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Trump Now Says He Holds Putin Responsible for Interference; Butina Involved with U.S. Gun Rights Movement; British Police Have Identified Two Suspect in Nerve Agent Attach; Trump Questions Defending NATO Ally Montenegro; Israel's New Bill Omits Mention of Democracy, Downgrades Arabic; Reconciliation Agreement Reached in Parts of Southern Syria; Facebook CEO Clarifies Comments About Holocaust Deniers; Golf Tournament Returns to "Nasty" Carnoustie Course. Aired 11a-12n ET

Aired July 19, 2018 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:00] BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD, I'm Becky Anderson in Abu Dhabi this hour.

On this show we're connecting a world riven with confusion and concern. As Russia and the West's actions, words and ideas collide. From the White

House to the Kremlin, to a sleepy town in Britain and a small European country, many people couldn't point out on a map. We're going to connect

and explain everything for you.

And so, first to the tensions between Washington and Moscow. Now, for the first time the U.S. President says he holds Vladimir Putin responsible for

Russia's interference in the 2016 U.S. election. Now after days of intense criticism, Donald Trump now says he gave the Russian President a quote,

very strong warning against future interference during their one-on-one meeting in Helsinki. Something he failed to say while standing beside Mr.

Putin just days ago.

We're connecting all of this for you, White House correspondent Abby Phillip joins us from Washington. Our Nic Robertson is in Salisbury and

Nick Paton Walsh is live from Montenegro tonight. Firs, so let's get to you Moscow and to CNN's Matthew Chance. And Matthew, from Vladimir Putin's

perspective, the Helsinki summit was a success. His take on these flip- flops, this fallout is, and I quote the Russian President here, that certain forces in the U.S. now want to prevent what was achieved there.

Explain if you will.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean there's no doubt about it, Becky. That when Vladimir Putin was sitting

there in Helsinki next to Donald Trump he probably couldn't quite believe what he was listening to just as much as the rest of us in that room

couldn't. Because Donald Trump didn't criticize Russia for anything. It was actually left up to Vladimir Putin himself to actually step in at one

point and put across the Russian position on the issue of the annexation of Crimea.

And so, yes, undoubtedly the President of Russia left that summit absolutely satisfied that he had got the best out of the American President

that he possibly could have. Much better than he anticipated. Of course, he always thought he was going to be a success. The fact that the meeting

took place at all was a political success for the Kremlin. Because the Kremlin has been isolated for so long over its various malign activity

around the world. But yes, even in his wildest dreams I expect that Vladimir Putin didn't imagine it was going to go so well. So yes, he's

extremely satisfied now, I imagine.

ANDERSON: Meantime, the plot thickens, the details on an accused Russian spy released by the U.S., Putin says timed to undermine that Helsinki

summit. What are the details?

CHANCE: It's another one of those examples of while the U.S. President may be talking nice with Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin, and actually behind

the scenes there's a lot of other activity taking place which runs in contradiction to that. And this arrest of Maria Butina has become the

latest thorn in the side of relations between the two countries. And there have been very many of them, of course, over the past couple of years.

What's interesting about it is I think is that it reveals just how the means by which Russia uses everything in its arsenal, potentially to

infiltrate the American political establishment. Take a look.


CHANCE (voice-over): She appealed directly to the heart of American conservatism.


Combining her passion for guns, with a youthful charm.

MARIA BUTINA: I'm a representative of Russian Federation here. And I'm a chairman of the right to bear arms. It's a Russian nonprofit organization.

CHANCE: An online profile says Butina was born in Siberia a year before the fall of the Berlin Wall and spent her childhood navigating the rocky

transition from communism to capitalism. She apparently launched a chain of small furniture stores in her hometown before moving to Moscow, where it

says her interest in expand the rights of average Russian citizens soon caught the attention of the most senior leaders of the Russian Federation.

Butina's gun lobbying also got her privileged access in the United States.

[11:05:00] Including to the National Rifle Association. John Bolton, then an NRA official now U.S. National Security Adviser, appeared in a 2013

video used by Butina's organization to encourage the Russian government to loosen gun laws.

JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: Should the Russian people have the right to bear arms? I can share with you a word about what this

particular freedom has meant to Americans. And offer you encouragement as you consider embracing that freedom.

BUTINA: I'm visiting from Russia. So -- my question --


CHANCE: But it's now known Butina's gun lobbying also brought her into direct contact with Donald Trump. The Russian asking the then-Presidential

candidate at a public libertarian event in 2015, about Russia and sanctions.

TRUMP: I believe I would get along very nicely with Putin. OK. And I mean where we have the strength. I don't think you'd need the sanctions.

CHANCE: While Butina has denied the allegations against her, comparisons have been made between her and Anna Chapman, the flame-haired Russian agent

who gained notoriety and celebrity after being arrested in the United States as part of an illegal spy ring in 2010. According to U.S. court

filings, Butina offered sex in exchange for a position in a special interest organization during her work in the U.S. It all raises questions

about whether Butina really was just a Russian gun lobbyist or if she had her sights set on another target.


CHANCE: Well, Becky, as you might expect, the reaction here in Moscow has been to dismiss this case, as yet more political posturing out of the

United States. The Russian foreign ministry releasing a statement saying her arrest was designed to undermine what it called the positive results of

the recent summit between President Trump and President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. Back to you.

ANDERSON: Matthew Chance, in Moscow for you. Abby is in Washington, let's bring up the new cover of "Time" magazine. Abby, it's not exactly a pretty

sight. Merging the faces of Trump and Putin, as it does. The suggestion - - well he guess, they're both one and the same. That's what the front cover seems to be suggesting. How is the White House handling the very

characterization of Trump being, well, the puppet to Putin's puppet master?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Becky, that image is somewhat disturbing, actually. And it reflects the trouble this

White House has been having in the last several days, explaining why the President said what he said and behaved the way that he did, on Monday,

when he had that summit with Vladimir Putin. And then a press conference that most people came away from, viewing as a disaster for the President

and for the White House.

And then even in their clean-up, the President once again creating some questions and some controversy when asked by a reporter at the White House

yesterday, whether he believes Russia continues to meddle in U.S. elections. The President appeared to say, no. That has only added to the

controversy surrounding this White House that they are still having a har time addressing.


PHILLIP (voice-over): After being widely criticized for not confronting Russian President Vladimir Putin over the attack on the 2016 election,

President Trump now insisting he did.

TRUMP: I let him know we can't have this. We're not going to have it. And that's the way it's going to be.

PHILLIP: The President blaming Putin for the attack for the first time. Although indirectly.

TRUMP: Certainly, as the leader of a country, you would have to hold him responsible, yes.

PHILLIP: But on Monday, President Trump had a different message.

TRUMP: President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial.

I, Donald John Trump --

PHILLIP: The "New York Times" reports that two weeks before his inauguration, President Trump was presented with direct, highly classified

evidence that Putin orchestrated the attack. Including texts and e-mails from Russian military officers, and information gleaned from a top-secret

source, close to Mr. Putin.

Despite this, the President has spent the past year and a half dismissing the investigation into an election interference as a witch hunt. A

characterization rebutted by his own hand-picked FBI director.

CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: I do not believe special counsel Mueller is on a witch hunt. I think it's a professional investigation conducted by

a man that I've known to be a straight shooter.

PHILLIP: President Trump telling CBS that he now stands by the intelligence community's assessment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you believe U.S. intelligence agencies, is Putin lying to you?

TRUMP: I don't want to get into whether or not he's lying. I can only say that I do have confidence in our intelligence agencies as currently


PHILLIP: But earlier in the day, the President appeared to contradict his intelligence officers, over the ongoing threat posed by Moscow.

[11:10:00] WRAY: Russia attempted to interfere with the last election. And then it continues to engage in malign influence operations to this day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is Russia still targeting the U.S. Mr. President?

TRUMP: Thank you very much, no.

PHILLIP: Press secretary, Sarah Sanders, later saying the President was again misunderstood.

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I had a chance to speak with the President after his comments and the President was said thank you very

much and was saying "no" to answering questions.

PHILLIP: President Trump also coming under fire for entertaining Putin's proposal to allow Russia to interrogate Americans in exchange for allowing

questioning of Russians charged with interfering in the U.S. election.

TRUMP: He feels very strongly about it. And it's an interesting idea.

PHILLIP: The State Department forcefully rejecting Russia's request.

HEATHER NAUERT, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: The overall assertions that have come out of the Russian government are absolutely absurd.

PHILLIP: But at the White House, a much softer tone.

SANDERS: There was some conversation about it. But there wasn't a commitment made on behalf of the United States. And the President will

work with his team and we'll let you know if there's an announcement on that front.


PHILLIP: And the President has spent the morning tweeting about his meeting with Putin, saying it was a great success, blaming the media for

all of this controversy. And also suggesting that there might be a second meeting on the horizon. But Becky, the problem is in Washington right now,

that the U.S. government doesn't seem to know what exactly President Trump agreed to, in that meeting with Putin. The President may have an

opportunity to sort that out with his national security staff. He has two meetings on his schedule today. One with the Secretary of State, Mike

Pompeo, and a second with his Defense Secretary, James Mattis -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Yes, if you find out, let us know, because it's kind of important, what was agreed on at that summit. All right. Good stuff.

As we just heard, the White House says mulling the idea of letting Russian interrogate Americans in exchange for helping the election interference

investigation. One of those Americans is the former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul. Now he responded on Twitter calling on the White

House to denounce Russia's ridiculous request, as he called it. Not doing so, he says, would create moral equivalency between the U.S. investigation

and a crazy story invented by Putin. And another American, Russia wants to talk to, financier Bill Browder. Who lobbied the U.S. government to impose

sanctions on Moscow, told CNN this a little earlier.


BILL BROWDER, CEO, HERMITAGE CAPITAL MANAGEMENT: Well, I think it's absurd for him to even entertain that proposal. It's Vladimir Putin hasn't just

asked to interview me, he's asked to interview a number of U.S. government officials who were involved in getting the Magnitsky Act passed. He wants

to interview ambassador Mike McFaul, the former U.S. ambassador to Russia. He wants to interview Kyle Parker, who is a senior congressional staff

member who wrote the Magnitsky Act. He wants to interview Robert Otto who worked in the State Department. And probably most heinously Vladimir Putin

wants to interview three members of the department -- three special agents from the department of homeland security who are prosecuting money

laundering of Russians in New York. Who were involved in the Magnitsky case and taking money from the crime that Sergei Magnitsky had exposed.

And so, I mean, the whole thing is as corrupt as you could possibly be, that the fact that the people who passed the Magnitsky Act and the people

who were investigating money laundering are being targeted to be interviewed and the President of the United States says that's an

interesting idea? This has got to be one of the lowest points of his presidency for him to even he that reaction.


ANDERSON: Bill Browder there. Well, a quick reminder where we are folks at this point, from the Kremlin to the White House, the small southeast

European nation of Montenegro to a sleepy British town -- connecting Russia and the West.

To this then, dramatic new information about a poisoning of a former Russian spy in England. Sources tell CNN that the British police have

identified two suspects in the Novichok attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter. Police poured over thousands of hours of video footage using

facial recognition technician technology to track the suspects. Both of whom fled the U.K. and have now apparently gone to Russia.

Well Russia denies any involvement in the attack and British authorities are not confirming the CNN report. CNN's international diplomatic editor

Nic Robertson on the spot in Salisbury. Nic, what have you got?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Becky, this is how it all lays out from what we understand from sources who is have been talking

to CNN. This involves a British listening post, in cypress, in the Mediterranean, that picks up transmissions around the world and deciphers

them, coded transmissions. They say they picked up a coded Russian message being sent to Moscow, soon after the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal


[11:15:00] Saying that the people responsible -- the two people responsible had left the country. Now, what the police were able to do from that was

sort of backtrack and work back from there. Knowing that they left, trying to figure out how they had left. Knowing that they were, that there was a

pair here on the ground, work with that information. What they were able to come up with, going through all that, all the CCTV, the video, the

closed-circuit television video that's been recorded on in stores and at airports and all those sorts of places. They were able to use facial

recognition technology. And that allowed them to narrow down precisely to the two people that they believe perpetrated the attack.

Now it turns out that these two people were using false names, aliases. Perhaps no surprise there. But key for the police in all of this, will

have been that they were able to discover that neither of these people were known to British intelligence officials. Meaning, that these were clean

skins. That they were potentially chosen for the task because they hadn't been involved in counterterrorism activities before.

We also know that in those few days after the poisoning of the Skripals, an Aeroflot commercial airliner waiting to fly back from Heathrow to Moscow

was detained on the ground for a number of hour. It was never quite clear precisely what was going on. But we can see now how that fits in or

appears to fit into the information we have.

In all of this, over the past four months, the Russians continue to deny, to obfuscate, to put out false trails and create false rumors about what

may or may not have happened. Today we heard the Russian ambassador to U.K. speaking in Moscow, again denying this new information.


ALEXANDER YAKOVENKO, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.K.: Unfortunately, we don't have an official statement from the British side. I want to hear

that from the Scotland Yard or the Foreign Office. A lot of versions that we hear in the newspapers, they're not supported by the statements of the

Foreign Office.


ROBERTSON: So, until now, the police, the metropolitan police are heading the investigation, the government, have also been keeping journalists and

the public fairly well up to speed. Fairly well informed with developments. But clearly, it would, it would seem very clear at least if

they were to put more information into the public domain, names, et cetera, then this could expose some of their techniques used to glean this

information. It could expose, if you will, potentially more people to danger. But it could certainly put more information out there, that would

tip the Russians off about how this investigation is going -- Becky.

ANDERSON: That's a story from Salisbury, Nic, thank you. Site of a Russian poisoning. We've also had you in Washington and in Moscow this

hour as we connect the dots on this spider's web of intrigue between Russia and the West.

Next up to a small European country now at the heart of international news. Montenegro is the newest member of NATO. Joining just a year ago. Now

President Trump has sparked another controversy, by asking why America should defend that tiny nation. All members of NATO agree that an attack

on one is or would be an attack on all. But Mr. Trump appeared to cast doubt on that commitment. He called Montenegro's people aggressive and

implied they might start a fight that could lead to World War III. The former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO said Trump's comments play right

into Vladimir Putin's hands.


GENERAL WESLEY CLARK (RETIRED ), FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: So, this is the worst nightmare for the Montenegrins. They thought they were

safe, they got into NATO. They rely on NATO to give them the assurance to be able to build a democracy and move their economy forward. And now the

President of the United States, the leader of NATO says, well maybe we're not going to help you. It's an open invitation to Putin.


ANDERSON: We want to know, want to get you to a town in Montenegro. That is where CNN's Nick Paton Walsh has been reporting. A few minutes ago, I

asked him to assess Donald Trump's belief that tiny Montenegro could start a World War III have a listen to this.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Becky, frankly Montenegro is recovering from the idea being put out there by the head of

the most powerful military in the world that somehow, we might end up being like Sarajevo was in the first world war, the spark to the third world war.

And this is, of course, the newest and the smallest member of NATO, only joining back in June of last year after a tumultuous path towards that

final membership of the world's largest military alliance.

The government have to some degree tried to stay silent. They never had to react. They've released a statement that is clear about how it perceives

Montero's role here about peace and stability.

[11:20:00] It talks about the enduring qualities of freedom and democracy and importantly goes on to talk about the permanent and serious alliance

that it has with the United States of America.

Really, I think there is in some sense of shock here because of the history of how tough it was to get this tiny nation of 620,000 people, whose

military is only 1500 strong. They're hardly the militaristic beast that Donald Trump seems to suggest in his interview with Fox News. But it's

been a difficult road joining that body. The last four years or so have seen an intense amount of protests here. Some of which fomented by a

political bloc here that's very pro-Russian. And also, in October 2016, a straight-out coup attempt that investigators here say it was, in fact,

fomented by Russian intelligence, planned by them. Two of their officers in fact indeed they say using Serbian nationalists intending to take over

government buildings. Even possibly at one point assassinate the then- prime minister. That failed, and as I said, they joined NATO in June of last year.

But it's a complex issue here, Article 5. I don't think when Donald Trump says are they're going to send troops here to defend Montenegro and start

World War III, that was really the premise of Article 5 or why people want to join NATO. It's those smaller nations that think that once they're part

of that collective security agreement people frankly won't mess with them. I think that's what many people hoped would be the case when Donald Trump

would sustain that particular concept and instead he seems to have undermined it.

And that's left quite a serious existential question in the country like this. That has here in the port where I'm standing, a lot of Russian

speakers. A lot of Russians own property around here. It has a strong connection with its Slavic distant neighbor and also the orthodox church

too. But still, many people here want to be closer to the European Union. Its neighbor, Croatia as a neighbor to that. And so, Donald Trump's

comments really, I think striking to the heart of one of their imbalances here in Montenegro -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Nick Paton Walsh on the story there in Montenegro relatively rare stop in international news. Also, Salisbury, Washington and Moscow

this hour as we pull together the threads of what is this larger story of Russian and the West.

Well before we move on, it turns out a majority of Americans disapprove of how President Trump handled that summit with Vladimir Putin. A new poll

shows that 55 percent of Americans say he mishandled the meeting. While 32 percent approve of how the Summit in Helsinki played out.

Well coming up, Putin and Trump spoke about Syria when they met. Well now the war-torn country's government has made a reconciliation agreement with

some of the rebels there. What that entails and its impact, up next.

And in a country watching that closely, Israel, tempers flaring there in parliament. After a controversial new law is passed. What it is, why, up



ANDERSON: Well, this was the moment a controversial nation state law passed in the Israel parliament to furious reaction by Arab lawmakers.

Why? Well, among the controversial stipulations, Arabic spoken by 20 percent of the populations is now no longer an official language. Well

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, of course, hailed the new law as a defining moment. It establishes Israel as the historic home of the Jewish

people with a united Jerusalem as its capital, he says. But critics say it's a turning point that shows how far Israel has fallen with what's not

said particularly worrying. CNN's Oren Liebermann has been following this for you. And strangely 41 of the Middle East's only democracies, no

mention of equality or democracy here. Explain.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And no mention of minority rights. And that is where a lot of the criticism has been focused against what's

known here as nation state build. Now the nation state law. This was very much championed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Who called it one of

his successes and a defining moment for the state of Israel.

But criticism has come not just from Arab members of Israel's Knesset but from all of the opposition members. Israelis included as well as Jewish

groups, NGOs here as well as Jewish groups abroad who've said that at best this is perhaps blatantly discriminatory. At worst, it is a racist law

with apartheid overtones. So, that's the sort of criticism leveled at this.

Now the background is that Israel is one of the few Western-style democracies in the world that doesn't have a constitution. Doesn't have a

document anchoring peoples' rights. Instead it has what's known as basic laws, which serve as guiding principles. And this, this nation state law

was passed as a basic law. Offering guidance for the executive and the legal system. As you point out, one of the flaws here, or one of the

problems here is that critics say it makes no mention of equality, minority rights or democracy. Instead it makes extensive reference to the Jewish

state and Judaism. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired back, defending the law. Here's part of what he had to say.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We will keep ensuring civil rights in Israel's democracy. These rights will not be

harmed. But the majority also has rights and the majority decides. An absolute majority wants to insure our state's Jewish character for

generations to come.


LIEBERMANN: It's worth pointing out that with the exception of demoting the status of Arabic from an official language to a special status

language. The law actually has very few effects and says that Israel has a national anthem and describes it, describes the Israeli flag. All of this

is known to Israeli citizens, Arab and Israelis alike. So, the law has very few practical day to day effects. In that case, Becky, the question

is what's the purpose of this law? And that may be found in one of the amendments proposed by the opposition. An amendment that was in the end

voted down. Becky, that amendment suggested adding to the text of the law, the purpose of this law is to appease a right-wing electorate before

elections. That of course was voted down. But it was a satirical way for the opposition to suggest the real purpose behind this law.

ANDERSON: I wonder about the timing of all of this. This mentions a united Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Something that the Palestinians

as we know say they will never accept. But this all comes just months after the U.S. recognized Jerusalem of course as the capital of Israel.

And moved its embassy there. And all of this comes ahead of a touted Trump or perhaps more specifically, Jared Kushner, peace plan reveal. What about

the timing on all of this?

LIEBERMANN: Well, it will be interesting to see if there is any U.S. response. And what that response is. Because President Donald Trump made

it very clear that in his recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, he has not set boundaries on what the U.S. recognizes as the

capital of Israel. He very much left open a possibility of some or part of Jerusalem becoming a Palestinian East Jerusalem. This law tries to preempt


Now as for the question of what does it define as the state of Israel? What's the geographic boundary that this law considers the state of Israel?

Is it just Israel within the green line? Or does it add the Golan Heights, Gaza and the West Bank, considered occupied territories under international

law. We tried to clarify that. In the end it turns out it was left intentionally vague. Perhaps so as not to automatically scuttle a Trump

peace plan if and when we finally see that plan.

[11:30:06] ANDERSON: If and when. The operative phrase. Thank you, Oren. You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. That was Oren Liebermann in Jerusalem.

Right next door to Israel, in a war it's worried about the Syrian army strikes deals with rebels in the south. We're going to tell you why that

is important, up next.


ANDERSON: Just after 7:30 in the UAE. Let's quickly recap our top story for you folks. The U.S. President now changing his tune on Russia's attack

on the 2016 U.S. election, saying he holds Vladimir Putin personally responsible. He also said he gave the Russian President a very strong

warning that it must not happen again. Meanwhile, the White House says it is considering President Putin's proposal for Russian authorities to

question Americans in exchange for help in the special counsel's investigation.

In the summit, we know that the two leaders discussed this conflict. Syria, where we've been seeing images like this again and again for years

now. Well over the past 24 hours, the Russian-backed Syrian regime has reached reconciliation agreements with rebels and parts of the country's

south. Fighters agreed to hand over their military hardware and will give up the rest of their weapons once ISIS has been eradicated from southern


[11:35:05] For more on what our important developments and what they could mean for the future of Syria, Jomana Karadsheh joins me live out of

Istanbul. You've spent a lot of time, of course, in Syria over the last seven years of this conflict. What is the latest on this new agreement as

you understand it?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, as you know it was a month ago that the Syrian regime launch this offensive to recapture

southwestern Syria. And with the backing of their Russian allies, they have pretty much reclaimed a lot of that part of the country, Daraa

province, Quneitra province. What's left is some pockets that are under rubble control as we understand it. And this has been done through either

the military operations or agreements with the rebels, the agreements that have been described as reconciliation agreements. Some call them

surrendered deals.

And as you mentioned, in the last 24 hours or so we've seen in the Western countries side with [11:36:01], an agreement there with the rebels. That

came after two days of really intense shelling and air strikes that targeted that town of Nawa in and around it. It seemed like the rebels

there had no choice but to agree to the terms put forward by the regime. Different to other agreements they were allowed to keep some of their heavy

weapons because they are on the frontline in the fight against ISIS.

Now in the last few hours we've also heard from the Syrian regime's state media, reporting another agreement, quite significant. This one, they're

talking about a deal with the rebels in the Quneitra province in the areas bordering the occupied Golan Heights. They say that the Syrian army will

now be able to take positions it is held before 2011. The rebels will either be allowed to stay under this reconciliation agreement or move to

Idlib province. Despite the news of this agreement, Becky, we've spoken to people on the ground and they say that the airstrikes are continuing.

Right now, it seems like it's a matter of time before the regime is able to recapture all of southwestern Syria. Very strategic, but also, of course,

very symbolic when you're talking about the birthplace of the Syrian revolution.

ANDERSON: Yes, absolutely. And you make a very good point. Let me just break down Syria's war by the numbers, Jomana, for our viewers.

It's been going on, of course, for more than seven years now. Starting in March of 2011. The United Nations estimates some 400,000 Syrians have been

killed. More than 11 million people, 11 million have been forced from their homes because of this fighting. It's a complex issue. You've made

that point. Jomana if we can just get really basic about this. For one moment if it's possible. How did we get here? And where do we go from


KARADSHEH: Well you know you look back, Becky, why this revolution started. It was people saying enough. They could not live under an

oppressive regime. And you know, you look at how that developed into this vicious war, the bloodshed that we have seen over the years. If you talk

to the Syrian people. So many under the ones who have been living under rebel control, of course, that territory that's been shrinking over the

past couple of years as we've seen it. They blame the international community. They say that not enough was done when it comes to supporting

the rebels. And then you look at what happened in 2015. Enter Russia and that really turned the tide in that conflict. Really giving President

Assad the boost that we're seeing now with recapturing almost all of the country with the aid of the Russians in the air. And also, you had allies

like Iran on the ground there.

And you know, you talk to people right now and it's such a difficult situation for Syrians who are outside the country. You know, you hear

these calls from the Syrian government telling people to return back. But what are they going to be returning back to? And it's the same thing for

people who are stranded. If you look right now in the border with the Golan Heights, you're talking about 200,000 people who really do not know

what to do. Do they go back to their homes in these areas that have been recaptured by the regime and risk retribution, or do they move to Idlib in

the North? That's the only part of the country -- the only province as under rebel control.

And of course, there are fears that that would be the next military offensive. So, a very, very tough situation for people inside and outside

the country who have been displaced by this conflict -- Becky.

Jomana Karadsheh on this story who has been reporting on this story and from Syria and in/out for the past seven years. Also, today out of

Istanbul in Turkey for you. Jomana, thank you.

[11:40:00] Live from Abu Dhabi, this is CONNECT THE WORLD. coming up, controversial comments from Mark Zuckerberg, putting Facebook and its

policy on fake news in the spotlight. What he has said and what he is saying now, up next.


ANDERSON: Facebook is in hot water after controversial comments by its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, about Holocaust deniers, Zuckerberg speaking out

about the social media giant's decision to leave their content on the site. Claimed in an interview that some deniers aren't quote, intentionally

getting it wrong. Here, he's speaking to Recode's Kara Swisher.


MARK ZUCKERBERG, FACEBOOK CEO: There's a set of people who deny that the Holocaust happened.


ZUCKERBERG: I find that deeply offensive. But at the end of the day, I don't believe that our platform should take that down. Because I think

that there are things that different people get wrong. Either I don't think that they're intentionally getting it wrong. But I think that they -


SWISHER: In case of Holocaust deniers, they might be, but go ahead.

ZUCKERBERG: It's hard to Impugn intent and to understand the intent.


ANDERSON: Within hours, Zuckerberg started backtracking and e-mailing Swisher to say he got it wrong. Well, another controversy as a company

struggles to explain its policy on fake news. Oliver Darcy, a senior media writer for CNN Money joins me now. Oliver, what's he said and what's the

impact here?

OLIVER DARCY, CNNMONEY SENIOR MEDIA WRITER: Well it's really quite remarkable. Zuckerberg with his comments was intending to clean up a PR

crisis that Facebook has been dealing with over the past week. And he really ignited his own PR crisis. So, Facebook over the past week has been

aiming to explain, to people how they deal with fake news. How they tackle fake news. And they've been touting new features.

They've run into problems, however, because they haven't been able to really provide a satisfactory answer about how they allow a site like

InfoWars, which spreads conspiracy theories about a variety of things to have a page on its website. And so, Zuckerberg was trying to address that

in this interview he did with Swisher. And he says, that, that he doesn't want to get into the business of banning speech outright, but he does want

to limit the distribution of speech.

The reason he says he doesn't want to get into banning speech outright is because he's not sure about the intent. And he then referred to the

Holocaust deniers saying he's not apparently sure about the intent of someone spreading Holocaust-denying material on Facebook. After he made

that comment there was a huge controversy. Anti-Defamation League released a statement saying that Holocaust denying has been a willful practice of

anti-Semites for some time now. And that Facebook has a moral obligation not to allow that kind of content to spread.

[11:45:03] And shortly after Zuckerberg e-mailed Kara Swisher, who he did the interview with. And he said in part I personally find Holocaust denial

deeply offensive. And I absolutely didn't intend to defend the intent of people who deny that. Our goal with fake news is not to prevent anyone

from saying something untrue, but to stop fake news and misinformation spreading across our services. If something is spreading and is rated

false by fact checkers, it will lose the vast majority of its distribution and news feed.

ANDERSON: Oliver, thank you. Live from Abu Dhabi, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Becky Anderson.

Coming up, the open gets under way at a golf course nicknamed nasty. You'll hear why it lives you to that name, after this.


ANDERSON: The battle for one of golf's biggest prizes is going on right now in Scotland. Carnoustie, offer called "car-nasty", as we mentioned.

Because well it's just so hard to play as you can imagine. There's a lot in store for golf fans there over the next few days. And those who are

watching make no mistake, it will not be a cake walk. Carnoustie is one of the toughest courses in the world. Earning itself the nickname nasty.

Rory McIlroy is among the home players hoping to break a U.S. stranglehold in the majors. But he is up against high-level competitors, including

defending champ, Jordan Spieth. Tiger Woods also back at the open after missing the two previous ones due to injury.

So how does this course put players through such a grinder? Well in simple words, it's rough, it is unforgiving, and it makes them feel like they are

shooting blind. Shane O'Donoghue explains.


SHANE O'DONOGHUE, CNN LIVE GOLF (voice-over): I've been invited to play in the open's media day, to find out what makes this course so revered. Such

is the severity of the course, it's been dubbed "car-nasty" by many. Better wish me luck.

TEXT: The rough is impossible. Impossible to stay out of, impossible to play out of -- Jack Nicklaus.

MICHAEL MCEWAN, JOURNALIST: It's got to be one of the toughest courses you'll play. You stand on most tees. You may struggle to see the

challenge on certain holes. You'll wonder is it as tough as they as they make out? Keep the ball in play. Don't go in the rough. Be sensible. Be

patient. When trouble comes along, don't compound the error or it will bite you.

TEXT: I've got a lawn mower back in Texas, I'll send it over -- Ben Hogan.

SANDY REID, CARNOUSTIE LINKS SUPERINTENDENT: Tough horse but a very fair course. You can see all the trouble from the tee. The bunkers are

punishing, so if you're off your game a little bit, the bunkers will punish you and your scores can be high.

[11:50:04] It's also the longest course on the open road and it's been always been the longest course on the open road since it became first in

1981. It's not all gloriously sunny all the time. You often get a nice breeze, often get cold. And you might get sleet or snow. I think you've

got to take it and get on with it.

TEXT: this golf course is hard but it's fair. It's a terrific test -- Tiger Woods.

TREVOR WILLIAMSON, CADDIE: If you make errors in the rear, it's hard to get them back.

It's not an unfair course. Make a mistake, and you'll be caught.


ANDERSON: I won't tell you how he did. You'll have to watch the show. Let's check out how things have played out at the tournament so far. Alex

Thomas joining us live from Carnoustie. Alex, the latest?

ALEX THOMAS, CNN WORLD SPORT: Well Becky, this part of the world currently looks more like your part of the world, because we've had such record hot

temperatures here in the U.K. Although I missed it, because I was in Russia covering the World Cup. But came back it equally sunny conditions.

It means that this links, as this type of golf course is called, is even drier and faster than it normally is. Always these courses tend to be very

gravelly, sandy soil. But drains very well. But because of those record temperatures, because it is so brown by the old green gorse bush, it's like

hitting a golf ball down an airport runway. Tiger Woods saying some shots traveling 100 yards further than they normally would on a normal golf

course. It's very difficult for these players to adjust. They don't play this sort of golf 51 weeks of the year.

As it is, it is an American who's top of the leaderboard in Kevin Kisner after around of five under par. And ominously, Tiger Woods, a very late

starter -- because he's still not very high up in the world rankings yet, he's starting to play better and better. Two under par after his first

four holes when last I looked.

Justin Thomas, four under par. He won his first major at the end of last year. Good mate to Jordan Spieth who you mentioned earlier, Becky. Spieth

was three under par and then dropped four shots on his final four holes. So, all sorts of ups and downs here. It's a course made for strategy as

you mentioned. Carnoustie, nicknamed "Car-nasty" by many. But at the moment these benign conditions it's more like "Car-nicely".

ANDERSON: It's interesting, I was just listening to the results as you are suggesting, as these incredibly good players make their way round the

course. Not bad given as we've been pointing out. Not only is this a nasty course to play on but conditions are making it that much tougher. I

suppose the flip side of this is it could be pouring with rain. Lashing with rain, the winds could be blowing, and the conditions could be on the

flip side, even worse, right?

THOMAS: Yes, absolutely. We're on the east coast of Scotland. This is the most northerly of all the open venues, I guess if you go far enough

that way you're going to hit Norway eventually. And so, the weather can just roll in very, very quickly. Like anywhere just by the coast. I've

got a bit of an onshore breeze I can feel hitting my head. But as I say, it's less than ten miles an hour which is really benign by the normal

conditions you get here.

We are expecting rain in the forecast tomorrow. But how can we trust the forecast? As I said, the wind was really supposed to get up this afternoon

and it hasn't done so. And it means this course is kind of there for the taking. Although the fairways are really hard. The greens are nice and

soft, receptive for some of the shots. So, scoring's been good. Where interested in seeing how Tiger gets on as his first-round progresses.

ANDERSON: I am looking the course behind you. Literally, Alex, it looks like you're in the African savanna on a really, during a really, really dry

month. It's absolutely remarkable. Listen, wherever you go, you take the weather with you at the moment. So good luck to you, I hope it does hold

out. I've got a feeling it probably won't. And well done on the World Cup as well. Can't believe you were already back at it, only a couple of days

after the final. Alex Thomas for you up in Scotland today.

Well for tonight's parting shots, we've all been on bad dates, right? But this one, I have to say takes the biscuit. A woman in Memphis says the guy

that she went out with on a date stole her car, and then used it to go on a date with a different woman. Faith Pugh tells it like this, the guy

showing up at her door without his car. So actually, they took hers and stopped at a petrol station.


FAITH PUGH, DATE STOLE HER CAR: He asked me, could I go in the gas station for him to get a cigar. He just drove off. I came outside, and my car was



ANDERSON: Well it turns out the other date he had sped off to get to, was her god sister.

[11:55:00] So, they teamed up, to get her car back. Her god sister took him to a drive-in theater where they called the police and had him

arrested. No word as of yet, from the suspect.

We can always follow the story that the team is working on here throughout the day. It's Of course, we've all of the best

coverage from our entire global network. And I am @BeckyCNN on Twitter. I'm Becky Anderson, that was CONNECT THE WORLD,

thanks for watching. Look, we started with the American President this hour and that is where we are going to leave you this week. It's Thursday,

here, end of our working week, a video of a mariachi band playing outside the White House. Trying to stop Donald Trump from, well, getting his 40

winks. Have a good weekend wherever you are watching. We'll see you on Sunday.