's have a smell.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you like it?
CHANCE: I'm impartial on it. But I can see how it wouldn't to everybody's tastes.
Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.
ANDERSON: Ah, a mixture of hard and soft, that is our senior international correspondent Matthew Chance.
I am Becky Anderson, that was Connect the World, thank you for watching.