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Battle Rages Against ISIS In Its Last Syrian Enclave; Assault Underway On Terror Groups Last Syrian Enclave; U.S. Shutdown Looms As Border Funding Talks Stall; Maduro Announces Purchase Of Missile Launchers; Opposition Leader Juan Guaido Demands Opening Of Border; Women Making Impossible Survival Choices; U.A.E., China and India are Making Deals Worth Billions; Iran's Islamic Revolution: 40 Years Later; Countdown to Brexit; Virginia's Top Three Democrats Mired in Scandal, Hip-Hop Makes History at the 2019 Grammy Awards. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired February 11, 2019 - 01:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[01:00:00] CYRIL VANIER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: The final battle for territories. CNN is near the front lines as U.S. backed fighters trying to push ISIS out of its last enclave in Syria. Surviving Venezuela's humanitarian crisis, we talk to women about their daily struggles and the lengths they're going to to feed their families. Plus, making music history. Artists breaking records at this year's Grammys.

We are alive from the CNN center here in Atlanta. I'm Cyril Vanier, thank you for joining us. U.S.-backed fighters are reporting fierce resistance as they attack the last ISIS enclave in Syria. They launched an operation to seize Baghouz Al-Fawqani on Saturday. It's a small Euphrates valley town near the Iraqi border. It may also hold some of the most battle-hardened ISIS fighters determined to fight to the death.

CNN's Ben Wedeman is on the ground covering this battle in a CNN exclusive. He joins me now live from eastern Syria. Ben?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Cyril, well, we woke up this morning to the sound of small arms fire and there has been constant fighting ever since. At this very moment, it is relatively quiet but we've had to come down from our rooftop position because a round landed just on the other side of the walls separating us. So -- and there's been we've heard rounds whizzing over our head as well.

There has been an Isis counter-attack this morning. They were taking advantage of the heavy fog that was around this town in the early morning and they appear to have advanced somewhat in our direction. We saw some of the SDF forces pulling back as that advance continued. And there -- an intensification of the air strikes to try to stop that advance. But certainly, in terms of counter-attacks, this is the biggest and most intense one we've seen yet. Cyril? VANIER: Ben, one of the fighters you interviewed in your report earlier said once we take this territory from ISIS, things in a way might actually get harder.

WEDEMAN: Yes. He was stressing the point that when they are fighting an entity that holds ground, the focus is on the ground. But the problem is that as ISIS has been pushed back further and further to this tiny little corner of Syria, that many of their fighters have simply blended back into the population. Some of them have gone to remote parts of Syria and Iraq. And from there they are conducting already a low-intensity guerrilla warfare there.

For instance, earlier in January, there was that attack on the restaurant in Manbij in Western Syria that -- sorry, I'm going to move a little bit further in. There was that attack in western Syria that killed four Americans and other Syrians. And that underscores the ongoing threat posed by ISIS despite the fact that they are steadily losing ground, although they may have regained a little bit this morning. Cyril?

VANIER: Ben, can you tell me a little bit more about what's happening around you?

WEDEMAN: Well, OK, this is sort of the main road that leads into Baghouz Al-Fawqani. And just a few days ago we were much further up very near. There's an earth berm that separated the area controlled by the Syrian democratic forces and the town itself. From that spot, we were able to see movements, motorcycles, and cars driving within the ISIS area.

Now, what has happened is it appears that they have decided that that is going to be their current sort of main front in the fight against the SDF. So they seem to have moved forward and as I said we were up on the roof of this building where we've been going live from for the past few days and we started to hear rounds whizzing over our head which is a first since we've been here for the last several days. And we thought it was just a round of the straight round but then it was another and another and another.

And then what happened was some sort of explosion occurred just on the side of the building where at so everyone including the SDF fighters who are here rushed down to take cover. And then they're starting to coming around down the main highway here as well. So clearly the ISIS fighters are not far away. They're at ground level. They're firing right down the street. As a result, some of the vehicles -- their vehicles are pulling back now, clearly repositioning to try to repel this counter-attack. Cyril?

[01:05:27] VANIER: Ben Wedeman, please do stay safe. We appreciate your reporting. You'll be updating us as best you can in the coming hours. That's Ben Wedeman reporting live from near the front lines on this push to secure and to retake from ISIS the last enclave that they hold in Syria, that's near the town of Baghouz Al-Fawqani. And you can get the latest on the fight against ISIS anytime just go to CNN.com for that. The top general at U.S. Central Command also warns that Isis could

remain a threat. General Joseph Votel is responsible for operations in Syria and the Middle East. He set to step down from the command. He said this on a farewell tour on Sunday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. JOSEPH VOTEL, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: Well, I mean, I would -- I would -- I'm kind of aligned toward the Intelligence Community (INAUDIBLE) and talking about tens of thousands that have been dispersed and disaggregated from the area, so they're spread all kind of areas and Iraq, other areas in Syria and they're dispersant and desegregated. But there is leadership there. There are fighters there. There are facilitators there. Well, I mean, long term through the course of the withdrawal.

The President's orders are very clear to us. We understand exactly what he's directing that we are withdrawing forces out of Syria and that's -- we've got plan to do that and we're on track.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: I'm joined now by retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton. He's a CNN Military Analyst and the former Deputy Director for Training at the U.S. National Security Agency. Colonel, what happens when this battle is over?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Cyril, I think that really depends on how we win this particular battle. And by we, I mean the coalition as well as the Syrian Democratic Forces. So if we get into a situation where those places fighters that are remaining in buckles dispersed, then you know, they'll be this quiet a period but they will resurface again just like General Votel warned in the piece that you just showed.

There is going to be a situation where these ISIS fighters come up and they'll come up probably in individual cells. They'll come up not only in the Middle East but possibly in areas close to the Middle East and possibly even further afield. But I think it will take them a while to get there. The most dangerous area is going to be in Syria and probably neighboring Iraq for U.S. forces and coalition forces after this battle is over.

VANIER: And we heard one of the fighters in Ben Wedeman's reports saying pretty much that, that it was actually going to get harder after this particular battle that they're waging. That a conventional war he was saying, a conventional war to retake ISIS territory was probably easier than a shadow war against ISIS terrorists.

LEIGHTON: Oh, absolutely because in the shadow war, Cyril, what you find is you're going to be able to run into your enemy in all kinds of situations, and sometimes those are not situations of your own choosing. And that's really the big problem when you're dealing with a force like ISIS. It's very dispersed, it's going to go into many different areas, they you know, will take advantage not only of the tunnels in places like Baghouz, but they'll also go into places such as the cities, such as you know potentially even going back to Mosul or other cities within Syria.

So there's going to be a situation where that fighter was absolutely right. These guys are going to be tough because they'll be soldiers first. In some ways it'll be easier to pick off individual cells, but it'll be much harder to find the leadership.

VANIER: So should U.S. forces be pulling out of Syria in this context?

LEIGHTON: Not yet. I think you it's -- certainly we're getting to the point where we can see those forces leave Syria, but you know, we have to make sure that first of all the, Baghouz is taken and I think we're well on the way to doing that but just because focuses that last enclave of ISIS fighters in Syria.

But what we also need to make sure is that what happens next is you know who controls this territory isn't in our interest to have it revert back to the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad or is it in our interest to have the Kurdish fighters where the Syrian democratic forces take that area. And that's really the question that policymakers are going to have to answer and they're going to have to answer that one very, very quickly.

VANIER: And so what lessons, in that case, should the U.S. learn from the last time it found itself at a similar crossroads? You know the U.S. has been here before with al Qaeda where they thought where they thought they had defeated the insurgency in Iraq, they left only to see al Qaeda reappear in an even more vicious form as ISIS. What are the lessons there?

[01:10:19] LEIGHTON: Well, I think the big lessons, Cyril, are that if you leave a place too soon, a place that you fought over and bled over, it's going to come back to haunt you. It's going to be something where you can get into a situation where not only are going to have to come back, but you're have -- you're going to have to come back and make some sacrifices that you weren't intending to make. And that I think is the real lesson from this.

You have to go in to a place like this realize that you're going to stay up to a certain point but then also have an exit strategy where you leaves the place in a bit of a more peaceful form rather than when you found it. And that is really the biggest challenge.

VANIER: All right, Colonel Cedric Leighton, thank you so much for joining us today.

LEIGHTON: You bet, Cyril, anytime.

VANIER: And the Acting U.S. Defense Secretary has touched down in Afghanistan on an unannounced visit. Patrick Shanahan's trip comes ahead of the Munich 2nd security conference later this week. It also comes after U.S. ceasefire talks with the Taliban and reports of a partial U.S. troop withdrawal. Shanahan insists that he has not been told to step down the number of U.S. forces.

Another U.S. government shutdown could be just days away if Democrats and Republicans can't come up with a deal on border security funding. The bad news is negotiations have reportedly stalled. Now they only have until Friday to decide on a budget for new sections of border wall, detention centers, and personnel.

President Trump is blaming Democrats for making "terrible offers." He tweeted, I actually believe they want a shutdown. Earlier, Mr. Trump said that he reserved the right to declare a state of national emergency to get the wall money that he wants.

And the crowded field of Democrats hoping to take Donald Trump's job just got even larger. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota announced her run for president on Sunday in the middle of a heavy snowstorm. She told supporters the time has come for a change.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: We are tired of the shutdowns in the showdowns of the gridlock and the grandstanding. Today, on this know a day on this island, we say enough is enough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: In response, President Trump mocked Klobuchar on Twitter saying that she talks proudly a fighting global warming while standing in a virtual blizzard. Klobuchar hit back saying science was on her side and wondering how his -- how his hair would fare in a blizzard.

CNN's Senior Political Analyst Ron Brownstein is standing by. Ron the fact that Donald Trump, that the President attacked Amy Klobuchar, does that mean he takes her seriously?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You have to -- you'd have surmise that right? I mean, his attack, some of it is a new dynamic that had the White House and the sitting president engaging with the Democratic field so directly. I am struck that by and large the Democratic candidates as we saw in 2018 from the House candidates generally speaking are not taking the bait.

They're you know, they're focusing more on their kind of affirmative agenda and assuming that the voters who are antagonizing Trump don't need a lot of reminding about why they don't like him. But we'll see. You know, we're heading toward the largest Democratic field ever with 76-72 each time as a primary process. It's really the beginning of the modern primary era. They had about 15 candidates. They could get to that and it's certainly going to be the most diverse ever as you pointed out with the most women but also the most minority candidate.

So this a different Democratic coalition and it's reflected in the field of candidates they will have to choose from over the next year.

VANIER: And right now, who do you have is the biggest threat to the President's reelection chances?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, there -- you know, I believe the fundamental fault line at some point, the choice Democrats face really goes to your question. There are two different theories about how to beat them. And empirically, I think this point it's hard to choose among those two theories.

One theory is what I call the reassure theory which says, as we saw in 2018, there are literally millions of traditionally Republican- leaning, center-right, mostly white voters who have pulled away from the Republican coalition because they don't like Donald Trump. We saw that in all those white-collar suburban districts around the country.

And this theory says, what you need is a Democratic nominee who would reassure them that it's OK to vote for the party. And that would be someone more centrist. Joe Biden certainly most prominent among them, but also some of the former governors were looking at running like John Hickenlooper of Colorado and Terry McAuliffe of Virginia.

The other theory says don't worry about trying to reel in these center-right white voters. Focus on mobilizing the elements of the Democratic coalition that really, really don't like Trump but don't always turn out and that's minorities and young people. And people who kind of fit in that kind of mobilization strategy would be Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand.

I think we're going to see -- you know, those theories contend. It wouldn't shock me to see a ticket that had one of each in the end. But I think that, that is going to be one of the big choices Democrats face reassure or mobilize as their way of going at Donald Trump 2020.

[01:15:29] CYRIL VANIER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: OK. Onto the border wall negotiations, they've broken down as far as we know.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

VANIER: For the moment, they've broken down. The Democrats aren't budging, yet the president according to the reporting would rather avoid a shutdown. What's the way forward?

BROWNSTEIN: You know -- you know, Mitch McConnell whom doesn't talk that much, you know, has said, there is no education in the second kick of a mule, which is I think a very aphorism here.

Another government shutdown would be kind of lunacy for both parties. Given a, the history the government shutdowns never get you what you want. I mean, that's been true going back to the Bill Clinton shutdowns. And b, given how strongly the public reacted against it.

So, you would think they would find a way around this. The problem is there is a core disagreement, you know. Primarily, over the wall the constituencies that elected this democratic Congress preponderantly oppose the wall by margins of two to one or more, and there's very little incentive and a lot of disincentive for Democrats to give the president much of what he wants apart from the -- you know, the limited amount of fencing in areas that both parties could agree.

But certainly, there's a larger problem too which is that, you know, beyond the wall, Democrats, by and large, do Trump's immigration enforcement strategy as excessive and cruel. And if the only issue on the table is how much money you give him to execute that strategy. You can see why there would be some resistance to that on the Democratic side and that is -- that is an issue that has kind of raised itself here in the 11th hour.

VANIER: All right, Ron. Ron Brownstein, good to talk to you. Thank you very much.

BROWNSTEIN: Thanks for having me.

VANIER: The women have been hit hard by the Venezuelan crisis. Ahead, we speak with mothers forced to make impossible choices just to survive. And we'll also take you to a gathering of some of the world's richest movers and shakers where multi-billion dollar deals are being made. Stay with us.

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[01:19:43] PATRICK SNELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there. I'm Patrick Snell with your CNN "WORLD SPORT" headlines. We begin in the Premier League with what should have been a 90-minute thriller. But it was anything but as Manchester City played host to Chelsea on Sunday.

Raheem Sterling, opening up the scoring the fourth minute. And from there on in, it was an absolute meltdown for Maurizio Sarri's team. Sterling went on to grab too.

Argentine superstar Sergio Aguero with a hat-trick as the City seen thrashed Chelsea 6-0 at the Etihad. And in doing so, they are back on top of the table edging Liverpool on goal difference.

The other Premier League fixture, Sunday, seeing Tottenham beat Leicester, 3-1. Son Heung-min continuing his fine run of form since he returned from the Asian Cup. He knocked in the first goal at Wembley in the final one to in stoppage time for Spurs. They stay in touch with both City and Liverpool trailing by just the five points.

And to the world of skiing, Lindsey Vonn is one of the greatest skiers of all time but we have seen it in action for the last time on Sunday. And she went out in a blaze of glory two of the world championships in Sweden. The 34-year-old has battled serious injuries throughout her career and she was hoping to make it to the end of the season.

But she recently been forced to accept that a body just couldn't take the punishment anymore. Well, on Sunday, Vonn went for it and a storming run. Just look at this, it entered the bronze, she was competitive until the very end.

That is a look at your CNN "WORLD SPORT" headlines. I am Patrick Snell.

VANIER: New developments in the Venezuelan power struggle. Embattled President Nicolas Maduro says he is beefing up his nation's defenses to prevent foreign aggression. During military exercises, Sunday, he announced the purchase of thousands of surface-to-air missile launchers from Russia.

Mr. Maduro also warned U.S. President Donald Trump against taking action in the country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NICOLAS MADURO, PRESIDENT OF VENEZUELA (through translator): We are a peaceful country. But we do not want anyone to get into our business that Donald Trump does not threaten us. Out Donald Trump from Venezuela. Out your threats. Here we have armed forces, and here's the people to defend the honor, the dignity, and respect of a nation that has more than 200 years fighting for its future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: Meanwhile, Mr. Maduro continues to prevent humanitarian aid from entering the country despite growing calls for him to accept the relief shipments. Stefano Pozzebon has more from Caracas.

STEFANO POZZEBON, CNN JOURNALIST: Yes, no end in sight at the humanitarian aid stalemate on the Colombia-Venezuelan border. On Sunday, doctors from Venezuela protested at the border demanding the opening of a humanitarian aid channel. Demanding this humanitarian aid that stockpiled in the city of Cucuta, coming from Colombia and from the United States to be allowed into the country.

A calls made it's owned by the leader of the opposition Juan Guaido, who on Sunday here in Caracas demanded the opening of the border to let humanitarian aid in. But at the same time, Nicolas Maduro, the embattled Venezuelan president still has the support of the armed force is having none of it and reiterated his intention to keep the aid out of the country or keep this aid out of the country, calling it a vessel of interference and insurance inside Venezuela.

And he may even clear high wants to treat this interference from abroad by announcing the purchase of thousands of thousands of surface-to-air missile launcher from Russia. Saying that these are weapons that will be used to defend the Venezuelan fatherland.

So, while we see the humanitarian aid is still at the very bottom of this political stalemate here in Caracas, neither of the two leader is walking down from the pressure is able to find a common ground with the other side and try to broker a peaceful end to this dramatic stalemate. For CNN, this is Stefano Pozzebon, Caracas.

VANIER: And the Venezuelan crisis has also had a huge impact on women. Before the downturn, many of them worked as lawyers, nurses, but after the crisis hit, they were forced to take desperate measures just to survive. CNN's Isa Suares brings us their story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: On the street corners, in the main squares of Colombia's border, city of Cucuta, Venezuelan women hide their pain behind their feign smiles.

It's here I meet Mariza, who trembles as she tells me her story.

MARIZA, FORMER NURSE: It's frustrating because I didn't study for this.

SOARES: As a nurse back home, she worked 15 days for a bag of flour.

MARIZA: I didn't have any other option but to do this.

SOARES: Frustrated, desperate, and unable to find work in a city with the highest unemployment in Colombia. She now sells her body to feed her children back home. Earning a mere $6.00 per man.

MARIZA: It's frustrating because you realize that you worked five years of my life studying, but I feel at this moment that it's five years I've lost because I can't practice.

[01:25:02] SOARES: With each tear, comes a drop of anger.

MARIZA: The government has a lot in this -- the current one, but the previous one is even more guilty.

SOARES: But the shame is overpowering and keeping the secret is tearing her apart.

Do you think your mother would understand your reason for doing this?

MARIZA: My mom is a super mom. My mom is everything. And I know that the day she finds out for whatever reason, it will hurt her but she won't judge me.

SOARES: On a different square just down the road --

MALCIA, FORMER ATTORNEY: I'm a woman that never imagined this, getting to this extreme.

SOARES: I meet an experience attorney also selling sex to feed a two children and parents back in Venezuela.

MALCIA: I can only afford to give them breakfast, sometimes just lunch, and at times they go to bed without eating. They go to school. I even do the impossible.

SOARES: But the impossible, she tells me has become a burden.

At the end of the day, what do you do? Cry? Pray?

MALCIA: Yes, I kneel at night to ask God. I've even been to church to ask God for forgiveness, because I think of my kids' little faces, my parents. It's not easy friend, it's not easy.

SOARES: Isa Soares, CNN, Cucuta, Columbia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: And health officials and the Democratic Republic of Congo, say there are now about 800 cases of Ebola in the outbreak that began last year. More than 500 people have died, including almost 100 children. It is the second deadliest and second largest Ebola outbreak in history. Topped only by the 2014 crisis in West Africa. And remember, that one killed more than 11,000 people.

Iran is commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution right now. But did the revolution really achieve what it set out to do? We'll go to Tehran, find out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[01:30:38] CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to the CNN NEWSROOM.

I'm Cyril Vanier. The headlines this hour.

A battle to seize the last ISIS enclave in Syria is raging near the Iraqi border. U.S.-backed fighters launched an operation to take Baghouz al-Fawqani on Saturday.

CNN's Ben Wedeman is on the ground reporting exclusively from the scene of the battle. He says ISIS launched a counter attack earlier using fog as cover.

There's a growing fear in Washington that there could be another federal government shutdown. And that's because progress has reportedly stalled in border security talks between lawmakers and the President. Mr. Trump tweeted "The Democrats are behaving irrationally".

Add another name to the list of U.S. Democratic presidential hopefuls -- Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. And that's where she announced her run in the middle of a snowstorm. She told supporters her working-class roots can help win back support from those who vote for Donald Trump.

More than 500 people have died in the latest ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and that includes nearly a hundred children. Health officials say the outbreak which began in August is the second deadliest and second largest in history topped only by the 2014 crisis in west Africa which killed more than 11,000 people.

It is no secret that China is expanding its financial reach around the globe. And in the United Arab Emirates it is finding open arms.

John Defterios takes to us to the World Government Summit where multibillion dollars deals are born.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): big deals, big agendas -- an annual event to talk innovation and technology to spark growth. And the United Arab Emirates started with the two large emerging markets.

MOHAMMED KHALAF AL HABTOOR, CHAIRMAN, AL HABTOOR GROUP: It's not easy to do this project.

DEFTERIOS: According to the chairman of one of the biggest conglomerates in the gulf, cracking China was a major milestone.

AL-HABTOOR: They accepted us as partners with them in business and they appreciate our quality. And they appreciate our understanding, because transparency in business is the most important.

DEFTERIOS: Trade between China and the U.A.E. is forecasted to hit $70 billion by 2020. And with India, it's expected to exceed $100 billion in the same time frame pursuing projects in trade, energy and infrastructure.

It all started in 2008 when prime minister of the U.A.E. and ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktum visited China. Followed seven years later by the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi to strengthen ties.

Still bearing fruit, the Chinese shipping giant Cosco is opening a new terminal spending over $300 million at Abu Dhabi's industrial zone -- all part of the ambitious belt and road initiative.

India was the focus of last year's World Government Summit. Substantial deals have been made including state oil giants ADNOC and Saudi ARAMCO investing $44 billion into a refinery in India. Part of a wider strategy between the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia for oil and gas.

SULTAN AHMED AL JABER, DIRECTOR-GENERAL AND CEO, ADNOC: We're both joining hands complementing each other, building on the strengths and them building on our strength would allow for us to be even more of a powerhouse for meeting the global energy requirements.

DEFTERIOS: The U.A.E. is a country home to less than 10 million people and is clearly focused on harnessing the growth and investment of world's two largest emerging markets.

John Defterios, CNN Business -- Dubai.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: It's been 40 years since Iran's Islamic Revolution toppled the Shah, a seismic event that set in motion decades of animosity with the U.S.

Thousands are gathering right now with a state organized rally at Tehran's Azadi Square to hear an anniversary address by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Our Fred Pleitgen went to Tehran to discover how the revolution's impact is still being felt.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The return from exile of Ayatollah Khomeini in February 1979, and the overthrow of the U.S.-backed Shah marked the culmination of the Islamic Revolution.

[01:34:54] Businessman Abdolghasem Shafe (ph) says he organized opposition groups in those days. Forty years later he believes the revolution produced mixed results.

"Religiously and ideologically the revolution achieved its goals," he says, "but economically due to sanctions and domestic mismanagement we have not yet reached those goals."

The Islamic Revolution also an uprising against America's support for the Shah. In late 1979 Iranian students stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran capturing and holding hostage more than 50 Americans for more than 400 days.

U.S.-Iranian relations have never recovered. Hard liners still chanting death to America at Friday prayers even though Iran's Supreme Leader recently tried to tone down the rhetoric.

"Let me make something clear for U.S. leaders," he said, "death to America means death to Trump, John Bolton and Pompeo. It means death to American rulers. We have no problems with the American people."

The Trump White House is cracking down on Iran, pulling the U.S. out of a nuclear deal signed by the Obama administration. And hitting the country with sanctions that are crippling its economy and causing its currency to plummet.

The U.S. says Iran is a threat to Israel and America's allies in the Middle East and lashed out at Iran's ballistic missile program. Iran's answer -- a defense expo praising the rockets.

(on camera): Iran shows no signs of bowing to American and international pressure. The country says it will continue to develop its ballistic missile program which it says is solely for defense purposes.

(voice over): For the first time Iran recently released video of one of its underground missile assembly facilities. Forty years after the beginning of the Islamic Revolution the confrontation between the U.S. and Iran continues.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN -- Tehran.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: The U.K. has signed a trade agreement with Switzerland that kicks in after Brexit. Now, the deal will keep their current trade relationship as similar as possible after Britain leaves the European Union on March 29th. Switzerland isn't part of the E.U. but it is a part of the single market and is a huge trading partner with the U.K.

Britain's Secretary of State for international trade says the relationship is worth more than $41 billion. Now Britain has to scramble to accomplish even more deals before the Brexit deadline which is now less than two months away.

Meanwhile former prime minister, Tony Blair has thoughts on everyone's worst fear -- a no-deal Brexit. He spoke to Sky News about what he thinks is likely to happen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY BLAIR, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Nobody responsible could propose a no-deal Brexit. And that's why I think even if there isn't a parliamentary majority at the moment for a particular form of Brexit or indeed for another referendum, there is definitely a parliamentary majority against no deal. And I really do believe there are people within the cabinet who are sufficiently serious and responsible not to allow that to happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: Tony Blair there with Sky News.

And unpredictable wild fire is forcing thousands from their homes in New Zealand with no relief in sight. We'll have the latest on the conditions fueling those flames.

Plus, with Virginia's top three government officials all mired in scandals, we'll look at what is next for those men and whether their careers can survive.

[01:38:21] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VANIER: Virginia Governor Ralph Northam says he can help his state heal. Now remember, a week ago he was facing calls to resign after a racist photo from his yearbook surfaced. But since then, two other top government officials have been hit by scandals. As Kaylee Hartung reports, all three men are refusing to resign.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Over the course of the past week, depending on the day, it was a question of which one of Virginia's top three lawmakers could survive their respective scandal. All three of these men all Democrats, now saying they will not resign.

Starting with Virginia's Governor Ralph Northam who has admitted to wearing black face when he was in college. He spoke over the weekend saying he is best suited to help the people of the Commonwealth heal from this difficult week that they have experienced.

Virginia -- a place with a history of racial division over the course of the last 400 years, this past week being a reminder of a not so distant past of those same troubles.

Meanwhile, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, facing accusations from two different women of sexual assault. He is calling for an investigation, saying that an investigation would clear his name. He wants the FBI to get involved. But both of these women saying they will testify if impeachment proceedings do take place here in Virginia's legislature on Monday morning. In fact, House of Delegates member Patrick Hope, he's saying he will introduce articles of impeachment which will be taken to a vote on the House floor only if the Speaker of the House allows it. It doesn't seem that that will be the case.

But Democrats widely asking for his resignation. He continues to say allegations against him unsubstantiated and demonstrably false.

The week of chaos will continue into this next week, we expect here in Virginia.

Kaylee Hartung, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: Strong winds are fueling an unpredictable wildfire that's been burning for more than a week now in New Zealand. Thousands of people are affected and there's really no relief in sight right now.

Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri joins us now. Pedram.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes -- Cyril. Well, you know, we are in the heart of summer, of course, so this is the hottest time of year. This is when you see the wildfires really at their peak across this part of the world. And unfortunately, what's happening here in the past couple of days and really going on about a week now as you said really taking a lot of properties and a lot of damage with it across this particular region.

And there are about 23 helicopters at work here. We have 150 firefighters. Three fixed wing aircraft. So that is a single handedly the largest wild forest fire in the country's history they have had to tackle in the past couple of days.

And you kind of look for any sort of weather pattern here that could bring some relief and we see a couple of signs here to the north. Tropical disturbances in the works and another system down here to the south. And together that looks promising. It looks like maybe we get some rain out of this.

But unfortunately, when you go in for a closer perspective a lot of these systems are coming in with quite a bit of a bark but very little bite. So, when they arrive just some gusty winds and unfortunately what looks promising here with weather on the horizon just becomes those cool pockets of air that bring down drafts and essentially cause powerful gusts, so you see the fires wants to spread as opposed to want to be tapered off and put out.

In fact, on average some 13 millimeters of rainfall is what it takes to stop the spread of wild fires and about 50 millimeters is what it takes to put it out in its entirety. So quite a bit of rainfall and unfortunately that is not in the forecast.

[01:44:58] But you go down towards that northern tip of the South Island here, the community of Pigeon Valley, officials working pretty hard to find out how this fire started last Tuesday. They believe at least three people -- there are potentially three gentlemen in their late teens or early 20s that started the fires.

And we know in the past 12 months across this part of the world just like much of our planet, we are experiencing among the hottest periods on record. In fact, New Zealand's second hottest year on record was 2018 and four of the last six years have been among the hottest on record as well.

So, you really put this together and it's not a good pattern. So, the perspective looks as such here with the firefighting efforts again the largest firefighting -- aerial assault here on a forest fire in New Zealand's history.

And look at the forecast here. Again, storms on the horizon, they approach but the concern is as you go in from Tuesday into Wednesday storms just approach with a lot of wind and not much rain. Wo we are going to watch that here potentially another period where we could see these fires want to spread a little before conditions improve.

Storms are there. But not very impressive and with it, if anything, here, Cyril, is maybe some cooler temperatures later into the week with the fronts that pass by. So at least one piece to hang onto in the forecast.

VANIER: All right. Well Pedram Javaheri -- you'll keep following this for us and hopefully you'll have better news for us and for those communities in Australia at some point. Thank you very much.

JAVAHERI: Thank you.

VANIER: And a big night for women in hip-hop at the Grammys -- just ahead we take a look at the top winners. Stay with us for that.

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JAVAHERI: And thank you for watching CNN. I'm meteorologist Pedram Javaheri for Weather Watch.

Let's start you off across the Americas where another cold week awaits across portions of the Midwest here, highs in Chicago, only one with cloudy conditions.

And notice back towards the east it's an entirely different story especially as you work your way a little farther towards the south and showers possible in places such as Atlanta as a disturbance here cruises by but really much of the activity confined north of the areas around say the Gulf Coast states.

So, you've got to work your way into the Tennessee Valley, that's where the heavy rainfall is. And then work your way into the upper Midwest it is all about the heavy snowfall the next couple of days. And another round of disruption potentially on the major hubs across the Midwestern U.S. from Chicago, on into Detroit, even from the major metro cities of the northeast potentially the heart of the week there.

Some snow showers possible in New York and Boston but notice the trend here. Once we get through that portion where we do have cold enough temps to support snow temps really want to rise rapidly especially for portions of the south into the teens yet again in places such as Charlotte and Atlanta.

And plenty warm even down in the tropics. How about Havana, working up into the 30s here in the early portion of February. 28 degrees in Belize city, Mexico City middle 20s, Guatemala City also at 25 degrees.

[01:50:07] And also watching a few thunderstorms where you expect it this time of year into the tropics. Belen (ph) and Manaus about 29 to 30 degrees, scattered storms. And we leave you with conditions to the south.

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ALFONSO CUARON, DIRECTOR: We like it or not, we are all conducted, sharing the space and time. And when we finally choose to embrace that connection to show compassion towards one another, we all rise together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: That was "Roma" director Alfonso Cuaron giving an acceptance speech at the BAFTA film awards on Sunday. His Netflix distributed movie took home the prize for Best Film. He was also honored as the top director this year.

Meanwhile the leading actor prize went to Rami Malek for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury, that's in "Bohemian Rhapsody" and Olivia Colman got the win in the leading actress category for her performance as Queen Anne in "The Favourite".

And there was another awards show taking place Sunday -- the Grammys. And it was a big night for hip-hop.

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VANIER: Childish Gambino's "This is America" won both the Song of the Year and Record of the Year awards. It is the first time a hip-hop song has won those prizes.

Women were also big winners on Sunday. Lady Gaga and Brandy I Carlyle each took home multiple awards. And Casey Musgraves won four awards including Album of the Year.

Music journalist Myles Tanzer has been watching the Grammys. So, your biggest takeaway -- Myles.

MYLES TANZER, MUSIC JOURNALIST: Yes. It was a huge night for women, I would say.

Casey Musgraves was the big winner. Her album which is a blend of country, rock, disco kind of everything wrapped in one won four awards and was a huge success. Also, Cardi B. had won the night's biggest moments winning Best Rap Album and having one of the greatest performances the Grammys has seen in a really long time.

VANIER: Before the show you were asking -- I read your article whether hip-hop would finally win one of the biggest awards. Do you think the Grammys have made amends?

TANZER: It's a tricky thing to say. Childish Gambino won the award's first Song and Record of the Year which was a huge deal. He actually didn't come to the ceremony to accept his award and there weren't that many big hip-hops biggest names in attendance.

Drake actually showed you up as kind of a surprise which was shocking seeing how many times he's been nominated. This is actually the first time Drake has accepted a Grammy on the telecast and they cut off his speech which was actually --

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VANIER: Yes. That's right. I think he's probably going to have something to say about that at some point.

TANZER: I'm sure we will hear how he feels about it. But it's a tricky kind of thing because as this relationship tries to be tended to on both sides there is kind of bad blood.

VANIER: And by the way, Drake's speech was all about how you don't need a Grammy. If people are listening to your music too bad if you don't get the recognition.

TANZER: He is the master of metacommentary (ph) and he made no exception tonight. And you know, it's a really rousing speech but it's kind of not surprising that they cut it off. I am sure we'll get an extended cut maybe on his Instagram or something like that.

VANIER: And you were talking about the number of female nominees and number of female artists who won awards this evening. When Dua Lipa won an award, she said that female artists had really stepped up this year, which if you haven't been following the Grammys, you know it sounds innocuous but actually she was throwing shade at the Grammys president who'd made some really unfortunate comments last year.

3TANZER: Yes, the outgoing president Neil Portnow after last year's award ceremony said women artists need to step it up to get maybe more nominations or more performance slots.

And we saw this year with a severe course correction in that way, you know. There were -- throughout the night, host Alicia Keys made several very obvious kinds of notes to that.

VANIER: Yes.

TANZER: Obviously Dua Lipa making the biggest one of all. But yes, it was -- throughout the night it was kind of -- I thought there was a lot of ribbing in his direction fairly.

VANIER: Any surprises this evening?

TANZER: I think Dua Lipa winning Best New Artist was pretty surprising but not undeserved. She's had a massive, massive entry to the industry. Her winning best R&B album and having a mammoth kind of performance moment of her own was really great, too. I think this is like a kind of star making moment for her.

[01:54:59] I think in terms of snubs you saw Taylor Swift walk away with zero awards as well as Ariana Grande winning her first Grammy in that category, Best Pop Album. That was kind of a surprising kind of flipping of fortunes.

Yes, all in all, there were shocks kind of at every turn.

VANIER: All right, you have to wonder whether the 2019 edition will help the Grammys sort of make amends and bridge the divide with -- especially with the biggest names in hip-hop and whether it will encourage more of them to come next year and actually either attend or perform. Who knows, we'll see.

Myles Tanzer -- thank you so much for joining us.

TANZER: Thank you so much for having me.

VANIER: All right. thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM.

I'm Cyril Vanier.

You've got another hour of news coming right up with Rosemary Church. You're in great hands. Have a good day.

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