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WORLD RIGHT NOW WITH HALA GORANI
Regime Forces Seize Most Of Aleppo's Old City; Trump Taps Iowa Governor As Ambassador To China; No Survivors In Plane Crash In North Pakistan; U.K. Lawmakers Back Timetable to Trigger Article 50; Powerful Quake Hits Indonesia's Aceh Province; Obama Looks to Protect Legacy in Final Days of Office; Madonna Twerks on Late-Night Television Aired 3-4p ET
Aired December 7, 2016 - 15:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:00:22] HALA GORANI, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Hala Gorani live from CNN London. Thanks for being with us. This is THE WORLD RIGHT NOW.
Apocalyptic is how one Syrian activist describes war-torn Aleppo where we begin tonight. The regime has seized most of the old city now. That is
the circle in the center of this map with the latest lines of control that CNN can pin down from battlefield accounts. That's been a rebel stronghold
It is a symbolic victory for the Syrian government, but rebels are clinging to a few neighborhoods elsewhere in Aleppo. Take a look at some of the
GORANI: Artillery fire, relentless air strikes as well pounding some of those neighborhoods. A man who doesn't even flinch. This desolate
landscape is a district in what was once Syria's economic capital. But it is the regime's control of the historic part of Aleppo that feels like a
water shed moment in this civil war.
Senior international correspondent, Frederik Pleitgen, was the first western television reporter inside the old city. He sent this report.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is what rebel desperation looks like during the nights. Firing at
jets in the skies unable to stop them from dropping their deadly load. And this is what the rebels defeat looked like when daylight comes. Thousands
of civilians fleeing the old town of Aleppo only hours after government forces took most of it back.
Among them, (inaudible) with her seven children, one of them, her baby. When we left, there was a lot of shelling behind us and shooting in front
of us and the airplanes above us she says, we barely managed to get out. Most seem weak and malnurished, some resting finally in safety in this
(Inaudible) was a baby girl, only seven days old. Born right as the battles were at their worst.
(on camera): It's really remarkable some of the scenes that we're witnessing here. Hundreds of people have already come across the border,
crossing between Eastern and Western Aleppo. And many are taking shelter in buildings like one this, carrying only the very few possessions they
could take as they fled.
(voice-over): Soldiers take us to the places they recaptured from opposition forces only hours before. We see Syrian troops evacuating weak
and elderly and rebel barricades showing just how intense the fighting was.
(on camera): Just look at the destruction here, we're actually in the old town of Aleppo right now, and this entire area until a few days ago was
right on the front line.
(voice-over): While this may not be the end of the opposition's fight in Aleppo, many of those fleeing described the rebels' morals sinking and the
harrowing conditions in the besieged areas.
We didn't have food and barely any bread this man says. We were eight people. Only give us two loaves of bread every two days. That was it for
all of us.
While much of Eastern Aleppo has been reduced to rubble, the one thing expanding was the cemeteries. This one ran out of space as the bodies kept
coming. Now that much of Eastern Aleppo has changed hands, Syrian soldiers plant their flag on the ruins, the place they've just conquered.
GORANI: Frederick Pleitgen is live in Aleppo this evening, let's talk about what comes next. Looks as though they've taken back control of the
old city. What's the next step?
PLEITGEN: Well, I mean, they've taken back control most of the old city and I think it's becoming pretty clear what the next steps are going to be
because we're still hearing a lot of airstrikes. We're still hearing also a lot of mortar and artillery strikes as well. So the Syrian military
really does want to seem to take all of Aleppo and they seemed to want to take it as fast as possible.
They've been telling us that for the rebels they say, there are only two options. The first is laying down their weapons and going to Idlib
[15:05:02]Which is, of course, a place that is still largely held by opposition forces, or to continue facing the air strikes and artillery
strikes that we've been seeing over the past couple of days.
There certainly doesn't seem to be any let-up, Hala, in the air operations, even after most of the old town of Aleppo has been taken. Now of course we
know that there are still civilians also trapped inside those rebel areas.
The conditions for them we know is very difficult. A very few supplies are still left there and again, the people who came out telling us as they say
that the moral is really waning among the rebels.
That's one of the reasons why government soldiers that we've been speaking to say they believe this is something that could happen very, very quickly.
That perhaps the rest of the rebel-held districts in the Aleppo could fall as well -- Hala.
GORANI: And what happens if and when -- because it looks like it's going in that direction, the regime takes back full control of Aleppo. How does
that change the calculus of the war?
PLEITGEN: Well, I mean, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad came out today and said that it was a completely change the momentum of Syria's civil war,
because with that, the rebels would no longer have any sort of foothold in any large Syrian city.
And we know how important Aleppo is for Syria, certainly for the regime and for rebels as well. In many ways, probably change the equation here for
many of those backing the rebels, for many of those, backing the Syrian regime as well.
It would make more clear than ever, which direction the momentum of this conflict is going. And certainly right now very much appears to be going
in the direction of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Certainly there probably be a lot less talk about him having to step down and right now, one of the things that we can really see is that the Syrian
military really seems to be trying to force that decision here in Aleppo as fast as possible.
They want to show the world that they're making head way here in Aleppo, they're getting things back under control. That's going to be very
important, the narrative this they are trying to portray as this conflict goes on and possibly moves into the next phase -- Hala.
GORANI: Fred Pleitgen is live in Aleppo, thanks very much.
President of the divided states of America. That's what "Time" magazine calls Donald Trump its new person of the year. "Time" chose him for
uprooting politics as usual with the populist revolution.
The distinction recognizes the person who's had the greatest influence, quote "for better or worse" according to "Time." And while the magazine
noted Trump's successful rebuke of the establishment, it also labelled him a huckster and demagogue, saying he's magnified America's divisions and
inspired new levels of anger and fear.
"Time" writes, "He proved that tribal instincts never die, that in times of economic strife and breakneck social change, a charismatic leader could
find the enemy within and rally the masses to his side." Here's what Trump had to say about this this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT (via telephone): Well, when you say divided states of America, I didn't divide them. They're divided now.
There's a lot of division. And we're going to put it back together and we're going to have a country that's very well healed. And we're going to
be a great economic force and we're going to build up our military and safety and we're going to do a lot of great things. And it's going
something very special, but, to be on the cover of "Time" magazine as the person of the year is a tremendous honor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: All right. Well, Trump is busy again today filling vacancies in his new administration, he tapped Iowa Governor Terry Branstad as
ambassador to China and the Chinese government appears pleased with the pick.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman called Branstad an old friend of the Chinese people. The appointment comes after days of controversy over phone call
with the president of Taiwan, reversing some four decades of one China policy and angering Beijing.
Let's bring in CNN political analyst, John Avlon, "The Daily Beast" editor- in-chief. Thanks for being with us. First, "Time" person of the year, not a big surprise, let's be honest. Who else could they have gone with,
JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Exactly. No, I mean, "Time" is basically honor bound to make its person of the year the next president
after a hard fought election year. It's inevitable, and as you point out, the overall analysis wasn't necessarily kind and the distinction is given
to someone who's had the biggest impact for better and worse.
It's divided states of America line is a condemnation of how he got here, but he is the president-elect and "Time" really had no -- judging by
historical standards, no other choice but to name Donald Trump person of the year.
GORANI: An interesting pick for ambassador to China, Terry Branstad, an Iowa governor, not a household name internationally, but certainly someone
with many connections inside of China. As we were reporting there, a pick that pleased apparently the Chinese.
AVLON: Yes. And the history here is fascinating. First of all, Terry Branstad is America's longest serving governor. He did almost 17-year
stretch in the 1980s and '90s, returned for a second and crucially his son ran Donald Trump's campaign in Iowa.
[15:10:10]And Trump won Iowa which has traditionally been a swing state the Democrats have an edge in by a margin unseen since Ronald Reagan. But
what's key is that President Xi of China and Brandstad have known each other for decades off and on.
And it's that relationship which seems to be the logic of this appointment and it should -- is probably intended to calm some concerns in the wake of
the Taiwan call. U.S./China's relationship always one of the most pivotal as we trajectory out of the 21st Century. So a pick that chose a degree of
diplomacy in building on a preexisting relationship
GORANI: But the controversy surrounding the Taiwan call could have led the Trump team or Trump himself to lead towards Branstad or was that decision
have been made much earlier?
AVLON: I mean, you know, that level of chronology ultimately Donald Trump seems to decide things at his own pace and his own timing, but Branstad had
been mentioned as a likely candidate, because not only the relationship with the Trump campaign, but his relationship with China. And it should
calm some concerns, although policy is often seems to be made ad hoc and what we're going to have to distinguish between is campaign rhetoric and
governing reality and the two show you.
GORANI: I'm sure between -- and between those two things, you have of course a number of tweets that certainly will have people talking and make
headlines. Mitt Romney seems to be the most likely now pick for secretary of state. I mean, this is just according to some reports. Is that -- what
significance should we attribute to the fact that Mitt Romney is A, still in the running, and B, appears favored?
AVLON: I think the key is that he is still in the running. That Donald Trump said he hadn't been ruled out, but this pick the transition has been
saying may not come until early next week. And it still seems to be wide open field which is unusual in that secretary of state traditionally is
among the first cabinet nominations announced because it is so senior.
What we do know is that among the folks who've been mentioned, Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, David Petraeus, Bob Corker, the overall tone of his
cabinet today has been very heavily indexed towards generals, retired generals.
That's a departure from what we've seen in peacetime administrations. It will be fascinating to see how whoever he picks for state has a record of
working with the generals who now run defense and as of today a nominee to run at a Department of Homeland Security.
GORANI: Yes, the Homeland Security Department there again, general, the Soft Bank tweet yesterday, that $50 billion investment pledge by that
conglomerate, Donald Trump took credit for it. He said he would never do this without, if me, Trump, had not won the election. Now we know the love
money is Saudi Arabian. That this is money that was pledged several months ago and that him taking credit for it might be a bit of a stretch.
AVLON: It might indeed be. Look, I mean, there's no -- there's no surprise that corporations and individuals are going to be trying to
associate themselves with an incoming president, much of this deal as you said had already been in the works, but instead the CEO got a photo op with
And it's in his interest to take credit for any investment to the United States. This is all just old fashioned power politics. And one thing
Donald Trump is, whatever you think of him, he is a master marketer. He is a hype man, and he will be taking as much credit as he can for any
investment in the United States.
Again, the reality check is, is that much of that investment was already scheduled to occur. But Trump is going to try to push the idea that
perception is reality, and take credit for as much as he can to fulfill his promise to get America moving again economically on an even greater stage
and bring manufacturing back to the United States.
GORANI: All right. And he says 50,000 job creations. We'll see -- finish your thought.
AVLON: No, just, you know, it's a bit pushing a rock up a hill obviously. There are decades of trends he's trying to counteract, but external
investment in the United States is not only a good thing for American workers, but it perhaps takes some of the sting out of the protectionist
rhetoric we seen or recognition of the independence we have economically with the rest of the world.
GORANI: All right. John Avlon, thanks very much. Always a pleasure from "The Daily Beast." We appreciate it.
AVLON: Thanks, Hala.
GORANI: Now to this story, there were no survivors in a plane crash in Northern Pakistan today. The remains of nearly everyone on board have been
recovered according to the disaster management agency over there in Pakistan. Now 47 people were on the Pakistan International Airlines plane
when it crashed during a domestic flight to Islamabad.
And then there was somebody who was a celebrity in Pakistan on board, a pop star, turned preacher named Junaid Jamshed. He was among the passengers.
The investigation, of course, is under way.
CNN Muhammad Lila joins me now live from Istanbul with more. Talk to us a little bit first about this tragic accident and, you know, what
investigators are already saying about what might have happened here.
[15:15:09]MUHAMMAD LILA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, Hala, we do have new details we can report. First and most importantly, the Pakistani
military has said that they have recovered the black box from the plane. Of course, that black box is going to play a key role in the upcoming
We also have new details on the timeline for how this all happened. We know that the plane took off from a town in the north part of Pakistan and
a mountainous area. That flight from the area to the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, is usually only about an hour long.
At some point after takeoff, the pilot radioed in to say that the left engine on the aircraft had failed. Now, the chairman of Pakistan's
National Airlines says that air traffic control was aware, but that the pilot was confident he could continue to fly the plane with only one
About half an hour after that first radio call saying the left engine failed, it called in to issue a mayday call. Shortly after that mayday
call, the plane disappeared from radar.
Now the footage of the wreckage is actually quite startling and dramatic. You can see where the plane crashed at the side of a mountain. Burst into
flames and all you see is just a mangled mess of metal and other debris.
The Pakistani airmen quickly sent helicopters and troops as part of their recovery option. We can confirm now as you mentioned earlier that they now
say as well as Pakistan's airline now says that they can confirm that there were no survivors on board Pakistan Airlines Flight 661.
GORANI: And talk to us about this celebrity, the man who was a pop star who became a preacher who was on board, I believe, also with his wife.
Talk to us about him.
LILA: Well, his name was Junaid Jamshed (inaudible) interesting word celebrity. Pakistan doesn't really have a lot of celebrities, but if they
had a list of them today, Jamshed would certainly be right at the top. He had more than 6 million Facebook fans. He was actually a founding member
of Pakistan's original and first boy band called "The Vital Signs."
It was a time when Pakistan was beginning to liberalize in the early '90s. His group put out a song called "Dil Dil Pakistan" or translated would be
"Love, Love Pakistan." Many people say it's the unofficial national anthem of Pakistan.
And you'll speak to Pakistanis around the world that have memorized that tune because it was so popular in Pakistan at that time. In early 2000, he
had sort of a religious awakening, abandoned the pop culture and joined sort of -- the role of an Islamic preacher.
He went on television as an evangelist, but he continued a new genera of music, which is known in the Islamic world, (inaudible), which is like a
form of Islamic singing with some simple instruments, very well loved in Pakistan.
He was adored by people who grew up listening to his pop culture side as well as the more conservative side that saw him as an ally because he'd
become an Islamic preacher.
So he was known not only in Pakistan, but across all of South Asia and across that entire region tonight. People are mourning that Junaid Jamshed
and his wife were on board that flight and killed.
GORANI: All right, Muhammad Lila in Istanbul, thanks very much.
A lot more to come this evening, Renzi departs, what next for Italy after Matteo Renzi resigns as the country's prime minister. We'll be live in
And Angela Merkel is hoping for a fourth term in next year's election, but after criticism of her migrant policy, she's taking a tougher tone now.
We'll be right back.
GORANI: Well, it's been nearly six months since Britain voted to leave the E.U., but the debate over when and how they do it is only beginning. In
the last hour, the British parliament has voted on a timetable for the Brexit process that will also ensure that the government will publish its
plans for leaving ahead of triggering Article 50 by the end of March next year.
So it will have to share its plan and say this is how we're going to do it. Earlier, Brexit Secretary David Davis, said, "The political uncertainty
being felt across Europe is changing the backdrop of the exit process.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID DAVIS, U.K. BREXIT SECRETARY: The political scene in Europe is not set but is changing. The point I was making, during the period of our
negotiations, or at least 15 negotiations, and other political events, which could change the backdrop to our exit process. The culmination of
these factors and the interplay will mean changing climate for an already complicated talks.
In a moment, so we will need to find a way through a vast number of competing in interest, manage our exit of the union so that our people
benefit. That's the aim of this exercise so our people benefit from it. To do this, the government must have the flexibility to adjust during
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: David Davis is the Brexit minister there. It's all a question about when, not -- a little bit more about how, about who benefits, about
how to reassure the other side those in Britain, and there's a sizable chunk of the population who did not want this Brexit to happen.
And one of the events changing the backdrop of those Brexit negotiations is what's happening in Italy. It's a country very much influx, and the last
few hours, Matteo Renzi has officially resigned leading to a lot of political uncertainty.
Ben Wedeman has been following this story closely and he joins me now from Rome. So Renzi is out, what happens now?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hala, he's out, but he's not out because when he went to the headquarters of the Italian
President Sergio Mattarella today, the president asked him to stay on as a caretaker prime minister until a new government is formed.
Now we understand that at 6:00 p.m. local time tomorrow, the Italian president will begin consultations for the formation of a new government.
That could take some time and there are a variety of other issues that need to be settled as well.
Now one story that's making the rounds here in Rome is rather interesting. That several hundred members of parliament will not receive their
parliamentary pensions unless they serve four years, six months, and one day as Members of Parliament. This is a rule that came into effect in the
beginning of 2012.
And therefore, there may be some incentive, not to hold the early elections that are being discussed, discussed far and wide here as early as February,
there may be actually no elections until the second half of next year.
And of course, according to the political schedule to the extent that it exists here, there shouldn't be general elections until 2018. So flux is
an understatement -- Hala.
GORANI: It sure is. And we know that in the U.K., this is complicating the Brexit process as all of these countries continue to go through very
uncertain times with elections and referendums that are a signaling a rejection of establishment parties. How will Italy play into the wider
European picture going forward?
WEDEMAN: Well, I think we have to look forward to what sort of government is formed after this current period of transition. For instance, the
second largest block in the Italian parliament and a growing block is the Five Star Movement of Beppe Grillo.
It is a definitively anti-establishment, anti-status quo movement which has, for instance, called for a referendum, non-binding referendum on
Italy's membership in the euro zone if they come to power. And that's a bit of a live shot -- a long shot.
They could hold this referendum and if Italy pulls out of the referendum, the E.U., the entire experiment in European unity could be in jeopardy, but
that's a long shot at the moment.
[15:25:09]So it's very much up in the air, and we really have to find out a way to be patient and see what sort of government comes out of this current
period -- Hala.
GORANI: That's -- that's the theme though, everywhere, it's up in the air, we don't know, there's uncertainty in practically every country. So yes,
we'll try to be patient. Thanks very much, Ben Wedeman live in Rome.
From Italy to Germany, and another country where the establish order is facing a tough fight, Angela Merkel is hoping to win a fourth term when the
country votes in an election next year.
But her decision to open Germany's boarders to migrants, hundreds of thousands of them has angered some of her voters. And as Atika Shubert
reports, it has led to a tougher tone from her.
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A grizzly crime that's casting a long political shadow, 19-year-old Maria
Lodenburger was raped and murdered in the of Fiberk (ph). Her body was found in a nearby river. The attack happened in October.
These pictures were blurred by local TV out of respect for her family. Police, siting DNA evidence arrested and charged a 17-year-old Afghan
refugee who arrived in Germany last year. The case has played straight into the public fears of a refugee crime surge.
Merkel is facing tremendous pressure from voters and her own party for allowing more than 890,000 asylum seekers into the country last year.
Initially Germans opened their doors. There was even a special word for it (inaudible).
But the numbers began to strain social services. Then came New Year's Eve in Cologne, police reported mobs of, quote, "North African, Middle Eastern"
men sexually assaulted hundreds of women in the fireworks chaos.
Suddenly, refugees no longer seemed welcome often viewed with suspicion. Clashes broke out between residents and refugees in East Germany, arson
attacks on refugee housing skyrocketed. And support for anti-immigration far right parties surged.
National statistics show some crimes like burglaries and petty offenses have gone up since the start of the year as Germany's population has grown,
but that less than 1 percent of sex crimes and even fewer homicides are tied to immigrants of any kind.
Still, Merkel finds herself defending her decision to open Germany's doors. I have also asked you far lot, she said, because the time asked us for a
lot. I know that very well and I cannot promise that the demands in the future will be any less because we have to do what the times demand from
Merkel needs to show she can win by public confidence, but with brutal crimes like this in the headlines, she faces an uphill battle, Atika
Shubert, CNN, Berlin.
GORANI: Still ahead on THE WORLD RIGHT NOW, the search for survivors in Indonesia's Ache Province after a big earthquake there.
And a closer look at the situation on the battlefield as the most iconic and historic parts of Aleppo fall to the Syrian regime.
[15:30:00] GORANI: The pilot of a plane that crashed in northern Pakistan made a mayday call before the disaster. The chairman of Pakistan
International Airlines says the pilot reported he'd lost control of one of the engines before the plane went down near Abbottabad. The aircraft had
47 people on board and there are no survivors, sadly.
Matteo Renzi has formerly resigned as Italy's Prime Minister. He announced he'd step down after Italians voted down his package of reforms in a
referendum. Italy must now decide whether to hold snap elections.
A 6.5 magnitude quake has killed nearly 100 people now in Indonesia's Aceh province. This map shows the epicenter of the powerful tremor and the
death toll could rise. Of course, the sun is just rising there, so rescuers are going to start their work again soon. Zain Asher has more on
the rescue and recovery effort.
ZAIN ASHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Rescuers used sledgehammers to break through the concrete and excavators to clear the debris. They're hoping to
find anyone alive after a 6.5 magnitude earthquake shook Indonesia about 120 kilometers southeast of Banda Aceh on the northern tip of the island of
It happened just before dawn as many were getting ready for morning prayers. The shallow quake reducing homes, shops, and mosques to mere
rubble. Trapping people underneath. Other victims were crushed to death while they slept. Officials are working tirelessly to pull survivors out
of the ruins. Images reveal widespread destruction in the town of Pidie Jaya with many residents spilling onto the streets.
Chaos at the local hospital as the emergency room is flooded with the injured. Many unsure about the fate of their loved ones. This man stands
by helplessly as doctors treat his wife. He says he doesn't know where his children are.
Amidst the chaos, one minor blessing. There was no tsunami, but fear still haunts this part of the world when nearly 12 years ago, at least 120,000
people were killed in Indonesia alone in the deadliest earthquake to hit the planet in decades. The local government has declared a state of
emergency in the Aceh province with the promise of more help and resources coming in.
Zain Asher, CNN, Atlanta.
GORANI: Well, let's return now to our top story, the regime's major gains in Aleppo after days of intense bombardment by Syria and its ally, Russia.
Battlefield reports indicate that the old city has all but fallen. It could be a turning point in the civil war because this has been a front
line for years.
Let's discuss where rebels and the government stand in Syria. Fawaz Gerges is the chair of Contemporary Middle East Studies at the London School of
Economics and the author of "ISIS: A History."
Is this a turning point then?
FAWAZ GERGES, EMIRATES CHAIR IN CONTEMPORARY MIDDLE EASTERN STUDIES, THE LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS AND POLITICAL SCIENCE: I think, probably, it is
a turning point, Hala. I mean, Assad now controls most of the urban centers in Syria, including Aleppo. Eastern Aleppo was the only urban
center controlled by the opposition.
Not only the opposition has almost lost all of eastern Aleppo, it has been forsaken now by its regional and global allies. It's outmaneuvered. It's
outgunned. It's on its own in the eye of the storm. The balance of power has shifted in Assad's favor. This does not mean that the war is over.
GORANI: And that was going to be my follow-up question obviously. Does that mean then that we'll see some sort of end to the conflict if the
rebels and the opposition are in the back foot to such a degree?
GERGES: I doubt it very much, even though Assad today said that, basically, this is it. This would really mean the end of the war itself.
This is a turning point. It means that Assad is here to stay. It means that Assad is sitting pretty now in Damascus. The world no longer says
that Assad wants, too, Moscow. Nobody is talking about transitional government. But the war could go on for years.
GERGES: Unless a political settlement --
GORANI: But fueled by what? Fueled by what, that the war will go on?
GERGES: I mean, the opposition has a very difficult --
GORANI: Still being funded in weapon --
[15:34:57] GERGES: -- guerilla warfare, terrorism. You can have counterinsurgency for years. How do you, I mean, rebuild Syria? Syria has
been destroyed. You need really hundreds of billions of dollars to rebuild Syria. You have regional powers involved in Syria. You have al Qaeda
affiliate. You have ISIS.
So without the political settlement, even though Assad has gained the upper hand, even though the balance of power shifted, even though that Russia has
the upper hand in Iran and Syria, without a political settlement, without political transition, this particular war could go on for 15 years.
Remember, Lebanon. The war in Lebanon lasted from 1975 to 1990. We're talking about five years and a half in Syria.
GORANI: That's right. It's interesting that Lebanon is now a stable country.
GORANI: Even though it has many political problems, still. Western leaders, after having failed to get a resolution through the U.N. Security
Council, vetoed once again by Russia and this time by China as well to stop the violence in Aleppo, have issued a paper statement just basically asking
nicely for a cessation of hostilities. Is this not just an exercise in futility at this point?
GERGES: You put it, I mean, wonderfully. It's a paper statement. It's for public consumption. They're talking about the moral stand. They are
GORANI: What's the point? What is the point?
GERGES: I mean, they have to do it because it feels --
GORANI: That is a serious question.
GERGES: -- the world has forsaken Syria. The Syrian armed opposition now stands on its own. Even Turkey, forget the western powers. I mean, Turkey
is the major sponsor and supporter of the opposition. Turkey now is coordinating with Russia. Turkey has not said a word about the eastern
part of Aleppo. In fact, Turkey is trying to talk to Russia about an exit, surrender for the rebels.
This tells you that the priorities of the world are no longer the priorities of the Syrian opposition. The priorities of the world are not
for Assad to leave. They're basically to fight ISIS, to get to the al Qaeda in Syria, and this is why really Assad and Russia and their
supporters basically have gained the upper hand, yes.
GORANI: And are feeling very emboldened as well.
GERGES: Oh, absolutely. I mean --
GORANI: Nobody can say never again after this one because --
GERGES: Well, I mean --
GORANI: Well, just there is just no believing them at this stage. What about Trump? How will he change things in the Middle East, do you think?
GERGES: Trump, Hala, has made it very clear he is not interested in regime change. In fact, he has made it very clear even yesterday in his rally in
North Carolina. He said his goal to cut U.S. support, the minimalist U.S. support, for the opposition. So I don't think you're going to count on
Trump, and Trump is willing to work with Russia in order to confront ISIS. The priority is ISIS. ISIS. ISIS is not about Assad.
So if I were Assad now, sitting in Damascus, I would be a smiling man. Fortune has smiled on Assad. The regional balance of power has shifted.
You have shifting regional realignment, including Turkey. Saudi Arabia's priorities are now in Yemen, not in Syria. So all in all, the balance of
power has shifted. Assad has the upper hand. Russia is really the decisive power in Syria.
The question, Hala -- I know we have to go -- the final question, can Russia and Iran and Assad basically translate their military gains on the
battlefield into a political settlement? This is the question.
GORANI: All right. Fawaz Gerges, as always, thanks very much for joining us here in the studio.
The Iraqi military next door to Syria is escalating its offensive against ISIS in southeastern Mosul. Thousands of soldiers have pushed through
several neighborhoods. This is a long fight, by the way. This won't be over any time soon. Security sources say the surge has created a corridor
stretching from the Mosul city limits to a hospital used as a base for ISIS.
Once the corridor reaches the Tigris River, some 10 neighborhoods controlled by ISIS will be surrounded by the military. And you can imagine
the fight they have on their hands there. Many civilians are now trapped behind these enemy lines. So many people have been displaced, according to
the UNHCR. Bruno Geddo is the agency's Iraq chief. He's in New York and he joins me now.
Tell us about your concerns for civilians stuck inside ISIS-controlled Mosul.
BRUNO GEDDO, IRAQ CHIEF, UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES: Yes, we have two main concerns. One is that civilians, even in areas which
have been liberated from ISIS, continue to be pounded and to be shelled upon by ISIS itself. So the fact that they are living in a place taken
over by the Iraqi security forces is not a guarantee for their safety.
And the second concern, of course, is that supplies of fuel, of food, are dwindling because the western route to Syria has been blocked. There is
limited fuel to keep warm in the night. And winter has set in. The temperatures are going to very low levels particularly in the night. So
there is a material discomfort, utter discomfort, and utter insecurity for people inside the city, even in areas taken over by the security forces.
[15:40:05] In the other side of the city, civilians continue to be taken as human shields by ISIS who is executing anybody who is refusing to let their
private property be used to put up sniper fire or --
GORANI: But it's almost --
GEDDO: -- or any other form of war. Yes?
GORANI: I was going to say, it's almost an impossible task. I mean, just getting to the people who are in, quote/unquote, "liberated areas" is
difficult enough. The funding isn't there. Maybe the world interest has waned, but for those people behind enemy lines, there's really --
GEDDO: No --
GORANI: I hate to say it, there's really nothing international organizations can do for them.
GEDDO: There is something we can do. We are working --
GORANI: Which is -- yes.
GEDDO: -- on possibilities to reach people. So long as the siege situation allows it, we would like to go towards them to make sure that
they receive the minimal necessity to survive because this is going to be a longer term battle. We do not think the international community interest
is waning. We still advocate very strongly for the international communities to engage and to continue to support the humanitarian effort as
much as the military effort because the two go together.
GORANI: But I guess my question is, those in ISIS-controlled territory, those unfortunate people in that tragic situation, how do you get to them?
GEDDO: We respect the fact that the Iraqi security forces, until now, have been upholding international humanitarian law. Their main objective is to
minimize loss of civilian life, and that is why they are paying a heavy price in blood because they are advancing very slowly using only small
weapons fire. The question remain, we will be ready, as humanitarians, to build camps closer to the city in case these people come out, manage to
GEDDO: They can walk to our camps, and there, they will receive protection and other form of assistance that they require.
GORANI: So these camps would essentially become a refuge for people who manage to escape because, you mentioned yourself, the fact that they're
being used as human shields, that some of them are even being executed for not cooperating. But what would you, as the UNHCR head in Iraq, like to
see happen that is not happening right now?
GEDDO: We would like to have more land. We tents to house, 240,000 people, but we only have land to house 80,000 people. So the land is just
not sufficient to pitch up all the tents that we have. That is our priority number one.
GORANI: And who gives you the land?
GEDDO: Yes. The land --
GORANI: Who gives you the land?
GEDDO: The land has to be given by the local authority.
GEDDO: And it is a touchy issue in a very tribal context. So we continue to ask for land. Without land, we don't have a place to pitch the tents
and we need to pitch tents because we have tents to house 240,000 thousand people in the event of a massive flow from the city. This is our priority
GORANI: Good luck to you with this. The UNHCR head in Iraq, Bruno Geddo, joining us from the United Nations. We appreciate it.
GEDDO: Thank you. Thank you. Madam.
GORANI: The British journalist John Cantlie has appeared in a new ISIS video which was recorded inside of Mosul apparently. Iraqi security
officials tell CNN, the video appears to have been recorded just within the last few days. Cantlie was taken hostage while reporting in Syria in
November 2012. The last time he was seen alive was in an ISIS propaganda video dated July.
Check out our Facebook page, facebook.com/halagoranicnn. We'll have some of our show's content there, and we appreciate you checking in online.
Still to come, reflecting on eight years in one of the world's most powerful and demanding positions. The American President, Barack Obama,
speaks to CNN about his legacy. Our Fareed Zakaria will join us with details of his special, just ahead.
[15:46:19] GORANI: Well, it must be a difficult situation for any leader handing over power to someone who's threatened to roll back or completely
scrap some signature policy achievements. U.S. President Barack Obama is in that position right now, and he's working hard to protect his legacy
during his last few weeks in office. Yesterday, he made the case that Donald Trump should adopt his approach to confronting many challenges,
Our Fareed Zakaria interviewed Mr. Obama for a documentary that takes a wide-ranging look at his legacy. Here's a brief clip on the part where
they discuss the rise of ISIS.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: Let me ask you, if it's possible in your position to be completely honest and say the rise of the Islamic State
surprised you. It took you by surprise. It took the administration by surprise.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The ability of ISIL to initiate major land offenses, that was not on my intelligence radar screen.
ZAKARIA: Everyone was stunned that a few thousand militants swept through Iraq and Syria, sowing fear in the region and the world.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll chop off the heads of the Americans, chop off the heads of the French, chop off the heads of whoever you may bring.
ZAKARIA: They created a caliphate, ruled by strict Sharia law, meting out punishments in the most barbaric ways imaginable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: And Fareed Zakaria joins me now to talk more about that documentary.
Thanks for being with us. You had a wide-ranging discussion with him. He's almost out of office now. Does he have any regrets?
ZAKARIA: Obama is very thoughtful. He's very careful about what he says, and I think the way he looks at his life and his presidency is, at the
time, given the choices and the options he had, he made the right decision. He did the best he could. So he does have regrets about how things turned
out or, you know, the compromise that he had to make on health care or what he was unable to do on gun control. But I don't think he looks back and
second guesses the decision that he made.
ZAKARIA: I asked him about Syria particularly, Hala, and you'll be interested in this. You know, I said there seems to be an ambivalence in
your policy on Syria. He said, you're right, there is an ambivalence because how can you not be ambivalent? There's a part of you that wants to
do something, and there's a part of you that realizes the odds of success are very low.
And so I said to him, at the end of the day, do you think keeping America out was the right decision? And he says, you know, in a group of very bad
options, I think it was the best I could have chosen.
GORANI: And as you --
ZAKARIA: So that's the main idea.
GORANI: You're right. And as you know, internationally, he's been criticized lately for not intervening where many observers, especially in
the Middle East, thought that perhaps the U.S. President had the power to change things. But what surprised you the most? What did you find most
significant about this discussion you had with the President?
ZAKARIA: Probably the conversation about race. You know, his aides have told me, don't talk to him too much about being a Black person and the
President. He doesn't like to think of himself that way. He's the President of the United States who happens to be Black.
And yet, you know, this is the great -- I mean, I said to him, this is the first line of your biography and it's not something you've done, it's who
you are, the first African-American President. And yet, you're actually half White and were raised by three White people, a White mother and two
White grandparents. And that actually broke the ice and he started laughing. He said don't forget about Indonesian stepfather.
[15:50:25] It became a way where we could talk a little bit about the sort of tension he feels. On the one hand, he has to be the President of all
Americans and post-racial. I mean, one of the great attractions of Barack Obama was that he seemed to unify every element of America, and he was able
to appeal to every element of America. And yet, he holds a very special place for African-Americans. And so every crisis he would face, you know,
he had to be post-racial enough for all Americans, and Black enough for African-Americans.
GORANI: That's true. Right, yes.
ZAKARIA: And that was a very difficult, you know, process to maneuver.
GORANI: And certainly a balancing act there, but what about Donald Trump? Obviously, you must have asked him about how he felt about the fact that
his successor is Donald Trump, the reality show star, the brash real estate billionaire, and a man who has promised to try to backtrack on most of the
notable achievements, domestic achievements, of his presidency.
ZAKARIA: I think you see with Obama now, as you pointed out, one of his great skills, which is to not get rattled, not get overly fearful, you
know, not panic. And so he seems to be approaching the Trump presidency with thoughtfulness, care, and thinking to himself, OK, what cards do I
have that I can play? And the cards that he has he can play is that he has the ability to reach out and talk to that man.
And he's talking to Trump and he's clearly in a very low key but, you know, persuasive way because he's a very smart guy. Obama is telling Trump, you
might want to think about these issues. You know, when you look at health care and reversing Obamacare, you might want to keep these elements which
are very popular. Now, those elements are, in fact, the core of Obamacare. And I think he's probably thinking, if it's called Trumpcare and it
constitutes the same things, I don't mind.
Yesterday, he gave a speech in which he essentially pointed out at the start of the speech that his view on foreign policy is no nation building.
Don't send large land armies places. Use Special Forces and drones, and then ask the locals to take responsibility. That should be an attractive
formula for Trump, after Trump has said he was very suspicious of foreign entanglements. So he's trying to couch his arguments in ways that would
appeal to Donald Trump, which is, I suppose, the best he can do.
But, you know, it's turned this documentary into a bit of a cliff hanger. When we did it initially, we thought it was going to be a valedictory.
ZAKARIA: But with every segment, we now have ended up asking ourselves the question -- and we talked about this openly in the documentary -- will all
this be upended? Will it unravel? How much of this legacy will be preserved? And in each case, the answer is somewhat different because some
things can be upended. Some, like the Iran deal, would be much more difficult to simply renege on and pull out of. So each one, you know,
Trump will face his own constraints in being able to fulfill that boast that he was going to erase the Obama presidency.
GORANI: All right. Well, Fareed, we really look forward to this special. In fact, it airs in this time slot on Friday. Thanks very much, Fareed
Zakaria. Your full interview with U.S. President Barack Obama will air, "THE LEGACY OF BARACK OBAMA." It starts at 7:00 p.m. London time, 7:00 to
9:00 p.m., and 8:00 to 10:00 Central European time. Tune in for that.
Some news just in to CNN, 95-year-old American astronaut John Glenn in the hospital. His spokesperson says he was hospitalized more than a week ago.
We're getting that information now.
Glenn was the first American to other orbit the earth. He later became a U.S. senator for his home state of Ohio and went on to participate in a
shuttle mission in 1998 when he was 77. Officials haven't released what his condition is or his prognosis, just that he is hospitalized. We'll be
[15:56:03] GORANI: Madonna has never been afraid of pushing the envelope. She's doing it again with a performance on late night television. Here's
JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: James Corden takes Madonna for a spin.
JAMES CORDEN, HOST, THE LATE LATE SHOW WITH JAMES CORDEN: Do you mind if we listen to some music?
MADONNA, SINGER: Geez.
CORDEN: Would that be okay?
MADONNA: I don't really like riding around in a car and there's music.
MOOS: But Madonna didn't just ride shotgun. She twerked it.
MOOS: It's a wonder she didn't set off the air bag. Well, actually, she did set off an air bag of sorts.
SUSANNA REID, HOST, GOOD MORNING BRITAIN: I love Madonna.
PIERS MORGAN, HOST, GOOD MORNING BRITAIN: Oh, she makes my skin crawl.
MOOS: On "Good Morning Britain," former CNN-er Piers Morgan called 58- year-old Madonna's twerking utterly embarrassing. A train wreck.
MORGAN: Oh, god. I'm sorry. I feel suddenly nauseous. Sorry. Does someone got a bucket? Hang on.
MOOS: But Madonna fans are sick of Piers. "Madonna's an icon, he's a grumpy old man," commented one. Tweeted another, "People don't disappear
after a certain age, look at you," meaning Piers.
MORGAN: Put it away. Seriously.
MOOS: Responded another Madonna supporter, "I didn't know older women weren't allowed to have fun, make fun of themselves, poke around, and have
a gay old time."
Madonna's rear came to the forefront recently when she twerked with Ariana Grande. "Thank you for showing me you're freshly purchased and installed
buttocks, Madonna," wrote one commenter.
CORDEN: Big, big booty. When you got a big booty, shake that.
JENNIFER LOPEZ, SINGER: Big, big booty. When you got a big booty, shake that.
MOOS: From J-Lo to Adele, "Carpool Karaoke" has featured everyone from Justin Bieber to Stevie wonder. But no one delivered quite like Madonna.
Jeanne moos, CNN, New York.
GORANI: Give me a break, Piers Morgan. It's fun. This has been THE WORLD RIGHT NOW. Thanks for watching. Our special program, "THE MESSY TRUTH
WITH VAN JONES" is up next after a quick check of the headlines.