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Iran Detains 17 Citizens Accused of Spying for U.S.; U.K. Foreign Secretary to Address Parliament of Iran; Pompeo: Take Iran Spy Claims with Grain of Salt; Interview with Alistair Burt, Former British Foreign Office Minister, Next Prime Minister Needs to Be Iran Expert; Interview with Tammam Salam, Former Lebanese Prime Minister, Iranian Seized Tanker, Detained 17 for Alleged U.S. Spying; Iran and the West History of Conflict and Brinksmanship; Vaez: U.S. Sanctions Driving Aggressive Iranian Response; Britain Holds Emergency Security Meetings Over Iran. Aired 11a- 12p ET

Aired July 22, 2019 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:00] BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST: Shimmering on the heat-soaked horizon behind me, massive tankers like these becoming huge floating chess pieces

in a dangerous geostrategic game of you hit me, I'll sneak up and hit you right back. That's raging between Iran and the Western world. No one

seems to know a way out of it, and the potential for miscalculation leading to catastrophe is palpable.

And that is why we are here connecting your world through Khor Fakkan, right on the shores of the Gulf of Oman to bring you all the very latest.

I'm Becky Anderson. It is 7:00 p.m. here in the UAE.

While the focus is onto the escalating tanker crisis unfolding in the Gulf right behind me, the world's eyes are also on the United Kingdom. Where we

are waiting for London's response to the flaring tensions with Iran and details on what action they may take.

Meantime, Iran is hardly putting water on the flames. It says it has captured 17 of its own citizens accusing them of being American spies and

saying some face execution. The U.S. President took to his favorite medium a short time ago saying the report is quote, just more lies and propaganda.

We have correspondents connecting all of the angles of this story as you would expect us to do. Senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance,

joining me here. CNN military and diplomatic analyst, John Kirby, is in Washington for you, and Nina dos Santos connecting the dots out of London.

Let me start with you Matthew. And as we wait to hear how London will respond, let's just lay out what we know at this point about the U.K.

flagged tanker sitting in an Iranian port -- the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas some 200 nautical miles behind us.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. It's under close guard of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard. They're in control of that

situation. Bandar Abbas 200 nautical miles to the north of here, almost due north. Within the past couple of hours we've actually had the first

video footage broadcast on Iranian state television of the crew members, 23 of them from Russia, from Latvia, from India, from the Philippines that are

basically marooned as pawns in this much broader geopolitical chess game that they find themselves in. It will be a great reassurance to the

families of those expressing concern about their welfare. They look well. They look like they're in good spirits. But this may well just be the

start of their journey.

We're waiting, of course, to hear what the U.S. -- sorry, the British, reaction is going to be. They've promised robust consequences. British

officials have been over the past several hours discussing what their next steps should be, and within the next hour and a half or so, we're expecting

to hear from the British foreign secretary about what measures they will actually take.

They say they want to keep this diplomatic and they're not looking at military options at the moment. But when you put all this against the

backdrop of the growing tensions over the past couple of months, particularly between Iran and the United States, you can see how this is a

very dangerous episode indeed that could spiral into violence.

ANDERSON: Let me get to London, then, stay with me here, Matthew. Nina, what do we know at this point?

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So far, we don't know exactly which of these kind of options the government will go for. We know that Jeremy

Hunt, the foreign secretary, is going to be making a statement in a couple of hours from now to MPs across the House of Parliament to advise them as

to what the British government plans to do. It's likely that at this point they'll be leaning towards potentially freezing Iranian assets. They could

even remonstrate at the United Nations.

But to do all of this, they'd need a much, much bigger game plan with more diplomatic backing particularly from places like France and also Germany as

well. Who, of course, have paid lip service to the U.K. backing them up verbally but not much more has been more forthcoming. So far -- as Matthew

was saying -- a military option appears to have been ruled out. Interestingly enough, Becky, writing in today's "Times" newspaper of

London, the defense minister, Tobias Ellwood, would himself appear to acknowledge that the U.K. does not have the military might after years of

cutbacks in the defense sector to actually try and protect some of these vessels. British flagged ships that are sailing through the Strait of

Hormuz. So the idea here of having any kind of military response is very, very far-fetched.

[11:05:00] One interesting thing I should point out though, is that the U.K. has been rather silent on the subject of Grace 1, the vessel that of

course, whose seizure off the coast of Gibraltar by British authorities and Iranian vessel carrying allegedly oil shipments that were heading towards

Syria. They've been quite silent on what they plan to do about that vessel. Because presumably the Iranians will want that back if the U.K.

manages to try and negotiate, the standing imperil, its own vessel back from Iranian waters -- Becky.

ANDERSON: It's 4:05 in the afternoon in London. It is 11:05 in Washington where clearly all eyes on what is going on here and indeed in London as we

await that statement from the U.K. foreign minister.

John, I want to bring you in at this point because just as we considered the potential for escalation with the seizing of this U.K. flagged tanker.

So we add another layer of information as it were into this story, another layer of intrigue. Speaking about Tehran's claims of uncovering a U.S. spy

ring in Iran, American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said people should be cautious about taking Iran's word. Have a listen.


MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I would urge everyone who's reading that story waking up to understand that the Iranian regime has a long

history of lying. They lied about where they shut down the American UAV. They've now lied in the last few days about where they took down this

tanker. It's part of the nature of the Ayatollah to lie to the world. I would take with a significant grain of salt any Iranian assertion about

actions that they've taken.


ANDERSON: Right, that's Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, referring to the story out of Iran that they are holding 17 Iranians accused of spying for

the U.S. And as we discuss this viewers, I just want to bring to your attention that we are now seeing the faces of the crew on board the U.K.

tanker, which was seized by Iran last week. These are media images released by Iran of the men who do seem to be in good health. Let's bring

those pictures up for our viewers as John and I speak. In fact, we're going to come to those images in just a moment. John, what do you make of

this latest line out of Iran and the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's reaction to it?

JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: I actually agree with the secretary. I do think we need to move cautiously here before we start

believing at face value statements of Tehran about espionage and about their own citizens spying on the CIA.

Look, nations spy on one another. Even good friends spy on one another. I don't know what the context is here behind these latest allegations made by

Tehran. But I do think that as policymakers begin to sort this out that Secretary Pompeo's advice is well taken, that we ought to be moving slowly

here and not rush to any hasty judgments. Particularly if, in fact, there are Iranian citizens whose lives are now potentially in danger. And then

what -- look, what does it look like after that if Iran actually does execute some of their own citizens, even on trumped up charges. What does

that do for the international community? Where does that put the West in relation to the increasing escalation of tensions between us and Iran?

ANDERSON: Matthew, as we will bring up on this screen now an indication that what has happened with this U.K. flagged tanker just the latest in a

string of incidents involving tankers in this region. The question is this, isn't it, as we hear this news from Tehran about these alleged spies

as we know. The U.K. flagged tanker is now seized in the port of Bandar Abbas. Where does this all go? Is there any sign that this tension is

reeling back -- is there any sign that there's a de-escalation at this point?

CHANCE: I mean, not that I can sense. In fact, it seems that as every day goes past, you know, more tension is added to this already volatile mix.

And the example of Tehran's announcement of breaking up that alleged CIA spy ring is another example of that. Because it, you know, it serves a

number of purposes, that announcement for the Iranian regime. It shows them to be on top of the counterintelligence situation. It's resonant for

many Iranians, the idea that America is spying and provoking unrest inside Iranian is something that is resonant to many Iranians that know that in

the past Iran has been a target for counterintelligence of the United States historically.

[11:10:02] And so, I think that's something that sort of helps the government in Iran, the regime, to sort of bolster the population and say

look, it's not us that are the maligned players, don't listen to what the U.S. says. It's the United States. They're the ones being provocative.

And so you almost get the sense that Iran is kind of bracing themselves for this situation to develop further and to actually boil over into something

much more kinetic.

And again, you're going back to these incidents. You've seen the British incident which they want to resolve diplomatically. But I mean, just a

couple of weeks ago, there were four tankers in this same stretch of water, which were attacked with limpet mines. Fortunately no massively serious

damage was done. But nevertheless, it sends a very dangerous message to international shipping that the route through the Strait of Hormuz, the

route out of the Persian Gulf, which is the route for 20 percent of the world's oil supplies is a very, very dangerous and tense place to operate.

And it's only getting more dangerous and more tense.

ANDERSON: The Strait of Hormuz becoming somewhat of a straitjacket in what is this roiling geopolitical mess at present. Matthew, thank you for the

time being. To Matthew here with me in Khor Fakkan, Nina in London, and John in D.C., your analysis and insight is incredibly important.

As we say, we have been waiting and we are continuing to wait to hear what Britain's response might be when Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt speaks in

Parliament in around two hours' time. Now this follows a meeting of the government's Emergency Response Committee or what's known as Cobra, earlier

in the day.

Former foreign office minister, Alistair Burt, says Britain's next Prime Minister announced tomorrow needs to become an Iran expert and fast.

Alistair is in Westminster. You have spent much of the last couple of years in this region speaking to the leadership of people around the Gulf

and beyond. We've spoken a lot on this program about the prospect of conflict given the recent tensions. I want to take a look at an article

that you wrote in "The Guardian" in a moment. But first, I know that you've got sort of, you know, a back door to what is going on in U.K.

politics. You know, what is the current thinking as far as you understand it?

ALISTAIR BURT, FORMER BRITISH FOREIGN OFFICE MINISTER: Well, hello, Becky, and thanks for the opportunity. In all fairness, we'll find out in a

little while. I'm not obviously part of Cobra or the Foreign and Commonwealth Office now, and Jeremy Hunt will make a statement to the House

of Commons very shortly. He will also question about how this latest situation has ariSEN. I would be very surprised if he didn't take the

opportunity both to set out what we're doing in terms of immediate response to what has happened, but also look ahead and see if there are ways, he can

indicate how we can descale this in everyone's interest. So I'd expect him to do both of those things.

ANDERSON: All right, Alistair, let me put this to you. Do you feel that the U.K. is being coopted into what is the very messy situation between the

U.S. and Iran at present. Reports suggesting it was at the behest of the U.S. that the British seized an Iranian tanker off Gibraltar in the past

month or so. And what we saw just 72 hours ago with the Iranians seizing this U.K. tanker off the coast where I am now. Considered a tit for tat

reaction to that. Just how difficult a position is the U.K. in at present? And have they been coopted against their better judgment into this messy


BURT: Yes, and I don't believe so. I've not been given any indication that the stopping of the tanker by the Gibraltarian authorities was done at

the request of the United States. But I can certainly see how the optics look. Ever since the United Kingdom made it clear that it wanted to stay

in the JCPOA, adhere to the nuclear deal, we made clear that we didn't support the United States withdrawing from that. We have been sought in

company with other European states to build an alternative financial mechanism to help with the economic element of the JCPOA. Which is a quid

pro quo for Iran remaining within it and stifling its own nuclear weapons ambitions.

We would still maintain -- I would expect the United Kingdom to continue to maintain that that is very valuable. Now that degree of independence I

suspect is continuing. So I hope it won't be seen as the United Kingdom being coopted by anyone. We must make our own decisions in relation to


[11:15:00] But of course we recognize the needs of partners, not just the United States, but other states in the Gulf, that have a very, very direct

interest in whether or not this all goes wrong. And all too often their interests are not taken into consideration when we're doing these

interviews and talking about the U.S., the U.K. and Iran. It affects others as well.

ANDERSON: They are taken into consideration on this show. We are based in the UAE as you know, very, very mindful of the nuances that gone in this

region, but you make a very good point.

BURT: Certainly.

ANDERSON: Just as are now seeing the faces of the crew on board that U.K. tanker, hang on, Alistair, I just want to bring these pictures up. These

are the faces, the images of these crew members, these 29 crew members, none of them of course are British citizens. But that shouldn't get in the

way our concern by any stretch about these men who are on the U.K. flagged tanker seized by Iran last week. Iran media released these images of the

men who do seem to be in good health. This video does appear to have been staged somewhat.

I want to get to an article that you wrote, Alistair, just earlier this week in "The Guardian" newspaper. You said that whoever takes over as

British Prime Minister, leader of the Conservative Party, be that Jeremy Hunt or Boris Johnson needs to become an Iran expert and fast. You say the

worry is that crises escalate and mistakes occur. Iran is responding to the economic pressure, particularly the ban on oil sales, by reminding the

world of Gulf vulnerability. Tit for tat moves on shipping will sooner or later lead to a fatal confrontation. We would be wise to work with others.

As you have just pointed out, how concerned are you, sir? We keep considering that a misstep, a miscalculation, an accident at this point

could turn what is at present a situation of tension into catastrophe?

BURT: And I'm very concerned and have been for some time. And it's not just this particular issue that has raised that. If you look at what's

happened in Yemen where Houthis areas have been used to fire missiles into Saudi Arabia and potentially into the UAE, if one of those should have

landed in a significant spot and resulted in loss of life, then there would have been -- then this crisis would have escalated even to a greater

degree. So I think the risk of something happening in the Gulf is significant.

But both Iran and those around Iran have got to think through where does this go next. And in David Petraeus's famous phrase, tell me how this

ends. Because we can see how the confrontation goes on, but what is the end of that? The end of that is either a negotiation or something very

bad. I would like it to be a negotiation.

ANDERSON: Right. And you know, you can see that diplomats around the world are hoping there's an offramp around this one. The question is,

whether there is or not. One very quick question to you. You say the next British Prime Minister needs to become an Iran expert and fast. Which of

the two candidates would make a better Iran expert and fast, sir?

BURT: Well, it looks as though Boris Johnson will win the leadership contest. If he does, he certainly has the intellectual capacity to become

an expert on Iran. He will be well served by those around him and he will need to display serious diligence in getting a grip. Jeremy Hunt already

has that expertise and is already working with others. I'm confident whoever has the role will be able to do it well. But they will need a lot

of help from other partners, not only to find that exit ramp but sometimes to build it. And we are all determined that this shouldn't end in

catastrophe. We need to start seeing some steps towards that absolutely now.

ANDERSON: Alistair Burt is the former British foreign office minister who has spent an awful lot of time in this region, knows the region well. Sir,

thank you for your thoughts.

Well the light quickly fading behind me over what are these very troubled waters, but the tanker crisis itself seems far from fading. So up next,

Lebanon's former Prime Minister, Tammam Salam, joins me with his take on the latest Iran developments and the wider roiling story across this

troubled region. Stay with us.


[11:22:37] ANDERSON: Well there's one story in town this hour, the growing geopolitical tension surrounding Iran just off in the distance here behind

me. Right now the U.K. threatening a robust response if Iran refuses to release a British flagged oil tanker it seized in the Strait of Hormuz on

Friday. This photo shows the Islamic Revolutionary Guard on board that ship in Bandar Abbas Port.

And while that situation plays out, Iran now detaining 17 of its own citizens accusing them of spying for the CIA. One country that could be

uniquely impacted by this crisis is Lebanon where the Iran backed Shia group Hezbollah makes up part of the country's coalition government.

Joining me now with his take on all of this is the former Lebanese Prime Minister, Tammam Salam who comes to us tonight from Beirut.

Sir, let's start with how you read and see what is going on at present, the developments that we've seen, the seizure of this U.K. flagged tanker, the

news out of Iran that they have arrested some 17 of their own citizens accused of spying. What do you make of all of this, sir?

TAMMAM SALAM, FORMER LEBANESE PRIME MINISTER: Well, hi Becky first, long time, not see. I have to tell you that, yes, the rising tension in the

Gulf for the past weeks, actually for the past month and the building up. It's worrisome. Everybody is worried that it can escalate and up in a

difficult situation. Iran has been building up its influence in the region for many years now. They have pledged their influence all over the region,

especially in the Arab world. While on the other hand, the Arabs have not spread their influence in Iran. So this stretching out for more influence,

for more presence, for more say in regional matters has a cost.

And Iran is going ahead undeterred and intimidating others too, so I don't know where this will get to, certainly I can hear from time to time the

comments worldwide on this development and they are quite angry in some cases, and they are quite concerned in others.

ANDERSON: What do you hope to hear from the U.K. foreign minister when he speaks to Parliament in just a couple of hours' time? He has said his

response will be robust, but we hear a lot of talk about efforts to deescalate at present.

[11:25:00] Not just here in the Gulf but around the world, the concern being that as there are calls to deescalate so we continue to see incidents

that wind the parties up. What do you want to hear from the U.K. at this point?

SALAM: Well, it's not only from the U.K., but from the western world in general, and from the international community. I mean, things seem to be

getting more messy and yes, now it's the U.K. tomorrow it will be another country, and of course everybody would want something to be settled

peacefully, to agreements to bind and agreements to be able to deliver. In this situation, I see a lot of turmoil , a lot of as I said, messy

situation, and I hope more firmness, more clarity from those concerned in facing Iran is --

ANDERSON: Right, OK. All right. Look, I want to talk about something that you were involved in a week or so ago. You and two other former Prime

Ministers of Lebanon met with King Salman in Saudi Arabia last week. You went to shore up Saudi Arabian support for Lebanon, support that has been

there for years but seems to be somewhat lacking at present with three Hezbollah representatives in the Lebanese Parliament these days.

What were you trying to do? Were you trying to convince Riyadh that their Iranian backed foes actually aren't a concern for Riyadh, and don't you

think you were somewhat undermining the Prime Minister Hariri by going to Saudi Arabia without him?

SALAM: No, start with I have to say that we three former Prime Ministers are concerned of the regional situation and its impact on Lebanon and of

course with Hezbollah around, we have been struggling for many years now to try to implement the disassociation policy in regard to the developments in

the region. Unfortunately we have not been very successful on that. Our trip to Saudi Arabia, you know Lebanon is an Arab country, belonging to the

Arab League, and Saudi Arabia is now a major player and leader in the Arab world.

So conferring with the Saudis, exchanging thoughts regarding the general situation is very important, not to mention --

ANDERSON: Mr. Salam, can I just interrupt you for one moment? I just want to interrupt you. My point was the optics of this looked very much as if

you were under undermining or these optics would undermine the sitting Prime Minister, Hariri, was that the intention?

SALAM: I was coming to that. I was coming to that too. I have to tell you, Becky, the whole trip we made was concerted with the Prime Minister.

The day before we went, we met with him. We discussed matters because he also needs support in the current situation. It's true that in Lebanon we

have stability for the time being. We have security for the time being, but we are in a very difficult political situation.

And the representation of Hezbollah in the government or in parliament is not new, has been for many years now and the participation in the political

scene in Lebanon is an ongoing affair. Hezbollah represents a major faction of the Lebanese, and they have their say in our internal matters,

but we certainly reproach Hezbollah for their involvement in the regional affairs, especially in Syria. We believe Lebanon should not carry the

negative burden of -- sorry.

Anderson: Sorry, I'm just going to push you on one point because I am running out of time here. So what was the response from the Saudis? Do

you get more or less support going forward, very briefly?

SALAM: No, the important thing with the Saudis is they're coming back to play their prominent role in Lebanon which has been in the past years a

major element in saving Lebanon from its troubles, in the Taif Agreement and then other situations whereby, yes, now they are coming back.

[11:30:00] They have opened up. They lifted the ban on the Saudis to come to Lebanon. They sent a delegation from their Parliament. They invited

the head chief of the army. They received us. That engagement on behalf of Saudis towards Lebanon is very important in this juncture, and I believe


ANDERSON: As will be the money going forward.

SALAM: -- yes, this will help Lebanon to stand up and to face more problems.

ANDERSON: Tammam Salam, the former Prime Minister of Lebanon. It is a pleasure, sir, having you on, sir. Thank you very much indeed for joining

us. You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD live from the Gulf of Oman.

Tonight we've been talking with Tammam Salam about what is going on here, the roiling geopolitics. Why is Iran challenging the world's strongest

military powers? A look at Tehran's strategy when we come back.


ANDERSON: Welcome back to our show connecting you this hour to what is this incredibly important spot, just on the Gulf of Oman. I want to

connect you to the history here because to really understand what is happening right now, you need to look back through Iran's relations with

the West, seizing that British tanker in the past 72 hours were only the latest move in a game that's been going on for more than 50 years. Take a


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ANDERSON (voice over): The operation was meant to be televised, Iranian special forces boarding the British flagged Stena Impero and commandeering

it as gun boats buzzed nearby. The scenes last Friday designed to replicate the U.K.'s own after it impounded an Iranian oil tanker the Grace

1 earlier this month. The tanker tit for tat isn't happening in isolation. It's the latest episode in an ongoing standoff between Iran and the U.S.

with a host of regional and western countries caught in the middle.

The most recent starting point May 2018 when Donald Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal and reimposed stringent sanctions setting the two sides

on the track to confrontation. That came as no surprise to Iranian leaders like Ayatollah Khomeini.

[11:35:00] AYATOLLAH KHAMENEI, SUPREME LEADER OF IRAN: How many times did I say during the negotiations that they act in bad faith, that they lie,

and that they won't stand by their words? Now you can see.

ANDERSON: But for Iran's leaders, the grievances are also historic, back to 1953 when the CIA and British Intelligence overthrew the democratically

elected Iranian Prime Minister, Mohammad Mosaddegh, who wanted to nationalize the country's oil industry which, at the time, was controlled

by the British. On to 1979 when Ayatollah Khomeini led a revolution against the American backed Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Shah, who they

considered to be too close to the West.

And above all to the 1980s when a mostly isolated Iran fought Saddam Hussein's Western and Arab Gulf backed army in a bloody eight-year war.

Haunted by the past, Iran's relations with the west have once again entered choppy waters, and it will take steady diplomatic hands to ensure this

latest incident doesn't become the starting point of even more confrontation. Becky Anderson.


ANDERSON: Iran expert Ali Vaez cowrote an op-ed on U.S. policy in the "The Washington Post," about a month ago, he had this withering criticism of the

Trump White House, quote, the administration's Iran policy is not a strategy. It's a pressure tactic wrapped up in bellicosity folded into a


Well, Vaez is Iran Project Director for the International Crisis Group. And joins me now. I want to get to the conceit of your op-ed on U.S.

policy with regard to Iran in a moment. First, what do you make of the developments that we have witnessed over the past 72 hours, reminiscent of

a familiar Iranian game play?

ALI VAEZ, IRAN PROJECT DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP: Yes, for sure. I mean, the Iranians believe and especially the Supreme Leader of

Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei, believes if you don't respond to pressure with pressure you would only invite more of it, so the Iranians are basically

have adopted the strategy of an eye for an eye. If the Brits seize an Iranian tanker, the Iranians would retaliate. If the U.S. is trying to

drive the Iranian economy into the ground and basically cut off Iran's oil exports, the Iranians would endanger all oil shipments and all shipping

from the Persian Gulf region. And so we are in a cycle of escalation that could easily spiral out of control.

ANDERSON: Well, I refer back to that op-ed then that you wrote last month. It was co-written, quote, the administration's Iran policy is not a

strategy. It's a pressure tactic wrapped up in bellicosity folded inside a chimera.

So let's talk about this from the U.S. perspective. What you seem to be saying there is the prospect of Tehran pursuing a diplomatic off ramp is

fantasy, that despite the recent overtures we saw from the Iranian foreign minister last week in New York, so how do we square the two?

VAEZ: Look, Becky, the problem at this stage is that the Iranians don't really know what the Trump administration wants. They know that President

Trump is interested in a narrow agreement. He has talked about just preventing Iran from achieving nuclear weapons, and that is doable, but

some of the marginal improvements or theatrics that is attractive to this President, and Foreign Minister Zarif put on the table when he was in New

York last week, but if you listen to secretary Pompeo or National Security Adviser Bolton they are basically talking about a complete overhaul in

Iran's regional policy and defense doctrine.

Which really amounts to a regime change and surrender from the Iranian perspective, so for them it's really not clear what's the objective of the

maximum pressure strategy. And then if the ultimate objective is engagement is it without any conditions as the President says or is it with

pre-conditions as John Bolton and Pompeo say. And so there is real confusion here and the U.S. has invested so much into this policy which has

rendered Iran much more belligerent in the region without having a clear sense --


VAEZ: -- of what it wants to get out of it.

ANDERSON: The only clear sense it seems is that the Iranians have worked out that they can't sit this one out because of course there is an election

in 14 months' time, and there is a possibility that the same U.S. President will be in place again for four years. If they thought they could sit this

one out, then perhaps they'd change their mind on that. Ali Vaez, Iran Project Director at the International Crisis Group. And a good friend of

this show. Thank You for your analysis at what is this crucial time.

VAEZ: My pleasure, thank you.

[11:40:00] ANDERSON: We're live to you from Khor Fakkan. This is CONNECT THE WORLD. We will continue to follow the dramatic events in and around

Iran and indeed this Gulf region when we come back. Taking a very, very short break. Back after this.


ANDERSON: Right, you're back with us on CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Becky Anderson. We are in the Khor Fakkan on the -- well, in the UAE with the

Gulf of Oman behind me. We are continuing to watch flaring international tensions in this region. Britain has convened two emergency security

meetings after Iran captured a British flagged oil tanker just to the north of here in the Strait of Hormuz. Iran says the ship violated international

regulations but observers say Iran is lashing out over economic sanctions.

Joining me again is CNN senior international correspondent Matthew Chance, economic sanctions that the foreign minister calls economic terrorism. You

are just hot in from Russia. What's the perspective there on all of this?

CHANCE: Extremely hot in from Russia. Yes, the Russians inevitably, predictably have taken the side of the Iranians on this. They've lined

themselves up alongside their allies in Tehran. Sergei Ryabkov who is the Deputy foreign minister in Russia issuing a statement earlier today on the

Russian state news agency basically saying that the Iranian version of events with regard to the British flagship is much more credible than the

British version of events.

And that sort of stands at odds to much of the rest of the international community, it stands at odds with of course what Britain says and what its

allies in France and Germany and NATO say. And so if it ever does come to some kind of conflict here, you can see the battle lines starting to be


ANDERSON: Matthew Chance, our senior international correspondent. We are saying good night for you for this hour, at least. You've been watching

CONNECT THE WORLD I'm Becky Anderson. CNN of course continues after this short break. A very good evening from the team.

[11:45:00] (WORLD SPORT)