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CONNECT THE WORLD

ISIS Makes Desperate Last Stand in Eastern Syria; White House Still Evaluating Border Security Deal Compromise; Interview with Karin Kneissl, Austrian Foreign Minister on Brexit; U.K. Prime Minister to Talk Further Over Brexit Deal; Scandal Renews Scrutiny of Bezos' Ties to Saudi Crown Prince; Protesters Demand Maduro Let Air into Venezuela. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired February 12, 2019 - 10:00   ET

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


[10:00:00] BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Becky Anderson for you live in Abu Dhabi where it

is 7:00 in the evening.

We are about to take you into the heart of a battle that's been a defining element of global policy for years. It's right here in eastern Syria where

the U.S.-led coalition is working to force ISIS from its last doggedly held piece of land. This is where the battle is focused. Don't be fooled into

thinking geography is the end of this story. From what to do after the U.S. withdrawal thousands of troops to rebuilding lives and livelihoods

desecrated by the terror group. This tragically is only the beginning. Let's take you straight to Ben Wedeman who is in eastern Syria -- Ben.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, yes, Becky, this battle is proving to be far more difficult than some initially anticipated

a few days ago. We were hearing from commanders of the Syrian Democratic Forces that they thought that perhaps today, perhaps tomorrow the battle

would be over. But it's still rages on. We understand that much to their surprise that ISIS fighters are using what they are describing as heat-

seeking missiles. Which have caused casualties and fatalities within the ranks of the SDF and seem to be slowing down the operation.

Now yesterday morning we were very close to where ISIS made a very fierce counterattack. The day started off with machine gun bullets whizzing over

our head. We saw as the SDF fighters, some of them had to pull back as well as their vehicles as we were pulling out. There were American Special

Forces moving forward as well as other reinforcements.

Every day we hear different predictions about when this battle is going to end. But all indications are that given the defenses that ISIS has built

within the town of Baghouz Al-Fawqani, in terms of tunnels, trenches, booby-traps. They're also using vehicle-born explosive devices -- in plain

English that is suicide car bombs -- all of which complicate the effort. And of course, the problem is further complicated by the presence, Becky,

of so many civilians inside. The latest now we're hearing is that there are thousands of people in there. Some of them being held as human shields

-- Becky.

ANDERSON: While we talk, Ben, I just want to give our viewers a sense of the scope of ISIS attacks across Iraq and in Syria. We've got a map up

here on ISIS attacks in 2019. The reach of this group globally, this is the second -- that I wanted our producer just to bring up. And this, Ben -

- I'm not sure you can see the screen at present -- this gives the scope of ISIS and its affiliates around the world. Let's speak to the one we're

looking at as you and I speak now. What do you understand to be the group's reach around the world?

WEDEMAN: In terms of the appeal of the group's message -- of ISIS's message -- it spans from the Philippines all the way to North Africa, down

to Nigeria. It has sympathizers in Afghanistan, in the Caucasus Mountains, in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt. Now in terms of coordination between

what's left of the leadership of ISIS on this little dot on the map in eastern Syria and all those groups that claim allegiance or affiliation

with ISIS, it's hard to determine how much coordination there is.

But certainly ISIS as a symbol, the symbol of the Doula Islamia, the Islamic state, the alkhilafa, the caliphate has an appeal to marginalized

people in the countries I've mentioned and also as we've seen as a result of terrorist attacks in Belgium, in Germany, in France, and the U.K.

[10:05:00] That its appeal goes far beyond a mere geographical entity that is on the verge of extinction. What is obviously clear here is that nobody

in this area is laboring under the illusion that ISIS is somehow going to disappear once this dot on the map disappears -- Becky.

ANDERSON: And, Ben, just finally, we came to you saying this tragically is only the beginning as we consider how people rebuild their lives and

livelihoods desecrated by this group. If this though is the beginning of the end of the -- of the group as we understood it since 2014 in the region

that you are in, and we consider this only being the beginning for those who remain, those Syrians and Iraqis have spent so many years under this

group's influence. You've been speaking to people in the region that you are in. How do they feel about their future?

WEDEMAN: They're very unsure about their future, "A," in terms of being able to reintegrate into Syrian society, Iraqi society. Because those who

lived for years under the black banner of ISIS now have the mark. The mark of ISIS and they will always be the focus of suspicion. Why were you

there? Why, for instance, the people who I spoke to who came from Idlib, in the far west of Syria, what were they doing, what are they doing in this

tiny town near the Iraqi border on the far east? That goes for the Iraqis from Anbar Province who have come all the way to Syria. Then there's the

Canadians, the Brits, the Germans, the Chechens, all of these people who at this point they want to go back. Many of them do want to go back to their

native countries, but they are going to be the objects of suspicion perhaps for the rest of their lives.

ANDERSON: Ben Wedeman in eastern Syria. Ben, thank you for that.

Another side to this crisis is one the headlines don't always mention. It is the stories of the wives and families of ISIS members who have ended up

in custody. Where do those families now turn? Well as Atika Shubert found out the answer is far from clear.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LENORA LEMKE, WIFE OF ISIS MILITANT: You have the passport.

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 19- year-old Lenora Lemke pulls out her German passport. She was 15 when she left home. Now stranded in northern Syria with two babies. Their father a

member of ISIS. She struggles to remember the last time she had a shower. She counts back a month ago or more. Then she remembers the day she

delivered her youngest, Maria, just 20 days ago.

LEMKE (through translator): After my birth, I made warm water and I was cleaning down there.

SHUBERT: Lenora is one of hundreds of ISIS followers from Europe believed to be in Syria. But countries like Germany are not rushing to take them

back. Germany's foreign ministry told CNN it had no information on the Lemke and that consular help was, quote, virtually impossible.

They said, the federal government is examining possible options to enable German nationals to leave Syria especially in humanitarian cases.

The SDF released this photo from the arrest of Lenora's husband, Martin Lemke, but it's not clear where he would stand trial. At first, she

insists he was just fixing laptops for ISIS. Then she wonders aloud what led her here and how she can get her daughters home.

LEMKE: When you eat one bread for two days, and your kid one year, she couldn't walk because she had so much hungry. She became no teeth because

there is no vitamins. Every mother can accept that and I do this for Allah here, for my God. But when your kids really are crying and wanting on

earth, you say to yourself, you're crazy. What does this have to do with Islam?

SHUBERT: Cradling her daughters Maria and Habiba, Lenora boards bus number two hoping for a short stay at a refugee camp. She sends a message to her

father in German. I hope to see you soon. I really love you. Hopefully we're together soon.

[10:10:00] But Lenora's journey is far from over. And it's not clear if or when Germany will welcome her home.

Atika Shubert, CNN, Berlin.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Well there is more on Lenora's story and many of those others in a similar position on our website. Follow the links on the home page at

CNN.com.

Washington watching President Trump's Twitter feed. Everyone pretty much waiting to see how the President weighs in on the border security deal

struck at least in principle on Monday night. Now Republican and Democratic negotiators appeared to have averted another government shutdown

by cutting a deal that calls for new barriers along a stretch of the U.S. border with Mexico but falls far short of Mr. Trump's call for a wall.

With more here's CNN's Joe Johns.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: We reached an agreement in principle between us.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bipartisan Congressional negotiators announcing that they've reached a tentative deal

to avoid another government shutdown. But it remains unclear whether President Trump will support the compromise.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the White House support this agreement?

SHELBY: We think so. We hope so.

JOHNS: A source tells CNN that White House aides are still digesting the details of the agreement. The President telling a crowd in El Paso last

night that he had not yet been fully briefed.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It may be progress and maybe not. But I had a choice, I could have stayed out there and listened or I

could have come out to the people of El Paso, Texas. I chose you.

JOHNS: Sources tells CNN that the deal includes nearly $1.4 billion for 55 miles of new barrier in the Rio Grande Valley, funding for around 40,000

detention beds, and $1.7 billion increase in overall Department of Homeland Security spending.

The funding for the border barrier is significantly less than President Trump's $5.7 billion demand for a wall and only slightly above the current

funding level of 1.3 billion. It's also less than the 1.6 billion that the Senate offered last year. Which President Trump rejected leading to the

government shutdown. Democrats appearing to drop their demand for a strict cap on immigrants detained within the United States.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: Not a single word was he's going to get every single thing we want. But nobody did. But we're going to get what

is best for the United States.

JOHNS: With the details of the bill immediately coming under fire by conservatives.

REP. MARK MEADOWS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Candidly, what has been outlined tonight is not a serious attempt at securing our borders.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: 1.3 billion? That's not even a wall, a barrier. Any Republican that supports this garbage compromise, you will have to

explain --

JOHNS: A White House official says the administration is floating another option. Taking the deal but using the President's executive powers to

divert other federal funds to build additional barriers. Something the President and his supporters have alluded to in recent days.

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: There're pots of money where presidents, all presidents have access to without a national

emergency.

TRUMP: Just so you know, we're building the wall any way.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Let's go straight to Joe Johns at the White House for you. And Sean Hannity doesn't like it. But what chance, Joe, that this is the start

of what Donald Trump appealed for during his State of the Union speech a week ago today. The start of more compromise, less partisanship and a more

holistic approach to U.S. government policy making.

JOHNS: Becky, if you read between the lines of the President's speech, it was about compromise, but it was about compromise on the President's terms.

And very much so when it comes to this border barrier or wall. The fact of the matter is the President ran on this. He understands that his base

expects to have a wall on the southern border. One way or the other. And seems quite determined to get it. So his big problem, of course, is that

the Congress, the compromise offers far less than the President says he needs. That according to some statistics that were given to him by the

Army Corps of Engineers.

So the question is how does he get it. And there's some suggestion that he could either completely reject this compromise or take the compromise and

add to it piecemeal with funding from other sources that he has available to him up to and including declaring a national emergency. So, we're

waiting to hear what the President says about that. Perhaps on Twitter, perhaps in a cabinet meeting that's going to happen later today -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Keep your eyes peeled for us, Joe. Thank you. Joe Johns at the White House for you.

[10:15:00] Still to come, Theresa May tells U.K. lawmakers to keep calm as Brexit talks go down to the wire. But what do the Europeans think of that?

We speak to Austria's Foreign Minister to get her perspective. Up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: The British Prime Minister has told lawmakers to hold their nerve. That is the message Theresa May gave to Parliament when she updated

members of Parliament on the state of talks with the EU a short time ago. She also said she will give lawmakers another what's known as meaningful

vote after ongoing talks with Brussels. But Mrs. May rejected accusations she is running down the clock ahead of the Brexit date of March 29th.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: The deal was negotiated before Christmas. So I wasn't -- it's not me who's trying to run don't clock.

And it's no-good Labour members who voted against the deal who are pointing their fingers across the House. Every time somebody votes against a deal,

the risk of no-deal increases.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Let's get some perspective from the European side for you at this point. Joining me now is the Austrian Foreign Minister, Karin

Kneissl. She joins us live via Skype from Vienna. And we appreciate your time minister, thank you. Mrs. May talking about holding her nerve and

asking her lawmakers to do the same. Do you think this characterization of the U.K. and EU as being in competition to see who will blink first, as it

were, is helpful?

KARIN KNEISSL, AUSTRIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (via Skype): No, it's not at all helpful. Because it's only leads to an increasing uncertainty. And this

uncertainty is not only for lawmakers, it's, of course, but all for citizens, for business, and in my eyes, we have numerous indications that

we are walking towards a hard Brexit.

ANDERSON: Which means what as far as you're concerned. Just explain why that would be so concerning?

[10:20:00] KNEISSL: It's concerning because we have then a sort of vacuum of legal/political vacuum because the withdrawal agreement as it was

concluded, negotiated along redlines set out by the British government concluded in November at the summit, that was the agreement that everybody

had accepted. And then of course, when it's passed to the British Parliament, the vote was the vote.

But let me give you a concrete example. Ships that are quitting ports in the United Kingdom this Friday, and for instance heading for Australia.

They will arrive there around the 29th of March. They don't know what kind of customs paper they will have to take along. Whether they will be still

a member of the European Union or at midnight of the 29th of March, whether they will be out of the European Union. And there is no legal frame when

it comes to what that means for the shipping of goods.

ANDERSON: Yes, and there is -- you're right to point that out -- clearly a lot of confusion and a lot of concern. Do you think Mrs. May is running

down the clock as many accuse her of?

KNEISSL: Well I wouldn't accuse the Prime Minister, Theresa May, of now being the scapegoat or having the black heart in the whole thing. We have

many actors who contributed to the situation that we're in right now. I recall May's speech just after the vote on January 15th when she asked her

colleagues in Parliament, but, yes, you voted now against, but please tell me what you want. What exactly. And this is the same question asked by

the European Union. Let us know what you want and then we can talk about it.

ANDERSON: We know the EU is standing firm on refusing to reopen negotiations at this point. But we heard more diplomatic overtures from

the Irish Prime Minister, last Friday he said this ahead of meeting Mrs. May.

There is much more that unites us than divides us. I believe ultimately, we are going to have to get this deal over the line and I am determined to

do that.

And with the greatest of respects, minister, is there any leeway on the European side?

KNEISSL: Again, we negotiated a document that is more than 600 pages, very detailed and everything is in there. In particular when it comes to the

Irish question. Because in the -- Yes?

ANDERSON: Sorry, I'm going to move you on. Because that's looking backwards. And I'm really, really hoping that we can get a sort of

forward-looking discussion here. Is there any leeway on the European side is what I'm asking now with six weeks to go?

KNEISSL: The leeway I think that could be imagined is that we work on the Political Declaration when it comes to the mandate of Commissioner Barnier

who negotiations also future relations between the U.K. and the European Union. But for all that and any kind of legal steps, we would need an

application by the United Kingdom according to famous Article 50 and say please let us extend the deadline, and then we need also a unanimous vote

for the remaining 27. So it sounds very legalistic, I'm sorry, but the European Union is made of contracts and legal standards. So this is the

procedure.

ANDERSON: Do you want to see an extension of this deadline? Yes or no.

KNEISSL: Well, it's not so much up to me. It's really first of all --

ANDERSON: How would you vote?

KNEISSL: Well, it's also -- I'm not voting, this is up to the heads of state and -- it's up to the chancellor in our case, and of course it would

be a position within the European Union. We said -- Chancellor Kunz has said, if there is an added value within this new offer by the British, then

we can consider postponing of the deadline. But for all that, it has to be meaningful. It has to have some sort of added value.

ANDERSON: The U.K.'s foreign minister has underlined just how important a deal is, especially when it comes to peace and Northern Ireland. Speaking

to the U.K.'s "Evening Standard" newspaper he said and I quote here.

No one who grew up with bombs every week in Northern Ireland but also in Harrods, and Hyde Park and throughout the U.K. could ever countenance

taking a risk with peace, and nor will we. But the best way to secure that peace is to do a Brexit deal that secures friendly relations between the

U.K. and its neighbors. And that means sensible compromise on all side.

He's right, surely, isn't he?

[10:25:00] KNEISSL: Of course. And I and I had the opportunity to discuss with Jeremy Hunt about two weeks ago when we met in Bucharest. And he's

fully right, but again, we have agreed on all those aspects and in particular when it comes to preserving peace in Northern Ireland according

to the Good Friday Agreement, this is sacrosanct for everybody. It's more important than all the trade questions, is about peace and war, as Jeremy

Hunt is pointed out. And here we have everything already enshrined within the Withdrawal Agreement. But of course, if the British do not like that

document, then we have to know what exactly do they want.

ANDERSON: Finally, George Soros -- the financier and philanthropist who has made billions out of moments of historic instability across Europe over

the past couple of decades or more -- has said and I quote.

The EU is sleepwalking into oblivion. And the people of Europe need to wake up before it is too late. He says, most of us assume that the future

will more or less resemble the present, but this is not necessarily so.

The cloud of Brexit can mask what is a very fractured Europe at present. When we see the Europeans working as one block with regard to these

negotiations with the U.K., that hides a very fractured European Union at present, doesn't it? Are you concerned?

KNEISSL: I'm concerned for various reasons, but again the cohesion that we have preserved among the 27 with regards to Brexit is special. We are at

odds against each other on so many topics. Whether it's migration whether it's the budget, et cetera. So and I personally -- and I've said it in

public -- I think that Brexit can somehow be handled over hard Brexit. What is at stake is ending uncertainty. But we have, of course, numerous

other issues at stake. And I personally always remind my colleagues at new council meetings, please let us stop a pea counting mentality that we

sometimes have and be able to think in a larger geopolitical context. And this we have to improve, definitely. There is a certain tendency to be too

euro-centric and forget about what's going on, on the entire planet. So here, more geopolitics, less pea counting.

ANDERSON: Fascinating. Thank you, Karin.

KNEISSL: You're most welcome, Becky. Thank you.

ANDERSON: Thank you.

KNEISSL: Thank you very much.

ANDERSON: Coming up, a scandal involving the world's richest man putting a new spotlight on a complicated web of connections. We're going to take a

look at Jeff Bezos' past ties to the Saudi Crown Prince.

Plus, a young activists in Venezuela mark a national holiday with widespread protests against President Nicolas Maduro. We go to Caracas

after this break.

[10:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: You're watching CNN. This is CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Becky Anderson for you. Welcome back. Just after 7:30 in the UAE. We are

broadcasting from our programming hub here in the Middle East.

It's been nearly a year since a glossy magazine hit the newsstand trying to sell Americans on a portrayal of Saudi Arabia. "The New Kingdom" was

published by American Media Inc, the same publisher of the "National Enquirer." Well that company's ties to Saudi Arabia are now under renewed

scrutiny because of an explosive scandal including or involving the world's richest man.

Jeff Bezos is accusing AMI of trying to blackmail him. And he is suggesting that Saudi Arabia may be involved. But as Nic Robertson

reports, the scandal also triggering scrutiny of Jeff Bezos' own ties to the Saudi Crown Prince himself.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): Less than a year ago, Jeff Bezos and the Saudi's powerful Crown Prince appeared on

good terms. Mohammad bin Salman was in the U.S. pushing his reform agenda, courting investors including Bezos. Fast forward to the fall, Bezos's

"Washington Post" columnist Jamal Khashoggi murdered by Saudi agents. Bezos is silent. "The Post" is not. Khashoggi's editor steps up her

security.

KAREN ATTIAH, WASHINGTON POST GLOBAL OPINIONS EDITOR: For the last four months, I mean, it's been and we talk about threats against journalists,

I've had to be worried about my own security.

ROBERTSON: Bezos and his Amazon empire and its smaller Mideast site Souq.com videos become targets for a pro-Saudi social media takedown

beginning early November. Thousands of tweets, many pro-Saudi calling for a boycott of Amazon.

This video posted seven weeks after Khashoggi's killing, saying the owner of Amazon and Souq attacking Saudi. His newspaper, "Washington Post," is

being used to attack us on a daily basis. The question is will we allow him to do that?

A local pro-government journalist adds his voice. Explaining to Saudis who Bezos is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The owner of "The Washington Post" Jeff Bezos is leading the biggest media campaign against Saudi. Claims he

is a spiteful racist person against our country and trying to destabilize us. Concluding boycotting Amazon is the best solution to take.

His post garnering more than a quarter million views. Bezos didn't react. Then last week he took aim at AMI for what he called blackmail over lured

pictures of him with his girlfriend, Lauren Sanchez. Sharing this insight on the heat he takes. It's unavoidable that certain powerful people who

experience "Washington Post" news coverage will wrongly conclude that I'm their enemy.

[10:35:00] Not clear if Jeff Bezos is talking about his onetime possible business partner MBS or today's foe, AMI owner, David Pecker, who outed his

marriage-ending affair, or both of them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Well, Nic joining us live from London with more. What a difference a year makes. These images that I want to bring up, Nic, of the

Crown Prince on what was that gilded tour of the States just a year ago. Let's bring these images up if we can. Meeting politicians, and CEOs

including Bezos, and celebrities. You know, we know now there is an air of toxicity around anything link to Saudi Arabia. And that as we know is

extremely damaging to the Kingdom's reputation and quite frankly its future opportunities to expand its economy away from its traditional reliance on

oil and into a more modern and competitive open society. What are the risks here for Riyadh -- Nic?

ROBERTSON: You know, I think a lot of analysts have obviously and potential business investors in Saudi Arabia have looked at many things

going on in the country. And they did have a positive impression about the Crown Prince. And when he locked up several hundred rich businessmen and

some of them members of the Royal family, that put the international investors, if you will, on a note of caution. The murder of Jamal

Khashoggi has been another.

But then they will also look at the way the Kingdom has handled it subsequently. And they will look at, for example, that welter of tweets

that came out vilifying Jeff Bezos, vilifying his business interest here. Going after the things that are key to him. This will be a warning for

potential investors in Saudi Arabia that if you cross the Crown Prince -- and we're not here saying these tweets came from the Crown Prince -- but

analysts in the region that have studied these tweets do see a systematic use of tweets. Do believe there's a system of bots that may have been

involved in pushing some of these tweets, this narrative along.

The business community won't have an answer to that question either of who was responsible, but they'll certainly see the possibility that if they get

out of step with the Crown Prince, then there's a possibility that their business interests are going to be targeted. And that's obviously not

something they're going to be looking for. So I think that, if you will, is one of the things that we're getting the broader message here about.

And Bezos' own comment is that I'm being essentially misunderstood from where my real interests lie. You can see a number of other businessmen

saying, OK, you know, it's happened to him, the richest man in the world, how would I fair in that scenario.

ANDERSON: The Kingdom will want to try to rehabilitate itself in 2019. When you speak to people around this region, there is certainly the sense

that whilst, you know, there is sort of overarching sense of complete horror and disgust as to what happened back in October with Jamal

Khashoggi, they are eager to see Saudi Arabia that doesn't go backwards but goes forwards. What chance of rehabilitation of Riyadh, the Kingdom, can

now happen this year?

ROBERTSON: It's going to be a struggle. I don't think anyone would underestimate the scale of the struggle. And much of it will depend on how

the Kingdom handles it. We see the way the Kingdom wants to handle it, which is essentially to be trusted to investigate the murder of Jamal

Khashoggi themselves. To be allowed to bring justice to the people they say responsible for it. We've heard this from the former foreign minister,

now the minister of state for foreign affairs, Ibrahim Abdulaziz, just in the past few days we've heard that again.

But you know, there's going to be also a lot of political pressure on President Trump and his relationship with the Kingdom. But we also know

that the Kingdom is looking in another direction there. The Crown Prince has a trip comes up to India and Pakistan and importantly China in the

coming days.

ANDERSON: Nic Robertson is in London for you, where it is -- what is it? I think it's 3:39 these days? Give or take a bit of change.

ROBERTSON: Yes.

ANDERSON: 3:39 in the afternoon. Nic, thank you. It's 7:39 here.

Mass protests against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro are taking place in Caracas right now with the nation's youth leading the way and demanding

the embattled leader now allow desperately needed aid into the country. Thousands of people marching in support of the opposition leader and self-

declared interim president, Juan Guaido. He says his team has delivered its first shipment of humanitarian aid but didn't specify where it came

from.

[10:40:00] Well meanwhile, Mr. Maduro insists there is no crisis and his people are not beggars. CNN's Isa Soares is in the Colombian border town

of Cucuta. I'll get to you momentarily. First, let's get to journalist, Stefano Pozzebon, who is in amongst protesters in Caracas. Tell us what

you're hearing and what people are telling you.

STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST: Yes, Becky what we're seeing is that thousands and thousands of anti-Maduro protesters took to the streets of

Caracas yet again today to demand fresh, free and fair elections. And today is the day of the youth here in Venezuela. Next to me are two young

Venezuelans. One of them is Maria. And she's only 22. And I'm going to ask her why are you here?

So, Becky, she told me that she wants a future for her country. She wants to live in a country that's up to her expectations. She wants a normal

life like many other citizens around the world. She can't find it right now in Venezuela. This is the reason why time and time again we've covered

protests here. This is the reason why time and time again hundreds of thousands of protesters took out on the streets to demand the resignation

of Maduro. And what we're hearing today is that it feels difference because of the international community. Because of such a staunch support

by the international community on the opposition side. This could be the way Maduro is shown his way out, Becky, back to you.

ANDERSON: Yes, thank you, Stefano.

Isa, let's be very clear, we have seen these sort of numbers in protests in support of the interim self-declared President, Juan Guaido. We've also

seen, of course, demonstrations in support of Maduro. But this, as Stefano says, feels different today. From where you are, what is the perspective

and story?

ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Becky, we also expecting to see in a couple hours, in fact, pro-Guaido protests and rally in the center

of Cucuta also led by the youth, as it is youth led. But also, they'll be remembering those who died about three or four years ago. If you remember,

120 died on those protests, taking part in protests. That change of power to try and oust Maduro.

But people here what they've been telling me as I stand on this bridge, if I walked further down, if I'm in the center of Cucuta, asking me, Becky,

they stop me and they ask me, what is the aid? When are we getting the aid? When is the aid coming? The aid is in a warehouse. And people do

say to me, well, if the aid is not coming, then we're go and get it. And it's this kind of rhetoric, these voices, these calls that Guaido is

calling out, that Guaido wants to hear from Venezuelans. Not just living in Venezuela -- I might add -- but also in Colombia. Remember, more than 1

million or so have left for Colombia.

So what we've seen the last 24 hours is Juan Guaido claiming he's received a batch of humanitarian aid. And he delivered it to one of the poorest

areas in Venezuela. Helping mostly pregnant women but also children. What we don't know and what they haven't answered call is yet, Becky, where is

the aid coming from? How did their aid get there?

In the meantime, of course, we are hearing from Nicolas Maduro saying this aid in many ways is a trojan horse. It is a political weapon in many ways.

Says the man ironically, too, who has used aid as a political weapon calling on people to vote for food time and time again. Not just him but

obviously, Hugo Chavez. So becoming extremely politicized. In the meantime people are still queueing for food, for milk, for bread, and

begging on the streets. Even asking us for any piece of money, I mean money they can get so they can get medicine. Simple things such

praziquantel, Becky. So worth bearing in mind what this comes down to and this comes down to people not having food. Not having basic staples --

Becky.

ANDERSON: Isa is on the border and Stefano, no course, in amongst the crowd in Caracas. To both of you, thank you.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Becky Anderson. We are live for you from Abu Dhabi.

Coming up, but Trump says ISIS has been beaten. While the battle to oust them rages on. But what happens when the U.S. does pull out? More on

Trump's Syria policy up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: You're watching CNN, this is CONNECT THE WORLD with me Becky Anderson. It's 7:45 in the UAE.

Back to our top story. The looming fall of ISIS' final enclave near the Syrian/Iraqi border where ISIS fighters are facing heavy bombardment by the

U.S. led coalition. But the battle to oust them from their final tiny patch of territory is proving to be far from easy. And it's not all about

the fighting Eastern Syria, in fact, this might be the beginning of a bigger one. The top U.S. general overseeing the operation warning that

even if ISIS loses now, they will remain a dangerous threat to the region in the future.

To talk more about what might happen next let's bring in Andrew Tabler, author of "In the Lion's Den." An eyewitness account of Washington's

battle with Syria, and senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He joins us now from Washington. What do you make of those

comments with regard to what we might read into U.S./Syria policy going forward, sir?

ANDREW TABLER, AUTHOR AND SENIOR FELLOW, WASHING INSTITUTE FOR NEAR EAST POLICY (via Skype): Well, ISIS as a caliphate, as a military operation so

to speak is close to being over. The last pocket is surrounded. It's under bombardment. It is expected to fall very shortly. ISIS, while it

does not hold this territory in terms of militarily, it's being transform transformed probably into an insurgency. Therefore spreading out the group

and many U.S. officials and Western officials are concerned that the group continues to live and thrive in areas which -- in elsewhere in Syria and

Iraq.

ANDERSON: Andrew, you made the case very strongly back in 2013 for the U.S. to intervene in Syria. Warning in an article entitled "Syria's

Collapse and How Washington Can Stop It" that -- A prolonged sectarian civil war risks becoming a broader proxy fight between Iran and the Sunni

powers, which would devastate the region as a whole.

Andrew, Donald Trump now touting the defeat of ISIS and America keen to leave the proxy war very much a really reality and risks devastating even

more of the region. In light of all of that should President Trump change course on his Syria policy?

TABLER: I think that under the circumstances, that the U.S. was never going to stay in Syria and I understood that. And I think many others

understood that. Because there really is not broad political support to do so from either on the Republican side or the Democratic side and so on.

The question was at what rate and how does one withdraw U.S. forces. And that's where this has been quite controversial. President Trump has

ordered a relatively rapid withdrawal based on certain number of conditions -- as he's talked about in his tweets and in his speeches.

[10:51:00] The question is whether that -- what will that withdraw set off in terms of this proxy scramble for eastern Syria. In this is where this

gets very tricky. Because Turkey and the Syrian Democratic Forces -- basically Kurdish-backed group that the U.S. supported to defeat ISIS --

hate each other. And it was difficult to reconcile those two allies. And that dilemma precipitated America's exit. What does that mean?

ANDERSON: Yes.

TABLER: Following withdrawal. That's the question.

ANDERSON: Yes, I hear what you're saying. There're also enormous opportunities for the Iranians in eastern Syria with the oil that sits

there, which is being so used as ever as a negotiating tool at present and slipping around all over the shop. With all this focus on the last scraps

of ISIS' caliphate, are we losing sight of the bigger picture here? What's the former U.S. envoy to the -- this is what the former U.S. envoy to the

anti-ISIS coalition said in 2017, have a quick listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRETT MCGURK, FORMER U.S. ENVOY TO THE ANTI-ISIS COALITION: Idlib Province is the largest Al Qaeda safe haven since 9/11. Tied directly to Aman al-

Zawahiri. This is a huge problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Does the coalition need to turn its attention to Idlib next?

TABLER: Well, it is the largest pocket of Al Qaeda in the world, or Al Qaeda affiliate. And of course we need to pay attention to it. The

problem, of course, that's in western Syria. That's in the Russian dominated area of Syria with the Assad regime and the Iranians. So for the

U.S. to do anything militarily there, it would run up against Russia or have to go through Russia, and also against the Iranians. And that is

where this all gets tricky. Unless, of course, their ally, Turkey, could intervene there. Bring people away from the Al Qaeda affiliate. But so

far Turkey has been unable to do so. And so that pocket, after a U.S. withdrawal, that pocket in Idlib Province is going to remain for some time.

ANDERSON: With that we are going to leave it there, sir. Thank you.

TABLER: My pleasure.

ANDERSON: We are going to take a very short break, viewers. Back after this.

[10:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Well he has defended the galaxy, cracked the whip on Nazis and told a terrorist get off my plane. Your Parting Shots this evening is none

other than Mr. President/Indiana Jones/Hans Solo. But who else but the one and only Harrison Ford next to an ocean not very far away. He told me how

much time we have to fight climate change.

[10:55:00 (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARRISON FORD, ACTOR: It's not geological time. It's really the urgency is in getting started to scale and moving it to scale as quickly as it

needs to happen. We haven't got much time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: There's not much time to wait until the full interview where Harrison tells me how things are going between him and Donald Trump. That

is only right here on CONNECT THE WORLD tomorrow.

Some fantastic CONNECT THE WORLD reporting for you then coming up oh so very soon. And some incredible coverage on the Facebook page. Do check

that out. With CNN on the ground watching firsthand a huge battle on the frontline of ISIS' last stand. You can find that incredible reporting up

on Facebook.com/CNNConnect, amongst other things.

I'm Becky Anderson. That was CONNECT THE WORLD. From the team here, it's very good evening.

END