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Trump to Meet Kim on Jun 12 in Singapore; Israel Retaliates After Rocket Attack in Golan Heights; Veteran Politician Mahathir Defeats Ruling Party. Aired 11-12p ET

Aired May 10, 2018 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:00] ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks so much for joining us. This is CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Robyn Curnow here in Atlanta. We begin with

breaking news.

In the past half an hour, we have details. We have a confirmed date and location from the U.S. President about his Summit with North Korea's

leader. Donald Trump tweeted this. Take a look.

The highly anticipated meeting between Kim Jong-un and myself will take place in Singapore on June 12th. We will both try to make it a very

special moment for world peace.

It comes just hours after the release of three Americans who had been held hostage in North Korea. The President personally greeted the men overnight

before releasing these images. As you can see, the video is highly produced, giving us remarkable shots of the men on board Air Force One.

For more on all of this, Paula Hancocks is in Seoul. Ok, so Paula, let's start with this tweet. We have a date and location.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Robyn. It's been a fair while coming. And there's been plenty of speculation

about the date and location, but we now have it. So, June 12th after the G-7 meeting and in Singapore, which is what U.S. officials have been

steering us toward. Saying today it is really one of the best places that they wanted. Because they're looking at neutrality, as well as security.

They want to be able to secure this location. But they want to make sure that it's not giving either side any benefits. So, certainly from the

North Korean side, Singapore is a good option because it has a North Korean embassy there. And so, they have a connection.

And then from the U.S. side, Singapore is an ally of the United States. And it has a military presence there. Certainly, from both sides, it can

be considered neutral and friendly. Now, there have been places like the DMZ considered, which we were told by U.S. officials, they weren't keen on.

Because it looked as though Mr. Trump would be going to the territory of Kim Jong-un. Certainly, we knew that the U.S. President favored that. He

had been tweeting about it. Even places like Mongolia had been suggested for close proximity to North Korea as well. And there have been meetings

there in the past. So, Singapore it is and the date as well. So, now we know that U.S. officials are working hard to try and set this up -- Robyn?

CURNOW: And the images of the three Americans returning home today, how is that playing out where you are?

HANCOCKS: Certainly positively. It is positive news. It is good news. These three American detainees are now free. You see their faces. There

is relief in their faces. The victory signs held high as they come out of the plane to the congregated media there. Now, yes, it was a made-for-TV

moment. Yes, it was played out live. But it is a positive moment. The fact these three are free.

We have heard from the South Korean side. They have welcomed this. They've also pointed out that they have six South Koreans still being

detained in North Korea. They are working, they say, with the North Koreans to ask for them to be released. And then from the Japanese side,

as well, they are calling for at least 17 people that they say were abducted by North Korea. They claim there are more than 800 more missing,

potentially. Many of those could have been abducted, as well. So, it is very positive news for these three Americans today.

But here in the region, there are reminders that there are still more in North Korea. And we also heard a reminder of the severity of what can

happen when you're detained in North Korea from the U.S. President himself. Mentioning Otto Warmbier, the student who came back from North Korea after

17 months incarcerated in a vegetative state, and then dying several days later -- Robyn.

CURNOW: OK, thanks for the that update there. Paula Hancocks in Seoul.

Mr. Trump's handling of North Korea certainly also winning him praise back home. I want to show you a poll conducted for CNN. It found most

Americans approve of the job he is doing. He's up almost 20 points from last November, when he and Kim Jong-on were trading insults on Twitter.

And even a larger majority, 77 percent approve of his plans to meet with Kim Jong-un. North Korea ranks second among perceived threats to the

United States behind ISIS and ahead of Iran, Russia and China.

Let's go straight to the White House. Kaitlyn Collins joins us now. To see you Kaitlyn. The President tweeting, giving us a lot more details.

What's the reaction there?

KAITLIN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, things are becoming official here now, Robyn. We're getting an official location, official

date from the President. President Trump confirming what CNN reported yesterday, that this meeting is going to be held in Singapore.

[11:05:02] And the President telling us it is going to be held on June 12th. He says it is a highly anticipated meeting. We'll both try to make

it a very special moment for world peace.

Of course, it has been a whirlwind 48 hours here, Robyn, with the release of those three Americans from North Korea, who were imprisoned there,

coming back to Washington last night on a plane with the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. The President going to greet them in the middle of the

evening. And saying that he believes their Release is a gesture of good will on behalf of the North Koreans ahead of that upcoming summit.

But he did say that it will not change the way he negotiates with Kim Jong- un. And he still hopes that meeting can be something that -- where the United States achieves getting North Korea to give up their nuclear weapons

but still expressing some caution. And White House officials saying they will maintain a maximum pressure campaign on North Korea until the meeting

happens. But Robyn, regardless it will be a historic day. This is the first time a sitting American President will sit down face-to-face with the

North Korean leader.

So, regardless of what comes out of that meeting, it certainly will be history in the making. The White House celebrating a triumphant moment

last night as the three Americans were welcome back to the United States. And the President, once again, hoping for another triumphant moment here in

a few weeks on June 12.

CURNOW: In Singapore. And let's also talk about that moment that played out in the early hours of the morning. We heard the U.S. President

praising Kim Jong-un. He was effusive in his praising in many ways. There's been a lot of criticism about that, too.

COLLINS: He is getting criticism about that from Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, who is saying the President shouldn't be praising him because

those Americans should have never been imprisoned in North Korea in the first place. Of course, the President last night did say that he was

grateful to Kim Jong-un for releasing them. He said it was a gesture of good will on his behalf.

But the White House did still maintain some caution. They said that this doesn't indicate that anything will be different when they do sit down. Of

course, releasing three Americans and agreeing to give up your nuclear weapons are two very different things. The White House doesn't necessarily

believe that one is a prelude to the other.

But the White House still saying they do believe it was a good faith move on behalf of the North Koreans, to release them. So certainly, something

the White House is going to be touting for a while. Getting the release of these Americans ahead of the summit. Of course, that comes after Secretary

of State Pompeo just traveled back to Pyongyang once again. A meeting that was really to smooth out the wrinkles ahead of this upcoming summit between

the two leaders. And it also came with the release of those Americans, something the White House seems to be quite proud of -- Robyn.

CURNOW: Yes, certainly. Thanks so much, Kaitlin. I want to just go back to Paula and get your take on the broader picture here. There is a lot of

momentum. We just heard Kaitlin talking about it. But is there a lot of cautious optimism in many ways? Because the North Koreans have reneged on

nuclear promises before.

HANCOCKS: I think it is important to note, as well, Robyn, it's not just North Korea that hasn't lived up to its promises in the past. The United

States hasn't always fulfilled its pledges to some of these agreements. But you are right. Pyongyang does have a reputation for not sticking to

what it says it will stick to. The one thing I think many people, certainly in this region, are weary of, as they have been very close to

this issue for many decades now, is the fact that most people don't believe Kim Jong-un will give up his nuclear weapons. They don't believe that he

will completely denuclearize. And they don't necessarily believe that when he talks about denuclearization, it is the same meaning of the world as

when you hear it from the U.S. President or the South Korean President.

Moon Jae-in here in South Korea and say before his Summit with Kim Jong-un, he did believe they have the same concept of the word denuclearization.

But just a couple of days ago, when Kim Jong-un went to Xi Jinping, the President of China, the second such meeting in about two months, which is

unprecedented, as well, he said that he would be willing to talk about denuclearization and denuclearize if the hostile policy against Pyongyang

changed. If the security threat against Pyongyang changed.

Now that's fairly vague. You don't know what he means by that security threat. Does he mean the 28,500 U.S. troops who are stations here in South

Korea? Does he mean the nuclear umbrella that the U.S. supplies for the South Koreans? So, when he's talking about denuclearization, well, experts

here admit this is promising and they are optimistic. They do question whether or not there will be some surprises from potentially the U.S. side

when you go into these talks and realize that they're talking about potentially very different things.

CURNOW: OK, great to have the perspective there from Seoul. Paula Hancocks, always good to speak to you. Thanks so much.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. We'll have much more news after this short break. This short break. Stay with us.


CURNOW: Welcome back. You are watching CNN. This is CONNECT THE WORLD with me, Robyn Curnow. Thanks for joining us.

Overnight, a direct confrontation between Israel and Iran. The bitter rivals exchanged fire as Israel says it struck dozens of Iranian military

targets in Syria. It was, officials say, a response to a rocket attack launched from Syria toward the Israeli occupied Golan Heights, which Israel

blames on Tehran. All this of course, coming less than two days after President Donald Trump said the U.S. is out of the Iran nuclear deal. So,

this is an escalation involving a lot of players.

CNN is covering the story from all angles. Oren Liebermann is in the Golan Heights with the situation on the ground there. Fred Pleitgen is in Iran's

capital. And Matthew Chance is live in Moscow for us. Oren, to you first. First potentially direct confrontation between Iran and Israel. What's the

situation? What's it been like?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there is a deceptive quiet here now behind us. There are some vineyards and apple orchards here below us

in the Israeli occupied Golan Heights bordering Syria there. And there are farmers working there. A very far cry from what we saw as we were standing

in this exact same position overnight.

That's when shortly after the Israeli military says Iranian based forces in Syria fired some 20 pockets at Israeli military sites near where I am right

now. The Israeli response, surface to surface missiles, which we both saw and heard, artillery fire, which echoed across the valley here behind me,

as well as anti-aircraft fire from Syria, hosing across the sky here. That went on for hours, until nearly sunrise here.

But since the morning essentially, the international community has stepped in here. And the key player would be the Russians, who have relations with

both Israel and Iran. Essentially telling both sides here, show restraint. Knock it off. And that has led to this, as I said, a deceptive quiet here.

We haven't seen any action. Certainly not what we saw last night here. But, Robyn, as you pointed out, this is the first true, direct

confrontation between Israel and Iran. And this entire region, and even the international community here, worrying that this could get worse before

it gets better. Everyone here doing what they can to try to make that avoid happening.

CURNOW: Holding their breath. Let's go to Tehran, Fred, where you are what are people saying? What's the perspective there?

[11:15:02] FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's really interesting, Robyn. Because right now, the Iranian

government, at least, or the Iranian military, are really not saying anything at all. They really are taking their time with any sort of

responses. And if you're looking at Iranian state media, they're reporting on what took place in the Golan and of course, on Syrian territory, as

well. They are saying that there were positions inside Syria that were attacked by the Israeli army. But they're not saying whether those were

Iranian or Syrian positions.

The Iranian media is also saying that it is Israel that's blaming essentially the Iranians for it. But they're also saying they're waiting

for some sort of comment from the Iranian government. So far, nothing is forthcoming. However, of course, all this, Robyn, taking place in a time

of extreme tension right now. Between Iran and Israel. That's been bubbling up in Syria for a long time. But then also, between Iran and the

U.S., as well. And of course, after President Trump pulled out of the nuclear agreement, there is extreme concern that Iran is going to be more

isolated. That there could be this escalation in the Middle East, as well. We spoke to people in Tehran today about that situation. And here's what

they told us.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know. Maybe I should be angry at their President because it will absolutely affect our economy, our lives. We get

more miserable maybe. You know, everything gets more expensive. Because many things that we buy is from foreign countries.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): America has never honor the agreements they have made. And this is not the first time they have not

kept their word.


PLEITGEN: As you can see, Robyn, Iran really feeling the heat from many different sides remaining defiant. But at the same time that you do have

really that escalation that's going on there. Again, no official comment yet from the Iranians. At in itself is quite significant -- Robyn.

CURNOW: And Matthew, to you there in Moscow. Russia is calling for restraint in the midst of all of this.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is. It's saying that there should be a diplomatic solution to this. It's called the

de-escalation of tensions between Iran and Israel, alarming. And of course, you know, Russia is uniquely placed. Because it is on the ground

in Syria, providing backup to Bashar al-Assad the Syrian President. But that also means it's also a strong military ally of Iran inside Syria. At

the same time, it's got an extremely good, it seems, relationship with Israel.

Just yesterday, the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was here in Moscow, attending the annual victory day parade, and following that up with

intensive talks with Vladimir Putin, the Russian President. We've spoken to the Kremlin about what was discussed. And they're refusing to comment

on whether Russia was given a heads up that this escalation was about to take place or not.

But clearly, Russia has an interest in trying to sort of get this conflict to dissipate. It does not want a broader conflict in Syria. It wants to

stabilize the situation as much as possible. To enable its main ally in the country, Bashar al-Assad, to continue his rule there. And again,

because of this relationship it has between the two countries, there is a suggestion that it could emerge as some sort of mediating back channel

between Iran and Israel. Certainly, the Russian foreign ministry has said publicly that its diplomats are in contact with representatives from both

countries at the moment. Although, they're stopping short of saying there is a formal mediation taking place. But Russia clearly watching this

situation very carefully indeed -- Robyn.

CURNOW: So, with all of this playing out, Oren, back to you there on the ground. These calls for restraint, but with the Israelis, what happens

next? Is there an appetite to continue this, to go in harder?

LIEBERMANN: Having spoken with a spokesperson for the Israel defense forces, the Israeli military, they say Israel does not want to escalate.

Their sense as of right now is that Iran does not want to escalate either. Right now, what was offensive last night, in terms of fire from both sides,

has now become essentially a defensive waiting game. At least from what we're seeing and from what we're hearing, especially with the quiet across

the valley here between the Golan Heights and Syria.

But this all started after midnight, which is about six hours from now here. So, we'll see if that's when it blew up essentially last night,

that's probably when it is most likely to blow up again. So, we're still in sensitive times here, even if there still are farmers here behind me.

Even if the Israeli military urged citizens to essentially get back to normal here. We're not through this yet, as the international community

tries to make sure this dissipates here. We're not out of the clear in terms of there are still very much tensions there -- Robyn.

[11:20:00] CURNOW: Yes, certainly. Oren, Matt, Fred, thanks, guys. Appreciate it.

Before the strikes on Wednesday night, the Syrian president with a Greek newspaper. Bashar al-Assad said Russia will keep the Syrian conflict from

turning into world war 3. But he also said this, take a look.

Maybe it is not a full-blown third world war, but it is a world war. Maybe it is not nuclear, but it is definitely not a cold war. It is more than a

cold war, less than a full-blown war.

Syria's foreign ministry says Israeli strikes marks a new phase of aggression. Ben Wedeman has been covering the region for years and knows

all the intricacies. He joins us now from Beirut. Ben, what you make of Assad's statement?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Certainly, Robyn, it may not be World War III yet, but it is the world's war in Syria. What you

have at the moment is you have American, French, British, Russian, Iranian, Turkish forces there, in addition to a myriad of Syrian forces, rebel and

regime and otherwise. And of course, you have an increasing presence of Israel in the air with its planes, with its rockets, all in a very small


Now, Israel has carried out its -- I think, some senior Israeli officials have admitted more than 100 air strikes or missile strikes in Syria over

the last few years. But in February we saw a dramatic change. That was when an Iranian drone went into Israeli air space. The Israelis shot it

down. Then they went after the base from which the drone was launched. And one of the Israeli F-16s, while returning to Israel, was shot down by

Syrian air defenses.

Since then, you've had a steady escalation of Israeli involvement in Syria. And certainly, when President Trump, night before last, declared that the

United States was pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal that essentially gave the green light to Israel to go after even more aggressively, Iranian

targets in Syria. In fact, it was little more than an hour before Israeli forces did strike a series of Iranian targets in Syria. Even though, of

course, the Israelis didn't admit it at the time. Overnight, we saw the worst military action between Israel and Syria. Whether it is Syrian or

Iranian forces inside Syria, it is hard to say, since 1974. When President Trump made his announcement that the United States was pulling out of the

Iran deal, he said that that would make the region safer. That doesn't appear to be the case -- Robyn.

CURNOW: Mr. Assad talked about a new phase broadly for the Middle East. Is this a new era? Has the lid been lifted after the Americans pulled out

of the Iran nuclear deal? Are we seeing a whole new phase?

WEDEMAN: Right. In terms of intensity, in terms of sort of open Israeli attacks on Iranian and perhaps Syrian targets in Syria, yes. A dramatic

increase. And there's no indication at this point that it's over. Certainly, the targets are still there. It does appear that the number of

targets that Israel hit overnight was large, but there are still significant Iranian forces in Syria. Don't forget, there's Hezbollah, as

well, which in 2016, fought a month-long war against the Israelis. The Israelis claim that Hezbollah has more than 100,000 rockets aimed at

Israel. So certainly, the possibly for this to intensify and to broaden is very much there in a way that was not, say, three or four months ago.

CURNOW: Or perhaps even three or four days ago. So, my question is then what is the endgame here? And how does this play into Saudi, Iran

competition in the region? How much connectedness is there between the Israelis and the Saudis over these latest strikes?

WEDEMAN: The Saudis haven't actually come out and said anything explicit about the air strikes, but they're very close Gulf ally, Bahrain, is

actually come out and said Israel has the right to defend itself against Iranian aggression. And I think the statement put it. So, even though

Israel has very specific concerns about Iran in Syria, certainly, it's frictions, its tensions with Iran play very much into the decades old

enmity between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

[11:25:04] And the Saudis clearly are pleased to see Iran take a beating in Syria. Because they see this as success or, perhaps, not successful, we

don't know yet, attempt to somehow limit Iran's growing role and influence in the region. We shall see if it is successful, however.

CURNOW: Ben Wedeman, thanks so much, live for us there from Beirut. Thanks, Ben.

Coming up here at CNN, Germany's Chancellor says Europe must now take its destiny in its own hands. After the U.S. pulled out of the Iran nuclear

deal, ignoring pleas from long-time allies. We'll look at the fallout ahead.


CURNOW: You're watching CNN. And this is CONNECT THE WORLD with me, Robyn Curnow. Welcome back.

To our top story this hour, the U.S. President has confirmed the date and the location of his summit with North Korea's leader. Donald

Trump tweeted this. The highly anticipated meeting between Kim Jong-un and myself will take place in Singapore on June the 12th. We will both try to

make it a very special moment for world peace.

It follows the release of three Americans who have been held in North Korea. They were greeted by the President himself as they arrived home in

the early hours of the morning. Jeff Zeleny was there to see it.


[11:30:00] JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An emotional homecoming for three Americans freed after being imprisoned in

North Korea. The men walking off the plane and onto American soil, flashing a victory sign with President Trump and first lady, Melania Trump

at their side.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just want to say, this is a special night for these three really great people. Congratulations on

being in this country.

ZELENY: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un releasing the Americans as a show of good faith, ahead of a landmark summit with President Trump.

TRUMP: Well, we're starting off on a new footing. This is a wonderful thing, that he released the folks early. That was a big thing. Very

important to me. And I really think we have a very good chance of doing something very meaningful.

ZELENY: It's the biggest milestone yet toward the President's quest for diplomacy with North Korea. President Trump telling reporters that

releasing the prisoners shows that Kim is serious about nuclear talks.

TRUMP: I really think he wants to do something and bring that country into the real world.

There's never been a relationship like this. And we're starting from here. But I really think a lot of progress has been made.

ZELENY: It was a made for TV moment, with the President and first lady leaving the White House in the middle of the night and arriving at Joint

Base Andrews before boarding the plane for a private moment with the three Americans.

Newly minted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ushered the detainees home, following his second secret whirlwind trip to Pyongyang. North Korean

state media releasing these photographs of Pompeo with Kim Jong-un during a 90-minute meeting about the upcoming summit. Toasting with red wine and


The three detainees were all Americans of Korean sent. The longest held prisoner Kim Dong-chul was arrested in October 2015 and accused of spying

for South Korea. He was convicted and sentenced to 10 years hard labor in April 2016. Tony Kim was an accounting teacher at Pyongyang University of

Science and Technology. He was arrested in April 2017 while boarding a plane to leave the country and charged with hostile acts against North

Korea. Less than a month later Kim Hak-song was chained as well. He was also a Pyongyang University employee and was also charged with committing

hostile acts against North Korea.

President Trump paying tribute to Otto Warmbier, who was detained in North Korea in 2016 and was returned the United States in a coma last June. He

died days later. A great young man who really suffered. And his parents have become friends of ours. They are spectacular people. And I just want

to pay my respects.


CURNOW: That was Jeff Zeleny reporting there from Joint Base Andrews just outside Washington.

Now, Iran's President says Europe has very limited time to save the Iran nuclear deal after the United States pulled out. European signatories to

the deal including Germany and France have been scrambling to keep it intact. Germany's Foreign Minister is in Moscow today meeting with his

counterpart, Sergey Lavrov. Well, Russia, which also signed the deal, says it'll closely coordinate with Iran on a way forward. German Chancellor,

Angela Merkel, is making clear she believes Europe can no longer rely on the United States. Let's go to Berlin. Atika Shubert is there with all

the details. And the question out of all of this, Atika, is, can Europe come out of this looking weak?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that depends on what happens next and how steadfast Europe is in sticking to the Iran deal.

Chancellor Angela Merkel met with French President Emmanuel Macron today. He was actually in Germany to accept the Charlemagne award. And they both

spoke not specifically about Iran but, really, about Europe's leadership in the world.

And here's what she said specifically. It is no longer such that the United States simply protects us, but Europe must take its destiny into its

own hands.

In both leaders emphasized that as the U.S. leaves international agreements, such as the Iran deal or, say, the Paris Accord on climate

change, it's really up to Europe to step up to the plate and take leadership. Especially on these sorts of global, you know, topics.

Now, the question is, can Europe handle the sanctions pressure on European companies? We're talking big companies here. Lufthansa, Volkswagen,

Siemens, Airbus in France, these are the ones that are going to be affected by any U.S. sanctions. But that doesn't mean they're going to buckle under

pressure just yet. Because there is actually a parallel to this, a historic parallel. In the '90s, the European countries basically just

ignored U.S. sanctions on Cuba and continued to do business there. And that's something they could very well do now, as well -- Robyn.

CURNOW: Are there risks to doing that though?

SHUBERT: There are risks to that. And I think the biggest risks will clearly be, for example, Airbus.

[11:35:00] You know, it had billions of dollars invested into contracts going into Iran. So, it could find that there are certainly risks. What

the question is now is, how can Europe protect these companies? What can it do? Previously, in the Cuba example, they just refused to recognize the

penalties that were put on those European companies. That might be an option here. But it really depends on how much of a trade battle both

countries want to get into. So, what it means is that we're going to be seeing a very rocky transatlantic relationship coming up in the future.

CURNOW: Yes, a face-off essentially with the White House here. Atika Shubert, thanks so much, coming to us live there from Berlin. Thanks,


So, in the meantime, the White House says it supports Israel's right to defend itself after Israel launched a series of strikes on what it says

were Iranian positions in Syria. Israel says it was responding to rocket fire by Iran into the Golan Heights. The Kremlin for its part is calling

on Israel and Iran to resolve things diplomatically and politically. So, I want to talk about all of this with Reza Marashi, of the National Iranian

American Council. He's with us from Washington. Reza, good to have you. You've heard all of CNN's correspondents fanned out across the region.

There is real concerned about an escalation. What are your thoughts?

REZA MARASHI, RESEARCH DIRECTOR, NATIONAL IRANIAN AMERICAN COUNCIL: I share the concern about escalation. I mean, on the one hand, you have the

Israelis taking a whack at Iran three separate times in Syria. And now finally, the Iranians have responded in the aftermath of Donald Trump

violating and withdrawing from the joint comprehensive plan of action, the Iran nuclear deal.

And what really concerns me about all of this is that Iran is acting irresponsibly, Israel is acting irresponsibly. Even the United States is

acting irresponsibly. So, we have a diplomacy deficit in the region right now. We have no communication and that leads to miscommunication. Which

in turn facilitates misperception and miscalculation and that's when really bad things like a wider regional war and start to happen.

CURNOW: Because where is the exit strategy here? How can things be cooled down?

MARASHI: That's a great question. And that's what concerns me the most. Right now, we're in a situation that's tantamount to driving down a

highway. Driving down a freeway and at the end of the freeway is a cliff that falls into an ocean. And as you're driving down the freeway, there's

no exits. There's no off ramps. So, if we don't quickly build some off ramps. If we don't quickly build some ways to de-escalate tensions in the

region, we're going to stumble into a war, whether we want one or not.

CURNOW: When you talk about stumbling into a war, is this perhaps less of a stumble and more of an end game? Particularly for some players in the


MARASHI: Well, I think that the Israelis have been champing at the bit for quite some time to take a whack at Iran. And they're certainly, to be

fair, hard liners in Iran who want the same thing. But I have a hard time believing that is in the American national interest, European national

interest or Russia's interest, to pursue this task of military confrontation. So, is really going to require all outside parties. All

international actors to step in and enforce some kind of restraint, some kind of responsibility on all of the regional actors. To make sure that a

very bad problem that currently exists doesn't get worse.

CURNOW: Benjamin Netanyahu and John Bolton were both in positions of power before the Iraq War. Some analysts have said this has faint reminiscence

of that time. Is there concern that there is a focus on regime change or at least some implosion of the Iranian government here?

MARASHI: I think we should be crystal clear that it's not just a concern. That's the policy as it exists today. John Bolton made very clear before

he came into the national security adviser position on what he thought Donald Trump's Iran policy should be. He actually published a document

saying, Donald Trump won't meet with me anymore, but here's what I think we should do. And he's following it step by step by step. This is available

on the internet. Everybody should go and read it.

The plan is absolutely economic strangulation, at least an attempt to strangle Iran economically, and facilitate some kind of regime change,

whether from the outside or inside. This of course is a fool's errand. If it was possible, any of Donald Trump's predecessors would have tried it.

So, instead what we need is more responsible actors on the international stage, particularly our European partners, to step up and say, enough is

enough. We're not going to follow you down this path of folly.

CURNOW: You talk about a deficit of diplomacy in Iran. Clearly, there are competing domestic interests here. How do you think this Iranian

government should react? How much restraint can be shown?

MARASHI: It's a great question again. You know, I think up until the point that Donald Trump violated and pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal,

the Iranian government did demonstrate restraint. They were hit three times in Syria before they responded to Israeli attacks. Now, we're in a

situation where, in the aftermath of that American violation and withdrawal of the JCPOA, Iran is going to respond proportionately. And I'm not an

advocate of that.

[11:40:00] And if I were talking to Iranian officials right now, I would urge restraint. Continued restraint. Try to be the bigger party in the

region. And understand that a military confrontation, being goaded into one, is not in the interest of Iran. It's not in the interest of the

region and its certainly not in the interest of the international community.

CURNOW: Reza Marashi, thanks so much for your perspective there from D.C., thank you.

Still to come, dozens are killed when a dam burst in Kenya. Now rescuers are desperately searching for survivors. We've got a live report. That's

next. Stay with us.


CURNOW: Hi, everyone. You're watching CNN. This is CONNECT THE WORLD with me, Robyn Curnow. Welcome back.

Now, the world's oldest elected leader has just been sworn into office after a stunning, stunning upset at the polls. Mahathir Mohamad is now

Prime Minister of Malaysia, and he's promising urgent government reforms. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout look at how he overcame the odds to stage a dramatic

political comeback.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN HOST NEWS STREAM (voice-over): Celebrations across Malaysia as a new political era dawns after a shock result in the national

elections. Mahathir Mohamad claimed victory after beating all the odds to oust Najib Razak in the coalition party, which ruled Malaysia for over six

decades. After the result was announced, Mahathir accused Najib of trying to clean to power.

MAHATHIR MOHAMAD, MALAYSIAN PRIME MINISTER: Now it is likely that there will be some hanky-panky being done in order to frustrate the wishes of the


STOUT: But it wasn't enough to deny the will of the people and a historic electoral triumph. At 92 years old, this makes Mahathir the world's oldest

leader. It is a dramatic political comeback for Mahathir, who previously ruled Malaysia with an iron fist for 22 years and was credited with turning

the country into a major trading and economic force.

BRIDGET WELSH, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, JOHN ABBOTT UNIVERSITY: I expect that Mahathir will be a man in a hurry, trying to bring about economic and

political reforms that put Malaysia on the map in a positive way.

STOUT: Mahathir came out of retirement to fight his former protege, Najib, telling CNN in 2016, that the leader was turning Malaysia into a police


MAHATHIR: We are under threat all the time. You cannot talk. You would say something bad about the government, they will call you up.

STOUT: Najib's authoritarian style sent his popularity plunging. And he became the center of a massive corruption scandal, after he was accused of

stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from the state fund 1MDB. The U.S. Justice Department even claimed that $30 million of that cash was

spent buying jewelry for his wife Rosmah. Najib denies the accusations and has been cleared by the authorities. But now, may face a new


[11:45:00] WELSH: Corruption tended to affect the urban voters, educated voters but it wasn't just about the corruption. It was a sense that Najib

had shamed the country. So, it affected national pride. And at the same time, the economy, while it has grown, it hasn't trickled down to ordinary


STOUT: The economy will be a key focus for Mahathir, as he takes the reins of power as Malaysia faces rising national debt and a higher cost of

living. Also, on the to do list will be reviewing a new law. Outlawing fake news which critics say will harm free speech. And Mahathir is

expected to free his former deputy and political foe Anwar Ibrahim. A charismatic opposition leader who is serving a jail term for sodomy.

Mahathir has promised to hand over power to Anwar in a few years, meaning more big changes are ahead for Malaysia. Kristie Lu Stout, CNN.


CURNOW: Thanks to Kristie for that report.

More than 30 people are dead and dozens more injured after a dam burst in northern Kenya. It happened at a town near the Rift Valley City of Nakuru,

about 150 kilometers northwest of Nairobi. Heavy rainfall and floods have been hitting East Africa in recent months, with Kenya really being among

the hardest hit areas. The Red Cross says up to 500 families have been affected by the disaster. Farai Sevenzo is right there. You've just

arrived. What do you see? Hi, Farai


CURNOW: I can. You're on air. Tell us what you see.

SEVENZO: Hello. Can you hear me?

I'm outside the dam that broke up and took so many people unawares late last night. At the moment, we've arrived when, unfortunately, the sun was


But from eyewitness accounts, we've just walked a few meters from down the road. I'm hearing horrible stories of bodies that keep coming out of the

mud. And indeed, we crossed so many rescue trucks going back out. Because of course, they've been defeated by the lack of light, into trying to

affect a rescue.

But of course, we're heading now to 24 hours (INAUDIBLE) since this affected people. This story as we see the army behind us, Kenya's rescue

efforts, fire ambulances, ambulances, and many people just great to see. The scale of the tragedy at the farm where the dam burst. Now we are still

in the middle of the rainy season. So many other dams in the area are reputed to be about to crack up. And we will follow this all through the

early morning and, of course, all through tomorrow. And try and get you much more information and much more visuals than myself standing in the


CURNOW: Thanks, Farai. Well done for getting there. CNN's certainly on the scene. Well done to your team. Let's pray for all of the people

affected by this dam burst. Thanks, Farai.

Still ahead --


TANISHA LAMBRIGHT, PLAYS "TANISHA" IN "HOLD ME DOWN": I've been through rape. I've been robbed. I've been stabbed before. I've danced before.

I've been homeless before. I've starved before.


CURNOW: We met a victim of sexual abuse who is finding healing through the power of film. Stay with us for that.



TOM BRADLEY, FIVE-TIME SUPER BOWL CHAMPION: No one really cares about last year. I mean, everyone's moved on. All the teams have. The fans have.

Families have. I mean, it's time for this year. In the preparation has already started. And every team starts at the same place. And we've got

to build in order to achieve the successes we want.

You know, you can look back to learn, but at the same time, you have to look forward. Because that's, you know, what you're facing. And we're

facing a new set of challenges, and we've got to be able to embrace those in order to maximize the season. A lot of people are making these great

sacrifices and commitments to playing. You know, you don't have all the time with your family. You know, you don't have a lot of things that, you

know, disposable time. A lot of the times, you have to be able to focus and commit to your team. So, when you do that, you know, the goal is to

win. And focus on that. Everyone wants to focus on this year, which is certainly where my energy and attention is directed at.


CURNOW: In our parting shots tonight, after last year's me-too movement comes a powerful, powerful drama. "Hold Me Down" is based on the lives of

hundreds of young African-American women who turned to prostitution after a lifetime of poverty and abuse in inner city New York. Now it won best

short film at the Harlem International Film Festival last night. Here's Becky Anderson with more on that.


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST CONNECT THE WORLD (voice-over): "Hold Me Down" captures a day in the life of a young mother, working in an illegal strip

club just to make ends meet. But it's not just another film about the sex industry. All of the women in the film are real-life survivors of sexual

violence or domestic abuse.

TANISHA LAMBRIGHT, PLAYS "TANISHA" IN "HOLD ME DOWN": I've been through rape. I've been robbed. I've been stabbed before. I've danced before.

I've been homeless before. I've starved before.

ANDERSON: This is the harsh reality that shocked the film's young Swedish director almost ten years ago. He saw the dark side of the American dream

as a 19-year-old student in New York, on what he thought was another house party in Harlem.

NICLAS GILLIS, FILMMAKER, "HOLD ME DOWN": I witnessed a young woman have sex with a stranger on the floor of a crowded room. When I asked if she

was OK, she told me she had a 2-year-old daughter, and this is what she had to do to survive.

ANDERSON: The film draws on interviews with hundreds of women in the sex industry. They turned to prostitution after a lifetime of trauma. All of

them grew up in impoverished, inner city communities, and all of them are black.

LAMBRIGHT: When you're born in poverty and Black America, in a ghetto, it's really not that bright of a future.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You get money in here. You're gorgeous. Put your head up.

LAMBRIGHT: I wanted to honestly be a voice. Be an inspiration to these women, if you will.

ANDERSON: According to a prominent civil rights group, the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, more than half of all women of

color experience some form of sexual violence in their life. For Niclas, the odds were stacked against his cast, something that was obvious even

during filming.

GILLIS: It was really difficult to deal with the fact that, you know, every three weeks, one of the women involved would go through something

really terrible. You know, being evicted or beaten or raped, losing their jobs, or being put out on the streets. And whilst I was there as a sort of

life vest, my help was really nothing compared to the, you know, the stormy ocean of everything that went against them.

[11:55:00] ANDERSON: The film doesn't have a Hollywood style happy ending, but in real life, at least some cast members are now in higher education.

In most of them want to continue acting. Changing their lives one step at a time. Becky Anderson, CNN.


CURNOW: Powerful piece of filmmaking there. For more on that and all the other stories we've brought to you tonight, and the whole week, including

our world exclusive interview with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, check out our Facebook page.

And before we go, a reminder of that breaking news in the last 60 minutes. We now know the time and date of the U.S. President's summit with North

Korea's leader.

Donald Trump tweeted, of course, the highly anticipated meeting between Kim Jong-un and myself will take place in Singapore on June 12th. We will both

try to make it a special moment for world peace.

This, of course, follows the release of three Americans who had been held in North Korea.

I'm Robyn Curnow. This was CONNECT THE WORLD from the team here in Atlanta and in London and in Abu Dhabi, thanks so much for watching. The news of

course, continues. "QUEST EXPRESS" is up with my colleague, Zain Asher. Enjoy.