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South Korea Fires Warning Shots at Russian Jets; U.S., U.K. Consider Military Options to Counter Iran; U.K. Conservative Party Set to Announce Next Leader; Former Special Counsel's Remarks May Be Limited. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired July 23, 2019 - 02:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world, I'm Rosemary Church and this is CNN NEWSROOM.

Coming up, Iran facing new warnings as it refuses to release a British tanker seized in the Strait of Hormuz.

In just a few hours, we will find out who will replace Theresa May as British prime minister and we look at the political legacy she is leaving behind.

And the calls for the governor of Puerto Rico to resign are getting louder, we'll have the latest.


CHURCH: Good to have you.

The U.K. and the U.S. are issuing new warnings to Iran, which refuses to release a British oil tanker it seized in the Strait of Hormuz last week. New satellite images showed the ship docked in the port city of Bandar Abbas. It is now flying an Iranian flag.

The British foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, says the U.K. does not want a confrontation with Iran but Tehran's actions are forcing London to beef up its military presence in the Gulf to protect shipping. President Trump says the U.S. is ready to respond with military action as well.

At the heart of this standoff is the fate of the crew aboard the seized British oil tanker. CNN's Melissa Bell spoke exclusively to the CEO of the ship's operator.


ERIK HANELL, CEO, STENA BULK: We had one request recently which suggests that we should have access to the group. And have confirmed that they have received the request but we're still waiting for a reply. So it's not dead silence in that respect to us but the communication back is very, very limited.

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What do you know about the fate of the crew?

HANELL: We see the position on the -- through the technical means we have. We have heard through third sources and we have seen on the news, of course, that it looks like the crew is in good health, considering the circumstances.

So of course, a lot of psychological pressure on them, I'm sure. But it looks like they are in reasonably good health. Nevertheless, of course, the most important thing for us to do is to confirm it ourselves as well and to make sure that -- I mean, we want a direct line to them and talk to the crew and make sure that they are in good shape and for sure also make sure that they get connected to their relatives as well.


CHURCH: President Trump is also responding to Iran's claim that it has broken up a CIA spy ring. CNN's Barbara Starr is following that part of the story from the Pentagon.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Iranian state TV announcing it has captured 17 Iranian citizens, accused of acting as CIA spies, even releasing photos of what they say are covert CIA officers recruiting the accused. CNN is blurring their identities. The CIA not commenting but President Trump is pushing back hard.

TRUMP: I read a report today about CIA. That is totally a false story. That's another lie. It's a religious country or religious leaders but they lie a lot.

STARR (voice-over): And as tensions keep escalating with Iran, the commander in chief sounded downbeat about the prospects for diplomacy.

TRUMP: Frankly, it's getting harder for me to want to make a deal with Iran. Let's see what happens with Iran.

STARR (voice-over): Iran is in an all out information war, involving America's closest ally, the U.K., releasing this seemingly staged video of the crew of the British flag tanker, Stena Impero, which was seized by Iran on Friday.

The crew appearing nervous and forced to take part in the filming. Iran also releasing this dramatic video showing Iranian commandoes roping down onto the deck of the tanker when it was seized.

In London, the British foreign secretary announcing to Parliament, the military is responding.

JEREMY HUNT, BRITISH FOREIGN MINISTER: It is with a heavy heart that we are announcing this increased international presence in the Gulf. STARR (voice-over): Several U.S. cargo vessels are expected to transit through the Strait of Hormuz in the coming days. The Pentagon is now considering flying fighter jets overhead to make sure those American ships stay safe. And the president, who said he does not want war, still making a threat.

TRUMP: We are ready for the absolute worst and we are ready for sense, too. But we are geared up.

STARR: A significant test of the security in the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz could come quite soon --


STARR (voice-over): -- if the U.S. Navy decides to put the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln into the Persian Gulf -- Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.


CHURCH: History is about to be made in the United Kingdom. The British Conservative Party is set to announce its new leader in just over four hours from now. The winner of the contest will be the new prime minister, replacing Theresa May.

Former London mayor Boris Johnson is heavily favored in the contest but he is a divisive figure. A growing list of cabinet members say they will not serve under him because he's ready to take a no deal Brexit. Johnson's chief rival is the man who replaced him as foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt.

For more, Nic Robertson is live in London, joining us now.

Nic, it appears a fait accompli with Boris Johnson the most likely next leader and he is facing a Brexit revolt.

What's ahead in the coming hours?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: It's always been expected that Boris Johnson would be the Conservative Party's favorite for the job between him and Jeremy Hunt. And it's only the members of the Conservative Party who were able to take part in this final ballot between the pair of them.

It will be announced about four hours time from now and I think that is the working assumption. But when you hear the Chancellor of the Exchequer at Number 11 Downing Street right here over the weekend saying that he was going to resign and not serve under a Johnson government, that gives you an indication that, within the cabinet, they all understand that Johnson will take over.

Alan Duncan, a senior minister within the foreign office, also resigned but it's really going to be a poisoned chalice for Boris Johnson, assuming that he does win and he is announced in a few hours time. It will be tomorrow before he takes up the position officially and walks into Number 10 as prime minister. But it's something of a poisoned chalice because Brexit is something

that has taken down the two previous incumbent residents here at Number 10.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I will shortly leave the job that has been the honor of my life to hold.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): The great survivor of British politics, finally admitting defeat. Three years after taking over from David Cameron, Theresa May brought down by the very thing that ended Cameron's career: Brexit.

MAY: The need, of course, to negotiate the best deal for Britain in leaving the E.U. and to forge a new role for ourselves in the world.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): The task of navigating the U.K.'s departure from the E.U. defined and ultimately sunk May's leadership. With her Brexit deal, she made political history in all the wrong ways, losing the vote in Parliament.


JOHN BERCOW, SPEAKER, BRITISH HOUSE OF COMMONS: The ayes to the right, 202. The nos to the left, 432.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She went around blithely trotting out this mantra, this catchphrase, that Brexit means Brexit...

MAY: Brexit means Brexit.

Brexit means Brexit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- which suggested to everyone, hey, it will be OK, it will be like almost an box-seeking (ph) exercise. It did not prepare people for the messy nature of compromise.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): This monumental Brexit task, made all the harder after May called a snap election in 2017. Her plan: to strengthen the government's hand in negotiation with Brussels. Instead, it backfired spectacularly, the Conservative Party losing their majority and May lost face, perhaps the writing already on the wall.

Shelan Thomas (ph) as prime minister eventually admitting her mistake.

MAY: I take responsibility. I led the campaign and I am sorry.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Even this moment of rare remorse overshadowed by misfortune. First, an interruption by a protester. Then a coughing fit as the letters began to drop off the wall behind her.

For May's critics, the perfect metaphor for her disintegrating leadership. Never appearing fully comfortable in the public eye, May's stiff demeanor earned her the unflattering nickname, the Maybot. Nevertheless, she made a virtue of her political handicap. Owning her awkwardness, never shying away --


ROBERTSON (voice-over): -- from an opportunity to dance in public. Those who have worked for her say she is a woman of principle, with a deep sense of public duty.

But in this fractious phase of British politics, other essential qualities were lacking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Things like flexibility, an ability to reach out, to forge compromise, to speak to people that she does not necessarily have that much time for. Some of those dealmaking political skills were where she fell short.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Ultimately, it was this inability to strike a Brexit deal that cost May her job, making her the second consecutive British prime minister to be brought down by Brexit, a daunting legacy for the next Number 10 resident to turn around.


ROBERTSON: Johnson talks about wanting to revive optimism in this country, it will be an uphill task and they likely will need a lot of optimism for himself. The challenges here, when he takes over, if it is him as prime minister, are going to come thick and fast -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: They most definitely are. And Nick, you mentioned the challenge of Brexit but there's also the crisis of Iran right now.

How is he likely to tackle both of those crises?

And what sort of leader might he be in the end?

ROBERTSON: It's interesting; we've already heard from the Iranian foreign minister, saying to Boris Johnson, who would've been a counterpart for Boris Johnson when he was the foreign secretary, telling Boris Johnson that Iran wants normal relations with Britain but also adding this warning, that it may be easy to start a war but it's difficult to end one.

So it seems that the Iranians are sending a very clear message to Johnson, do not, when you come into office, up the ante over the tensions with the impounded tanker at the moment.

The foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, the other man in the leadership race, who seems to be the loser and wants to hold on to the job as foreign secretary, he announced in Parliament yesterday that Britain would not be joining the United States in its maximum pressure against Iran campaign, rather turning to European partners to form a strategic alliance that provides security in the Persian Gulf.

The question is, which direction does Johnson turn?

Does he turn to the European Union and European partners, against whom he is turning his back in Brexit?

Or will he turn to Trump and the U.S. position in the Persian Gulf right now, which is the maximum pressure sanctions position on Iran?

Which choice will he make?

He has been critical of President Trump's racist comments recently but, overall, he has been a big fan of President Trump. But it's not clear President Trump will reciprocate. It may be the first acid test for Johnson. As much as he wants to rekindle the special relationship between the two countries, both President Trump and secretary of state Mike Pompeo essentially saying the security of British vessels in the Persian Gulf is a British issue first.

This may be some tough love and hard lessons pretty quickly if Boris Johnson turns to President Trump on this.

CHURCH: Yes, a big challenge there. And you mentioned Brexit. We will know in a few hours who the leader is, of course. It looks like a fait accompli but you can never be quite so sure. But getting some analysis from Nic Robertson, thank you.

And you can tune in for our special coverage of the Conservative Party leadership results. It's coming up at 11:00 am London time, right here on CNN.

Turning to anger spilling out onto the streets of San Juan, Puerto Rico, a day of mostly peaceful demonstration ended with tear gas, as police worked to disperse a huge crowd near the governor's mansion.

Protesters are demanding the governor of the U.S. territory resign over rampant corruption as well as leaked sexist and homophobic chats. But Ricardo Rossello says he will not leave yet. And Nick Paton Walsh is on the ground, filing this report a short time ago.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Joining on the streets, where there were relatively peaceful protests for much of the day, there was a more angry romp at the front. They threw water bottles at the police; as you can see, dressed head to toe in protective gear, not very vulnerable.

After an hour or so of that, police firing tear gas at the protesters. That predictably caused them to scatter as we saw on Wednesday. An extraordinary scene, frankly. And the police in their numbers here, in their hundreds, I would say. You can see this unit --


WALSH (voice-over): -- in the lesser protective gear they are wearing, others have gone chasing part of the protesters down separate parts of the street. And you can see down this particular street, some of the straggling protesters too and it seems like some firemen trying to come to someone's aid in one of the nearby houses. Also here, the remainder of the protesters right at the end of that

street there. Let me wind you back to the beginning of today, 9:00 am. Hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans on the streets, on the expressway, leading into San Juan, blocking it down, putting it into gridlock, demanding the immediate resignation of Governor Ricardo Rossello.

That was peaceful, that was festive, that was frankly an extraordinary message from the groundswell that has risen up against the governor, telling him to leave now. He, during that, gave an interview in which he said, again, I'm not going anywhere right now, I'm not running for reelection.

I'm sorry, he said, in a kind of a falteringly way. And that actually seems to have added more fuel here. But at this protest moved into San Juan, a feeling that the possible weight of numbers could eventually bring trouble, as the evening went by, we slowly saw the crowd grow increasingly angrier, the makeup at times had more young men in it than it did earlier on.

There were more masks, I saw people wearing. It seems they knew that tear gas was a possibility, I would imagine. Also some say potentially they were trying to hide their identity.

After about an hour or son, in which bottles and other projectiles were thrown at the police we also fireworks used in the crowd. I didn't see any fired at the police immediately although there was an altercation later.

And here we are, more fireworks being fired down at the end of the street here, it seems. More tear gas, I should say. That's causing that crowd to scatter.


CHURCH: That was our Nick Paton Walsh, reporting from the streets of San Juan in Puerto Rico.

Just ahead, Portugal is struggling to contain a wildfire ahead of another heat wave. An update on the battle to control the blaze is coming up.

Plus, the volunteers of the White Helmets group have always been about helping others during the war in Syria. Now they are mourning one of their own.




CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. U.S. president Donald Trump is raising some eyebrows with a couple of bold statements. While meeting --


CHURCH: -- with Pakistan's prime minister Imran Khan he told reporters he has a way to end the war in Afghanistan, America's longest running conflict but he says it is not worth the cost.


TRUMP: If we wanted to fight a war in Afghanistan and win it, I could win that war in a week. I just don't want to kill 10 million people. Afghanistan would be wiped off the face of the Earth, it would be gone. It would be over in 10 days.


CHURCH: Mr. Trump also offered to mediate between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, take a listen.


TRUMP: I was with Prime Minister Modi two weeks ago and we talked about this subject and he actually said, "Would you like to be a mediator or arbitrator?"

I said, "Where?"

He said, "Kashmir."

Because this has been going on for many, many years. I was surprised how long. It's been going on a long time. I think they would like to see it resolved and we want to see it resolved and if I can help I would love to be a mediator.


CHURCH: India pushed back on that, writing in a statement that, quote, "No such request has been made by the prime minister to the U.S. president. It has been India's consistent position that all outstanding issues with Pakistan are discussed only bilaterally."

Turning to the conflict in Syria now. Dozens have been killed from airstrikes and shelling across rebel held areas in the country's northwest, according to the volunteer rescue group known as the White Helmets. The group puts the death toll at 54 with 88 wounded. One attack is said to have struck a busy marketplace in Idlib province.

One of the victims of the recent attacks is Anas al-Diab, the 23 year- old photographer was a volunteer with the White Helmets. He died Sunday while documenting Russian airstrikes. Jomana Karadsheh reporting on his legacy of work. But we do want to warn our viewers that some of the images may be disturbing.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even when the world almost stopped paying attention, Anas Diab did not stop taking pictures, he wanted the world to see the living hell that his country had become. Diab's photographs brought us the worst of Syria today. like this heartbreaking image earlier this year of 6 year-old Hasna Patrun (ph), the lifeless hand under her knee was that of her 3 year- old sister. Her 1 year-old brother was also killed in that airstrike.

In the midst of tragedy, he never failed to also capture moments of innocence, the humanity that at times outlived the horrors of war, he was witness to some of the darkest atrocities of our time, the April 2017 chemical attack on his town of Khan Shaykhun.

Diab, a media activist and a member of the rescue group the White Helmets, was injured three times in recent years but that didn't stop the 23 year-old. He spent the past week documenting the brutal bombardment of Khan Shaykhun by the Syrian regime and its ally, Russia. And it cost him his life.

Diab was killed in an airstrike on Sunday, colleagues and friends gathered to pay their final respects and the White Helmets mourned, in a statement saying, quote, "Anas will always be remembered as the one who chose to stay behind the scenes and fight with his camera."

Thus the 24 hours after his death, there were more bodies to bury, more victims to mourn, lives lost in one of the bloodiest attacks in months on what's left of rebel-held Syria. That here has become normal, the everyday, that is what Anas Diab wanted the world to see, even as it turned the other way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the result of your apathy. This is the United States' apathy (INAUDIBLE) Syria situation. We are getting shelled every day. We are getting killed every day. Please, (INAUDIBLE), please, please stop this.

KARADSHEH (voice-over): Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Istanbul.


CHURCH: We turn to Venezuela now, it's blaming an electromagnetic attack for a nationwide power outage, it's the biggest and most widespread power outage to hit the country since March. Blackouts are common amid the country's economic and humanitarian crisis but this one is unusually large.

An organization that tracks outages says that 94 percent of the country's telecommunications infrastructure has been affected. In an effort to help with efforts to restore the power, the country says it is suspending all other work and school activities for the day.


CHURCH: In Portugal firefighters have contained parts of a wildfire but hot, windy conditions could reignite the flames and a shortage of manpower and resources has made for a dangerous situation. CNN's Amara Walker reports.


AMARA WALKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Armed with just a hose, homeowners try to save their houses from threatening wildfires in Portugal. These residents of the town of Macao, 175 kilometers from Lisbon, have become the last lines of defense against the advancing flames as they desperately wait for firefighters to arrive.

"My father was here trying to hose the fire and me and my mother over there. If it was not for me and my mother hosing the fire, all of this would be burned by now."

Over the weekend, wildfire swept through central Portugal, officials say more than 1,000 firefighters were deployed to the area but not in time for some farmers, who were forced to evacuate their livestock.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The fire arrived and there were no firefighting resources here, so we loaded two cars with sheep. It was pandemonium.

WALKER (voice-over): Authorities say they have now contained 90 percent of these fires, leaving some towns engulfed in thick orange smoke. But there are fears that hot windy weather conditions could ignite more hotspots.

Firefighters want to prevent the blaze from reaching levels seen in 2017, when more than 100 people were killed by wildfires. Right now, residents have to wait and see if the danger has passed and whether or not firefighters can extinguish the last of the burning fires before they flare up again -- Amara Walker, CNN.


CHURCH: In a surprising move, Kenya's finance minister has turned himself in to face corruption and financial misconduct charges. This months after taking out a newspaper ad to defend himself.

Kenyan prosecutors say Henry Rotich is in police custody and will appear in court in the coming hours. The charges relate to a project to build two hydroelectric dams in the country, prosecutors say they plan to charge 27 other people linked to the case.

Football star Cristiano Ronaldo will not face rape charges in Las Vegas. Authorities there say the allegations first made in 2009 cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

The district attorney's office says the woman accusing Ronaldo was not forthcoming with information about the attack, hindering the initial investigation and video evidence showing interactions between her and Ronaldo before and after the alleged crime was lost.

Still to come, Iran is challenging the world's strongest military powers in Strait of Hormuz. A look at their strategy and the long history of conflict with the West.

Plus the next British prime minister will have to face a standoff with Iran. Former prime minister Gordon Brown's advice for Boris Johnson.


CHURCH: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM, I'm Rosemary Church. I want to update you now on the main stories we've been following this hour.

The British Conservative Party is set to announce its new leader, in the coming hours. The winner of the contest will replace Theresa May as prime minister. Former London mayor, Boris Johnson, is heavily favored. His chief rival is the man who replaced him as Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt.

Police in Puerto Rico deployed tear gas to disperse a huge crowd of protesters a short time ago. The demonstrators are demanding that Governor Ricardo Rossello resign immediately. The protest was sparked by leaked offensive chat messages and anger over corruption. Rossello has apologized, but is refusing to step down.

South Korean fighter jets have fired warning shots at Russian military planes that entered the country's airspace. According to South Korea's military, it happened twice within a half hour. Seoul says the Russian planes flew over an island chain claimed by both South Korea and Japan.

Well, the U.S. and the U.K. are considering military options to protect shipping in the Persian Gulf from Iran. Tehran refuses to release a British oil tanker it seized in the Strait of Hormuz last week, but to really understand what's happening right now, it helps to look back through Iran's relations with the west.

Seizing that tanker was only the latest move in a game that's been going on for more than 50 years. Our Becky Anderson reports.


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN ABU DHABI MANAGING EDITOR: The operation was meant to be televised. Iranian Special Forces boarding the British flagged Stena Impero and commandeering it as gunboats buzz 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.

But 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 re-imposed stringent sanctions, setting the two sides on the track to confrontation, that came as no surprise to Iranian leaders like Ayatollah Khamenei.

AYATOLLAH KHAMENEI, SPIRITUAL LEADER, IRAN (through translator): 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 Intelligent 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, or to 1979, when Ayatollah Khomeini led a revolution against the American backed-Mohammad Reza Shah, who they consider to be too close to the west.

And above all, to the 1980s, when the 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, CNN, Khor Fakkan, in the UAE.


CHURCH: Adnan Tabatabai joins us now from Dusseldorf in Germany. He is an independent analyst on Iran affairs and holds a lectureship at the Heinrich-Heine University of Dusseldorf. Thank you so much for being with us.


CHURCH: We're now seeing the United States and the United Kingdom, issuing these new warnings to Iran, as the U.K. ramps up its military presence in the Gulf, in response to Tehran refusing to release a British oil tanker that it seized last week.

[02:35:03] Where's this all going and how far would you expect the U.K. to go with this?

TABATABAI: I guess, this very much looks like a -- what some refer to, as a war of attrition. We are seeing both the U.S. and Iran, trying to up the pressure on the respective other. The U.S., through their maximum pressure campaign, sanctions, economic isolation, the Iranians are trying to respond to that through different means, be it in the nuclear agreement, be it at the sea.

And well, the U.K. is dragged in and it's interesting that now, Foreign Secretary Mike Pompeo, the U.S. is saying the U.K. has to take care of its ownership. So, yes, we have to see what the U.K. comes up with. We are hearing about this joint naval operation with France and Germany, but that remains to be seen what it actually means.

CHURCH: Indeed. And, of course, Iran says it does not seek confrontation. If that's the case, though, why did it seize the U.K. tanker and what's its strategy here?

TABATABAI: I guess the strategy really is -- and you see the pattern again on the U.S. side and the Iranian side, the strategy is on the one hand, increase the pressure to escalate and show what actually -- what the stakes, while at the same time, leaving some doors open for dialog or for some form of talks and negotiations.

We've heard Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif making these suggestions to some of the interviews in recent -- interviews in recent days. And the same holds true for the U.S., we hear a lot of harsh rhetoric, but also calls for Iran to call President Trump. So, yes, I think this is the pattern we see on both sides. CHURCH: The concern in the midst of all this, always, is the chance of miscalculation. How likely is that, do you think?

TABATABAI: Well, that is indeed very dangerous, because we're not just dealing with the -- with the military of the U.S. and the military of Iran, but a whole range of other actors that are, in fact, influential in the region, be it states, in the neighborhood of Iran, but also non-state actors that, frankly, all sides have unleashed into the region in the recent years.

And that is the big danger, I guess, that while both capitals, Tehran and Washington, may not seek a war, other actors who might benefit from the war may jump in and, in fact, create a very dangerous environment.

CHURCH: Indeed. And, of course, President Trump says it's getting harder now for him to want to deal with Iran, so who has the leverage here for any such deal and do you think that that's possible?

TABATABAI: Again, this goes back to the point of the war of attrition. I think, and I would really like to apply this to both sides, both sides are trying to see at what point does the respective other feel the need to seek a face-saving exit. And they're trying to push each other to that very point.

And I think that is the dangerous path we are seeing here, and I'm afraid it will continue for some time. The Iranians seem to be sure that Donald Trump does not want a war. Donald Trump seems to be sure that the Iranians will not dare to enter a war.

So, in times of both sides not seeking a war, it's going to stay dangerous for some time, but I actually do not foresee the big escalation, but we may continue to see some incidents as the recent ones.

CHURCH: Right. And, of course, says we were discussing, Iran says, it doesn't seek confrontation, but it seizes the tanker, it says that it wants to have a respectful relationship with the United Kingdom, but the optics don't look good for Iran, when, you know, it's seizing, and it's been accused of piracy on the seas, and taking a U.K. tanker.

TABATABAI: What really matters most for the Iranians or for the Iranian leadership that's, at least, my cents, is to show that it is able and has the will and means to respond to being under pressure. So, this -- the seizure of the U.K. tanker was a response to the Gibraltar seizure of an Iranian oil tanker, and the same holds true for the situation with regards to the nuclear agreement.

Iran has the -- feels the necessity to show that it can respond, that it is not -- in fact, it has an alternative to just sticking to the deal, and the leadership in Tehran, and that is my cents, has, for one year, continued to apply by the obligations of the nuclear agreement, and feels that this one year has not paid off.

And therefore, they are now seeking -- now, basically exploring the options of escalation, and to see whether they get more results out of that.

[02:40:02] CHURCH: Yes, this escalation, of course, has caused a lot of concern in the region and beyond. Adnan Tabatabai, thank you so much for joining us and sharing your analysis on this issue, appreciate it.

TABATABAI: My pleasure.

CHURCH: Well, Iran's seizure of the British flagged tanker comes as the U.K. is about to get a new prime minister. Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is heavily favored to be picked as the new Conservative leader, a past Prime Minister Gordon Brown recently spoke to CNN's Christiane Amanpour, about the standoff with Iran, and here's his advice for Johnson, in this CNN exclusive.


GORDON BROWN, FORMER PRIME MINISTER, UNITED KINGDOM: I think, Boris Johnson should be very much aware that the background to this, is the failure of the American administration to stay with the Iranian deal. And I think the background to this is, also, that Britain must remain solid with our European partners.

But what he can do to persuade President Trump to look again at the conditions in which he might sign a deal with Iran is, in my view, very important. I am told, whether it's right or wrong, that Iran would accept tougher conditions, that they would move to a higher level of inspection earlier if that were something that America would press for. And this may be the basis that this deal can be sold.


CHURCH: And for more about the contest to pick the next British prime minister, I am joined from Los Angeles, by journalist, Josh Boswell, good to have you with us.


CHURCH: So, it looks like Boris Johnson will be the next U.K. prime minister, and he is already facing a Brexit revolt. Will cabinet ministers threatening to leave over no-deal Brexit result -- will that cost him a lot of grief? How's all this going to play out, do you think?

BOSWELL: Yes, it's looking to be a very tough entrance for Boris Johnson here, because you have several ministers, either having resigned already, or saying that they will resign, and that's not a great look for him.

He also suffered his first defeat, I think, before he even walked through the doors of number 10 Downing Street, because parliament voted to try and block him from suspending them, which is something that he said he might do, if they try to stop him from taking the U.K. out of the European Union.

It's going to be much harder for him to do that now because of a recent vote by parliament, and so, he is facing a lot of problems there. But, you know, it's not only Brexit, as you've been saying just now, you know, it's Iran too. He's got this entire --

CHURCH: Yes, well, that is the -- exactly. That's the other big issue, isn't it? The new prime minister, whoever it will be, and it looks more and more likely to be Boris Johnson, will face this growing crisis with Iran in the midst of the seizure of this U.K. tanker. So, with that in mind, how far might the U.K. go and particularly, if Boris Johnson is at the helm?

BOSWELL: Well, the real problem here is that Boris has tried previously, himself, as foreign secretary, which is, you know, previous role that he had to get Donald Trump to agree to renewing that nuclear deal with Iran, and he failed. Now, maybe he's built up more of a rapport with Trump, since then, maybe, you know, Trump has changed his position slightly, but it doesn't look that way.

In fact, it looks like the U.S. has hardened on their position. We've also lost our ambassador, Sir Kim Derrick, who had great contacts and, you know, was very well-respected in the U.S., and he has gone now, because of a leak of his e-mails that, you know, caused Trump to say he wouldn't deal with him.

So, it's looking very difficult for Boris to do what former Prime Minister Gordon Brown was recommending, which is to try and get the U.S. to sign up to push for a renewal of that deal with Iran. It's also going to be quite difficult now, amid Brexit negotiations to get some kind of cooperation with the European Union.

I think it will be very easy, perhaps, irresponsible, but very easy for the European Union to use that as leverage over the U.K. and say, oh well, yes, we'd like to help you in this situation with Iran, but maybe you need to capitulate here on you demands for Brexit first, and so that's going to be a very difficult balance for him to make as prime minister.

CHURCH: Right. And, of course, it has to be said, Boris Johnson is a divisive figure. How did he end up as the man poised to take over from Theresa May, given his history?

BOSWELL: Yes, it's a very interesting one, and I think it boils down to him, being able to say to the Conservative Party membership, remember, this election that he is likely to win, is not the whole country, it's 160,000 Conservative Party members. He is the one who's been able to say, I'm the toughest on Brexit, and I always have been.

[02:45:00] He's also the most charismatic out of all of the potential leadership candidates that there have been. He is, you know, bombastic and, you know, he can be inaccurate at times. He's been accused of lying or -- you know and propagating on truths. But, people think, people in the Conservative Party think that he can win elections because of the charisma, and that's one of their main points that they are voting for.

I think it's two things, it's can he deliver Brexit, and does he want to, which the answer seems to be yes. And to -- you know, whether that's a deal or no deal, he says he's going to deliver. And then, two is, can he win an election when it comes to it?

You know, against labor, the opposition, can he defeat them? And I think the Conservative Party members think, yes he can. That's why he's -- where he is now today.

CHURCH: You're right, and at this point, Jeremy Hunt, Johnson's chief rival has said he will and can work with Johnson. Essentially signaling he surrender to Boris. Is that -- is that what we're seeing here?

BOSWELL: Yes, and I think this is a -- it seems like a bit of a surrender. It's similar to remarks that he made last week as well. I think he realizes that -- you know, he's in the jaws of defeat, and he can snatch the small victory perhaps.

He -- I think he's hoping that Boris Johnson will be gracious in his victory, something that one of the people he really respect figure in history, Winston Churchill, you know, always said one should do.

So, Jeremy Hunt is perhaps hoping that he'll get a good position in Cabinet, because Boris Johnson will say, "OK, Jeremy Hunt represents the other side of the party, the more pro, pro-remain, or at least, less hardline Brexit side of the party. Let's bring him under our wing, so when we don't have this fringe that we're ousting, or -- and you know, we're not further and expanding these splits in the Tory Party. Something he may do.

On the other hand, it may be all futile, and Jeremy Hunt will be cast- off to the backbench, as we'll have to see in the next few days.

CHURCH: Most definitely we'll be watching very closely. Of course, Josh Boswell, thank you as always. Appreciated.

BOSWELL: Thanks, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Well, Robert Mueller gets instructions about what he can and can't say during his testimony before two congressional committees. We'll have the details for you coming up, stay with us.


CHURCH: We have new details about Robert Mueller's highly anticipated appearance Wednesday before two congressional committees. And what the former special counsel may or may not be able to say.

Mueller asked the Justice Department for instruction about his remarks. He has been told to limit any comments to a fairly narrow scope. CNN's Jessica Schneider has more.

[02:50:15] JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: The DOJ has informed Robert Mueller that any of his testimony in those back-to- back hearings tomorrow must remain within the bounds of his public report. It's a blunt warning from the Justice Department, and it came via e-mail on Monday. And it was in response to Robert Mueller asking for guidance on how he should testify, The DOJ is also telling Mueller that he cannot testify about any redacted portions of the report, nor about any conduct of any uncharged third parties. Now, that will likely prevent Robert Mueller from making any comments about the president since Democrats are sure to ask if Donald Trump would have been charged with obstruction if he had not been the president.

But one thing that will stay under wraps until tomorrow and won't be shared beforehand with the attorney general, Mueller's opening statement. A spokesman for Mueller tells me that the DOJ will not see the former special counsel's opening remarks prior to its delivery.

The spokesman wouldn't go into the content of what Mueller will say, and only really reiterated that Mueller will, in fact, stick to the contents of his 448-page report.

Now, the spokesman also wouldn't comment on Mueller's frame of mind heading into these hearings. Since we know that Robert Mueller is a reluctant witness. The spokesman would only say that any indication of his tone or demeanor, we'll just have to wait until tomorrow.

CHURCH: Well, despite the Justice Department's guidelines, what Robert Mueller might say in public seems to be concerning President Trump. The U.S. president has unleashed a new, yet familiar attack on the special counsel. Here is CNN's Abby Phillip.


ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: As Washington and the White House prepare for special counsel Robert Mueller's big day on Capitol Hill this week, President Donald Trump tamping down expectations.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not going to be watching Mueller, because you can't take all those bites out of the apple.

PHILLIP: The president winding up familiar attacks against Mueller and his credibility.

TRUMP: Robert Mueller, I know he's conflicted. He had led this a lot of conflicts that he's got, including the fact that his best friend is Comey. But he's got conflicts with me, too. He's got big conflicts with me. As you know, he wanted the job of the FBI director. He didn't get it.

PHILLIP: But Mueller never sought the FBI director job under Trump, and former FBI director James Comey has denied that he and Mueller are personal friends.

On Twitter, Trump adding his prediction: "In the end, it will be bad for him and the phony Democrats in Congress, who have done nothing but waste time on this ridiculous witch-hunt."

And, days after claiming he won't watch Mueller, Trump now admitting he might. TRUMP: I'm not going to be watching, probably. Maybe I'll see a little bit of it.

PHILLIP: But Mueller wasn't the only thing on the president's mind. He also took aim at one of his new favorite targets, the so-called Squad, made up of four Democratic female congresswomen of color.

TRUMP: They are very bad for our country.

PHILLIP: On his way to pay respects to former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, Trump turning the accusations of racism on the four minority lawmakers, tweeting: "The Squad is a very racist group of troublemakers who are young, inexperienced, and not very smart. They are pulling the once-great Democratic Party far left."

And pointing to the economy as proof that he doesn't have a problem with race.

TRUMP: There's no racial tension. It is because of the economy and what I have done for the African-American.


PHILLIP: And despite the president's tweets, one of his outside lawyers, Jay Sekulow, said there is no organized effort planned to rebut Mueller's testimony this week. There is no war room according to Sekulow. But he did say he expects that Democrats will ask Mueller to literally read from passages of the Mueller report in order to get sound bites that they believe can be used against the president over and over again.

Abby Phillips, CNN, the White House.

CHURCH: And you are watching CNN NEWSROOM. Coming up, a look at what scientists are calling the best-preserved shipwreck of its era. More than 500 years old. That's next.


[02:56:58] CHURCH: And one more discovery to tell you about, a French submarine which vanished with 52 French sailors on board, more than half a century ago, were now it's been found by a search team at a depth of about 2,400 meters near the southern port of Toulon.

The defense ministry describes the discovery as a relief and a technical feat. The French Navy says the wreck will stay where it is, serving the sailors final resting place.

And thank you so much for joining us this hour. I'm Rosemary Church. Remember to connect with me anytime on Twitter, and I'll be back with more news in just a moment. You're watching CNN.