Return to Transcripts main page
CONNECT THE WORLD
Iran Places Tit-for-Tat Sanctions on 15 U.S. Companies; Battle Against ISIS Puts Civilians at Risk; U.S. Backed Syrian Rebel Forces Claim Capture of Airbase Near Raqqa; Fighting Near Critical Yemen Port City of Hodeida; President Rouhani Set to Meet Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Aired 10- 11a ET
Aired March 27, 2017 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:14] BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: Eradicating ISIS, the battle against the terror group puts civilians at risk. Now, the Pentagon is investigating
whether one of its airstrikes killed many people in Mosul. Next, up reports from the embattled city and from the U.S. Defense Department.
Also this hour, a war two years on. People march in Yemen's capital marking a grim anniversary. What can be done to save millions from
And tete-a-tete: Iranian and Russian leaders are set to sit down in Moscow. We look at what is on their agenda.
Hello and welcome. You're watching Connect the World. I'm Becky Anderson in Abu Dhabi at just after 7:00 in the evening here.
Now, the physical territory held by ISIS is dwindling as the campaigns against the terror group in Iraq and in Syria intensify.
U.S-backed forces in Syria say they've seized control of a strategic airbase near the group's de facto capital of Raqqa.
Well, the base was the site of a massacre in 2014 when ISIS militants murdered some 200 Syrian soldiers.
And Iraqi forces in western Mosul are closing in on fighters in the old city there in an attempt to, quote, tighten the noose on ISIS.
Well, this as U.S. and Iraqi officials investigate allegations that a coalition airstrike targeting ISIS earlier this month killed scores of
CNN's Arwa Damon reports from Mosul.
ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There are helicopters buzzing overhead and there's been the regular sound of explosions coming as the
battle for western Mosul continues just as intense, it would seem, as it has always been.
You can see the minaret for the al-Nouri Mosque where the ISIS leader al- Baghdadi declared his so-called caliphate. That, of course, is one of the main objectives for the Iraqi security forces. And then the smoke rising
and has been rising and has been nonstop throughout the course of the entire day.
There are still hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped inside this battle zone. And of course the U.S. and the Iraqi governments are both
investigating various different incidents where there have been allegations of significant civilian casualties.
At one of these sites, a health ministry official tells CNN that at least 112 bodies have been recovered.
We have also spoken to the head of the civil defense forces tasked with trying to pull bodies out from underneath the rubble who is saying that it
is a very difficult and slow task. In one of these sites, in particular, according to the local counterterrorism forces, commander, he said that on
March 17, they called in an air strike against an ISIS suicide truck bomber. The force of that blast caused several homes in the area to
collapse. An eyewitness told CNN that as he and his family were fleeing, they
could hear people screaming from underneath the rubble, please save me. I am alive.
This is a battle that has already devastated the population of the city that has been through so much, not just in terms of trying to survive,
living under ISIS, but now trying to fight and trying to survive during the battle that is meant to be their liberation.
Arwa Damon, CNN, Mosul, Iraq.
ANDERSON: Well, that's the situation the ground. Top U.S. commander in the region says the U.S. is taking, and I quote, extraordinary measures to
avoid harming civilians as the investigation into the air strike progresses.
CNN's Barbara Starr joining us now with the very latest from the Pentagon. And what are your sources in Washington telling you about what they
understand to have happened?
BARBARA STARR, CNN INTERNATINOAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, still very much under investigation. They are looking at all the theories they have
about how this might have happened. The Iraqis have their theories. The U.S. not ready to settle on one of them. They are looking at the strike
video. They're looking at all the information they can trying to get the Iraqis who may have people on the ground able to recount the civilians,
what happened when all of this happened on March 17.
They are trying to just put together as full a picture as possible. The U.S. military adamant that they do everything they can to avoid civilian
casualties. But clearly here, this is a neighborhood where ISIS was not letting people leave, or they were not able to get out. There is a very
deep sense in the U.S. military that ISIS commits atrocities by holding civilians as human shields, by making people stay in neighborhoods where
fighting is ongoing.
We will see what sorts out here and what actually they can tell us about what happened. But, you know, this is a very difficult situation, because
there are so many civilians still trapped in Mosul.
[11:05:31] ANDERSON: If confirmed, of course, this incident of March 17 would mark the greatest loss of civilian lives since U.S. began strikes
against ISIS back in 2014.
How long are you being told this investigation might last?
STARR: Well, General Joseph Votel (ph), who heads up Central Command, which overseas military operations in this region, he is actually scheduled
to testify here in Washington something that was already arranged on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. He knows that congress is going to ask him
questions about all of this.
I think it is fair to say that General Votel (ph) hopes to come prepared with some answers. But if they don't have the answers, he is going to tell
them that this investigation still continues - Becky.
ANDERSON: Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon for you in Washington. Barbara, thank you. It is 11:06 in the morning there, of course.
Turning to another war that the U.S. plays a role in, albeit a limited one at present at least: Yemen. 24 months of fighting has killed thousands of
people in a grim warning. The United Nations says 7 million people face starvation if nothing is done.
Well, the fighting pits anti-government rebels against a Saudi-led coalition, the U.S. army, its Gulf allies. They, in turn, accuse Iran of
backing the rebels. And now a report that the U.S. is being urged to get more involved.
Muhammad Lila is here with me now. When might any escalation, with or without U.S. involvement focus at this point?
MUHAMMAD LILA, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Becky, there have been a lot of indications and some signs of a possible military operation on the
port city of Hudeda (ph). In fact, there was a report in The Washington Post today talking about a military operation that would be led by Emirati
special forces backed by United States intelligence and logistics.
Now, leaving aside the quagmire that could put the United States in as far as this conflict goes in Yemen. The reason this port is so strategic is
because it is the life line that allows 70 percent of all good to enter into Yemen. A lot of those goods wind up in Houthi rebel territory.
Now, we know the UN and the World Food Program and a number of NGOs have been talking about the danger of starvation as this conflict goes on.
Millions of people, in fact, are in danger of starving because they simply don't have the food and the humanitarian relief that they need to survive.
We know in the early days of this conflict, the Hudeda (ph) shipping port was damaged by airstrikes. We spoke to the World Food Program today. They
say they do have access to that port, but it's only operating at about 25 percent capacity. It needs refurbishment, and it needs repairs. And
without those repairs more people will starve.
One analyst today referred to this as the weaponization of the economy. Whoever controls that port, it can act as a weapon and a leverage point, if
you will, and an advantage as the conflict goes on.
ANDERSON: On a good day, Yemen relies on 90 percent of its food and services being imported. So, an absolutely crucial lifeline for the
All parties seemed to be convinced this war can be won militarily, don't they?
LILA: Well, this makes this conflict so different from the other conflicts in the Middle East. Look, we were talking about Iraq or even Syria, you
can see progress being made in Iraq. You can say the fight against ISIS is going well. In Syria, you can say the fight, perhaps, against al Qaeda is
going well. In Yemen, it is very difficult to say that.
A lot of analysts are just pointing out and say, look, for the last 18 months, both sides have been fighting to a stalemate. In fact, there was a
letter - and I've got the letter right here - 52 U.S. congress members wrote a letter to the Secretary of State Tillerson pleading for a
diplomatic and a peaceful and a negotiate solution to this thing. Look, in Yemen, unlike other conflicts, there simply can't be a military solution.
It has got to be something where both sides get to the table.
Now, we know the Obama administration held that same point of view. And tried to get both sides to negotiate a settlement. The wild card in this
is that we don't know what the Trump administration's plan or policy is going to be in Yemen. Will they support a negotiated settlement, or will
they look to ramp up American military involvement in the region which would be just another potential headache for the Pentagon to have to deal
with another conflict with so much already going on in the region.
ANDERSON: That map is an important one that we have been showing while you've been talking there. And we're going to come back to this story of
Yemen. It is, as you describe, a bloody quagmire.
Thank you for the time being.
Let's get you some of the other stories on our radar then today. And the man was arrested in Birmingham on Sunday as part of the investigation into
last week's terror attack in London. He's suspected of preparing a terrorist act.
The man responsible for the attack. Khalid Masood was killed by police.
Well, in northern Peru, hundreds of families have been evacuated near an overflowing river over fears of new flooding. You can see the Peruvian
military here placing sandbags on the Piura River's banks. Now, heavy rains and flooding have claimed the lives of at least 90 people in recent
Well, a number of activists from Hong Kong's pro-democracy Umbrella Movement, as it's known, say they now face charges more than two years
after the protests ended. It's been one day since an election committee, dominated by Beijing loyalists, elected Carrie Lam to be Hong Kong's next
chief exec. One of the protest leaders accuses Lam's her predecessor of trying to clean house before she is sworn in.
It is 11 minutes past 7:00 here in the UAE. We're going to take a very short break. Back after this.
Welcome back. You're watching Connect the World on CNN. I'm Becky Anderson coming to you out of Dubai. I'm not doing that at all. I'm
coming to you from Abu Dhabi.
Right, it's a monumental week for Britain and its prime minister, Theresa May. On Wednesday, the country triggers Article 50, officially beginning a
tricky negotiating process for exiting the EU. Talks that will, of course, shape the future of the country.
But before that, lawmakers in Scotland could vote in favor of a new independence referendum,
throwing more political discord in Northern Ireland. Well, it could be a long seven days for the lady that you are looking at.
She begins it all with a trip to Scotland. Let's bring in Nic Robertson with more out of London.
Nic, what is she up against this week as it were starting off in Scotland?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, the big picture you have to say uncertainty, that is what to expect back - to hear
back from the European Union when she triggers Article 50
But in that context, what she can expect in Scotland today is certainty, the certainty that Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister of Scotland is going
to say tomorrow we're going to vote to allow the legislation to move forward, to allow an independence referendum in the relatively near future.
Now, the prime minister's office has said that the prime minister isn't going to Scotland to talk about this second independence referendum. She's
going to talk about how she was going to negotiate a deal, a Brexit deal for the whole of the United Kingdom, and that the United Kingdom is better
off staying united.
She's going to try and answer some of the criticisms that Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister of Scotlant, has laid Theresa May's feet, if you will,
the criticisms that, you know, the government in Westminster hasn't listened to what the Scottish people want.
They didn't want to leave the European Union. They voted to remain part of the UK. And, you know, Scotland has asked for such things as to remain part
of the single market. And they don't feel they've had adequate answers from Theresa May.
So that's why Nicola Sturgeon is expected to go off the script that Theresa May wants and on to
her own script, which is, we want a referendum, essentially just roundabout or before the terms of the Brexit negotiations to finalize sort of this
time in two year's time.
And Theresa May's answer to that until now has been, this is not the moment to talk about it. This is not the moment to be discussing this issue.
So to that point again this afternoon certainty that the impasse is going to continue, Becky.
[11:16:10] ANDERSON: Nic Robertson is in London for you. It is a busy week.
Now, to something that you - well, you don't hear every day: Iran smacking sanctions on these
15 American companies, so state media reports at least. It is accusing them of abusing human rights and of working with Israel against the
Now, there is a reason you tend to see this kind of thing as a protest rather than actual policy. First up, it doesn't look like any of these
listed companies have anything to do with Iran anyway, plus the U.S. economy, of course, is more than 40 times bigger than Iran's. So, when
Washington serves up fresh sanctions like it did on Iran a few days ago it hurts, when Tehran does it, not so much.
We'll sift through all of this. CNN Money's John Defterios is with me now - John.
JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN MONEY: It's getting heated. Let's put it that way.
Yeah, this is fact, this is the second round of sanctions in 2017. So, since President Donald Trump has come in to office, the first was after the
ballistic missile test of February 1 followed by a Twitter storm, if you will, by Donald Trump, both criticizing Iran and also President Obama for
leting that waiver go through at the end of 2016.
Obviousyl, Becky, this is straining relations before the May elections that are taking place for President Hassan Rouhani. This is not going to help
investment go in to Iran to your point on the lead-in there.
And then there is the other caveat here, Iran is a large emerging market. It is not going to help companies like Boeing or other players trying to
get in to that market. Let's take a closer look.
DEFTERIOS: Tit for tat sanctions as tensions begin to rise. Days after the U.S. imposed fresh sanctions on Iranian companies and individuals,
Tehran hits back with a similar move, sanctioning what it describes as 15 U.S. companies that, quote, support terrorism, a move loaded with symbolism
but little else.
ROBIN MILLS, CEO, OAMER ENERGY: The phrase used tit for tat is spot on. I mean, these sanctions from the Iranian down really don't have any practical
importance. I mean, there's U.S. defense companies obviously don't have any assets or activities in Iran, so it has no real impact on them.
DEFTERIOS: the near-term fallout may be more significant. Tensions with Washington undermine Iran's president Hassan Rouhani's re-election chances
in May since he was the champion of the 2015 nuclear deal.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I, Donald John Trump, do solemnly swear.
DEFTERIOS: There have been growing tensions between Washington and Tehran since President Donald Trump took office in January. In a recent tweet,
Trump criticized Iran for its ballistic missile launches and other non- nuclear activities, and also berated his predecessor Barack Obama.
This means the next sanctions waiver deadline in mid-June will be the first major test of future relations between the two.
MILLS: Obviously, there was rhetoric on the campaign trail that he would also tear up the deal. So, I think companies considering investing in
Iran, of course, are waiting to see if the sanctions waiver is renewed.
DEFTERIOS: This also means Iran's plans to attract billions of dollars in energy investment have been put on hold awaiting clarity.
Also in the balance, Boeing's $16 billion deal for 80 aircraft with Iran Air.
Meanwhile's Europe's plane maker, Airbus, made another delivery this week. It seems, strategist say, as a move by Tehran to put distance between the
U.S. and Europe when it comes to business in what could be a promising large market if all the politics can be smoothed out and the rhetoric toned
DEFTERIOS: So, it is crucial, Becky, to see if in fact Tehran is effective in trying to put some distance between the the United States and Europe on
this. So, signatories in the P5+1 or what plays out in the Security Council. Now, let's go back just over a year. President Rouhani promised
the Iranian people with this agreement we'll get $50 billion of foreign direct investment in the first year. It's been a fraction of that.
Internally, the banking sector needs to be restructured and the $185 billion they wanted to
raise for the energy sector is all being held up. Even Total of France said they had this $2 billion gas deal then they paused and said, we'll
look at if in the summer. What does that mean? After the elections and after Donald Trump has to make that decision on the waiver.
Right now, they are relying interestingly on the Chinese who have gone into those oil fields and Russia doing the dance saying that they are willing to
go in perhaps on the gas front, but they haven't committed just yet.
ANDERSON: We're getting more of that now.
Thank you, John.
We are heading towards two very big dates, then, right now: one in Washington, one in Tehran.
First, Iran's elections, as John rightly pointed out. Now less than two months away in May.
Right after that, in the middle of June, Trump will have a set of really important waivers put
in front of him. If he chooses not to sign them, the Iran deal could start to fall apart.
Well, my next guest, Trita Parsi, is about to put out this book. Look at how that deal was put together in the first place. Trita coming to us
live now from Washington where he also works as the president of the National Iranian-American Council.
And we appreciate you giving us the time tonight.
We've said this before and we will say it again, any sense that there was a significant warming of relations post this Iran deal would have been sort
of misplaced, wouldn't they? I mean, when people talked about the unfreezing of relations, you know, a lot of people would say, well, that
was going a little bit too far.
How would you describe current U.S./Iran relations at this point?
TRITA PARSI, NATIONAL IRANIAN-AMERICAN COUNCIL: Well, on the first one, I would say actually the prospects and the opportunity to be able to move
away from this very hostile relationship did exist. Unfortunately, it was not materialized and then, of course, with the election of Donald Trump, it
has been completely put on hold. And if the deal itself could be saved, that would actually be quite an ambitious goal at this moment, mindful of
the trajectory of the relationship.
We haven't seen much from the Trump administration in the last couple of weeks. It may be
because they are to engulfed in other crises that they, themselves have led. It may also be as a result of this review they are doing right now.
But there isn't much hope at this point that the U.S./Iran relationship will move in any way, shape, or form in a positive direction.
If at best they can just keep the deal, that would be good enough.
ANDERSON: What are you hearing, then, behind closed doors. Is this deal on its way out? Is this falling apart?
PARSI: Well, there is an issue here which is that at the end of the day, even if it wasn't for Trump being in office right now, there would have
been a need for a slightly positive trajectory in U.S./Iran relations in order for this deal to endure.
Now, we are faced with a situation with a hostile American president who doesn't like this deal, and potentially if Rouhani were to lose the
election, conservative president in Iran who also probably would be campaigning against the deal.
Under those circumstances, it is very difficult to see this deal survive.
It can still survive if, on the U.S. side, there is a renewal of these waivers and there is this minimum commitment to the deal. But if there is
going to be this broader confrontation between the United States and Iran in the region, then that will come at the expense of this deal.
ANDERSON: Do you see a prospect of that as we hear talk, for example, that the U.S. could be looking at exerting a bit more influence, for example, in
Yemen to the support of its Gulf allies with the potential that that will clearly significant its unwillingness to get any closer to Iran?
PARSI: Certainly. There are individuals in the Trump administration, particularly in the Pentagon, who would like to see a much more muscular
American foreign policy in the region, starting off in Yemen, largely focused in establishing America's primacy and pushing
back the Iranians.
This is then cheer led by Riyadh, the Saudi Arabia as well as in Israel who want to see a much stronger American presence in the region.
It is very difficult to see how that approach could be combined with the survival of the nuclear
deal. And these are questions that the Trump administration has to take a look at very carefully and
really make a decision. What are their main objectives here? What is the value of having a stronger muscular policy in the region, if it is come at
the expense of the nuclear deal, which then could put the United States and Iran back on a track towards military confrontation?
ANDRESON: OK, well, while Iran, then brandishes the United States as the Great Satan, it perhaps sees Russia as more like a great friend, perhaps.
In just the last hours, a few hours, Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani touched down for a two day trip to Moscow where he's set to meet the
Russian president on Tuesday and will be hoping to score some big energy deals as John and I were just discussing.
What does Moscow really make of Tehran at this point?
[11:25:17] PARSI: Well, for the Russians, Iran has been a key player, precisely because of the fact that the Iranians have been one of the few
countries in the region that have not been under the influence of the United States.
The Russians have not necessarily needed Iran to be a pro-Russian country as long as they were an independent country and resisted the American
dominance in the region.
Now, we have a very different situation in the region with the Russians actually really stepping up their own involvement. And while that has come
combined with collaboration with the Iranians, particularly in Syria, there is also tensions in this relationship and there's also a lack of trust
between these two powers.
Rouhani's visit is very much about trying to see exactly how far can Russian/Iranian collaboration go. And at what point will they start
becoming competitors in the region?
ANDERSON: Fascinating. We'll have you back. For the time being, Trita Parsi out of Washington for you on one of the stories of the day.
World news headlines are just ahead, plus a shift in focus after a stinging defeat. We're going to see what's next for the White House after President
Trump's own party fails to pass one of his top legislative priorities. Taking a very short break. Back after this.
ANDERSON: Prominent Russian opposition leader, Alexei Navalny has been sentenced to 15 days in jail. He was detained Sunday along with hundreds
of other protesters at mass anti-corruption demonstrations.
He tweeted this picture of himself in court with the caption: The time will come when we will judge them.
Matthews Chance joining us now from Moscow. What's the fallout from these protests? And what do they mean for the Russian president, Matthew?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think the Kremlin will obviously been taking notes of these protests very strongly. I mean,
it's the first time in five years that Russia has seen the kind of mass protests that Alexei Navalny, this opposition figure, this anti-corruption
campaigner, has managed to assemble not just in the Moscow or St. Petersburg and in Vladivostok, these main urban centers, but in towns and
cities across the nation of Russia, this vast country of 140 million people.
And so, you know, this is something that the Kremlin simply can't afford to ignore. What their action will be, I think, is still a question very much
hanging over that.
ANDERSON: Matthew Chance in Moscow for you.
I want to get you to Washington where a new week brings new priorities for the Trump White
House. It is still reeling from its first major legislative defeat. Mr. Trump's own party controls both houses of congress, but Republicans still
couldn't get enough votes to repeal and replace Obamacare.
Sara Murray first with what the administration is focusing on now after a weekend to regroup.
SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The White House desperate to move forward after a bruising defeat on health care.
REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We're moving on the tax reform. We've got the budget coming up.
MURRAY: The Trump administration turning its focus to the next battle: cutting taxes, which could prove even more challenging. That after failing
to deliver on the president's promise to repeal and replace Obamacare, despite Republicans having control of the House and Senate.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) NEW YORK: If you analyze what went wrong with ACA, if he repeats them in tax reform, they'll get nowhere.
MURRAY: This as the finger-pointing intensifies.
MICK MULVANEY, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET: I think there's probably plenty of blame to go around. I think what happened is that
STEPHEN MILLER, DONALD TRUMP POLICY ADVISOR: I think the House moved a bit too fast. Eighteen days is simply not enough time for such major landmark
MURRAY: President Trump shifting the blame from Democrats to the conservatives who who stood in the way of the bill, tweeting they "saved
Planned Parenthood and Obamacare" as his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, is leaving the door open to bipartisan compromise.
PRIEBUS: If Democrats come on board with a plan down the road, we'll welcome that.
KASICH: They've got to reach out across the aisle, and Democrats have to say, "We will work with you to improve and fix this plan for people."
MURRAY: Meanwhile, a longtime member of the House Freedom Caucus, Ted Poe, is resigning from the group over its role in defeating the bill. Poe
writing in a statement, "Saying no is easy. Leading is hard."
House Speaker Paul Ryan also under scrutiny in the wake of the health care defeat. President Trump tweeting to his supporters to watch a specific FOX
News program which began like this.
JEANINE PIRRO, FOX NEWS HOST: Paul Ryan needs to step down as speaker of the House.
MURRAY: The White House is insisting that Trump didn't know the FOX host would make these comments and that the commander in chief is standing by
PRIEBUS: He doesn't blame Paul Ryan. In fact, he thought Paul Ryan worked really hard.
MURRAY: Republicans also gearing up for another fight: over Supreme Court pick Neil Gorsuch, with Democrats vowing to filibuster his nomination.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: I applaud the Republicans obeying the rules that currently exist and not changing those rules. And the rules
right now, for good reasons, are 60 votes.
ANDERSON: Well, Bernie Sanders closing out that report from Sara.
Let's get more from CNN Washington correspondent Ryan Nobels.
Mr. Trump needs a big win, and the clock ticking now on the window for him to score that in his first 100 days. With what, 35 odd to go, where does
he go next? Is this tax reform going to be any easier than what he faced with health care?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Becky that, is the big question, where does this White House go next to get that win that they are
looking for. And you are right, even though it seemed as though health care was something that had broad Republican support,
they now believe that tax reform is an area where they could get that win. But tax reform is really complicated. And even though when you ask
Republicans generically, do you support some form of tax reform, the way that actually gets done gets way more complicated. And particularly in the
Senate, it is a very sticky issue. So, the idea that they could just propose something and have that sail through the congress is
So, where do they go? As you heard in Sara's piece, they are talking about now working with Democrats, which may be a difficult task.
[11:35:13] ANDERSON: Whichever way you spin this Rubik's cube, bipartisan support for any new policy is surely now what this administration realizes
it needs, however big its majority in the House. The point is, are they willing to extend an olive branch at this point. Is this administration
willing to do that?
NOBLES: Well, publicly, they are saying that they are. And, you know, it is really not that far of a reach to believe them. You know, Donald Trump
is by no means an ideological Republican. He was actually a Democrat at one point in his life. He kind of came to the Republican Party because he
saw a political opportunity. So, I don't think there is any doubt that the president himself would enjoy the idea of working with Democrats.
So, I don't necessarily think the problem is here on this end of Pennsylvania Avenue, it is on the other end, on Capitol Hill, where
Democrats really taste that blood in the water. They realize they have got a president on the ropes here and why in any way, shape, or form, would
they want to work with him when they realize he has hobbled at this point.
So, you know, maybe if they have some for of an idea of some sort of grand plan that will benefit all Americans they will go for it, but that has not
been the attitude or the culture here in Washington, at least for the last decade.
ANDERSON: That is Washington where he has issues. Of course, we do know that this cloud that is called Russia is hanging over this administration.
Ryan, big news today about the investigations into possible collusion between the Trump
campaign team and Russia. Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump's son-in-law and a top adviser, now volunteering to testify before a senate committee. It wants
to question him about his role in arranging meetings between campaign advisers and Russia's ambassador to the United States.
The Senate committee holds a public hearing Thursday. But it is unclear when Kushner may
A House panel also investigating, of course, possible collusion and will meet again with the FBI director, James Comey, tomorrow.
How significant is all of this?
NOBLES: Well, it is very significant primarily because of the proximity that Jared Kushner has
to the president. He is one of a very small group of people who the president trusts implicitly. He is thought to have the president's ear.
Not only does the president appreciate him, but he loves him as his son-in- law.
So, the idea that Kushner was meeting with Russian officials, even though there weren't that many meetings and the - you know, on their face, may
not seem to be suspicious, when you have, as you said, this greater cloud of Russia hanging over this administration, the fact that we have this
revelation, and that a Republican-led Senate intelligence committee has asked him to come speak before them, there could be some smoke there.
Now, the White House is pushing back on this. They said they have been very open about
who Kushner met with and that he is happy to go meet in front of this committee because he has nothing to hide. We will have to see, though, if
anything comes out of this.
ANDERSON: Out of Washington for you today, our reporter, Ryan Nobles. Thank you, Ryan.
Live from Abu Dhabi, this is Connect the World. Coming up, millions on the brink of
starvation after two years of crippling air strikes in Yemen. I will speak to a researcher who was there earlier this year about what direction she
sees this bloody conflict taking.
[11:41:43] ANDERSON: You are watching CNN, this is Connect the World with me, Becky Anderson. Welcome back.
Let's get you to one of our top stories this hour. And an unfolding crisis that we follow closely on this show.
It's two years since the civil war in Yemen escalated sharply with the start of Saudi-led airstrikes. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh has this reminder of
how it all started. And some viewers may find the following images upsetting. So, I warn you.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Lynda, as the war in Yemen enters into its third year, such a lengthy conflict, particularly
given the scale of the military firepower the Saudis are using against their adversaries, the Houthis here.
As it enters its third year, there are some shocking figures that explain the scale of the humanitarian catastrophic we're seeing unfold. And one of
the world's poorest countries.
The UN believe 18.8 million people are in need of aid, just over 70,000 died in this war, 4,500 of them civilians, and 2 million people have been
This is a desperately poor and troubled country where things, frankly, are just slipping from awful to worse.
These are the drawn, deathly faces of a war the world forgot now in its third year that has fostered famine, geopolitical hatred and al Qaeda.
You've probably heard little of Yemen's horrific conflict, but as with most problems ignored, it is not going away.
Back in 2015, a rebel group called the Houthis seized the capital, causing the western-backed President Hadi to flee.
We saw them swiftly kick out his forces from Sanaa's ancient streets, but Hadi came back with heavy firepower. Neighboring Saudi Arabia and other
Gulf states saw the Houthis as too close to their foe Iran and intervened, pitching their well-funded army and firepower against the Houthis motley
ANDERSON: Well, that's how it escalated.
For more on what unfolded, I want to bring in someone who was last in Yemen in January. This, mind you, at a time when information from the ground is
very, very limited.
With perspective, then, from the field and in-depth knowledge of this beat, Dr. Elizabeth Kendall is joining us from Oxford University today - or is
from Oxford University joining me out of London. Apologies.
Firstly, what was the situation like for civilians in the east in January when were you there?
DR. ELIZABETH KENDALL, OXFORD UNIVERSITY: Well, interestingly, the east sits
in stark contrast to what's happening in the west of Yemen. The problem in the east is different. It is not being pulverized by air strikes, but it's
being - the society is being ripped apart by the growth of smuggling networks, which are supplying weapons, some say also drugs and cash to fuel
the war and presumably soon will also be supplying food.
ANDERSON: That's the east, as you rightly point out, not being pummeled by the air power that we have seen evidence of on the ground with civilian
deaths in the thousands in the thousands in the west and in amongst all of this, of course, al Qaeda, you say, stands to benefit immensely, adding
food to the list of goods they already run as a lucrative smuggling racket, of course.
What do you know about how that group is faring in January, because that will inform any further involvement, one assumes, by U.S. special
operations or more? And this is a story that's doing the rounds at present.
KENDALL: Yes, of course. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has long been a threat to the west. And it has tried to target the west. Since the war
began, it profited enormously and managed, in fact, to run a de facto state in Mukala (ph), in the east of the country, for about a year until special
forces moved in in April last year.
Now, some may think that that's really put such a hole in the operations that the group has disappeared, but it has not. It was not militarily
defeated, it simply melted away. And in fact, I have counted 76 attacks conducted by al Qaeda in Yemen since the beginning of this calendar year.
So, it is still very much a threat.
And those smuggling networks, which I mentioned in the east, will certainly benefit al Qaeda. So, it's an ongoing problem.
[11:45:38] ANDERSON: We are talking about millions on the brink of starvation. It seems remarkable that we are even having this discussion in
2017, 24 months into this conflict. Yemen, of course, as you rightly point out relies heavily on this imported food and those imports have dried up
amid fighting over ports like Hodeida.
The United Nations chief of humanitarian affairs, Steven O'Brien, has explicitly blamed all warring parties. "Man-made conflict has brought
Yemen to the brink of famine. Today, nearly 19 million Yemenis, over two- thirds of the population," he says, "need humanitarian assistance. Seven million are facing starvation."
To put that last figure in context, that is just shy of the entire population of New York City, the
size of London on a decent day. And yet the Houthi rebels have not collapsed even in these circumstances.
This, the enemy of this Saudi-led coalition, how much substance is there to the allegations that they are being backed and armed by Iran?
KENDALL: Well, the substance to those allegations is actually growing. The interesting point here is that there may not have been much substance
to those allegations before the Saudi-led coalition began its air strikes in March 2015. But subsequently, this has played totally into Iran's
hands. And we do know for sure that Iran is now supplying weapons, high caliber weapons and advisers to the Houthis rebels.
So, in a sense it has really had the opposite effect, this war. It is basically starting to create the very monster that it was claiming to try
to put a lid on.
And I think it will only get worse.
ANDERSON: Well, The Washington Post reporting that the UAE and Saudi Arabia want to launch a military push to recapture what they see as this
strategic port of Hodeida, located in rebel territory, of course, the largest port with the best facilities. By your
measure, it is also the one used by aid agencies to get supplies to what is this increasingly starving population.
So, lay it out for us, what would a massive military operation around this port mean for not just conflict, but for Yemen's civilians?
KENDALL: Well, I think it is wrong to believe that a massive military confrontation will actually achieve the war's stated aims from the
perspective of Saudi Arabia. This is not the kind of logical framework that our military planners like to imagine in my view. You konw, this kind
of context, it is a tribal context. It is a context in which honor codes come into play. It is about shame, honor, revenge.
You could have ten men standing left from the Houthi rebels and they would still fight on. I think it is a mistake to believe that this conflict can
be closed militarily and that if we just give it one last push, then we can open up Hodeida. Right now, the main block on Hodeida bringing in aid is
the fact that the four cranes that are waiting to get into the port are not being allowed in to the port by the Saudi blockade. That's the main
ANDERSON: With perspective from the field and in-depth knowledge of this conflict, Elizabeth Kendall from Oxford University joining me out in London
today. Thank you.
We are out of Abu Dhabi. And that is a story that we will stay on on Connect the World.
Stay with us tonight. We'll be right back after this.
[11:51:12] ANDERSON: Howling wind, pounding rain, an electric sky and booming thunder, all that shook one of my team members here in Abu Dhabi
awake last night trained him as I have, his first weary instinct capturing these images for you viewers. Remarkable stuff.
You are watching CNN. This is Connect the World with me, Becky Anderson. Welcome back.
I tell you what, the weather wouldn't keep me awake. I sleep like a baby, honestly.
But we really have been seeing some pretty crazy storms here in the UAE, particularly for this
time of the year. For your Parting Shots, then, we turn down the road to Dubai during sunnier times after something on a picture of the city she
took some ten years ago, one photographer made it her mission to capture how the place she calls home is changing so fast. Have
a look at this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I remember going through my photographs and finding an image that I had taken of the Burj Khalifa before the scaffolding was
complete. I compared it with one of my recent images. It's a moment that I am very proud to have documented in
the history of Dubai.
Being able to document the story of Dubai is something that I have always wanted to capture. The images speak to everybody. My favorite one would
have to be the one of me standing in front of the tallest tower in the world.
Being able to capture a lot of the images in the series from a high vantage point was something
that I also got very lucky with.
A lot of the locations are very unique and play a part in showcasing the growth of Dubai and how far the city has come in such a short period of
One of the most inspiring thing about this city, everything is possible. Every vision can be realized.
ANDERSON: Some of the most extraordinary pictures that I have seen. If you have been coming into this region over the years, you would you really
appreciate how in those images you just see the changes that are as described so quick here in this region.
Wherever you are in the world, send us your images. We love to see them. This is a great part of the world to live in, of course.
If you enjoyed those, you will find them on our Facebook page very shortly where you will also
find if you are a regular viewer, you will know this -- you will come across our top stories that we brought you tonight and the others that we
have been on for you across the days, months, and weeks, of course. Facebook.com/CNNconnect is where you will find that. There is
plenty more there while you're on the page, do give us a like to keep up to date with all of our posts. That's not the end of social
media, no, if you have missed any of our in-depth interviews or anything at all, do follow us on Twitter. You can find us there @CNNconnect. That is
@CNNConnect. Tweet us any of your thoughts. I do read them, almost all of them anyway.
@beckycnn is where you can find me, of course.
That's your fix of Connect the World for tonight. Thanks you for joining us here in Abu Dhabi. From the team who worked with us here and those
working with us around the world, it is a very good evening. We'll see you this time tomorrow. CNN, of course, continues after this very short break.
So, don't go away.