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U.S. Orders All Non-Essential Staff to Leave Iraq; U.S. Cites Increasing Treats from Iran, Allies Skeptical; Iran's Khamenei Downplays Escalation with U.S.; Audio Reveals Pilots Confronted Boing About Safety of Max Planes; Alabama Passes Most Restrictive Abortion Bill in U.S.; Is John Bolton Trump's War Whisperer; Parsi: Bolton Has Always Sought Conflict with Iran; Steve Bannon's Influence on Populism in Europe; Vote Being Seen as Test of Populism in Parts of EU; UK Parliament to Vote on Deal on Week of June 3. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired May 15, 2019 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:00] BIANCA NOBILO, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome to CONNECT THE WORLD. Becky Anderson is out on assignment. So you're with me, Bianca

Nobilo for the show from London for today. Let's get going.

The U.S. and Iran say they don't want war, but tensions between the two countries are growing by the day. The U.S. embassy in Baghdad has ordered

all nonessential staff to leave amid the mounting confrontation between Washington and Tehran. For his part Iran's Supreme Leader is talking down

the possibility of a war with the U.S. while also reportedly talking up his country's nuclear capabilities. Washington claims it has detected urgent

new threats from the Islamic Republic, but the most senior British officer in the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS disagrees.


MAJOR GENERAL CHRIS GHIKA, DEPUTY COMMANDER, COMBINED JOINT TASK FORCE AGAINST ISIS: There's been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces

in Iraq and Syria.

There are a range of threats to American and coalition forces in Iraq and Syria. We monitor them all. Iranian-backed forces is clearly one of them.

And I'm not going to go into the detail of it, but there are a substantial number of militia groups in Iraq and Syria and we don't see any increased

threat from many of them at this stage.


NOBILO: U.S. central command has pushed back suggesting that British ally is wrong. There's no battle yet, battle lines are definitely being drawn.

In Iraq a powerful Shiite political party is warning if the U.S. does decide to attack Iran, Shiite-led popular forces will act.

So is this all a march towards war, or just more high-risk posturing? As ever, we have every angle covered for you. We have Michelle Kosinski at

the State Department in Washington and Nic Robertson in Abu Dhabi. Plus, Fred Pleitgen over in the Iranian capital, Tehran. We'll get to Fred in

just a moment. First to you, Michelle. Michelle, if you could talk us through the threats that the U.S. believes it has knowledge of from Iran

and also this decision to withdraw the nonessential staff from embassies.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's really the question. What are the details of this threat? So far, the U.S. has

not released many. They've briefed U.S. allies in private, but there is criticism and doubt out there because so little has been said publicly

about what are these imminent threats.

What we have known is that the U.S. through intercepts and imagery has seen Iranian boats, and not just any naval boats, but these are assets the IRGC,

the elite Presidential Guard, moving missiles around in the Persian Gulf. There was also talk of the possibility that Iran and its proxy groups

throughout the region were planning attacks against U.S. troops, U.S. assets, as well as those of allies. That is the extent of the threat that

we know.

But we do know that because of this risk to U.S. safety that's why the State Department took this measure to pull away all nonessential staff, not

just from the embassy in Baghdad but also the consulate in Irbil.

And remember, it was just at the end of last year the State Department also closed the consulate in Basra because, again, of Iranian threats and that

had since not been reopened. So now there's no consulate in Basra, the one in Irbil is closed and even the large U.S. presence in Baghdad will

temporarily be vastly reduced -- Bianca.

NOBILO: Michelle, obviously we don't want to speculate, but what type of threat would that response be proportionate to?

KOSINSKI: As I said, imminent threats is what both the State Department and the military, in fact, now have said. So that Iran's proxy groups, its

militias throughout Iraq, would be planning attacks imminently against U.S. assets. So that could mean a soft target like the embassy. Obviously, the

State Department is extremely worried about that. Even though there's a high level of security already in Iraq, or that it could target -- these

groups could target U.S. troops in Iraq or elsewhere in the region. That seems to be the threat.

But when they talk about imminent, we don't know exactly why. We don't know what groups. We don't know who. We don't know when, and we don't

know how they were or are planning to attack -- Bianca.

NOBILO: And, Nic, let's go to you next. What kind of response has there been in the region, the wider region, to American rhetoric, referencing

military capacity and capability and now this action that the U.S. has taken?

[11:05:04] NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: You know, I think one of the ways you can look at this is that there is already sort of

a huge predisposition to distrust the U.S. administration and many things on the Middle East. And if you go back to the Iraq war, the US-led

invasion then back in 2003, it was predicated on the basis of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. None of those were found. So there's a

credibility gap the U.S. has when it puts out positions of what countries are doing in the Middle East and what they're getting up to.

And here specifically Iran and the Trump administration in particular on this because it's always been seen to be hawkish on Iran. It starts from a

position sort of behind the eight ball, if you will, they're not as trusted as they could be. Part of the implications and part of the impact here is

there's concern that the region might be being spun, that President Trump could be wanting to get into confrontation with Iran on flimsy grounds, if

you will. And other people could be collateral damage.

And we've heard, as you mentioned before at the beginning of the show there, the Islamic Dawa Party in Iraq, a Shia group that has a popular

force that could put our people on the streets. And what they're saying is if the United States touches Iran then they are not going to stand back.

That then they would go after U.S. interests in Iraq. So already the very rhetoric here and when you escalate the understanding that the United

States pulls its essential personnel out of star positions in Iraq.

There is an implication and an understanding here that one of the reasons they might do that is because a threat, an attack of whatever scale could

be eminent. And that's the way it's perceived here. So it brings up the background of immediate tensions, sabotage of the vessels over the weekend

here in the United Emirates, the attack on the old pipeline in Saudi Arabia just yesterday. All of this bringing up these tensions at the moment.

NOBILO: Nic Robertson in Abu Dhabi and Michelle Kosinski at the State Department, thank you.

Let's get to our senior international correspondent, Fred Pleitgen, now in Tehran. Fred, what is the Iranian reaction to all of this? How strong do

they feel when presented with this kind of rhetoric of the President discussing military maneuvers?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, the Iranians have said from the Supreme Leader to the President, to the Foreign

Minister that they don't want another escalation of the situation. I think one of the things you referenced was Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme

Leader, coming out yesterday unequivocally saying there is not going to be a war with the United States.

However, he also said that Iran, as he put it, is going to continue to resist. Which essentially means that the Iranians are saying they believe

they can outlast the U.S. in this region, which is, of course, their own region. However, at the same time you do have Iranian military leaders

with some pretty tough talk. And they say if there is a military confrontation -- they say it's not something they want -- but if there is

going to be a military confrontation between themselves and the U.S., they believe they are very strong if something like that happens. And they also

say, it's not just their own forces that would be involved but their proxy forces as well. Here's what we're learning.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): With tensions between the U.S. and Iran high and fears of a possible military confrontation Iran's Supreme Leader putting on

the brakes.

AYATOLLAH ALI KHAMENEI, IRAN'S SUPREME LEADER (through translator): There won't be any war with the help of God. We don't seek a war and they don't

either. They know it's not in their interests.

PLEITGEN: But senior Iranian commanders have said if there is an escalation Iran could attempt to strike U.S. military installations in the

Middle East. Analysts saying Iran's ballistic missiles pose a real threat.

ANISEH BASSIRI TABRIZI, RESEARCH FELLOW, ROYAL UNITED SERVICES INSTITUTE: Iran has committed to so far restrain the range of its missiles to no more

than 2,000 kilometers. But should the potential escalation increase that they might reverse the decision --

PLEITGEN: The U.S. has beefed up its presence in the region sending a carrier strike group, bombers and additional fighter jets. Iran can't

match America superior technology but it's military is a lethal force.

(on camera): Iran's soldiers and its commanders gained a lot of experience fighting in places like Iraq and Syria and that combat experience makes

Iran's armed forces one of the strongest in the Middle East.

(voice-over): Iran has set up allied militias in many countries in the Middle East. A former Revolutionary Guard commander telling me those

forces could be mobilized anytime.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, FORMER REVOLUTIONARY GUARD (through translator): Besides every American base, there is a resistance base, the popular forces

who support the Islamic revolution, he says, and all of America's behavior is under our control. If we're going to act both our missiles and our

popular militia will be in action.

PLEITGEN: Iranians have likened the current standoff to a matchup between President Trump and Iran's Supreme Leader.

[11:10:00] And a former commander says he believes Khamenei has the upper hand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Trump is a poker player, playing with open cards, he says. But our Supreme Leader is a chess player who's

playing under the table. It seems this is a battle of two wills and Trump's tactic is to scare the other side whereas we are not scared of

Trump at all.

PLEITGEN: While both the U.S. and Iran continue to say they don't want an escalation in the Persian Gulf, fears of a possible miscalculation that

could trigger a military confrontation remain.


PLEITGEN: Of course those miscalculations could happen in places where there are American forces and Iranian forces in close proximity. We keep

talking about the Persian Gulf. Of course, also we have to look to other countries in the region like, for instance, Iraq and Syria as well --


ANDERSON: And, Fred, there's been a lot of discussion about the high politics of all of this. But how is it affecting ordinary Iranian people

on the ground where you are?

PLEITGEN: I think Ordinary Iranians right now, many of them of course, are very concerned about the situation. I do think that the Supreme Leader

coming out yesterday and saying unequivocally there's not going to be a war with the United States is something that calmed people down a little bit.

But certainly, they are very still very much concerned especially with some of the things they've been hearing out of the White House.

They've been hearing from the national security advisor, John Bolton, and even with this move the U.S. to withdraw its nonessential embassy

personnel. All of that of course is viewed with a great deal of suspicion by people here on the ground. A lot of them are of course in a very

difficult economic situation with these very tough sanctions the U.S. continues to levy on the Iranians.

Everyday goods like for instance meat have become extremely expensive and, in some cases, hard to get. The currency has been in a tailspin.

Everything has gotten more expensive. And now many people are fearing that the security situation could deteriorate as well. So a lot of people

certainly are very concerned about that.

You do have some people who say, look, we're going to stand up to the United States. There're people who say, look, we've been through

situations like this before. But by and large, there certainly is a concern on the minds of many folks not just here in the city but certainly

as a country as a whole -- Bianca.

NOBILO: Thanks, Fred. Fred Pleitgen in Tehran with us.

Now new audio obtained by CBS News reveals several American airlines pilots confronted Boeing about the safety features on the 737 Max. That's the

airplane that's involved in two recent deadly crashes. The confrontation was recorded weeks after the October crash of a Lion Air 737 Max into the

Java Sea. And four months before the same model operated by Ethiopian Air crashed in Ethiopia.

Let's bring in CNN's Tom Foreman. He's live for us in Washington with more. Thanks for joining us, Tom. If you could talk us through what the

pilot's concerns were, what were raised, and the nature of these recordings, how did they come upon them?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is basically a recording where the Boeing people did not appear to know they were being recorded at the

time. But nonetheless, this was the pilot's union as you noted after the first crash and this is getting to the real crux of the question about the

Max line of planes.

Boeing is essentially arguing that this was a technological advancement, this MCAS system which is now implicated in making both of these planes

nose down in a way they could not be controlled and ultimately to crash. Whereas the pilots are saying we should have known about that. And Boeing

is essentially saying, well this was a technical innovation, that your standard training probably should have been able to handle it. Listen to

this exchange.


PILOT: We flat out deserve to know what is on our airplanes.

BOEING: I don't disagree.

PILOT: these guys didn't even know the dam system was on the airplane -- nor did anyone anybody else.

BOEING: I don't know that understanding the system would've change the outcome on this.


FOREMAN: Boeing is saying in the same conversation, he says, look, this is like a one in a million flight hours event. You didn't need to know about

it. That just would have complicated things. You could have relied on your normal training. And interestingly enough, in a Congressional hearing

happening today with the acting director of the FAA, the Federal Aviation Administration, that's exactly what some Congress members are saying.

Maybe the pilot should have handled it. Maybe it was an equipment problem. Listen to this clash.


BOEING: I don't know that understanding the system would've change the outcome on this. In a million miles, you're going to maybe fly this

airplane, maybe once you're going to see this ever. So we try not to overload the crews with information that unnecessarily so they actually

know the information we believe is important.


FOREMAN: Well that's my mistake, Bianca. That was at the sound I was talking about. But you see where he says one in a million. In the hearing

that's happening right now on Capitol Hill not far from where I am. What you heard from some members of Congress, yes, we think American pilots with

American training would have been able to handle this without having all this extraneous information.

[11:15:04] Where there are some other members of Congress are saying this is not a matter of American pilots versus pilots from somewhere else. This

was an unwelcome surprise. The pilots needed to know about this equipment. It was more powerful. It was more persistent than they expected and they

couldn't react in a moment and come up with a solution.

The ability of Boeing and the FAA to come up with an explanation as to how this plane was certified, how this progressed to this point to produce two

massive fatal crashes. Their ability to answer that is absolutely paramount in the question as to whether or not these planes ever get back

into the air and whether or not Boeing can restore the confidence of the flying public -- Bianca.

NOBILO: Tom Foreman in Washington, thanks so much for bringing us the latest.

FOREMAN: You're welcome.

NOBILO: And speaking of aviation safety, I want to tell you about a CNN exclusive. We've learned that hundreds of U.S. transportation security

administration officials including federal air marshals will be deployed to the U.S./Mexico border. That's to help with the migrant situation there.

This shifts them from duties guaranteeing air safety right at the beginning of the busy summer travel season. We have more on that story on

Still to come here on the show --


BOBBY SINGLETON (D), ALABAMA STATE SENATOR: I apologize to the women of Alabama for this archaic law that we passed.


NOBILO: The most restrictive bill on abortion in America is just one signature away from taking effect. We'll see how it's designed to set up a

Supreme Court battle that could undo decades of abortion rights.

Also, the poster children of populism prepare to face the polls. Europe gears up for a huge election. Find out why it's so important.

And from the European Union to a European competition that isn't even taking place on the continent. Why the Eurovision song contest is so

controversial this year.


NOBILO: Welcome back. It's a debate that's raged in the U.S. for generations. Should abortion be a woman's personal decision to make for

her life and body?

[11:20:00] In 1973 the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the people who take that view and that did not end the controversy. The ruling Roe versus Wade

only galvanized the people who believe abortion takes an unborn life, a life that should have its own rights. Norma McCorvey, the woman once known

as Jane Roe in that landmark Supreme Court ruling even switched sides in the debate. Decades after fighting in court for her right to choose she

became an anti-abortion advocate.


NORMA MCCORVEY, ANTIABORTION ACTIVISTS: I want to thank all the wonderful women that are standing here, I'm so sorry that I signed that affidavit, or

you wouldn't be going through all the --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We love you, Norma.

MCCORVEY: I receive your love. I really do, and I receive God's word. And I love you all.


NOBILO: Well, some antiabortion activists believe now is the time to once again bring this extremely controversial issue before the Supreme Court.

The state of Alabama is leading the charge in this. Passing the most restrictive abortion bill in the country. Even a teenager whose rape would

be denied an abortion unless they are life is in danger. Critics are outraged as Victor Blackwell reports.


SINGLETON: I apologize to the women of Alabama for this archaic law that we passed.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Alabama lawmakers pass the nation's most restrictive abortion bill, one that could set up a direct

challenge to the Supreme Court's landmark Roe V. Wade ruling. The Alabama bill bans nearly all abortions in the state making it a felony punishable

by up to 99 years or life in prison for those providing the abortion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When people's rights are under attack what do we do?

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: We must fight right back.

BLACKWELL: Abortion rights activists surround the Alabama state house and Democrats argue against the legislation's constitutionality on the Senate


LINDA COLEMAN-MADISON (D), ALABAMA STATE SENATE: Republicans, you all, you guys used to say we want the government out of our life. We want them out

of our business. We want them out of our bedroom. Now you're in my womb. I want you out. You don't control this. You don't own this.

BLACKWELL: The law would allow very few exceptions. To avoid a serious health risk to the unborn child's mother, ectopic pregnancy, and if the

unborn child has a lethal anomaly. Democrats tried to add an amendment that would allow abortions in cases of rape and incest but it failed.

CLYDE CHAMBLISS (R), ALABAMA STATE SENATE: A life is a life and even if it is -- its origins are in very difficult situations that life is still

precious. Life is a gift of our creator and we must do everything that we can to protect life.

BLACKWELL: Republican lawmakers say the measure was intentionally drafted to be rigid with limited restrictions in order to be challenged in lower

courts and reach the Supreme Court.

TERRI COLLINS (R), ALABAMA STATE HOUSE: I think everybody I know in the House, and I believe finally we saw in the Senate, understood exactly what

the purpose of this bill was. We'll never get a heartbeat bill to be constitutional until Roe V. Wade is decided and reversed.

BLACKWELL: At least 16 states have recently passed or introduced bills restricting abortion after a doctor can detect a fetal heartbeat in the

womb which is usually about six weeks.

ERIC JOHNSTON, ALABAMA PRO-LIFE COALITION: This is the first time in 46 years that the makeup on the Supreme Court has changed where there's

possibly enough conservatives on there who would believe Roe V. Wade is incorrectly decided.


NOBILO: Our next guest says Americans, quote, have no idea how scary our abortion future will get. Irin Carmon is a CNN contributor and senior

correspondent for "New York Magazine". Irin, thanks very much for being with us.

IRIN CARMON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks for having me.

NOBILO: I'd like to get into first why you think what's happening in Alabama could be so concern or why it might lead to systemic encroachment

and be like the thin end of the wedge when it comes to abortion in America?

CARMON: There're two things I think are really important to know at the outset. And one is that legal excess to abortion is actually very popular

in the United States. It's supported by a vast majority of people including in Alabama. And I think as divisive as the issue can get that

can get lost.

What there is, though, is a small minority of very engaged activist who have managed to commandeer the Republican Party. Who are in control in

state houses and they have been strategizing for over 40 years about how to overturn the repeatedly upheld precedent of the Supreme Court. Which

openly and clearly and unambiguously says you cannot ban abortion before fetal viability, before a fetus can survive on its own outside of the


So this law is actually probably in the short term not going to go into effect. A federal court will say actually the Supreme Court says you can't

do it. In the long term, though, they are setting up a series of actions that this is the outcome that those activists on the right would like to

achieve, and with the changing composition of the Supreme Court is much closer than it ever has been before.

[11:25:04] NOBILO: Irin, I was reading an interesting article in "The Economist" last night about the decline in religious adherence in America,

particularly how there are more people who don't subscribe to any religion than there are main line protestants and Catholics. And I think even

including evangelicals by the end of 2019. So is this out of sync with national sentiment as a whole because obviously there is a strong

correlation between views on abortion and religion?

CARMON: I mean, I think you saw in the reporting that CNN did that there were explicitly religious justifications for this law as opposed to medical

or even human rights arguments. So I think, yes, it's absolutely the case that it's possible in our system of government for a small, very committed

minority to take over the system and use justification that frankly on the face of them are unconstitutional in a country that has separation of

church and state.

So I think that these laws are out of sync with public opinion. They are out of sync with what medical professionals believe is best. Alabama and

Georgia and Mississippi, some of the states where these bans have passed, have catastrophically high maternal mortality. They have health outcomes

for pregnant women that are deeply disturbing. And what we know from places where abortion is already illegal is that it, in fact, endangers

women's health to make these procedures not available.

So I think it's being done out of a set of beliefs that are out of step with the broader population, whether that's religion or whether that's the

health establishment or the average American voter.

NOBILO: Irin Carmon for us in in New York, thank you.

CARMON: Thank you.

NOBILO: Still ahead on CONNECT THE WORLD -- big ideas but what about the big picture?


STEVE BANNON, DONALD TRUMP'S FORMER CHIEF STRATEGIST: Your part of a worldwide movement that is bigger than France, bigger than Italy, bigger

than Hungary, bigger than all of it.


ANDERSON: Big ideas but what about the big picture? Months after Steve Bannon championed populism in Europe, we look at how much impact his words

have really had as the EU prepares to head to the polls.

Plus, we'll have more on escalating U.S. tensions with Iran including a look at the Presidential adviser pushing for aggressive action against

Tehran. Stay with us.


[11:31:44] NOBILO: Welcome back. Just into CNN an update on those ships that the UAE says sabotaged in the Gulf of Oman. The U.S. and the UAE are

saying explosive charges were placed on the ships' holds. Those charges blew five to ten feet size holes according to the preliminary conclusions.

A senior UAE official said a scuba diver could have placed the device.

More now on the escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Both sides say they don't want war but the heated climate is clearly raising some

concerns. One man in the U.S. administration pushing to take action against Iran is President Trump's National Security Adviser John Bolton. A

hawk of the highest order, veteran of the last Bush administration, and a big backer of the war in Iraq, Bolton has favored a harder line on Iran for


Some have even named him Trump's war whisperer, but who is he? Our senior diplomatic correspondent Michelle Kosinski has more.

KOSINSKI: The U.S. policy on Iran now seems squarely in the hands of the person who may be the most vocal, committed decades long Iran hawk in this

administration, National Security Adviser John Bolton.


JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: The longer we wait to confront the threat Iran poses, the harder and more intractable it will become to solve.


KOSINSKI: That's from back from 2006 as Ambassador to the UN, but it's a stance that has lasted.


BOLTON: The Ayatollah Khamenei's 1979 revolution will not last until its 40th birthday.


RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR THE PRESIDENT: You remember John Bolton. If anything John Bolton has become more determined there needs to be regime

change in Iran, regime change. Regime change.


KOSINKSI: In 2015 Bolton wrote a "New York Times" op-ed called "To Stop Iran's Bomb, Bomb Iran." Two years ago he told the MEK, a group of Iranian

exiles once branded a terrorist organization by the U.S., that it should be U.S. policy to overthrow Iran's mullah. Three months ago he tweets this



BOLTON: So, Ayatollah Khamenei, I don't think you'll have many more anniversaries to enjoy.


KOSINSKI: It has rattled other members of the Trump administration at times. Like when Bolton asked the Pentagon for military options to strike

Iran late last year, after mortars were fired at two U.S. compounds in Iraq, thought to be the work of Iran-backed groups first reported by "The

Wall Street Journal."

This week it was Bolton not the Pentagon that announced the U.S.' latest military move warning of unrelenting force if Iran attacks the U.S. or

allies. Exaggeration, though, and cherry-picking intel to suit his views are things Bolton has been accused of multiple times including his stance

on the alleged weapons of destruction in Iraq that led to a U.S. invasion.


BOLTON: I think the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, that military action, was a resounding success.


KOSINSKI: Now causing some worries the U.S.' latest moves could spark hostility.


[11:35:00] SEN. ANGUS KING (I-ME): What worries is you've got Bolton's predisposition and then you've got three or four actions in the last two

weeks designed to poke Iran in the eye. I'm uncomfortable where this is headed.


NOBILO: Joining me now is Trita Parsi, founder of the National Iranian American Council. Trita, you've been watching Bolton for a long time now

and you wrote this recently.

Bolton, a key architect of the disastrous invasion of Iraq, has long gunned for war with Iran and seems intent on escalating tensions regardless of

Tehran's policies.

Let's start with of the recent moves that America has made and the statements Trump has made, do you see Bolton's fingerprints all over those?

TRITA PARSI, FOUNDER, NATIONAL IRANIAN AMERICAN COUNCIL: Absolutely. I think it's important to recognize that, of course, the President is onboard

with the idea of maximum pressure on Iran, and I think it's because he thinks, erroneously, that will lead to an Iranian capitulation and that's

the best negotiating strategy that he can use. But I think Bolton's intent with this maximum strategy is a completely different one, I think he know

it is doesn't work, that it will not work, and as a result it will corner Trump into a position in which he will be forced to escalate further.

And after maximum pressure economically the next step is military action.

NOBILO: And Trita, who else has the President's ear when it comes to Iran, to perhaps counteract or even reinforce the position Bolton takes?

PARSI: It's not entirely clear whether Mike Pompeo may be differing a little bit from Bolton. He certainly uses as different language, much

closer to Trump's language publicly, and there are some reports that indicate there is some tension there as well.

But I think more than anything else there's people in Trump's own base, the people who constitute the core of his supporters that frankly supported him

to a large part because they believed he would not start new wars, that he was going to end the forever wars, and those are issues important to them.

If he goes along with Bolton on this beyond just maximum pressure economically but takes the next step then he will really betray his own

base. Perhaps there's people in that crowd that will be able to catch Trump's ear on this.

NOBILO: Trita, how is this impacting hard-liners in Iran? Is it giving them fresh impetus and material for their cause?

PARSI: Absolutely. At the end of the day you had a big debate in Iran and people were saying if the Iranians just negotiate with the U.S. and find a

compromise both sides can actually win. The U.S. would also like to resolve this nuclear issue. We just have to find a good compromise. And

there were the other school who said, you know, the U.S. will never actually honor any deal with Iran. It will only use negotiations to later

back stab Iran and it simply cannot be trusted.

The latter school is having an air of vindication because what Trump has done by betraying the nuclear deal has really not just undermined the idea

of negotiating with the U.S. it's also undermined the idea that Iran should be engaging diplomatically with the rest of the West. And that's a problem

because that means that Iran will then be pushed in a direction in which it will pursue more aggressive policies and instead of leading with diplomacy

would be leading with other measures.

NOBILO: And in terms of what is really happening right now, we're getting a lot of rhetoric, it strikes me as occupation, I think it's called when

diplomatic leaders and heads of state say they don't want war but if war actually happened that they are prepared and they boast about their

capabilities. It seems we're definitely seeing that on the U.S. side.

President Trump denying there are plans but saying if he were to need to make those plans in order to counteract Iran, that he would need a greater

force than what was reported, and then we were hearing from one of our correspondents, Fred Pleitgen, that Iran has had similar discussions about

their own capabilities to strike military installations in the U.S. --- which belong to the U.S. in the Middle East. What is really happening

beneath the rhetoric? How much of this is simply posturing?

PARSI: There is without a doubt a lot of posturing. I think the Iranian game plan is that they know there's a difference between Trump's position

and Bolton's position and that Trump actually is just going for this because he thinks it's a good negotiating strategy. They want to increase

that tension between Bolton and Trump essentially saying if this actually comes to crunch time and Trump has to make a decision as to whether to use

military force or not, he will back off.

[11:40:00] At that moment, the tension between Bolton and Trump will be the greatest. By the Iranians retaliating now against Trump walking out of the

nuclear deal and putting all of this economic pressure on Iran and starting to reduce some of their own commitments on the nuclear deal. they are now

feeding Bolton who will then as expected, escalate even further. As he does so, Trump will get closer and closer to a position he has to make a


And I think the Iranian calculation is that Trump will then walk back from the brink because in which he doesn't want war. He knows war would be

devastating for both sides but is very good at blustering. Once push comes to shove as it did with North Korea, he will walk back from the brink.

NOBILO: Incredible high stakes strategies on both sides. Trita Parsi, thank you so much for joining us.

PARSI: Thank you so much.

NOBILO: Live from London this is CONNECT THE WORLD. And coming up, Brexit, stage right. We examine if Britain's vote to leave the EU has set

the scene for more populism in Europe.


NOBILO: Welcome back. From Brexit to the rise of nationalist parties, it can at times feel like the European Union is anything but. And that will

be put to the test next week as elections for the EU Parliament take place. It's a contest which the former White House strategist Steve Bannon has

taken a personal interest in, spending time in Europe last year to try and ride the wave of populism. But did he have a lasting impact? Melissa Bell

went to find out.

MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: It was at first discreetly that Steve Bannon began turning up in Europe. In March 2018 Donald Trump's

former chief strategist was seen wandering the streets of Rome just ahead of an Italian election that would bring populists led by Luigi Di Maio and

Matteo Salvini's far right. Just days later Steve Bannon took center stage in France at the far right's annual conference. His message where Italy

led, other European countries would follow.


BANNON: You are part of a worldwide movement that is bigger than France, bigger than Italy, bigger than Hungary, bigger than all of it.


BELL: But Steve Bannon didn't just want to be speaking at events. His plan was to unite and coordinate European populists with concrete actions

like help with polling, advice on messaging, and data targeting and his plan was to do it through an organization called "The Movement" based here

inside the mansion of the Belgian lawyer who runs it.


[11:45:00] MISCHAEL MODRIKAMEN, LEADER OF 'THE MOVEMENT': The problem we face very quickly in Europe is legislation. For one of these reasons, in

many countries it is forbidden for a national party to get contribution in kind or in money from foreign sources. We made our own work and let's in

almost half of the countries in the EU, it was impossible.


BELL: The other problem for Steve Bannon was that some of the populists he was hoping to help like France's Marine Le Pen began to take their

distances. After all nationalists tend to be defined by their nationalism.


MARINE LE PEN, PRESIDENT OF NATIONAL RALLY PARTY: Mr. Bannon is not from a European country. He is an American, with a political force that will be

born of the European elections, it is us and us alone who will build it.


BELL: So it has been in the absence of Steve Bannon with a matter of weeks until the

European elections that European populists have is been trying to build bridges among themselves. In April, Matteo Salvini brought together the

Danish, Finnish and German populist far right and earlier this month he met with Hungary's Viktor Orban to inspect a border. But if fences make good

neighbor, they hardly encourage unity between the parties that sit so resolutely on either side of them, and cooperation has been hard to agree


Back at The Movement's headquarter ins Brussels, aspirations have been lowered from actually helping unify and coordinate Europeans to encouraging

and monitoring the broader spread of the populist wave.


MODRIKAMEN: When Bolsonaro wins an election and The Movement is winning. If Trump is re-elected, the movement is winning. If we have a good score

in the election The Movement is winning. But it's not a battle that will end after the 26th of May. It's just starting.


BELL: Later this month, Matteo Salvini will hold another meeting of populist parties ahead of the May 26th elections. His hope, that unity may

help make populists make progress in polls that for now do not predict them the victory they seek Europe wide. Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.

NOBILO: So what sort of influence can we expect euro-skeptic parties to have next week? Recent polling from Europe Elects suggests they could win

up to 35 percent of the seats in the European Parliament. But here is what you should bear in mind.

So far euro skeptics have failed to coordinate at a European level limiting their overall influence.

Italy's Deputy Prime Minister wants to change that by unifying them into what could be one of the biggest blocs in the EU's Parliament. Quentin

Peel is an associate fellow with the Europe Programme at Chatham House. And he joins me now. Thank you so much for being with us.

So Quentin, let's talk about those parties. How well organized are they now compared to previous elections and how much of a threat is that to the

European project?

QUENTIN PEEL, ASSOCIATE FELLOW OF THE EUROPE PROGRAM, CHATHAM HOUSE: I think they are a bit better organized they've made an effort to get their

acts together, but as Melissa was saying in her report by definition nationalists actually defend the national interests. The idea of having a

sort of program that goes really pan-European is quite difficult and they don't like each other. I mean, Nigel Farage, to take a British case and

Marine Le Pen were utterly incapable of working together in the last Parliament.

They just didn't like each other. So I think it remains to be seen but whatever happens if we're talking about them winning around 30 percent,

even 35 percent of the vote, that's a big and difficult lump of, if you like, political rebels to deal with.

NOBILO: And these elections are very significant this year in particular because there are some huge elections coming up for roles within the EU

itself that have a potential to shape its future. Talk to me a bit about that.

PEEL: The European Parliament has been growing in power steadily over the last couple of decades. It's one of the three pillars of the European

Union. The Commission, which is sort of the civil service. The Council, which is like the government, and the Parliament. But the Parliament

insisted last time around whoever won the elections in the European Parliament whichever party came top, should have a lead candidate, a so

called "spitzenkandidat" in German. Who would become the Commission President and they got it.

And they got it with Jean-Claude Juncker. The first question is, will anybody be so clearly the biggest party that they will get their candidate

to run the Commission? So that's already a question because the center right, the European People's Party which has actually dominated European

politics for the last 20 years is slipping in support partly because it's losing votes to the right, partly because it's losing votes to Mr. Macron

and people in the more liberal slightly center left.

[11:50:00] NOBILO: And given the scope of what Europe is in charge of and given the scale of the voting, what issues are actually at stake here?

Because you referred earlier to the fact that national leaders will have their own interests at heart. But of course, all the individual states

might different prisms through which they view Europe. So what are the main issues at play?

PEEL: Well, I think economies inevitably pretty much top it. Was immigration, immigration has slipped back a little bit. It's now running

at about the third most important issue but it is the uniting issue perhaps for these populist, nationalist movements. So, Mr. Salvini from Italy

that's absolutely central for him. As it is for Viktor Orban, the Hungarian Prime Minister.

So they have that agreement. Having said that, it's the economy, stupid, at the end of the day, and that will be fundamental. Whether you take a

right-wing or a left-wing view on how to revive the European economy, which is really very sluggish at the moment. But there are other big issues out

there, how do you deal with foreign policy and, above all, with Donald Trump? A very difficult challenge for Europe.

And there are people like Viktor Orban he has just been in Washington, what a big friend he is of Donald Trump's. Now he is not a popular figure in

Europe, Viktor Orban and the fact he's a friend with Donald Trump isn't going to be very popular.

NOBILO: No. That is an interesting point, actually, the extent to which the countries will be engaging with Donald Trump. And of course, he's

coming over to Britain in early June and we couldn't possibly sit here without discussing Brexit. I can't escape. So Britain is taking part in

the EU elections, and it's still part of the EU. It wasn't supposed to be based on the original timetable. So three years on from Brexit we're now

hearing the Prime Minister has a new date stated to bring forward the withdrawal bill, fourth time lucky, perhaps. What are her chances and what

exactly do you think she's going to present on them with this time?

PEEL: I think the very first thing is that these elections are going to be a total disaster for Theresa May and her Conservative Party. They are

going to get decimated precisely because she failed to deliver what her party wants, most of it, which is Brexit. Now it's not just that she's

failed to deliver Brexit because, also, there is a strong backlash against Brexit from people who don't want Brexit. So really, the Conservative

Party and to a lesser extent the Labour Party are caught in the middle.

Now I don't know quite what Theresa May is trying to do. She has announced she is going to bring it back to Parliament after the European elections

when the Conservatives may get only 10 percent of the vote. That's devastating.

And I don't think it proves anything that, OK, I'm going to go down to another defeat at Westminster unless the Labour Party as well as her Tory

rebels, the really hard line Brexiters are so appalled at the rise of the Brexit Party led by Nigel Farage, that they will say, oh, my god, anything

rather than face a general election and actually see Farage steal the votes.

NOBILO: I was wondering the same, Quentin Peel, thank you so much for joining me.

Now she is the queen of popular music, but that doesn't mean she's always popular. Madonna is facing new controversy. Find out why next.


NOBILO: Welcome back. Earlier in the show we spoke about a sense of division in Europe as it prepares for major elections. But in our Parting

Shots today, we want to focus on something that could help unite it, something that won't come in the form of politics but instead in pastel


Clear your schedules because this weekend is about to get fabulous. I'm talking about the final of the Eurovision song contest. Representatives

from 26 countries will perform in Tel Aviv and be they sublime or ridiculous, millions around the world will be watching, dancing, and

drinking to every moment. I mentioned the contest is being held in Israel, and that's causing controversy even before the final begins. Opponents of

Israel's policy on settlements in the Palestinian territories are urging artists to boycott the event, particularly Madonna who is due to make a

special appearance.

But as you might expect from the queen of pop, she's as firm in her convictions as she's ever been. Madonna says, "I'll never stop playing

music to suit someone's political agenda nor will I stop speaking out against violations of human rights wherever in the world they may be."

Madonna added that it breaks her heart to hear innocent lives are being lost. She has since told fans on Instagram she is preparing something

special for them.

And we just have one last thing before we go. A Danish politician is trying to find voters in an unusual place. He's taken out a campaign ad on

a website called Porn Hub. The candidate is a former Olympic shot putter turned politician. He told Danish broadcasting half of the internet is

pornography and he needed to reach out directly to the voters. It's anyone's guess who his target audience might be.

Well, thank you for tuning in. We'll have you back in Abu Dhabi with Becky Anderson to round out the week tomorrow. You won't want to miss what she's

been out doing today. For now I'm Bianca Nobilo. That was CONNECT THE WORLD. Thank you for watching.