Return to Transcripts main page


Saudi's Young Crown Prince Consolidates Power. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired November 5, 2017 - 10:00:00   ET


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN NEWS ANCHOR, CONNECT THE WORLD: A very good evening from Riyadh. I'm Becky Anderson. Welcome to what is a very special

edition of Connect the World, right here from Saudi Arabia.

It is no exaggeration to say that the last 24 hours have brought a series of shocks to the city and they are being felt across this region and

beyond. A surprise corruption crackdown has young - Saudi Arabia's young Crown Prince consolidating his power over security services and sweeping

aside many of the kingdom's old guard.

Lebanon's Saudi-backed Prime Minister lashes out at Iran while resigning his post from Riyadh, that's sparking fears of instability at best or

outright war in the very worst scenario.

And Yemini rebels target Riyadh's airport with a ballistic missile. It was intercepted, but it is a raw reminder of an ongoing war. We are across the

region for you, bringing you the very latest along with the background that you need to understand what is going on here.

Emerging Markets editor John Defterios is at our hub in Abu Dhabi following the money on all of this for you. Senior international correspondent Ben

Wedeman is in Beirut dissecting the Saudi-Lebanese angle. International Diplomatic Editor Nick Robertson following President Trump in Asia and

looking at how the White House has and may react going forward to all of this. And my team and I are here in the Saudi capital, a city getting to

grips with what has just happened.

So let's do this anti-corruption campaign first, how far does it actually go? So far, what we do know is that dozens of people have been detained, at

least 17 princes, including a billionaire businessman and four government ministers. All of this comes at a time when the kingdom is undergoing a

major economic and social reform program led by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

Let's start with our Emerging Markets editor and host of CNN's Marketplace Middle East, John Defterios joining us then from Abu Dhabi.

It was the Night of the Long Knives. Is this anti-corruption committee that is being set up with enhanced powers part of a wider attempt to

consolidate power by the Crown Prince, John?

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN HOST, MARKETPLACE MIDDLE EAST: Some are interpreting it that way, Becky. In fact, many saw it as a bolt from blue, but the

seeds were planted for this policy change months ago, and I will talk about that in just a moment. But King Salman with his young Crown Prince, a 32-

year leader, pushing against this anti-corruption drive, it did raise some eyebrows because on the same weekend they introduced the anti-corruption

committee, he came down like a hammer against some prominent business people.

The attorney general of Saudi Arabia in a statement, making it very clear that the actions taken by the government are equal to the crimes that have

been taken here. So they want to make it very clear, this is not just revenge by their Crown Prince or King Salman, very interesting to see the

dynamics here.

In Saudi television, this was being depicted by pictures of the King side by side with the Crown Prince saying, "This is the storm against


As I noted right at the top, Becky, the seeds are planted for this six- months ago when the Crown Prince took over that position. He suggested no one would be escaping the rule of the law. This is an interview in Arabic

and translated into English. Let's take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice over): I assure you that no one involved in the corruption case will be spared, no matter if he is a prince or a minister.

With enough evidence, anyone will be held accountable.


DEFTERIOS: Pretty clear message and that was given back at May. Now let's look at some of the major players that are being swept up into this

investigation and the probe.

First and foremost, one that stood out for me is Prince Miteb bin Abdullah. He is the son of the previous king, King Abdullah who passed away in early

2015 and led to King Salman taking the throne. He was the minister of the National Guard. This says one thing, sending a message so that the princes

are going to be under pressure, 11 in fact arrested in this probe, but also gives scope for the Crown Prince to strengthen his security apparatus as

defense minister as well.

The most prominent businessman, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. We've known the name internationally, worth more than $20 billion, an investor, in Apple

computer, Twitter, Citigroup, News Corps which is owned by of course Rupert Murdoch and a link here with Bakr bin Laden, the chairman of the Binladin

Construction Company, and one that's been out of favor with the Crown Prince ever since he came in to power. They're working on a joint project

together called the Kingdom Tower. And, Becky, as you know I was there two weeks ago today on this monstrous project which is going to be one

kilometer high.

There were doubts about the financing going forward because of the pressure on the Binladin Group. Now we have Prince Alwaleed under pressure as well.

And this project has been delayed by two years.

Another prominent name that stood out for me is Ibrahim Al-Assaf, the former minister of finance under King Abdullah and a sitting minister as

the minister of state.

This is someone, Becky, who introduced Saudi Arabia into the G20, very well known within the IMF and World Bank communities. So it's a surprise for me

to see that come across the board.

I spoke to a senior adviser to the Crown Prince in the last hour who said, "Look, John, this is consistency across the board, a Vision 2030 plan, an

effort to modernize the economy and the people, the women to drive in June, 2018." Something, Becky, that you covered. That's a signal.

The third leg of this of course is corruption. And, yes, I think we could add a twist here, to consolidate power. This is a tribal society and the

Crown Prince and of course the king who is over 80 years old, who wanted to consolidate the power here and make sure his Crown Prince in his reform

effort has his support.

ANDERSON: And I've heard that narrative mirrored by those that I have spoken to here on the ground. It was only, what, a couple of weeks ago

that you and I were here for what was a big conference, billed as Davos in the Desert with some three and a half thousand businessmen from around the

world, many of those from some of the biggest organizations in the U.S. For example, looking at the interest that they might have going forward in

doing business, and looking to see what Saudi can do for them elsewhere with their sovereign wealth fund.

How do you see the international business world reacting to this, and how might it affect the process, the vision, the project which is sort of all-

consuming here, isn't it? Vision 2030 is a project which really sort of ring fences everything that this country talks about for its future.

DEFTERIOS: Yes, indeed, Becky. And I think this is, to your point, a very delicate balancing act if you will. There is the international community

on one side and then what's happening domestically. And let's cover the domestic scene as we see it today.

The growth is almost nonexistent in 2017. IMF, and I chaired the Roundtable last week, pegged growth as just 0.1 percent this year, perhaps

just over one percent in 2018. This is an economy that was growing better than six percent in the days of $100 oil. That's a key message from the

Crown Prince. The go-go days of $100 oil are no longer there, that's why we need to root out corruption.

At the same time while we're on the ground at Riyadh, I spoke to a number of U.S. CEOs who have skin in the game, if you will, in Saudi Arabia. And

they said, look, we love the language of moderate Islam, to modernize society, to let women drive. And, yes, we'd like to see greater


Now this source that I spoke to in the last hour was suggesting to me, Becky, that, John, this is consistent. You can't put on excise taxes,

raise the cost of power, introduce a VAT tax in early 2018 and say, well, wait a second, the royal family and some others that were in government

before are not touched. And so, I think the international community, if this is followed through and that's the key point, would welcome the idea

of an anti-corruption probe.

It's interesting though that many of these players that we've talked about before, Becky, have relations stretching back to King Abdullah. We don't

how deep they're going to be. or example, Kingdom Holdings, a major player around the world, not in favor with this Crown Prince, their stock was down

better than 10 percent early on in trading, finished down 7.5 percent. They put out a statement today to say, we know about the probe, we know the

chairman is under pressure but it will be business as usual. That's a hard sell as you and I speak tonight about this very subject.

ANDERSON: Yes, and John, before we move on, because I want to talk to you about Yemen, just for our viewers' sake, Kingdom Holdings' headquarters,

viewers, are literally just behind me. The building you can see with the blue lights on it, a stone's throw away from here. What is going on there

tonight and what will the discussions be amongst staff tomorrow given what John has just explained, will be very interesting. We'll hear some more on

that as we move through this week.

John, I do want to remind our viewers of another big issue in the kingdom, the war in Yemen, another deadly attack there this Sunday, an ISIS-claimed

suicide attack in the center of Aden, now no details as yet on casualties. That attack happened less than a day after Houthi rebels in Yemen fired a

missile at Saudi Arabia's capital city. The Saudi defense system intercepted the missile near the airport, nobody injured but it did prompt

a Saudi airstrike in retaliation on Sana in Yemen.

Briefly, John, this war is dragging on and it's one that the Crown Prince himself is of course very associated with as defense minister. What

happens next?

DEFTERIOS: Well, it's amazing, Becky, 24 hours ago the confluence of events. We had this anti-corruption probe come out, almost at the same

time we have that missile launched at Riyadh. So this is a game changer in terms of the significance of going after the capital population of better

an five million people. Debris spread at the east of the King Khalid International Airport. That was extraordinary in itself, but I think you

hit the nail in the head here. This is a major test for the Crown Prince.

When he came into power he suggested that he wants to mark a line in the sand when it comes to Yemen and checking the influence of Iran through the

region, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon. We've seen Saad Hariri, the Prime Minister, stepping down as well.

This is a complicated region and it went up a notch in the last day. No doubt about that, Becky. But the resolve of Saudi Arabia and the UAE to

stay in the course in Yemen has not changed.

ANDERSON: John Defterios is in Abu Dhabi for you, kicking off our coverage tonight as we follow the money on what is going on. Not just here of

course but this, what is going on here doesn't stay here. Let me explain why.

Saudi Arabia appears to have played a role in what is a resignation that has shocked many in Lebanon, the prime minister stepping down, citing

concerns for his safety. Saad Hariri made the announcement during his speech from this city, Riyadh on Saudi television, on Saturday saying he

fears he will be assassinated, he is Lebanon's most influential Sunni politician. He has dual citizenship, Lebanese, Saudi.

Mr. Hariri says Iran's meddling, Iran's meddling in the region is causing devastation and chaos. His resignation reflects the longstanding rivalry

between Riyadh and Teheran, Saudi and Iran.

CNN's senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman joining me now from Beirut, Lebanon.

Put this, if you will, into context for us, Ben. What is the purpose of this resignation now and what is the Saudi link?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know that for instance Saad Hariri in addition to being the prime minister of Lebanon

actually holds Saudi citizenship as well, his father Rafic el Hariri got a start as running a construction company in Saudi Arabia. So Saad el Hariri

very much looks to Saudi Arabia for guidance in the minefield that is the Middle East.

And of course he finds himself where he did until yesterday in an 11-month- old government which also has members, ministers from Hezbollah which is supported by Iran. And of course the situation here in Lebanon, very

sensitive but all parties concerned, those pro-Saudi, those pro-Iranian have had sort of a gentleman's agreement to keep their external differences

away from Lebanon, and to try to manage the country to the best of their ability. But it seems that that gentleman's agreement, perhaps under

pressure from Saudi Arabia and perhaps from Washington as well, has gone with the wind. And therefore, it does certainly indicate that Lebanon is

now falling into the same conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran that so many other countries in the region find themselves in.

And of course, even though Mr. Hariri is no great fan of Iran, of course if you look at it from the perspective of Damascus and Baghdad, Iran saved

both of those regimes when it came to the civil war in Syria and of course the fight against ISIS in Iraq. So it's a very complicated situation. And

the resignation of Saad Hariri is probably going to make an already complicated situation very dangerous, Becky.

ANDERSON: Ben Wedeman is in Beirut for the events as you can see of the past 24 hours, revealing once again a multi-layers, the complexity, the

interconnectedness of so much of what goes on across this, the Middle East and the Gulf. The Saudi crackdown on corruption then will have far-

reaching consequences.

CNN's International Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson has reported extensively over the years from here in Saudi Arabia. Now he is in Tokyo

for what is the U.S. president's trip to the region.

Nic, judging from what we've seen in recent months how is the White House likely to react to these regional political earthquakes?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, the United States values its alliance with Saudi Arabia very highly. I mean, we look

to just a couple of weeks ago when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made a trip into the region. He stopped in Riyadh first before going onto to

Asia, before then coming back to Geneva, and he spoke about the importance that the United States places on Saudi Arabia, essentially to hold back

what they see as Iran's growing hegemony in Syria to the north and of course Iraq to the north of Saudi Arabia.

He talked about the tribal connections between Saudi Arabia and Iraq, and about the historic relationship they had, and the need therefore to see

Saudi Arabia as a balance to Iran's growing influence in the region. And we know what the White House's narrative has been about Iran. It's been

very negative, it's been very suspicious of their aims. So I think that's one part of the picture.

What we heard from President Trump as he flew in here, he's spoken -- while he was flying in here overnight last night from Hawaii he spoke on the

phone to King Salman, but that time that missile have been fired from Yemen. President Trump said in his opinion that this was an Iranian

missile and it was shot down by a U.S.-made Patriot missile-defense system in Saudi Arabia. He pointed to the success of that.

So I think this underscores the alliance and the strength of relationship between the two countries and where the United States positions the

importance and the value of this relationship with Saudi Arabia. I would just add one other thing to this, a sort of general conversation we're

having here about these arrests and charges on corruption in Saudi Arabia at the moment. I think what we'll likely to see from the administration is

not pushing too hard back on Saudi Arabia.

If you look back into May and President Trump's trip to -- visit to Saudi Arabia, and then soon after this spat emerges between, you know, Saudi and

the United Arab Emirates and Egypt on one side, and Qatar on the other. The United States has tried to sort of be an intermediary there. In this

particular situation, I think we're going to see them stand back and let this play out.

They see Salman asr somebody, Prince Mohammad bin Salman as somebody who is trying to move the country forward in a positive direction. They view some

of the changes that are happening there positively. In a broader spectrum just to get to the background mood about where King Salman is heading and

his son Prince Mohammad bin Salman are heading globally in Saudi Arabia, just a couple of weeks ago I was in Switzerland, talking to a Swiss banker

who handles the Saudi accounts. And I was talking to him about the money flowing in and out of Saudi Arabia. And he said it was pretty much, you

know, even about the same amount out as going in, meaning investor confidence is not overly enthused by these huge announcements that the King

has made, that the Crown Prince has made just recently about this new multi, multi-hundreds of billion dollars worth value of port and new city


So the money sentiment, at least from the Swiss-Saudi point of view, is sort of cool at the moment and this obviously latest developments will

impact that.

ANDERSON: Nic Robertson tonight in Tokyo for you. I think I am right in saying that the last time you were in Riyadh it was for what was President

Trump's first international trip and his first stop was Riyadh.

The reason for that, I was at a meeting this weekend, off the record somebody told me that the marker was so important. It was incredibly

important to show this sort of rebalancing of allies in this region. The marker put down by that stop, by Trump in May, was to say we are back with

our allies in the region, interesting stuff.

All right, still to come tonight, Japan and the U.S. display a united front as President Trump continues that Asia trip. More on his ambitious

diplomatic tour is what's up next for you, special show out of Riyadh, very busy time here. Stay with us, taking a very short break, back after this.


ANDERSON: Easing into his Asia trip, U.S. President Donald Trump started his first day in Tokyo with some baseball cap diplomacy in a round of golf

with his good friend, the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

You can tell their bond is strong because (inaudible) and donned matching hats. They signed Reading Donald and Shinzo, Make Alliance Even Greater, a

play of course on Mr. Trump's famous campaign slogan that he wore a Top Eight baseball cap.

Well, Mr. Trump's first day of his (inaudible) Asia trip is now coming to a close. He and the Prime Minister dined with their wives a short time ago,

some of the agenda, the threat from North Korea and trade issues.

The U.S. President held, and I quote, "Major discussions on both fronts," he also addressed U.S. and Japanese troops at an airbase warning that,

quote, "No dictator should underestimate American resolve."

CNN's Sara Murray joining us now in Tokyo. Sara, with the very latest.

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. Look, the President's foreign trip as you've pointed is off to something of a soft

start between a round of golf, between a dinner with President -- or Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. This is an opportunity for Abe to sort of show the

president, look, we have a warm relationship, I can ease you into this.

A lot of the real work is going to come on Monday when the two have a bilateral meeting as well as a press conference. That's when they get into

some of the thornier issues including how to deal with these escalating tensions in North Korea. And this is going to be a defining issue during

President Trump's travel throughout the week, we now that he is going to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, that is likely going to be

happening later this week in Vietnam. And today we were told by administration officials that the top issue in that meeting is expected to

be North Korea.

So pay very close attention to the tone the president uses when he talks about this. As he was addressing troops he didn't deal with the issue

head-on, but of course this is just the first of many stops on his foreign travels, and people will be very closely parsing anything that this

president who has once talked about fire and fury when it comes to North Korea has to say about escalating tensions in that region.

ANDERSON: Sara Murray on the story for you and we'll have an awful lot more of that trip, of course an important one, an incredibly important one

for Donald Trump, his Asia trip for all this week here on CNN live.

This hour we're in Saudi Arabia for you, a kingdom under the spotlight. Today, a sudden anti-corruption sweep is only one of the major stories out

of this country in this hour and more on all of that up next.


ANDERSON: Well, if you are just joining us you are more than welcome. For those of you who have been with us the past half hour, welcome back, this

is Connect the World. We are live from Riyadh tonight for what is a very special edition of this show, looking at some of the extraordinary moves

here that are being felt far and wide.

At home, a corruption crackdown that could mean a consolidation of power for the ambitious young Crown Prince, also linked to Saudi Arabia, the

Lebanese prime minister's shocking resignation, while in this very city, Riyadh, live on Saudi television this weekend.

Simon Henderson joining me now from Washington, he is the director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at the Washington Institute and as such

knows his stuff on this.

I was with some, a group of people just this weekend at a meeting of some of my Gulf sources. And one of these Saudi experts with me described this

late last night when the news came out of this crackdown on this sort of these businessmen, these princes, these government ministers.

As this he said, cynics call it a power grab but actually power had already been consolidated with succession so this was hardly needed for


This is about, he said, to me reshaping elite behavior by picking high- profiled symbols and messaging public opinion.

Your thoughts?


And my immediate response to the news yesterday and which is not contradicted by that comment is that the principal focus of the crackdown

was a man called Miteb bin Abdullah, the son of the late King Abdullah and the minister for the National Guard, the Saudi Arabian National Guard which

is the largest single military force in the kingdom.

He is seen or was seen by me as a potential obstacle to Mohammad bin Salman's further rise in terms of power. Miteb had been an ally of

Mohammad bin Nayef, the then-Crown Prince who was pushed to one side in June this year. And so, getting rid of Miteb was a necessary decision to

take to allow Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to move on upwards.

The question remains when this 32-year-old wunderkind, this young prince, will actually become king. His father King Salman is 81-years-old, not in

particularly good health. And his son is clearly ambitious and the king wants that ambition to be fulfilled.

ANDERSON: Well, it has certainly sent a powerful message and it is fair to say this is certainly a sweeping out of some of the old guard, a cleaning

of house as it were. And a reminder for our viewers, Mohammad bin Salman is Saudi Arabia's 32-year-old Crown Prince, promoted in June by his father,

the King.

Before that he served as defense minister where he launched the war in Yemen against Houthi rebels who are reportedly supported by Iran. He is

also of course the driving force behind Saudi Vision 2030, a plan to wean the kingdom off oil. And now he is heading what is this anti-corruption

committee announced this weekend, which has the authority to investigate, arrest, issue travel bans and freeze assets of those it finds corrupt.

What happens next?

HENDERSON: My goodness. Frankly, I don't know. The immediate questions are how are they going to deal with these alleged corrupt princes and

business tycoons and former ministers?

Are they going to put them on trial? Are they going to freeze their assets? Are they going to confiscate their assets? If they put them on

trial and find them guilty, are they going to punish them, and how will the punishments -- what form will the punishments take? Could they be

executed? After all, they do that for more humble people in the kingdom. And when will all this happen? And of course I think that the consequence

tomorrow when the business week opens in the rest of the world is, what will be the attitude of international business to events in the kingdom?

The Saudi official line is that this improves the international business climate. Many international business figures will wonder, A, what the hell

is going on in Saudi Arabia, and, B, is it safe to make an investment or engage in a business partnership at this stage when you don't know whether

your business partner might be subject to another crackdown on corruption.

ANDERSON: Interesting analysis. Before I let you go, just a word, if you will, on your perception of what happens with this missile fired ostensibly

by or certainly claimed by the Houthis, a missile that landed, you know, not far away from here. This is the city of Riyadh, close to one of the

airports here and these subsequent efforts by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen off the back of that one it seems.

Your sense, you know, should one be conflating the timing of this in any way, shape or form with what else is going on not just here this weekend

with the anti-corruption sweep, but also of course with the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, a dual citizen here in Saudi announcing his

resignation as prime minister of Lebanon from here?

HENDERSON: Yes. These are all extraordinary and the fact that they happened all on the same day is doubly extraordinary.

The resignation of Saad Hariri would appear to be a setback for the Saudi foreign policy. He was their man in Lebanon. Lebanon has now been lost or

further lost to Hezbollah, the Shia forces in Lebanon which are allies of Syria and allies of Iran. Equally, Yemen where the Saudis are fighting a

war to reestablish what they regard as the legitimate leadership is another place where Iran is playing games.

And then there is this missile attack, apparently on the international airport in Riyadh, four Patriot missiles were fired to shoot it down.

Wreckage has been found in a car park according to one press report I read. And yet, the operations of the airport have not been disrupted. I need to

know much more detail and a little corroboration perhaps of the missile firing other than perhaps from American military sources as well.

ANDERSON: With that we'll leave it there. We appreciate your thoughts. Out of Washington today there ,it's 10:37, it is 6:37 in Riyadh, in Saudi

Arabia. I'm Becky Anderson. This is Connect the World. And, boy, are we doing that for you today.

Coming up, face to face with North Korean soldiers and the looming threat of war, it is all part of daily life in the demilitarized zone. Our

special report as U.S. President Donald Trump tours that region, back after this.


ANDERSON: We're in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. What goes on here does not stay in Saudi Arabia. An awful lot of news over the past 24 hours with

reverberations around this region and beyond, and we will get you back to the complexities of this, the story from the Gulf, from the Middle East and

how it impacts you and I wherever we are watching this show in the world.

But I want to get back to the U.S. President's Asia trip which is very much focused on combating the threat posed by North Korea. Donald Trump

spending his first day in Tokyo reaffirming the U.S. alliance with Japan touting that the relationship between the two countries has never been

closer. Mr. Trump will spend one more day in Japan before setting off for South Korea.

While in South Korea, Mr. Trump is not going to the what's known as the DMZ, the De-militarized Zone but there are some people who go there and a

step further by actually going into North Korea every day. So what's it like? Here's Brooke Baldwin.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I visit North Korea almost every day except for.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a little crazy.

BALDWIN: Say that again, you visit North Korea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Almost every day.

BALDWIN: Almost every day.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you guys hear me now? So right now we're heading over to Checkpoint 3. The same rules do apply. Do not take any.

BALDWIN: How do you explain to Americans back in the States what you do day to day?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I provide security for people that would like to come toward the DMZ.

ROBERTSON, US ARMY, PRIVATE FIRST CLASS: All right, ladies and gentleman, my name is Private First Class Robertson. I will be your security escort

on your trip north today.

Before we get started I'm going to ask you guys a couple of questions, is anybody currently under the influence of drugs or alcohol at this time?

No. And does anyone feel like defecting towards North Korea today? No? Cool.

BALDWIN: Where do you live, where are we?

ROBERTSON: The JSA is Joint Security Area. So right now I'm only about two kilometers away from North Korea. I can hear propaganda music that

they play almost every night.

ROBERTSON: All right, can everyone hear me? All right, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Conference Road. This is the official meeting place

between North Korea or South Korea or the UNC and the KPA. All the blue buildings you see belong to the United Nations Command or UNC, while the

silver or gray buildings belong to the KPA or North Korea.

All right, if you guys will follow me please?

BALDWIN: This is when you get to walk over the line into North Korea.

ROBERTSON: The three microphones that you see on the table, they're recorded and monitored 24 hours a day and they serve as an official

military demarcation line inside of this building. So those of you standing on my left are now standing in Communist North Korea, while the

rest of you on my right are still relatively safe with me in the Republic of Korea.

BALDWIN: What does it feel like to be standing in North Korea, you guys?


BALDWIN: The same.

Why did you want to join the Army in the first place?

ROBERTSON: On Veterans Day we do a parade in my hometown and I remember it was the first time I ever went to this parade. Just seeing those guys walk

the roads in my town, I just had a lot of respect for them, for the sacrifices that they gave up.

BALDWIN: You are 19?

ROBERTSON: Yes, ma'am.

BALDWIN: Prior to coming to South Korea had you ever left the country?

ROBERTSON: No, ma'am, I've only been to maybe 13 states inside the U.S., but I've never been outside of the country.

BALDWIN: Do you sometimes get homesick?

ROBERTSON: I think everyone here will get a little homesick, but everyone here, we're also close to each other, so everyone here is willing to help

out each other in a hard time.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm ready. Here it goes.

BALDWIN: So it's Friday night and we hit the gym. I mean, do you ever think about what your friends back home would be doing on a Friday night

versus where we're sitting right now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm pretty confident that my friends will still be going to the gym. I got to hang out with guys who lift all the time, so.

BALDWIN: What were you thinking when you were almost nose to nose with a North Korean soldier?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had them more played up in my head than when I met them.

BALDWIN: Really?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean in my head they were these warriors.

BALDWIN: And then when you saw them?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then when I saw them, I like, man, all right, not what I had in mind, but OK these guys are like 5'2, a hundred pounds tops.

Just like, OK, well, so you guys are the ones, you guys are the boogeyman, all right, well, me too. I am two times their size.

BALDWIN: Do you feel like the tensions have increased between the sides?

ROBERTSON: We always maintain a readiness here, so it doesn't really feel any different when tensions do rise or when they fall, we're always ready

in case something were to happen.

BALDWIN: What's your message to Americans back home who are worried about Americans like you so close to North Korea?

ROBERTSON: I would say to just pray for us really, just pray for the best, that no altercation will happen and hopefully that something good will come

out of this.


ANDERSON: My colleague Brooke Baldwin reporting. Live from Riyadh, you are watching Connect the World.

Coming up, he leads a group classified as a terrorist organization by a dozen nations and he's set to speak just after our show. I'm going to get

you back to Beirut after this.


ANDERSON: You are back with us in Riyadh tonight. So much to pack into the show. Our top story, a Saudi crackdown on corruption at the very

highest levels, at least 11 princes, 38 ministers, and other top officials being held as part of a new anti-corruption campaign led by the Crown

Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

As we have shown you, there are so many more issues in the mix here, all of which connect back to this city.

My next guest is Chair of Contemporary Middle East Studies at the London School of Economics Fawaz Gerges, a regular guest on this show, joining us

from the Bureau in London to really provide some context as to what we are seeing.

And, Fawaz, in the past 24 hours, we are reminded of the connection between Riyadh and Beirut, the connection between Saudi Arabia and Lebanon in the

form of dual citizen Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri who here in Riyadh resigned live on Saudi television this weekend from his post as the

Lebanese leader.

What do you make of what is going on at present?


his, really, patience. He believes that the contract that he basically helped to, I mean, sign at the end of 2016 did not really produce any

positive results for his coalition.

He believes that he has incurred great political costs, that basically the pro-Hezbollah coalition in Lebanon has undermined his leadership. He also

I think -- what has happened it seems to me that Lebanon now is becoming more and more a theater for geo-strategic rivalries. And Hariri in his

resignation speech as you know, Becky, made it very clear that Iran now controls Lebanon, that Hezbollah is a state within a state, that he cannot

accept the political and military realities in Lebanon. But beyond Lebanon I think what you are seeing now is that the geo-strategic rivalries are

heating up, are escalating as Saudi Arabia has decided to stand up, to try to counterbalance Iran, not just in Lebanon but in the region as a whole.

And there is a new face now in the rivalry or rivalries between the Iranian camp and the Saudi Arabia and its allies, and Lebanon now is becoming an

integral part of this particular geo-strategic struggle.

ANDERSON: We shouldn't be surprised by this, Fawaz, should we? Because we know that the narrative now for some time, we were reminded of it back in

May when President Trump was here, that this part of this region sees Iran as creating regional tensions on an expansion -- on an expansionist

mission. They see it as operating all over the place in this region.

People here tell me they see the fingerprints of Hezbollah all over, what they call a PR campaign waged by the Houthis south of this border in Yemen.

And of course, we have seen agitation on the Saudi-Yemen story over the past 24 hours as well.

When U.S. officials tell me that the message from President Trump on his visit here which was his first presidential trip, first stop within Riyadh

last May, the message was we are once again reminding our allies in this region that we are with them and that Iran it seems was squarely in the

crosshairs of not just players here but of that White House administration.

I wonder what you think the wider impact of these sort of geopolitical tensions here will be.

GERGES: Well, I mean, you've really, Becky, you have summarized the new reality or the new realities that have emerged in the past year. I mean,

the Trump administration has prioritized basically the need to counterbalance Iran. This is not to go to war against Iran but to

basically cut the wings of Iran.

But President Trump has called for the creation of a region-wide coalition. And Saudi Arabia is a lead player in this particular coalition. There is

consensus in many of the Arab countries that Iran's influence has spread near and wide. It has infiltrated Arab capitals. Now it has a tremendous

influence in Syria, in Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.

The question is not what the Trump, President Trump and the Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia will do, the question is what are the choices that Iran


Iran has many cards, as you know, Becky.

ANDERSON: Sure, all right.

GERGES: It has -- it has cards in Syria. It has cards in Lebanon, in Iraq and Yemen and that's why, I mean, Saudi Arabia now is leading from the

front. It has really taken on now a huge responsibility to stand up and counterbalance Iran.

ANDERSON: Fawaz, we appreciate it. Thank you.

GERGES: Thanks.

ANDERSON: Hezbollah, the leader, Hassan Nasrallah just set to speak in about an hour from now, his first comments since the resignation of the

Lebanese Prime Minister.

Senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman, back with us in Beirut. Ben, many eyes now waiting on how Nasrallah will react to this resignation.

What should we expect?

WEDEMAN: Well, actually, he's going to be speaking we understand in five minutes. And we do believe that he is going to give some sort of reaction

to the surprise resignation of Saad Hariri.

Where he's going to come down exactly, it's hard to say. He's not a man who makes rash decisions. And obviously he's going to probably try to

counter the claims by the former Lebanese Prime Minister that Iran has such -- has played such a negative role in the region. We'll have to really

wait and see what he says, but certainly what we're seeing region-wide is that Saudi Arabia and its allies are scrambling to try to make sense of a

situation where we have seen as Fawaz was mentioning, that Iran has backed the winner in Syria, in Iraq, and in Lebanon. They have had a solid

relationship with Hezbollah going back decades and they seemed to have run circles around the United States, Saudi Arabia and its allies.

So certainly Iran is in a very strong position at the moment, and everyone else is playing catch-up, Becky?

ANDERSON: Interesting. All right. Well, as Nasrallah is set to speak as Ben Wedeman pointed out in just about five minutes' time. We will monitor

that speech. I'm Becky Anderson at Connect the World, a very good evening from Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, from the team here.

Thank you for watching.