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HALA GORANI TONIGHT
Officials: Iran Seizes British Tanker In Strait Of Hormuz; President Trump Returns To Defense Of Chanting Rally Crowd; Interview With Melissa Mark-Viverito As Protests Continue In Puerto Rico; U.K. Official: COBRA Meeting Being Held On Tanker Seizure. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired July 19, 2019 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:07] BIANCA NOBILO, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone. Live from CNN London, I'm Bianca Nobilo, in for Hala Gorani.
Tonight, the United States and Iran, at odds. This time, over an Iranian drone that President Trump says was destroyed, Thursday. What he said
about that in just the last few minutes.
And that wasn't all the president talked about. He struck a defiant tone over his racist tweets and the "Send her home" chant that they inspired.
Plus, it's been called one of Japan's worst mass killings. Tragic details from the arson fire at an animation studio in Kyoto.
Our top story this hour, Iran is denying reports that the U.S. destroyed an Iranian drone over the Strait of Hormuz. President Donald Trump claims
this U.S. Navy ship that you're looking at now, downed the drone after it flew too close to an American ship and ignored multiple calls to stand
But Iran denies the incident ever happened. Iran's military says all of its drones are accounted for, safe and sound. A short time ago, in the
White House, Mr. Trump and his national security advisor, John Bolton, repeated their assertion that the U.S. brought down an Iranian drone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No doubt about it. No. We shot it down. and of course, I'm sitting here, behind the desk in the Oval
But, John, tell me, please. John Bolton. You're there.
JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Yes. There's no question that this was an Iranian drone. And the USS Boxer took it out, as the president
announced yesterday, because it posed a threat to the ship and its crew. It was entirely the right thing to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBILO: CNN Pentagon Reporter, Ryan Browne joins me now with some breaking news about a British tanker.
Ryan, only in the last couple of minutes, we've been getting reports that the Iranians may have seized a British tanker. This is obviously within a
wider context of an Iranian tanker being seized, supposedly under the auspices of carrying oil to Syria. So talk to us about what you know.
RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: Well, Bianca, we're hearing in the last few minutes, we're talking to U.S. officials who are closely watching
the gulf and the Strait of Hormuz area. And they say it appears to be that a British-flagged chemical tanker was in fact -- appears to have been
seized by Iran and diverted into Iranian waters. And it's possible that it has even been boarded.
We're still gathering details on this right now. We've reached out to, of course, the British government as well as command forces in the region.
The U.S., of course, has a large presence in the region. They've been closely monitoring this.
In fact, just a few days ago, Iranian vessels attempted something very similar. They attempted to seize another British tanker. It was only the
arrival of the HMS Montrose, a British warship, that deterred that attempt.
Iran has threatened to take action in retaliation for what you mentioned was the U.K. government seizure of an Iranian vessel, laden with oil, in
Gibraltar. Royal Marine commandos helped seize that ship and Iran has threatened retaliation.
And the U.S. has boosted its military presence in the region in the hopes of guaranteeing some kind of maritime security. That very narrow stretch
of waterway, the Strait of Hormuz, a lot of important commercial traffic, oil traffic passes through there. The U.S. says its military presence is
there in part to ensure that that waterway remains open.
Iran, in the past, has said it is its area to operate in. It has made claims over it. It has threatened to close the strait in the past, as
tensions have mounted.
So, again, this is kind of why these forces have been operating at such close proximity, which led to this incident on Thursday, where the U.S.
said it downed an Iranian drone that had flown too close to its vessels.
Again, a lot of opportunity for miscalculation, with all these military forces operating so close to one another. And this reported seizure of a
British tanker in international waters, and its diversion into Iranian waters, could definitely raise the stakes here.
NOBILO: Ryan, so how significant an escalation do you think that this would be? And also, under what reasoning would Iran have seized this
British tanker? Because originally, when we're talking about the events where the Royal Marines seized the Iranian tanker, back on the Fourth of
July, that was, by their record of events, because the tanker violated E.U. sanctions and was carrying oil to Syria.
So what would be Iran's reasoning for seizing this tanker now? And how significant a step up is that in tensions in the region?
BROWNE: Well, Tehran had disputed the U.K.'s claims when it seized its tanker. They said it was an illegal seizure, and they've threatened
retaliation against the U.K. And this could very much be their way of retaliating against that action, and they could use it -- their claim might
be that it was a reciprocal action, proportionate response, if you will.
[14:05:04] But this could have wide-ranging impacts on the price of oil. You know, this is something that oil interests watch very closely, as
tensions raise in this narrow stretch of water. It has a real impact on the price of oil and the economy.
And the U.S. has been, for some time now, attempting to marshal other like- minded countries to participate in this operation called Operation Sentinel. They want to help clear these waterways. This could build some
support for that effort. Other countries could join in. It will be interesting to watch if that happens.
Or other countries may see it as too risky given the high tensions in the area, the military action that has already been taken, and stay away.
There's actually a conference going on in the State Department here in Washington right now on this topic. It'll be interesting to see if that
causes any decisions to be made with regards to this latest action with this British-flagged tanker.
NOBILO: Ryan Browne, we appreciate it. We know that you'll keep monitoring that story for us. Significant, also, that the -- the seizure
of the Iranian tanker on the Fourth of July was at the U.S.' suggestion. We've obviously had more stories today about the U.S. shooting down an
Iranian drone, by their record of events.
And now, I can also update viewers. Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has said that its navy has captured a British-flagged oil tanker in
the Strait of Hormuz. That's according to Iran's state-run Press TV. So we'll keep you posted on any updates on that breaking news for you.
Now, it seems Donald Trump just cannot avoid talking about how much he dislikes certain Democrats. At that White House event marking the 50th
anniversary of the Apollo moon landing, the U.S. president launched into yet another angry attack on minority congresswomen, who've been targets all
week. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I'm unhappy with the fact that a congresswoman can hate our country. I'm unhappy with the fact that a congresswoman can say anti-
Semitic things. I'm unhappy with the fact that a congresswoman -- in this case, a different congresswoman -- can call our country and our people,
"Garbage." That's what I'm unhappy with.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're (ph) not (ph) (INAUDIBLE)?
TRUMP: Those people in North Carolina, that stadium was packed. It was a record crowd. And I could have filled it 10 times, as you know. Those are
incredible people. Those are incredible patriots.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBILO: The president's latest comments come less than 24 hours after he tried to distance himself from those racist "Send her back" chants, heard
at a Wednesday rally.
Sources say, several Trump advisors -- including his daughter Ivanka -- urged him to disavow the chant out of fear it will take his campaign down a
CNN White House Reporter, Stephen Collinson joins us now with more.
Stephen, talk to us about the evidence we have to suggest that President Trump has changed course because of the advice of those that he trusts,
that's close to him. And what does that tell us about the president's confidence, going into the 2020 campaign? And who he's relying on to
STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Bianca, the president now seems to have disavowed his disavowal of those chants that caused so
much consternation, those chilling chants at that rally the other evening.
And I think it shows that, you know, it justifies the fact that many of us were doubting the sincerity of his words when he said that he didn't like
the chant, "Send her back, send her back," aimed at a Muslim American congresswoman.
I think the president saw Ilhan Omar's remarks when she went home to Minnesota, and when she said -- she was welcomed at the airport in
Minnesota by a crowd, and she said she would keep challenging the president. He didn't like that.
We don't know exactly what caused him to sort of walk back on his walk-back from yesterday. But often, the president watched a lot of cable TV,
conservative news. And if there was any criticism of him, apparently separating himself from his supporters on this issue, that might have
changed his mind.
As to the issue of Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter, talking to him and advising him to step back from the more extreme embrace of those
chants, it's very interesting that often when the president has criticized on something like this, there is a leak to the media in which it said,
"Well, Ivanka Trump has tried to talk the president down," almost emphasizing her influence, and perhaps absolving her criticism by
association with the more extreme nature of the president's remarks. So I think I would take that part of this with a pinch of salt.
The president is sticking to his hard line on these congresswomen, and I think that's the key issue here.
NOBILO: And, Stephen, in that meeting where the press were present, marking the 50th anniversary, the president also had some words to say
about the political situation here, where I am, in the U.K. Let's just play that sound and then I'll ask you about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[14:10:02] TRUMP: I like Boris Johnson. Boris -- I spoke to him yesterday. I think he's going to do a great job. I think we're going to
have a great relationship.
I think they've done a very poor job with Brexit. I think the previous prime minister has done a very bad job with Brexit. What could I say? I
mean, it's a disaster. And it shouldn't be that way. I think Boris will straighten it out. I like Boris Johnson. I always have. He's a different
kind of a guy. But they say I'm a different kind of a guy, too. We get along well. I think we'll have a very good relationship.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBILO: Stephen, a couple of things stand out to me there. First of all, overlooking the fact that it has not been made official that Boris Johnson
is definitely going to be the next prime minister, that announcement comes Tuesday in London. Theresa May remains the prime minister. He has some
bruising words for her.
But how do you think that's going to be received internationally, and particularly in the United Kingdom? Will Brits be breathing a sigh of
relief, that they have the U.S. president on-side for their new prime minister, in all likelihood?
COLLINSON: Well, you know, it's quite remarkable. Any other president commenting on an internal political leadership election before it had even
taken place, there would be an uproar. But Trump does this all the time, of course.
When he was over in the U.K. last month, he was picking winners in the Tory leadership race. So that aside, I think it's going to be very interesting,
how -- presuming that Boris Johnson does go into Number 10, that this relationship develops. Clearly, the British are in great need of a strong
relationship with the Trump administration.
The relationship with Theresa May frayed, not least over Trump's criticisms of Brexit. And we saw that row a couple of weeks ago, when the leaked
cables from the ambassador, Kim Darroch, got into the "Mail" on Sunday, criticizing the president. So there's a lot of work for Boris Johnson to
But of course, Trump is a very controversial figure in the U.K. Boris Johnson would have to be careful not to associate with him too closely for
his own political standing, I think, in the U.K.
But the fact remains, is that Britain, if it does end up leaving the E.U. at the end of October, is going to need a trade deal with the United States
as quickly as possible, to mitigate the higher barriers on some of those European markets. And Boris Johnson will need Trump to act upon that.
The question is, how hard a bargain is the president going to drive, judging by his remarks in the U.K. on the U.K. health service and access to
those markets, he's going to drive a very hard bargain.
So this relationship, although it looks friendly right now between Boris Johnson and the president, and they have, as the president said, some
stylistic similarities, it's going to be very interesting to watch how that develops and I would think we would see Johnson come to the U.S. fairly
quickly, if he does win.
NOBILO: It will be. And you make a good point, Stephen, about how differently people respond to President Trump as opposed to, for example,
President Obama, when he did make a fairly indirect remark about Brexit, a pessimistic remark about the future of trade relations between the U.S. and
the U.K. prior to the referendum, and he was attacked from many corners about his interference in British affairs.
So appreciate your analysis, Stephen, thank you very much.
NOBILO: Stephen Collinson there for us.
Now, CNN has learned the strategy that Democrats plan to employ when former Special Counsel Robert Mueller testifies before Congress next week. Their
questions will largely focus on five instances of potential obstruction of justice by Donald Trump. They also want to talk about contacts between
Russians and WikiLeaks, detailed in Mueller's report.
CNN's Senior Congressional Correspondent, Manu Raju, joins us now with the details.
Manu, if you could elaborate a little bit more about the Democratic strategy, and how much they think they can achieve by pursuing it.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, deliberations have been intense behind the scenes. They've had mock hearings on the
Democratic side, some mock hearings on the Republican side. Top aides have actually played Robert Mueller himself in these mock hearings.
And now, we're learning about the areas of questioning that Democrats in particular want to pursue at that highly anticipated hearing next week.
Now, in those five areas of potential obstruction of justice before the House Judiciary Committee, they want to talk about -- have Robert Mueller
talk about the direction that the president, Trump, allegedly made to his then-White House Counsel, Don McGahn, to fire the special counsel.
And then, after it was reported that he had wanted Mueller to be fired, the president directing Don McGahn to go out and publicly deny that he in fact
wanted Mueller fired.
Also, the Democrats want to ask about the president apparently directing his former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, to tell the then-attorney
general, Jeff Sessions, to limit the Mueller investigation to exclude the president, and then warning that he would fire Jeff Sessions if he did not
take that meeting with Corey Lewandowski.
In addition, they want to talk about the dangling of pardons and the alleged witness tampering for people like Paul Manafort, his former
campaign chairman, as well as Michael Cohen, his then-personal attorney, to get them not to cooperate with federal prosecutors. That's going to be a
big focus on the Judiciary Committee.
[14:15:12] Then the House Intelligence Committee does want to pursue questions about contacts that occurred between Russians and the Trump
campaign, as well as what the president knew about those WikiLeaks releases of the Clinton campaign e-mails in 2016.
Those are going to be the lines of questioning. Republicans, on the other hand, are going to be focusing largely about how the team, the Mueller
team, was assembled. They believe there's been perceived bias. They believe, also, that the investigation shouldn't have even started to begin
with. So that's how they're going to focus their lines of questioning.
So expect two different narratives that are going to come out of the hearing. The question is, which side will succeed and will Robert Mueller
really reveal anything beyond what was in the report, still a question for next week's hearing -- Bianca.
NOBILO: Manu Raju in Washington, thank you.
And I just want to remind you of our breaking news this hour. Iranian state TV says it is the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has captured a
British-flagged oil tanker. U.S. defense officials have also said that a U.K. tanker has in fact been seized.
A government spokesperson tells CNN that the U.K. is urgently seeking information. We're getting moment-by-moment updates on this and we'll
bring you the very latest, right after this break.
NOBILO: Welcome back. We want to update you on that breaking news that we brought to you at the top of this hour. And it's a story that we've been
covering very closely on CNN.
A British tanker has been seized by Iran in the Strait of Hormuz. That's according to Iranian state TV and U.S. defense officials. U.S. government
says it's urgently seeking further information and is, quote, "assessing the situation." This comes amid heightened tensions in the gulf.
This, what you're looking at now, this picture, this is the marine traffic website. It shows the location of the tanker just under two hours ago, if
you look closely there. Well, we'll continue to bring you updates on that as soon as we can get them.
Now, Puerto Rico remains in a state of unrest today with more protests planned for the coming hours. People are angry about a scandal involving
the governor Ricardo Rossello. Hundreds of leaked text messages reveal Rossello mocking his own citizens.
The offensive messages included homophobic and misogynistic comments about fellow politicians and members of the media and celebrities. Puerto Ricans
are now infuriated that he's refusing to stand down as governor. CNN's Leyla Santiago is in the capital, San Juan.
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bianca, more protests are being planned on the streets of San Juan while neighbors are having to paint over walls
with graffiti. You can see that they've been painted over again. This one saying, (SPEAKING IN SPANISH), "You robbed us." And this one saying,
(SPEAKING IN SPANISH), calling on the governor to resign.
[14:20:12] I had an interesting conversation with someone who says there have been a lot of complaints of vandalism. But the protestors say that
the real vandalism is in the corruption that we're seeing -- was seen in the chats leaked by the Center of Investigative Journalism.
So let me show you what La Fortaleza looks like right now. That is the governor's office. There are people there who are protesting, calling on
the resignation. There are people there that are praying for him. And off in the distance you see the governor's mansion, which is at the center of
so much of these protests, and has sort of become the place for tense standoffs between protestors and police.
Again, more protests are expected. Just checked in with the governor's office. They say he has a series of work meetings today, but he is not
considering resigning. In fact, he says he will continue to do the work he was elected to do -- Bianca.
NOBILO: As we mentioned earlier, many of these offensive messages, sent in a group chat by Governor Rossello, targeted other politicians and women.
And one of those women is Melissa Mark-Viverito, former speaker of the New York City Council and first Puerto Rican woman to hold office there.
Rossello referred to her as, quote, "a whore" in the group chat. Melissa joins me now from New York.
Melissa, very good to talk to you. I'm sorry to hear the terms in which you've been referred to in this group chat. How has the experience been
for you, to be dragged into this? What's your reaction, and the reaction of others towards it in Puerto Rico?
MELISSA MARK-VIVERITO, FORMER SPEAKER, NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL: Well, I mean, I don't take this personally. Thank you so much for inviting me. I
don't take this personally. This is an insult to all women and this is an insult to all the people of Puerto Rico. And what this demonstrates is a
lack of moral character on the part of the governor, and that he has lost the ability to lead.
We had 500,000 people out in the streets the other day. That's the equivalent of having 1.5 million people out in the streets of New York
City. This is massive. This is really significant. It is a turning point and it is an historic moment for Puerto Rico.
So we want -- and the call of the people is to end the corruption, to end the pay-to-play, to end having a leader who refers to people in
misogynistic, sexist, homophobic terms. That is not a reflection of what the leadership should be, or anyone should be. We want to build a more
just, equitable country, city, island? Then we need to model the behavior we want.
So this is a -- very much a turning point. The governor needs to listen to the people of Puerto Rico. And they have spoken loud and clear.
NOBILO: Melissa, these offensive and misogynistic messages, which we've just been talking about, have obviously led to some of the eruption of
these protests. But the roots of them go back much further, don't they? And include the mismanagement in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. What
can you tell us about how long this kind of concern and anger has been building for in Puerto Rico?
MARK-VIVERITO: Well, look, I mean, we are -- the people have spoken clearly, right? They are tired. And this was a culmination of a lot of
frustration with mismanagement, corruption, that the people are an afterthought. That is really what we're talking about. This is like the
Let's be clear. What is modeled or what is happening with Rossello -- Governor Rossello -- is very much what we are fighting, here, against, with
regards to the Trump administration. Divisive rhetoric that is dividing. When you're talking about pay-to-play where corruption, where you're using
the resources of the administration and government to enrich your friends.
At the same time, you know, that is something that obviously, people are pushing back against. Against the press, there were comments within that
chat. Against the press. Trying to utilize the power of the government to go against your opponents.
There's a lot of similarities, the moment in time that we're living here, those of us that are fighting the Trump administration, with what the
people of Puerto Rico are fighting against, their local government, who is expressing and demonstrating very similar behavior.
NOBILO: In addition to the corruption which you've just outlined there, Puerto Rico's economy is in a terrible shape. I think it's $70 billion in
debt. What are some of the other reasons for that?
MARK-VIVERITO: So, look, the other part of this struggle is about this unelected fiscal control board that has been imposed on Puerto Rico by the
prior administration and by currently the -- obviously, the congress. .
And there is a call, that that unelected board needs to be removed, right? They are implementing austerity measures, which is not in the best interest
of the people of Puerto Rico. But it is trying to put efforts to pay hedge funds and vulture funds that have created the fiscal reality that the
island is living.
[14:25:08] So there is a call for a fiscalization, an audit, extensive independent audit of the current debt because there is an understanding
that a large percentage of that debt is actually illegal and goes against the constitution of Puerto Rico.
So there is work to be done. Those of us that live in the Puerto Rican diaspora, like myself, are working towards building an agenda facing
congress. Our work is a little bit more difficult, obviously. But the people of Puerto Rico cannot suffer the consequences of mismanagement, of
the corruption, of the irresponsible governance of this governor and his administration.
So we need to continue to gain support for Puerto Rico because there are still monies that were allocated by the U.S. Congress that have yet to
arrive to the people of Puerto Rico. And that includes improving the medical system and medical services, it includes food assistance as well as
other -- we still have many people that are living under blue tarps because their houses have not been built or rebuilt.
And so we cannot allow the people of Puerto Rico on the ground to suffer the consequences of this mismanagement. So that is part of the call. But
the governor first and foremost, needs to listen to the people of Puerto Rico and needs to resign.
NOBILO: Melissa Mark-Viverito, thank you very much for joining us. We appreciate --
MARK-VIVERITO: Yes, yes. Thank you so much.
NOBILO: -- your thoughts. Thank you.
We just want to update you now and give you more of that breaking news that we brought to you at the top of the hour, and will be bringing to you
throughout the hour.
A British tanker has been seized by Iran in the Strait of Hormuz. That's according to Iranian state TV and U.S. defense officials. This is where --
this, as you're looking here at a map, which hopefully should come up -- this is the marine traffic website. It shows the location of the tanker
just under two hours ago.
CNN's Kimberly Dozier is on the phone.
Kimberly, we're just starting to get information now. It's dripping in from our various different sources. What have you learned over the last
couple of minutes about the circumstances of the seizure of the tanker?
KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST (via telephone): Well, the British officials I'm talking to, here at the Aspen Security Forum, are
also still trying to get to the ground truth of this, and figure out if a tanker has been taken.
Their message all along, though, has been to try to de-escalate tensions with Iran. You'll remember that British marines seized an Iranian oil
tanker near Gibraltar and offered recently (ph) to (ph) release it if Iran would agree that none of the oil would go to a banned Syrian entity, where
they were worried that it would bust E.U. sanctions.
So the message from Britain all along has been, "Let's step back from this. Let's de-escalate these tensions, we're (ph) (INAUDIBLE) going to add
(INAUDIBLE) between Washington and Tehran." But this is going to make it very difficult.
NOBILO: And, Kimberly, the Iranians challenged Britain's assessment of the original situation, the fact that the tanker was going to Syria, violating
E.U. sanctions. That is not their evaluation of events. That's not what they say that the tanker was doing.
So as you say, Britain maintains its position is to de-escalate tensions. However, the seizure seems somewhat counterintuitive, especially from the
Iranian perspective. So how far will this seizure further ramp up tensions in the region? And how are the British likely to respond?
DOZIER (via telephone): Well, Britain and the U.S. have been working more at arm's length on this problem. So ironically, I think this is going to
bring them into closer cooperation. The U.S. had been keeping Britain out of some of the planning of its military operations.
I think what you're going to see is that -- Britain try to reach out and perhaps there'll be some sort of trade of the two seized vessels. I think
also, this will increase the pressure on various countries who are considering a loose coalition to ensure security and safe passage through
the Strait of Hormuz, that you'll see that come together much more quickly after this.
Because if this is going to be a daily occurrence, that's going to drive up insurance prices, diplomatic tensions. And of course, the thing that
everyone's worried about, an armed clash between Washington and Tehran that could lead to an all-out war.
NOBILO: And that brings me to my next question to you, Kimberly, which is, the U.S., obviously intimately involved in the region. It was at the U.S.'
suggestion that the British Royal Marines seized the tanker originally on the Fourth of July.
So how is the United States and Britain's European allies likely to respond to this if at all? Because all of them are mindful of the state of
tensions right now in the region.
[14:30:06] DOZIER (via telephone): Well, as we're speaking, I just heard from an Iranian official who said this vessel was seized because it was
violating naval rules, based on ports and where it was traversing through.
So I think what you're going to see is that a diplomatic tit for tat where Tehran says, you all say our vessel was violating rules, we say no. Now,
we say we have one of yours, it was violating rules. And this is just going to be one more lever that Tehran uses to try to get Britain and
European countries to get Washington to step back in some of its sanctions.
The problem is every Trump administration official I speak to says, the sanctions are working. Even the latest treasury official to speak here,
the acting security for him, indicated there is no appetite on the part of its administration to release Tehran from any of the economic pain its
Because they it's working and depriving them of the money they need to fund Hezbollah and carry out other activities that the U.S. doesn't like across
the Middle East.
NOBILO: Kim, if you could just stay with us for just a moment, I want to read our viewers the full statement from the Marine Management Company now.
It says, "Stena Bulk and Northern Marine Management can confirm that at approximately 16:00 BST on 19th July, U.K. registered vessel, Stena Impero,
was approached by an unidentified small craft and a helicopter during transit of the Strait of Hormuz, while the vessel was in international
We are presently unable to contact the vessel which is now heading north towards Iran. There are 23 seafarers onboard. There have been no reported
injuries and their safety is of primary concern to both owners and managers. The priority of both vessel owner, Stena Bulk, and ship manager,
Northern Marine Management, is the safety and welfare of the crew.
Northern Marine Management has not been able to establish contact directly with the vessel since it was notified of an incident at approximately 16:00
today, the 19th of July 2019. We are in close contact with UK government authorities."
NOBILO: Kimberly, having just read you the statement there, does anything stand out? Have you heard anything else which can soften of what we --
what we've just read?
DOZIER: Well, it sounds like this is going to come down to a claim of where was the vessel? Was it too close to the Iranian waters? And we're
back to the he said, she said. You remember the same thing when Iran shot down the U.S. drone? They disagreed on where it was.
It's going to end up in protracted uncomfortable negotiations, where you've got the lives of 23 sailors in the balance. But I think Iran is simply
going to use this four maximum -- to see if they can try to get some sanctions relieved. So that's ultimately their goal.
NOBILO: Kimberly, walk us through some of the -- some of your knowledge of the region and some of the hardware and the vessels that are there at the
moment, because it strikes me. We had another report today, the U.S. saying it shot down an Iranian drone, that it got too close to one of their
vessels. Iran denying that, saying it is possibly the U.S.'s own hardware that was shut down. Difficult to say at this point which of those stories
is more credible.
But it does seem that with all these vessels and helicopters and drones and tanks has moving through the region that the opportunities for escalation
for some sort of misstep, militarily, are rife. Is that your assessment?
DOZIER: Absolutely, and that's why you've seen countries like India has sent two naval ships to help patrol the Strait of Hormuz, because basically
what the CENTCOM, the Central Command run security on the U.S. side for the region, what they'd tried to do is put act that on the region that help
them have better intelligence as to what's going on, but also know to get some allied vessels between them and the Iranians. That's my understanding
of one of the things that they would like -- is decrease the chances of a clash between a U.S. flagged military vessel and Iranian vessels.
At this point, there haven't been enough ships organized -- like they were once organized in the task force to fight piracy off the Somali coast. I
think you're going to see a rapid planning process and other allies of the U.S. who wants to deescalate entering the region, pulling together for
(INAUDIBLE) to keep those straits open.
[14:35:17] Now, President Trump had told Time Magazine in an interview recently that he thought China and India should -- since they get the
majority of their oil through the Strait of Hormuz, that they should do some of the heavy lifting.
So you can also see from the U.S. side of things, they don't want to have to assume added cost for keeping the straight open, and that works together
with other countries also having the interest of trying to form some sort of buffer zones between these two countries that could accidentally go to
NOBILO: Kim, just one final question to you. And we appreciate you coming to us with your analysis so quickly.
Do you think that this is consistent with Iran's conduct in international affairs and behavior? So, does this move surprise you? Do you think it's
more inflammatory than you may have expected at this time to engage in what you referred to as a tit for tat, which is sensibly is, the violation which
the Iranians citing is fairly consistent to what the U.K. had said initially.
And are you surprised that Iran would have taken this course? Do you think it is more inflammatory that you would have expected?
DOZIER: Actually, not surprised (INAUDIBLE)
NOBILO: We've lost -- we've lost Kimberly -- Kimberly, I think we've got you back. Sorry. Please go ahead.
DOZIER: OK. Sorry. I would say I'm not surprised. This is their best possible move to keep attention on this issue without firing on someone and
escalating it to a military clash.
Analysts and officials I've spoken to are worried that their next step might be to activate various terrorist networks and militia groups to
attack U.S. and other Western targets.
Compared to that, seizing a ship in the gulf on a technicality is probably a bit of a relief. It's a better way for things to play out. Because at
this point, there's no blood spilled. And so the diplomats can step in and start arguing this one out.
NOBILO: Kimberly Dozier, our global affairs analyst, thank you very much for joining us. Appreciate it.
We've now got Sam Kiley joining us on the phone. Sam, you spent a lot of time in this region. I know that you've been monitoring the escalation of
tensions closely. What can you tell us that you're hearing from your sources about the seizure of this British tanker?
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (through telephone): -- so having confirmed obviously from the owner, the managers of the Stena
Impero, that is Stena Bulk and Northern Marine management saying that their ship which is a British super tanker built in 2018 was indeed seized, they
say in international waters, that's a critical factor here.
And then ordered by gun boats and a helicopter to travel north into Iranian waters. Now, this is obviously a very dramatic moment, particularly, for
the 23 seafarers onboard, who have not been able to communicate at all with their headquarters.
But tracking apps, sea tracking apps showed -- showing the Stena Impero a very firmly in Iranian waters. And, of course, this comes against the
background of the British seizure of the GRACE ONE with two million barrels of oil, allegedly suspected of being involved in smuggling crude oil to the
Syrian regime from Iran.
But this seizure was not against Iran, of course, it was against in the context of sanctions being imposed against the Damascus regime. The
Iranians were extremely angry by this and have threatened retaliation.
There was an incident a couple of weeks ago or less, in which a British warship had to level its guns to protect the BP-owned vessel, also
traversing through the Strait of Hormuz to drive gunboats because they suspect they're trying to hurt it into international waters.
But clearly, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps has been able now to seize this vessel. This will be a part of the Iranian efforts to negotiate
the release off their ship held by the British. The irony, of course, about all of this is that the British and the Iranian had been talking and,
indeed, that the Gibraltar authorities who are actually in charge of that vessel held in the Mediterranean talked with Iranian officials yesterday to
try to find an amicable way to release the vessel, the British have said that they could be released, but they didn't continue its journey towards
Syria. That clearly -- we don't have any details information about what happened in those talks.
[14:40:11] But the Gibraltar has extended the period for another two weeks in which they're holding the Iranian vessel or the vessel carrying Iranian
oil and clearly the seizure of the Impero is a counter attack in that context.
In a weird way, it has set put effectively from the increasing tensions between the United States and Iran over the Americans withdrawal from
nuclear agreement that was supposed to end sanctions and return to the Americans, ending their nuclear program.
The British are firmly behind trying to keep that deal on the table. But clearly, an act of this nature, which is not quite an active war but
definitely an act of aggression against a British flagged ship is going to increase tensions very, very drastically in that already tensed area.
NOBILO: Sam, testaments the severity of the situation which you're outlining. We now have information that the United Kingdom has called a
COBRA meeting to discuss this. Walk us through --
KILEY: (INAUDIBLE) close to it, and the American being threatened the airspace of the USS Boxer. So in that context, this is not unexpected. I
think what COBRA will now be doing, and there are a number of senior officials who can share COBRA. The most senior, of course, being the prime
minister, but you would, inevitably, have a very senior officer from the British Armed Forces, obviously, the navy would be involved. MI6 would be
And this is a gathering that would occur -- anticipate that COBRA would meet in a situation such as this, because it is a tactical problem, as in a
ship has been seized. But with potential strategic ramifications that are really very, very extreme. And what they will be trying to do now is try
to figure out a way of ensuring that this doesn't escalate.
But at the same time, the seizure of a British flagged ship in international waters, it is an act of aggression. It's not quite like an
invasion, but it is -- it is just sort of attack on the sovereignty of a nation and the British, no doubt, will be taking extremely seriously. But
they are very keen, indeed, as their regional allies, particularly the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and others, to keep this sort of
situation under control.
But then repeated incidents recently in the Gulf. A lot of them blamed that Iran, that in a sense, had been designed to increase tensions, notably
when Iranian shot down an American drone, they say over their territory, the Americans say gain over international waters. Of that occasion, Donald
Trump elected not to retaliate militarily because he felt that the death toll that would follow would have been disproportionate equally.
The British will be now calculating what pressure can they bring to bear on Iran, whilst also maintaining the dignity and sovereignty of a British ship
that has been seized at gunpoint. It's going to be a very tensed meeting indeed, Bianca.
NOBILO: Sam Kiley, thank you very much for joining us on the phone. We're going to stay with this breaking news now.
I'm bringing CNN Global Affairs Analyst, David Rohde. He joins us via Skype in Aspen, Colorado.
David, thank you for joining us to discuss this breaking news. I was just speaking to my colleague, Sam, on the phone who's being recently embedded
with the U.S. Navy. He's been on the USS Boxer.
There is a lot of military hardware, assaults vessels, amphibious vessels in the region, the possibilities for escalation seem to just been growing
by the day. We now have word that the White House are aware has taken place. How do you think this will be being viewed by the Trump
administration? Give us a window into how it'll be perceived in America.
DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I think for domestic local reasons, there'll be pressure on the administration to somehow respond. And
what I really think it shows is this is a very clear Iranian strategy. My colleague of mine at the New Yorker, Robin Wright just wrote a piece this
morning about how the Iranians have sort of had an approach towards foreign policy whenever the threat had been eye for an eye.
And the Iranians really feel that once Donald Trump pulled out of this the Iran nuclear deal and imposed these sanctions, they may need to push back
on Trump. And they are now consistency doing that. They want to create tensions in the Gulf, as you and Sam talked about, and they want to
increase oil prices worldwide.
This is their leverage. This could damage economies, you know, around the world. And I think you're going to see more incidents like this.
[14:45:59] NOBILO: David, for our viewers who may have not been following this quite so closely, could you just give us an overview about how
tensions have got to the position that they're in now in the region? We've mentioned the shooting down of the drone, we've mentioned the attempted
seizure of a British vessel, of seizure of GRACE ONE. But just walk us back a little bit further in time and explain why things have got to this
ROHDE: Yes. I would say over the last several weeks, you've seen, you know, more and more Iranian activity. First, there was -- you know, oil
tankers were mined, you know, there was no proof. But it did appear there were Iranian boats nearby that they had put these minds and damaged these
tankers to show their ability to cutoff that chokepoint, you know.
The Gulf of Hormuz is very narrow strait where a third of the world's oil is transported by sea. One third of it, it goes through this one little
strip of ocean near Iran. And they've continued that pressure. They increase the pressure by then shooting down some American drone.
There was pressure on the United States and Europe to respond and that's why you then had Britain seizing an Iranian oil tanker, and then, you know,
a week or two ago. And then today, you now have, I think, a response by Iran, where they are now seizing these British tanker.
And the question is sort of how does, you know, Donald Trump respond to this? How does the British government respond to this? No leaders wants
to look weak. So as the Iranians escalate -- you know, what are the officials in London and Washington doing in the response?
NOBILO: And, David, how does the -- how do European nations respond as well? Because obviously, Europe is still trying to hold together lost
vestiges of their JCPOA, the Iranian nuclear deal. They are traditionally and technically the allies of the United Kingdom, even though relations has
slightly under strain when it comes to Brexit, when it's matters like this that are under consideration. Europe takes a strong line and supports
So, is it likely to be a response as well from the European Union or individual European nations, do you think?
ROHDE: I think they'll, you know, statement of support for Britain from Europe, but I don't see real actions by the European Union.
I mean, they're not going to risk military force. I think, you know, Europe sees this as, you know, Donald Trump's problem. They fully
supported the JCPOA. They wanted the agreement to stand and the United States withdrew from it. And then ratcheted up these sanctions that have
pushed the Iranians to respond. So I see them stepping back.
And I think part of the Iranian tactic here is to -- and put as wedge between Europe and the U.K. and also the U.S. to put pressure on Britain to
seize this, you know, the ship and will -- is Britain willing to side with Donald Trump and, you know, escalate and, you know, somehow use military
force to respond or will Britain go on the side of Europe.
And it's an Iranian strategy to sort of divide the West. And, you know, the crucial thing will be how that plays out in the next day or two.
NOBILO: Appreciate your insights. Thank you for joining us.
ROHDE: Thank you.
NOBILO: Now, I want to show you this video. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corp says it has seized the British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. According to the
IRGC's official statement, the vessel's name is Stena Impero.
It was seized providing international naval regulations as it was passing these strategic waterway. Press T.V. will update you as soon as we get
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBILO: This is Iranian state T.V., announcing the Iranian Revolutionary Guard has captured a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. They say
that it was, "Violating international regulations. The U.N. foreign office says it's looking urgently into these reports.
[14:50:59] Now, we're going to be bringing you more perspective from Iran. We've got a Skype guest joining us, hopefully, in the next couple of
We're going to take a short break. We'll be getting back to you with more updates on this breaking news of a British oil tanker that's been seized in
the Strait of Hormuz and we'll have perspective from the region both in Europe and in Iran. Stay with us for the very latest.
NOBILO: Welcome back. We just want to update you on that breaking news that we brought you at the top of hour and have been bringing you
throughout the hour.
A British tanker has been seized by Iran in the Strait of Hormuz. That's according to Iranian state TV and U.S. defense officials.
We can go live to Iran now. Ramin Mostaghim is a Los Angeles Times' reporter in Tehran, and he joins us via Skype.
Ramin, thank for joining us on such short notice.
RAMIN MOSTAGHIM, REPORTER, LOS ANGELES TIMES: Thank you.
NOBILO: Give us the perspective of the Iranians on this. What is their justification for the seizure of this British oil tanker and how will this
move be perceived in the capitol?
MOSTAGHIM: It's just perceived as a tit for tat policy, eye for eye, because they have some super tanker in Gibraltar. And as long as it is
seized by the authority or they just believe it is British authority there, they don't let up. And they try to go ahead as much as possible to push
for release of their own super tanker. This is a tit-for-tat.
And unfortunately, it is another step to the military confrontation, because this tactic is very risky and it might lead to something
unpredictable. That is very important because more than one-third of the international oil consumption is transacted through Strait of Hormuz. And
any confrontation, any minor confrontation may lead to the bigger one.
And now that it is perceived why the authority here, why IRGC as something as a tit-for-tat and they are sure that British or American will back down
and bow down to the pressure. They do believe that it is American policy is wrong policy and they should back down. They should back down. They
should barge, and that is the -- that is the way they see and perceive this confrontation and playing with the fire.
NOBILO: Ramin, thank you. We're going to come back to you in just a moment.
But joining me now on the phone is British conservative MP for the Isle of Wight, Bob Seely. Bob, you're also a member of the Foreign Affair Select
Committee. And I know that you monitor international relations very closely. I understand that a COBRA meeting has been called.
[14:55:05] What do you think of the priorities right now for the British government as far as you're concerned?
BOB SEELY, BRITISH CONSERVATIVE MP (through telephone): I think the overall priority at the moment is just to find out what's actually
happening and to get a sense of what the facts are and then to see what the Iranians say publicly.
NOBILO: And, Bob, in terms of your experience in dealing with the very difficult regional tensions at the moment, our allies, the U.S. and the
European nations as well, how is Britain going to be interacting with them? And do you expect reactions of support for the United Kingdom from the
United States and from with the European Union?
SEELY: I'm sure there will be. I think there's a series of overlapping a very complex problems. Certainly, the British themselves don't have enough
firepower in the region to protect their own vessels. So they're obviously dependent on the coalition.
And that's sort of an issue or historic understanding of the (INAUDIBLE) decade or two. I think there is Iran's intentions to widen this potential
conflict as soon as it's -- as soon as they can. So I think they're taking the attitude that it's going to hurt Iran.
We're going to make sure it hurts everyone else, and that would be not only doing things asymmetric welfare that challenges not only the United States,
the United Kingdom, but also taking action against their enemies or their adversaries through Iran's proxies, whether that's the Houthi in Yemen,
whether it's Hezbollah, whether it's Hamas, or whether it's their proxy forces in Iraq as well.
So there's a potential for the Iranians to do a lot of paramilitary action, as well as asymmetric action against a series of potential rivals which the
NOBILO: Thank you, Bob. Bob, we might be able to get back to you next hour. We're just finishing up the show. But we appreciate your insights.
Obviously, at of time where Britain is facing a change in government next week and also all the uncertainty with Brexit.
But do stay with CNN. The breaking news coverage of the seizure of the British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz continues next with Richard Quest.