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U.S. Intelligence Officials Testify Before Congress; Kuwait Begins Mediation Between GCC and Qatar; Terrorist Attack in Tehran Hits Parliament, Khomeini Tomb; Conservative Party Losing Ground Ahead of Election. 11:00a-12:00p ET

Aired June 7, 2017 - 11:00:00   ET


(CNN Simulcast of Senate Intelligence Hearing)

[11:14:03] BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: Right, you've been listening to a very important hearing on Capitol Hill. Two top U.S. intelligence officials

telling a Senate committee they could not comment on conversations with President Donald Trump in answer to questions on whether he tried to

pressure them to curtail the government's Russia probe.

And I quote here, I'm not going to talk about theoreticals, and I'm not going to discuss the specifics of any interaction or conversations I may or

may not have had with the president of the United States, said Admiral Mike Rogers, who is, of course, head of the National Security Agency and this,

the Senate intelligence committee hearing.

More from that as and when we get it.

You're watching Connect the World. I'm Becky Anderson. We turn now to the first terror attack claimed by ISIS ever. The government and suicide

bombers attacked a parliament building and sacred shrine in the Iranian capital today and the terror unfolded for hours.

Well, authorities say 12 people were killed and dozens wounded. These dramatic pictures show the parliament building under attack. And here you

can see security forces helping a small child just outside the parliament walls.

Well, across town assailants targeted the mausoleum of the Ayatollah Khomeini, the Islamic Republic's revolutionary founder, brazen attacks in

broad daylight, by Sunni extremists on Shia Iran.

We're joined now by senior correspondent, senior international correspondent, Fred Pleitgen, who has reported extensively from Iran for

CNN. He knows the country well.

Your response to what we've seen and heard out of Tehran today.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's pretty much unprecedented, and that's what people in Iran are saying as well. You

know, Becky, for a very long time, the Iranian authorities have been warning that they believe that there were plots in the works. In fact,

over the past couple of months I've been checking Iranian state media and other outlets as well, and there have been several times that the

authorities have said that they've stopped people from trying to smuggle weapons into places like Tehran.

Obviously, this time they were not able to stop it, so certainly an unprecedented attack that really hit the heart of Iran's political as well

as its religious centers. Here's what happened.


PLEITGEN: It was around 10:00 a.m. local time when volleys of gunfire suddenly ripped through central Tehran. Coordinated attacks, the deadliest

of which inside the country's parliament called the Majles (ph).

Armed gunmen storming the building, going on a shooting spree inside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We were standing here and heard that the police said there were five people who went inside and started

shooting. We even saw one of them getting shot in the heart. And then they put him into a wheelchair and took him to hospital.

PLEITGEN: ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks, releasing a video allegedly shot by one of the attackers inside the parliament. The gunmen

were finally cornered by security forces, and one of them blew himself up.

Around the same time, another attack at the Imam Khomeini shrine in southern Tehran. All of the attackers there killed, one managed to blow

himself up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): People are saying that Daesh has done this. Everyone is saying one thing or another. I don't know who is

behind the attack.

PLEITGEN: In a region plagued by instability and violence, Iran has so far managed to avoid major terror attacks. Authorities had been warning of

possible plots and said they thwarted several, but were unable to prevent Wednesday's killing spree.


PLEITGEN: And perhaps also in an effort, Becky, to try and maintain that stability that Iran, of course, is so proud of in that very volatile

region, a lot of Iranian politicians are actually trying to downplay the attack. The head of Iran's parliament coming out and saying, look, yes,

there was an attack that took place, but it didn't actually stop the parliament from working. He said that it was a minor incident.

Of course, many Iranians feel very differently. There are a lot of people who are quite shocked by what unfolded there today, Becky.

ANDERSON: Fred Pleitgen reporting for you.

Let's get to Tehran now. Bloomberg reporter in Tehran is Golnar Molevalli is reporting for us live today. The Revolutionary Guard, without

specifically naming Saudi Arabia, seemingly pointing the finger squarely at the kingdom with regard this attack. What can you tell us?

GOLNAR MOLEVALLI, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Well, we had a response from the IRGC, as you say, about vowing to take revenge. I don't think they made a very -

they didn't specify who they were going to mete that out to.

But I think, obviously, this is - this is a predictable reaction you would expect for security forces here to show a very strong reaction to what - to

what happened today. As your own correspondent was saying, this is unprecedented, this is going to shock a lot of people in Iran. And so

naturally you would expect a very strong reaction from the security establishment here. But at the same time, given the context of what's

happening in the region and the tensions that we've had that have escalated this week, specifically in the Persian Gulf region, I would also expect

them to kind of to choose their words very, very carefully as well.

ANDERSON: You call it a predictable reaction and a vow of revenge, which is yet unidentified.

Just, if you will, give us your perspective on the shock that this has caused both in Tehran and around the country. This is unprecedented,


[11:20:02] MOLEVALLI: Yeah, I think for most ordinary Iranians, the idea that attackers could enter the parliament building itself I think that

would, of course, that's shocking. That's a surprise for everyone.

But at the same time, it's important, I think, to give a sense that the geography of Tehran as a city. These state institutions like the

parliament, or targets as it were, they're spread quite thinly around what is a massive, sprawling city.

And so, you know, the shrine of Imam Khomeini, is actually very far away from the center of Tehran. It's actually on the outskirts of the city.

It's not a populated area. It's on a highway that's en route to the airport.

And parliament is in downtown Tehran. It's a far more heavily trafficked area. It's in the heart of the traditional downtown old part of the city.

So, these were very, very far away from each other, these two attacks.

And from what we know, the perpetrators entered parliament through a public entrance. I've been to that entrance. It's where you go when as a citizen

you want to meet with a parliament member. It's like going to a bank. You're given a ticket. You wait your town.

So, they were kind of - if they were - and if they were dressed in Chadors (ph), as officials have suggested - that's the female Islamic covering -

kind of suggests it was quite an opportunistic and desperate attempt to attack a major institution.

ANDERSON: With that we're going to leave it there. We thank you.

Well, as we come to you live from the epicenter of British power, the importance of security not lost on those stalking the halls of power in the

palace of Westminster behind me. That is especially true on a day charged with political anticipation.

In less than 24 hours, this country is to vote in a general election. The latest polls suggest the opposition Labour Party closing the gap on the

ruling conservatives, but the prime minister's party does remain in the lead.

Nic Robertson has a look at what's at stake as we still deal with what has recently happened here.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: First, the Westminster Bridge attack -- five killed, including a policeman right outside

parliament. Two months later, the Manchester attack -- 22 mostly young girls killed. And then just days before the country goes to the polls the

London Bridge attack, eight people killed. Terror has taken center stage.

THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: It is time to say enough is enough.

ROBERTSON: Britain's Prime Minister, where no leader wants to be so close to an election, deaths on her watch.

MAY: We believe we are experiencing a new trend in the threat we face as terrorism breeds terrorism.

ROBERTSON: The attacks have pushed other campaign issues -- Brexit, health care and education to the margins -- and propelled the opposition leader to

back calls for May to resign.

JEREMY CORBYN, LABOUR PARTY LEADER: There's been calls made by a lot of very responsible people on this who are very worried that she was at the

home office for all this time, presided over these cuts in police numbers.

MAY: We need to stop terrorists having access to lethal weapons.

ROBERTSON: Not just PM for a year, but Home Secretary for six years before that. May has been in charge of U.K. policing and counterterrorism for a

long time. She had an abrasive relationship with the police as she cut costs and close to 20,000 jobs. Now her campaign slogan, "strong, stable

leadership" under fire as she never expected -- in each of the terror attacks, a perpetrator known to the police. Even May's mercurial foreign

secretary Boris Johnson is suggesting mistakes under May's watch may have been made.

BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH HOME SECRETARY: People are going to look at the front pages today, and they're going to say how on earth could we have let

this guy or possibly more through the net?

ROBERTSON: On election eve, one banner headline though in a pro-May paper leaves little doubt -- whatever the PM's failings, the leader of the

opposition would be worse.

British papers are often partisan, but even this feels more strident than the usual tone. Terror it seems is ratcheting up the rhetoric -- all but

drowning out May's original reason for going to the polls, to strengthen her mandate on Brexit.

Nic Robertson, CNN, London.


[11:25:01] ANDERSON: Well, Nic is with us now. And certainly is it clear that the narrative here has changed since the prime minister called this

snap election, an election that she didn't have to call of course but was so far ahead in the polls it seems she was looking for a very big mandate

on Brexit.

The narrative has significantly changed, but has the outcome, potential outcome?

ROBERTSON: You know, that's the question, isn't it? How much have these acts of terror changed the way the vote will go?

I think the headline analysis is not enough to stop Theresa May being reelected prime minister. And I think the sub-headline is perhaps not a

huge amount.

It certainly caused people to look at this in a different light for all the reasons that we heard there. But, for example, today you have Diane that's

stepping down for ill health as a shadow home secretary for the opposition Labour Party. And that's not a strong message from their part on their

sort of ability to deal with the policing which has been weak on and counterterrorism, et cetera.

So, you know, the May - the central issue of Brexit, strengthening the Brexit mandate, Theresa May being the strong, stable leader to do that.

The conservative party has tried to get the narrative back there, but frankly people are worried and she does really seem to carry the day on the

security front.

ANDERSON: Three attacks in three months - Westminster, Manchester, and London, of course. In the end, Nic, what sort of impact do you think that

will have on policy, on security and policy.

ROBERTSON: It's going to empower whoever the prime minister is, and we expect it to be Theresa May, to put more resources and more funding and to

both the police and the intelligence (inaudible) said she wants, and we heard this on Sunday, was to redefine the way that we handle investigations

into suspects as we know that several of the suspects in all of these cases, the attackers in all these cases, really known to authorities.

There's got to be a big overhaul. So, she's going to have support, the prime minister is going to have support for whatever overhaul, because

people here are absolutely - terrified is the wrong word, they're worried. They now think about going out to the pub and the cafe. It's a concern, so

there will be space for political shifting on that.

ANDERSON: All right, thank you. Nic Robertson in the house with us.

Well, earlier, we brought you what is a very important hearing on Capitol Hill in the U.S. in Washington. Two top U.S. intelligence officials told a

senate committee that they have never felt pressure from the White House to intervene in investigations into Russian meddling in last year's U.S.

election. Both said they couldn't comment on specifics of conversations with President Donald Trump.

Jessica Schneider is watching all these developments as we are on air. And we'll go back to her now for more on Capitol Hill - Jessica.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, right now there is a very tough line of questioning. One of my colleagues actually referred to

it as a semantics dance. All of these senators are honing in their focus and taking their turns, taking their questions at these four individuals

that you see right there at the table.

We have NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers. We also have Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats next to him, his deputy attorney general

Rod Rosenstein, and at the end there is acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, all of them are answering questions in general. What this hearing is about

is the foreign surveillance - Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the renewal of that. But of course the focus at points in this hearing has, in

fact, been the Russia probe and conversations any four of these men have had with President Trump.

Of course, questions have been swirling, reports have been swirling over the past few days, that possibly President Trump asked any of these

individuals to interfere in the Russia investigation, to shut it down, or to publicly deny some of the evidence that might have come out of this


So, the dance that all of these individuals, these men, are doing is to say that at this point many of them have said that they will not be talking

about the Russian investigation. The most pointed words just a few minutes ago did come from NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers. He said quite

pointedly he said he wouldn't talk in theoreticals, but he did say that at no point was he ever directed in his three years as an NSA director, at no

point directed to do something illegal, immoral or unethical. He said he never felt pressured to do anything in particular.

That was the most direct answer that we got, but of course over the course of the past 30 minutes or so these men have been asked varying types of

questions. For example, did they keep notes after any of their meetings. Did they - what were the conversations with the president? All of them

have pretty much said that they refused to talk about the confidential communications. They refused to talk about the Russia probe in general.

The one hint of information that we may get at some point is that Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said that he wouldn't talk about any of

these questions in this public setting, because of course this hearing until 2:00 p.m. is in public and completely open, they will go to a closed

session. So, it's possible that Director Coats will answer more of these questions, perhaps more of these details will come out after then - Becky.

[11:30:12] ANDERSON: Well, let's just hear from Dan Coats. This is what he had to say in testimony earlier.


COATS: I have never been pressured, I have never felt pressure, to intervene or interfere in any way and shaped with shaping intelligence in a

political way or in relationship to an ongoing investigation.


ANDERSON: So, what, we've got some - go on. Go on.

SCHNEIDER: Sorry about that.

What's interesting about that that as I've been watching on Twitter, and a lot of commentary has been coming about as we're watching this hearing, and

a lot of people are pointing out the fact that, you know, you saw Dan Coats there, director of national intelligence, saying he has never felt

pressure. But the question is were any of these people ever asked to intervene or to shut down this investigation. That's something that

they've dodged a bit on. They say they've never been directed or never pressured, but the real question may be were they ever asked?

Of course, because just yesterday The Washington Post came out with a report that said that DNI Dan Coats was, in fact, asked by President Trump

on March 22, two days after FBI Director James Comey, at the time FBI Director Comey, had testified in congress saying that, yes, in fact there

was an investigation into possible collusion between Trump associates and the Russiasn, two days later the Washington Post said Dan Coats was asked

by the president to effectively shut this investigation down. Could he potentially interfere and intervene in this - in this investigation.

So that was the big news that came out yesterday, so of course all of these senators want to know from DNI Coats did that actually happen? And so far

Director Coats has been sort of dancing around this saying he doesn't want to discuss this in a public setting, perhaps he will when they go behind

closed doors today, Becky, in about two-and-a-half hours.

ANDERSON: That's right. And Washington time, 11:31 a.m. in the morning. Jessica, thank you.

Well, that's the latest flying around in Washington about Moscow right now.

Meanwhile, some American investigators are blaming the Russians for kicking up a massive fuss in the Middle East. Details on that up next.



VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Hackers are free people, just like artists. They wake up in a good mood and paint things;

same with hackers. They woke up today, read something about the state-to- state relations. If they are patriotic, they contribute in a way they think is right.


ANDERSON: Well, parliaments around the world, just like the one behind me here, spend trillions of dollars on huge guns and bombs. But as we just

heard this, the humble keyboard, may pack a bigger punch than any of this lot. In a CNN exclusive, we can reveal that Russian hackers may be

reshaping the world with these keyboards once again, this time in Qatar.

American investigators now think that Russian hackers got into that country's news agency to plant a made up story showing Qatar's young

maverick Emir backing Iran.

Now, that could have been the final straw in starting this: Iran's arch rival, Saudi Arabia, leading a nine country diplomatic blockade of Qatar.

Well, meanwhile, Qatar has condemned the bloody attacks in Tehran we've been reporting on earlier today as you'd always expect from CNN. We are on

all sides of his story for you. CNN's Jomana Karadsheh is in Doha in Qatar and John Defterios is in Abu Dhabi in the UAE.

Jomana, let's start with you. If any thing is clear in all of this it seems that things are ratcheting up nor down. What's the perspective

there? Any sense of this young Emir, the leader of Qatar, being forced into line any time soon?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, Becky, that's the big question on everyone's mind here is what comes next. We're

seeing what seems to be an escalation of this crisis and everyone here seems to be wondering, is there going to be any sort of mediation that's

going to bring any resolution to this crisis. We have not heard yet from the Emir, but what Qatari officials are saying is what you also heard in

your interview yesterday with the foreign minister. They say they're open to resolving this, but they will not have any terms dictated on Qatar to

change its foreign police just because it contradicts with the foreign policies of other countries.

And this is something we're hearing. And we're also hearing today from Qatari officials. They say that they are - they feel that they are the

victims here of a coordinated campaign to damage the image and reputation of Qatar.

Of course, they mention that hack, and also, they say, that there has been this campaign that has been going on for a few weeks building up to this,


And of course people here are concerned. You're talking about more than 2 million people, the population of Qatar, the majority of them migrant

workers, so much uncertainty. And the question on everyone's mind is what happens next, and what is the endgame of all of this?

ANDERSON: Yeah. Well, that's a very good question, and one we will attempt to answer in the coming hours.

Mediation efforts, John, continue with the Emir of Kuwait in the UAE today. Now, of course, Kuwait one of the two countries in the Gulf that hasn't cut

its ties with Qatar. What is the perspective from the UAE on whether we are any closer to an end to all of this?

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: Well, in fact, Becky, the Emir of Kuwait arriving in the last hour. He's in neighboring Dubai right

now meeting with the ruler of Dubai who is also the prime minister of the UAE, along with other senior policy officials, including the foreign

affairs minister.

The sources I've been speaking to in the last hour suggesting don't expect a major breakthrough, but if they do get some daylight this could lead to

the Emir of Kuwait then having meetings with Qatari officials, including perhaps the person you interviewed yesterday, being the foreign minister.

But I think the best analogy tonight is like a carpenter tightening the screws on a project. That's what we see from this coalition of Saudi

Arabia, Bahrain, and the UAE. A couple of major moves overnight. First and foremost, all the airports in those three countries cannot be used by

anybody who holds a Qatari passport, even for transit passengers.

Also, when it comes to the ports right now, any ship that was going to call on Qatar or has been in Qatar, cannot use the ports of those three

countries as well.

And finally, we even saw a major move when it comes a social media here in the UAE, fines for anybody, and perhaps even jail sentences, for anybody

that shows sympathy against Qatar.

So, the strategy is very clear here, Becky, apply as much pressure on Qatar as possible. We talked about the effort to limit the trade in Qatari Reals

we see tonight that the Real is down now to an 11-year low. So, this will boost prices for imports going into Qatar as well, Becky.

ANDERSON: John Defterios is in the UAE. Jomana is in Doha in Qatar.

Well, the capital of the UAE, of course, is Abu Dhabi. That is taking all this very, very seriously. And as John pointed out, its attorney general

laid out this very stern, very clear warning in the last few hours that anyone who sympathizes with Qatar or takes a position against his country's

decision in almost any way, including on Facebook, on Twitter, wherever, could be slammed behind bars for up to 15 years. Yep, this is serious


And that's as Russia, it seems, is becoming a key part of the puzzle here, or is it? So, this - nobody want to speak to than the Emirates man

normally in Moscow conveniently for us passing through London today, Omar Saif Ghobash.

We know that there have been claims made, and U.S. sources telling us at CNN that they are - they are convinced that Russia is behind some hacking

of the Qatar news agency, which has, some might suggest, caused much of what is going on at present.

What do make of the veracity of these claims, firstly, about Russian hacking.

OMAR SAIF GHOBASH, UAE AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: With all due respect to the American claims, through my experience in Russia over the last few years,

I've noticed that they are particularly interested in maintaining good relations with all of the Gulf staff, including Qatar, the Emirates, and

Saudi Arabia. So, for me it's a little incomprehensible to think that they might sort of engage in that kind of hacking.

And let me just say additionally that kind of a hack would reflect incredibly deep understanding of our regional politics, which doesn't seem

to be the case.

ANDERSON: So, perhaps not surprisingly you don't buy these claims, because they are from - loosely from Qatar itself.

The Russian story, perhaps likely a sidebar to what the bigger picture here is the seemingly irreconcilable differences between erstwhile friends in

the Gulf region. The big question is why has this all blown up, sir, now? And what happens next?

GHOBASH: Well, firstly, I'd say that they are reconcilable differences, and that's precisely why we have mediation taking place. They are

reconcilable because we believe that the policy of the Qatari government, the foreign policy of the Qatari government that is supporting extremist

elements within the Arab world and has been supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and various other Islamist political organizations is actually

not in the interest of Qatar at all.

So we actually believe that if the Qatari government was genuinely interested in the well-being of the Qatari population that they would then

turn a leaf on those policies and come back to the...

ANDERSON: None of this is new, though, is it?

GHOBASH: It isn't new, no. No.

ANDERSON: That's the point. So, you've got a young what many in the Gulf will see as a young maverick leader who is effectively winding other people

up. So what happens next?

GHOBASH: It isn't as simple as winding other people up. I mean, these activities are taking place over the last 20 years with the founding of al

Jazeera, with the coming to power of the current Emir's father, and it's been a set of policies that have been really generally incomprehensible to

the rest of the Gulf and the rest of the Middle East.

It's beyond our comprehension why they would support consistently extremist elements not just in the Arab world and the Muslim world, but across the


ANDERSON: I guess there doesn't seem to be any sort of moves to bow to pressure at this point. Look, we know that the Emir of Kuwait, and John

I've just been alluding to the fact that he's in the UAE today. There is some shuttle diplomacy and mediation going on here.

Have a listen, then, to what the foreign minister of Qatar told me yesterday.


MOHAMMED BIN ABDULRAHMAN AL THANI, QATARI FOREIGN MINISTER: If there is any intervention in our affairs or intervention to change our policy

because it's contradicting with other policies in different countries, this is not going to happen, because Qatar basing our policy based on our



ANDERSON: If they won't change, what is the endgame here?

GHOBASH: The Gulf states in general, the GCC countries, excluding Qatar of course in this case, each country has its own foreign policy. The problem

is when your foreign policy is to undermine your partners within that grouping, then this is no longer a foreign policy that is acceptable to the


We have reached out to the Qataris on numerous occasions over the last 20 years, including in 2014 when there was an agreement with their previous

king of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah, and the problem is that when Qataris say we'd like to - we want a continued dialogue, we must talk, now the

problem is that that's exactly what we've been doing for 20 years. And while we've been talking, they've been actively undermining us both within

our own countries and in our operations in other countries.

So, you know, we've kind of reached the end of the line here, and there is a new sort of constellation of forces taking the prominence here. We have

a new leadership in Saudi Arabia, more active leadership. We have a new leadership in the United States. And we have a set of kind of factors that

say enough is enough. You know, extremism has really spread right across the globe.

ANDERSON: And, sorry, when you talk about a new administration in Riyadh, and a new administration in the U.S., some have positive that this is sort

of post the first presidential abroad for President Trump to Riyadh, some, what three or four weeks ago now, that this is sort of emboldened those who

in the past might have said, look, you know, we're not sure we can get the U.S. on board and we need them on board, on our side, this has sort of

emboldened people. Is there any veracity in that do you think? And where does Qatar stand so far as its relations with the U.S. is concerned going

forward. It's an important partner, isn't it?

GHOBASH: I would say emboldened. I'd say that, you know, there are greater chances of attacking extremism in the region with the Trump

administration on board.

Given what we know about the Obama administration and its relationship with the various, you know, sort of - with political Islam, let's say. You

know, that was going to be a very tough sell.

We've now seen where political Islam has taken us over the last sort of six or seven years. And we feel that we do have a partner in Trump and the

Trump administration and the United States.

So, how Qatar is going to go forward when the entire world is looking at government funding of extremism is going to be very interesting.

ANDERSON: They refute those allegations, of course, at every opportunity.

Sir, it's a pleasure having you on. Thank you very much indeed.

GHOBASH: Thank you.

ANDERSON: We're going to have to take a very short break. We are outside the palace of Westminster here with just a day to go to a UK general


You're watching Connect the World. I'm Becky Anderson. We'll be right back.


ANDRESON: Well, it is rare enough to see terror attacks in the heart of the Iranian capital Tehran, but for ISIS to claim responsibility is simply

unprecedented. The extremist group says it carried out coordinated attacks on a parliament building and sacred shrine. Earlier today, 12 people were

killed, dozens others were wounded.

Iran is Shia Muslim, of course, and ISIS is Sunni. Some analysts now saying these attacks could have massive repercussions for the region as a

whole. I'm joined now by Mohammad Ali Shabani, the Iran Pulse editor at Al Monitor.

What do you make of what we've seen early on today in Tehran.

MOHAMMAD ALI SHABANI, AL MONITOR: Well, I think so far ISIS has claimed responsibility. And the job of authenticating the attack, making sure it

really is ISIS. And then finding out which nationals were behind it, whether they were Iranian Arabs, whether they were foreigners I think

that's crucial.

Beyond that, I think we're going to see a two-pronged approach from Iran on the part of the revolutionary guards they already issued a statement about

15 minutes ago in which they connected it to President Trump's recent visit to Riyadh saying that...

ANDERSON: Pointing the finger squarely at the Kingdom without actually name checking Saudi Arabia.

SHABANI: Exactly. So, he's kind of hinting that there's been a series of events following President Trump's visit to the region. We had the

crackdown in Bahrain. We had the breakdown in relations with Qatar and now this.

So, he's - they're kind of pointing to a plethora or a torrent of events happening...

ANDERSON: And vowing revenge, but not clear what they mean by that and what's your...

SHABANI: That's the thing, that's the one side of the two-pronged approach of Iran is to have the ability to respond either directly through covert

action within Saudi Arabia, its eastern province, the oil-rich province, a Shia majority, or they could push back in places like Yemen, in places like

Iraq, places like Syria particularly.

I think beyond that, Foreign Minister Zarif right now is in Turkey where he's meeting with President Erdogan. And I think Iran would see this as an

opportunity. You know, they're stuck with lemons. They're going to make lemon juice, or lemonade. And they're going to try to forge engagement,

closer cooperation with regional partners who they have experienced tension with such as Turkey over Syria and try to stay...

[11:50:42] ANDERSON: And Qatar?

SHABANI: Perhaps. Less so, but perhaps. And try to say that we not only have shared interests, we also have shared threats. And this is an

opportunity for us to work together.

So, in relation to Qatar, for example, I think rather than to step all in, you know, all out and have their fingers in there. That's not going to

help Iran, that's not going to help Qatar.

ANDERSON: You can see where, then, the opportunities may lie. What's the downside of all of this, very briefly?

SHABANI: Escalation, I think, obviously it's not going to help anybody. But the revolutionary guards, I think they have their own agenda, both

domestic and international. And they would like to send a message. The question is when. Timing. I don't believe that a bomb is going to go off

in Riyadh tomorrow, but it may do some six months or a year. That's up to them to decide on.

In the meantime, hopefully, the civilian administration, President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif, can forge a kind of inclusive cooperation which

can prevent terrorism and deescalate the situation so that doesn't happen in, say, a year from now.

ANDERSON: Your analysis is hugely important to what is a very multi- layered and complicated region at present. It is remarkable how quickly things, it seems, have changed. Thank you for joining us. In fact,

perhaps we shouldn't talk of this as change, perhaps we've seen the building blocks for much of this over the weeks, months and years.

Returning to our top story now on testimony on Capitol Hill. IT's very fast moving news out of this. The blockbuster congressional testimony of

fired FBI director James Comey now less than a day away as a warm-up. Just a short time ago, two U.S. intelligence chiefs told senators in the U.S.

that they have never felt pressured by the White House to interfere with investigations into Russian meddling. But officials also said they

couldn't comment on many of the conversations behind closed doors.

Well the acting FBI director told the senators they'd have to wait for Comey for some information.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did Director Comey say that the president had asked for his loyalty?

ANDREW MCCABE, ACTING FBI DIRECOR: Sir, I'm not going to comment on conversations the director may have had with the president. I know he's

here to testify in front of you tomorrow. You'll have an opportunity to ask him those.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm asking you. Did you have that conversation with Director Comey.

MCCABE: And I've responded that I'm not going to comment on those conversations.


MCCABE: Because for two reasons. First, the - as I mentioned, I'm not in an position to talk about conversations that Director Comey may or may not

have had with the president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not asking you that. I'm asking about conversations that you had with Director Comey.

MCCABE: And I think that those matters also begin to fall within the scope of issues being investigated by the special counsel and wouldn't be

appropriate for me to comment on those today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, you're not invoking executive privilege and obviously it's not classified. This is the oversight committee. Why would

it not be appropriate for you to share that conversation with us?

MCCABE: I think I'll let Director Comey speak for himself tomorrow in front of this committee.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We certainly look forward to that, but I think your unwillingness to share that conversation is an issue.


ANDERSON: Well, while all of this is going on, the white House hands us another headline. President Trump has named James Comey's replacement to

head the FBI. He's picked Justice Department veteran Christopher Wray to be America's next top cop. With the announcement of the nominee for the

new FBI director came just a couple of hours ago.

How else? In a tweet from the U.S. president. Joe Johns is at the White House keeping pace with much of what is going on. And it is a very fast-

paced showdown, Joe, on the Hill today that sets the scene for the former FBI director's testimony on Thursday. What can we expect to hear?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Difficult to say how far he will go, because he certainly has some constraints, Becky, but it's pretty clear from our

reporting here in Washington that he will be able to discuss at least to some extent the memos that he wrote after meetings and conversations with

the president of the United States and that seems to be the core of what many senators would like to talk to him about.

There's the larger Russia investigation and he's expected to take question on that, too.

Those constraints include the fact that he's not allowed to release any information that might be before a grand jury. So, certainly some

constraints there.

In the larger picture, this is the eve of Mr. Comey's visit to Capitol Hill. And what has emerged here between the reports that the attorney

general of the United States, the boss, actually, of Jim Comey, that would be Jeff Sessions, had heated words with the president, even offered at one

point to resign, pointing to the fact that this president was furious over losing control, if you will, of the Russia investigation when the attorney

general offered to recuse himself to all matters relating to Russia.

[11:56:26] ANDERSON: Joe Johns is in Washington. We're in London for you. I'm B ecky Anderson. That was Connect the World. Of course, the news

doesn't stop here on CNN. Taking a very short break. CNN continues after this.

From the team here, it's a very good afternoon.