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Purdue Pharma has files for bankruptcy protection in New York; Oil Prices Soar After Saudi Attacks; U.S. Blames Iran on Saudi Drone Attacks; General Motors Workers Go on Strike; New Allegations on Justice Kavanaugh; Netanyahu Fights to Survive Leadership; The Cars Lead Singer, Ric Ocasek Dead at 75. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired September 16, 2019 - 02:00   ET

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


[02:00:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: A court settlement tied to America's opioid crisis as a pharmaceutical giant files for bankruptcy.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Oil prices surge after crippling attacks on the Saudi targets disrupt the global oil supply. Donald Trump also has a warning for the culprit.

CHURCH: And in Israel, the final scramble and the campaign ahead of Tuesdays crucial election, a live report coming up. Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and from all around the world, I'm Rosemary Church.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. "Newsroom" starts right now.

We start this day with a massive development in the fight against America's opioid crisis.

CHURCH: Yes. Late Sunday night, OxyContin maker, Purdue Pharma, filed for bankruptcy protection in New York. The company is facing more than 2,000 lawsuits that alleged it helped fuel America's deadly opioid epidemic that's claimed nearly 400,000 lives in the past decade.

HOWELL: In a statement, Purdue Pharma says the settlement is estimated to provide more than $10 billion in value to address the crisis, but the company's legal battles are far from over -- Reuters points out that two dozen states remain opposed or uncommitted to the proposed settlement.

CHURCH: Lawsuits claim the company and the controlling Sackler family misled doctors and patients about potential addiction and overdose risks. Purdue and the Sackler family have denied the allegations and you can stay with CNN for developments on this issue in the hours ahead.

HOWELL: The other big story we're following around the world this weekend, the attacks on the Saudi oil industry, sending shockwaves throughout the global markets. Oil prices right now are already soaring and fears of a new conflict in the Middle East, they are not helping. Take a look at the numbers there.

CHURCH: U.S. officials like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have been quick to blame Iran for the attacks on two Saudi oil facilities. Iran denies any involvement, but its Houthi's allies in Yemen are claiming responsibility.

The Houthi say they launched drone strikes, but senior U.S. officials are skeptical. One shared these satellite images and they say the angle of the strikes would've been a difficult from Yemen and that the attacks likely originated in Iran or Iraq.

HOWELL: Regardless of who is to blame, the strikes have crippled the Saudi oil industry. Take a look at this image from NASA on Sunday. You would see exactly where it happened. The thick, dark smoke streaking across the desert as the lifeblood of the world's economy burns. CNN's Jeremy Diamond reports that the White House is considering options.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE SPEAKER: President Trump raising the specter of a military response after Saudi oil facilities were struck in an attack on Saturday, cutting down half of their oil production capacity.

The president taking to twitter on Sunday to say, Saudi Arabia oil supply was attacked. There is reason to believe that we know the culprit are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed.

The president there, indicating a military response with those words, locked and loaded, but stopping short of naming a culprit, that in contradiction to what other U.S. officials have done so far. We know that the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has pointed directly to Iran, laying blame at their feet in this attack.

And he also said that there was zero evidence that this attack originated in Yemen where Iranian backed Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility for this attack. I also spoke with a senior administration official on Sunday who said this attack likely originated in Iran or Iraq.

That official pointing to satellite imagery showing that these oil facilities, the targets of those facilities were in the northwest indicating an attack likely coming from the north, Iran or Iraq and not from the south which is where Yemen is.

U.S. officials though are indeed concerned about the potential effects on the economy of this attack on Saudi oil facilities. The president trying to reassure the markets on Sunday saying that he was prepared to release resources from the strategic petroleum reserve in the United States. Jeremy Diamond, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE) CHURCH: Joining us now is Cedric Leighton. He is a CNN a military analyst and former Air Force colonel. Thank you sir for being with us.

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It's my pleasure Rosemary. Thank you for having me.

[02:05:00]

CHURCH: So we do want to start by getting your analysis on these commercial satellite images showing the aftermath of the drone attacks on the Saudi oil installations. Now, the Trump administration says the attack came from Iraq or Iran. Is that what you see when you look at these images? Is it even possible to make a determination on that?

LEIGHTON: It's not 100 percent possible. It is certainly probable that the attack came from neither southern Iraq or Iran, but there are a lot of circumstances that could actually change where the attack came from. So, if these were drones as they are reporting right now, these drones could have conducted basic maneuvers that they could have come from a number of different places.

One of the things that limits where the drones come from is the range of the drones and the fact that they generally don't have a range that would allow them to fly all the way from Yemen, makes it more likely that they came from either southern Iraq or Iran, but it is not 100 percent certain that that is the case.

CHURCH: Interesting. And of course, we know the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was very quick to initially blame Iran out right, but has not yet provided evidence to support that, and at the same time, Houthi rebels in Yemen are claiming responsibility for the drone attack.

Then the Trump administration said the drone attacks came from Iran or Iraq. What do you make of all of this and how Pompeo was so quick to point the finger at Iran?

LEIGHTON: Well, I think we have to be careful in our assessments as to, you know, whether or not it did come from Iran. I think what's pretty clear is that it is most likely that it came from either Iran or an Iranian proxy force, so that could mean that the geographic point of origin of the missiles or of the drones could be anywhere in the Middle East. It could even theoretically be within the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, but that does not mean obviously that the Saudis conducted an attack on themselves.

There are a lot of covert activities that the Iranians engage in that involve agents sleeper cells as they are called that are in both Iraq and the eastern province of Saudi Arabia which has a very large Shia population. And they of course have a lot of Iranian sympathizers in those areas. And that could very well be the place where the drones and their intended missiles came from.

CHURCH: Right. And of course, you have to ask the question, who benefits? Who profits from an attack like this? What do you believe is the motivation behind this precision drone attack whoever is determined to be behind this?

LEIGHTON: Well, when you look at the motivation aspect of this, you know, it is pretty clear that the Iranians and their proxy forces by extension could benefit more from it than any other group that we are considering right now.

There are no other groups besides those that are associated with Iran that would want to wreck Saudi Arabia's economy to the extent that this drone attack apparently has been able to do. You know, when you lose about 5 percent or so of daily oil production, that's a pretty significant factor that's global oil production and that is a pretty huge deal.

So, Iran would benefit from that and it also plays into the narrative of the Shia-Sunni conflict that Iran and Saudi Arabia are basically having between them that has been going on for a number of years right now.

CHURCH: How sophisticated is this attack?

LEIGHTON: This is a very sophisticated attack, Rosemary. One of the reasons I say that is when you look at the imagery, you can see some of the oil tanks that are shown in some of the images, you can see very pinpoint strikes that have gone into those oil tanks.

There is no damage beyond where the missile actually penetrated the tank. And it shows that not only do they have fairly sophisticated explosive missiles, but with the intended warheads.

But they also have very precise intelligence, and the fact that they have that precise intelligence indicates that there is some kind of a state actor behind these attacks.

CHURCH: And just finally, President Trump has hinted that he will respond with military action. How likely is it that it is the answer to this attack at this juncture or is it perhaps too premature?

LEIGHTON: I would say it's a bit premature. The reason that I say that is we really need to make sure that we get the attribution piece correct and, you know, we've had the experience in Iraq. We've had the experience with several other things that had gone on in our past, both in the Middle East and other places around the world where attribution becomes a key.

[02:10:06]

The Iranians have a history of going after Saudi Arabia. They do it through kinetic like this attack as well as non-kinetic means like a cyber attack that happened in 2012 which involved the placing of a virus on Saudi around computers that 35,000 of their P.C.s. It didn't affect oil production at that time.

It affected the administrative operations of Aramco, but that is the kind of thing that leads us to believe that it may be wrong but we have to be very certain that it is in fact the case. And it goes beyond just where the missiles came from. It's goes to who places missiles and what their purpose was. And that's what the intelligence community has to find right now.

CHURCH: Absolutely. Cedric Leighto, it is always a pleasure to chat with you and get your analysis on these military matters. Appreciate it.

LEIGHTON: Thank you so much Rosemary, it's good to be with you.

HOWELL: And again. World markets are bracing for the fall out from the attack. They're seeing oil prices spike. Let's go live to Hong Kong where our Andrew Stevens is keeping a watch on how markets are reacting in Asia. Andrew, what are you seeing at this hour?

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well surprisingly as you say, George, there has been a big spike in oil prices. The market has been open for a few hours now. Initially, Brent Crude, which is one of the key benchmarks that we look at was up to about 20 percent, George, per barrel of oil, which gives you an idea of just how much panic there was in the oil markets when news of this attack came through.

As you can see, it sunk back. It is still low, up about six, about $6.50 a barrel, as 10 percent higher. West Texas Intermediate, which is the other key benchmark, you can see there, up about 9.5 percent. So, there is a lot of real concern in the oil markets and that is washing through to equities.

The Dow Futures are down by around about 150 so points, a little more than half of 1 percent. So, it is not a blood bath in the equities market by any means, but this is going to be something of a slow- moving story and the fact that what investors are looking for now is information from Saudi Arabia about when they can get that production online.

5.7 million barrels of oil per day have been taken off line. That is about 5 percent of world production and is about a half of Saudi's production gone in one hit if you like. The Saudis are being reported of saying, George, they can get about 2 million barrels per day back online by Monday, by today, and the other will come back online in due course.

We don't know whether that's a few more days or a few more weeks. Most analysts say it will be at least a few more weeks, but the Saudis have been very coy about saying exactly what the damage is to their refinery. It's actually a production facility.

And remember, this is the biggest production facility of its type in the world; about 70 percent of all processed crude oil goes through it to international export markets. So, that was a huge blow to the Saudi industry. And it raises all these longer term questions, the vulnerability now or the tensions, the rising geo political tensions in the Middle East.

Just how vulnerable now is the Middle East to some sort of military confrontation between Saudi and Iran, between Iran and the U.S. And so also, it raised the question of the vulnerabilities of the Saudi oil fields themselves, George. I mean, this was an attack on an oil field. There is a lot of money

spent by the Saudis on defending those oil fields. It was breached very successfully. What does that mean when you put that in context? This was the biggest hit to -- single hit to supply the oil industry has ever had.

So, it was a massive hit on supply and it was carried out obviously very successfully by actors at this stage. Are they Houthi? Are they Iranian backed, etc., etc. But certainly it was a very successful hit which does raise these new questions and which will only get answers to, George, in the weeks ahead, but it certainly this is going to be very nervous.

HOWELL: And keeping in mind, you know, Aramco was looking at the world's biggest IPO, the timing of this is so significant. Andrew Stevens, keeping a watch on it. We'll stay in touch with you as we all watch the markets.

CHURCH: Well, members of an American labor union have decided to strike against a major automaker.

HOWELL: Just hours ago, workers at 31 General Motors plants and other facilities walked off the job. The United Auto Workers Union had given G.M. until midnight Monday to meet its demands but apparently they failed to reach an agreement.

CHURCH: The union's contract with the company expired on Sunday. G.M. says it made a strong offer but the union argues the workers needs are not being met. This is the largest strike against s U.S. business since the 2007 G.M. strike.

[02:14:56]

HOWELL: Still ahead here on the "CNN Newsroom" live, Israel's prime minister fighting for his political life. As we return, a close look at Benjamin Netanyahu's close election race and his adversary, Benny Gantz.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(WORLD SPORTS)

CHURCH: Welcome back everyone. Well, President Trump is leaping to Brett Kavanaugh's defense after new allegations surfaced against the Supreme Court justice. The president urged Kavanaugh to sue for libel and suggested the Department of Justice rescue him.

HOWELL: In contentious confirmation hearings last year, Kavanaugh denied allegations of sexual assault from three women. In a "New York Times" book excerpt, the author say they confirmed with two sources, a new allegation by a former classmate. The report said the classmate notified senators and the FBI about the incident but the FBI didn't investigate.

CHURCH: Well now, several Democratic presidential candidates are calling for Kavanaugh's impeachment. Kamala Harris said she sat through the hearings and Kavanaugh lied to the Senate and American people.

HOWELL: And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell brushed aside any concerns. He said he look forward to many years of Kavanaugh's service. CNN senior political analyst David Gergen predicts that American public won't back an impeachment of Kavanaugh.

[02:20:05]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: There's a report of course in the book about excerpts are very disturbing. There are -- there seem to be credible allegations in this, but you know, we just litigated this a short time ago and I think the move to jump from a time when he was approved by the Senate all the way over to say he now must be impeached is I think a real stretch for most Americans.

I think they'll be surprised that the word impeachment is being used. It is not surprising if people say there was an outrage and when he got confirmed it was -- the whole thing was -- woman weren't listened to. I think it is particularly disturbing that in this particular case, the woman and others went to the FBI with the story and the FBI did no follow-up.

Apparently, they never went and talk to any of the witnesses who had been in Yale, and that I think is deeply disturbing. But to attempt to impeachment, Ana, you know, that is a pretty big leap. I understand why do it for political purpose, but I think a lot of the country says, come on, guys. You know, we've gone through this. We spend endless amount of time. Do you really think we have to move to impeachment at this point?

I do think that it gives the Democrats an issue about not only where the court is going, how it is been politicized and move to the right under Trump, but some of the other issues that had risen or passed, how they blocked, you know, Obama's last appointee.

What's going to happen if Ruth Bader Ginsburg steps down and Senator McConnell make it clear they're going to plow ahead even though when Obama had a nominee they stopped it in the tracks and said we can't possibly put this person in it until the elections are held.

You know, it's two different standards. So, there are Democrats have a lot for political purposes, but I'm not sure I would leap with impeachment. I just think the issue really is, who and how a court nomination should be handled if it is a Trump versus a Democrat in the White House. I think that is a very, very big issue. It's a huge issue for women.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHURCH: Another issue we are watching very closely, we're less than a day away from Israel's general election and that could see Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu win a record fifth term or lose his political dominance. HOWELL: That's right. The latest opinion poll suggests a tight race

between Mr. Netanyahu's Likud Party and former Israeli military chief of staff, Benny Gantz's Blue and White Party, keeping in mind these polls many times not exactly precise. We'll have to keep an eye on them.

CHURCH: And our senior international correspondent, Sam Kiley, is covering the election from Jaffa, Israel. He joins us now with a look at where the race stands. Sam, good to see you. Of course, a race too close to call, what issues are motivating voters and will Netanyahu's pledge to annex parts of the West Bank help or hinder his chances Tuesday?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rosemary, I think the key thing here is as ever in any election is to get the base out. Now for Benjamin Netanyahu he is the solid base of support from within the Likud Party. The issue for him is how does he manage to wrestle votes for the Likud Party away from some of the more extreme right wing groups.

Now, lately, opinion polls have been showing that Jewish Power organization, which has ideological connections to the band Kahane's Movement, a Jewish terrorist organization back in the day, could end up with some four seats in the Knesset, and that would give them a dominance over a Netanyahu government that Benjamin Netanyahu is not comfortable with.

And so I think we need to see his reaching out, his claims that after an election if he wins, he would annex the Jordan Valley, annex settlements on the West Bank and bring them within Israeli sovereignty. This morning he told Israel Army Radio that he wanted to annex Kiryat Arba and other settlements around Hebron, a highly volatile environment on the southern part of the West Bank.

All of that should be seen as an attempt on the right-wing side to try and get the extreme right-wing voting for his party and not for where their ideology might absolutely lie.

Then on the left, a similar challenge for Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, the joint leaders of the Blue and White Party. They, like Netanyahu, the polls are showing, likely to get 32 to 33 seats in the Knesset out of 120, meaning that they need to knit together a complex coalition.

One of the key elements of that will be the extent to which Arab- Israelis turnout to vote. The turnout has been going down and we're getting the impression at least on the ground that they could, according to opinion polls, walk away with some 12 seats.

That would make them an important potential coalition partner. And then in the background, there is Avigdor Lieberman's party which is firmly secularist, therefore always going to be an awkward coalition with Likud, with Netanyahu, because of his connections with extreme religious.

[02:25:06] But at the same time, pretty right-wing in many regards and so not a

natural fit with the Blue and White. So, really these elections are going to be about the first stage, which will be the actual elections and then the very complex coalition negotiations that almost certain to follow, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes, and coalition building was the problem last time so we'll see. They seem to be confronting the same problem this time around. Sam Kiley joining us there from Jaffa in Israel. Many thanks.

HOWELL: Well, on this day, the music world is in mourning. The loss of a frontman who had one of the most distinct voices of his time, listen.

CHURCH: Ric Ocasek of "The Cars" died Sunday at the age of 75. The group was enormous popular in the late 1970s and '80s. The band was part of the new wave with hits like what you just heard there, "My Best Friend's Girl" and the slower paced "Drive."

HOWELL: Ocasek co-founded the group and was the main songwriter and lead vocal on most of "The Car" songs. The band was inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame just last.

CHURCH: While the U.S. is skeptical, the Houthis carried out this weekend strikes on Saudi oil sites alone, but the militants are boasting they did it. How the attacks play into the war in Yemen, that is coming up in just a moment. Just stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[02:30:07]

HOWELL: Welcome back to viewers here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching CNN News live from the ATL. I'm George Howell.

CHURCH: And I'm Rosemary Church. I want to check the headlines for you this hour. Purdue Pharma, the company at the center of the U.S. opioid crisis has filed for bankruptcy. The company faces more than 2,000 lawsuits, alleging it aggressively marketed prescription painkillers, while misleading doctors and patients about the risks of addiction and overdose. Purdue denies the allegations.

HOWELL: The U.S. President Donald Trump says the United States is, "locked and loaded". This, after this weekend's attacks on Saudi oil sites. The President tweeted the U.S. may know who the culprit is but he says he still wants verification from the Saudis. Iranian bank -- backed Houthi militants in Yemen say that they attacked the site with drones. A U.S. official says the angle of the strikes would have been difficult coming from Yemen.

CHURCH: The coordinated strikes in Saudi Arabia disrupted five percent of the daily global oil supply. And the effects can already be seen in trading, prices are surging, and you can see there, Brent Crude and WTI Crude both up around the nine, 10 percent mark. HOWELL: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo quickly blamed Iran for the oil strikes. Iran denies its involvement. But its president is slamming the United States and Saudi Arabia for their roles in Yemen. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HASSAN ROUHANI, PRESIDENT OF IRAN (through translator): The Americans are supporting the UAE and Saudi Arabia. They are transferring weapons, they are providing intelligence, and parts of the -- the war operations is being run by the Americans. And we see that every day, innocent people are killed in Yemen. There is an ongoing insecurity in the region.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: Iran backs the Houthi faction in Yemen as it battles the Saudi-led coalition, and the Houthis have launched attacks into Saudi Arabia before. CNN's Becky Anderson has more on the conflict from Abu Dhabi.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN ABU DHABI MANAGING EDITOR: This is one of the best-protected places on earth, under attack, raging fires burning through one of the world's biggest and most important production energy hubs. In Saudi Arabia after Iranian-backed Houthi rebels say they launched a coordinated assault, using 10 drones, knocking more oil out of the global pipeline in a single stroke than anything else ever has. Some five percent of global supply.

YAHYA SAREA, SPOKESMAN, HOUTHI MILITARY (through translator): We promised the Saudi regime that our coming operations will only grow wider and will be more painful than before so long as their aggression and blockade continues.

ANDERSON: The Houthi's message clearly nothing is out of reach or off limits. A senior official at the White House though telling CNN it looked like the attacks came from southern Iraq, where Iran wields considerable influence in the country. But Iraq and Iran flat-out deny any involvement. Still, without evidence, the U.S. Secretary of State immediately pointing the finger at Tehran, saying there was no question they were behind the attacks, and for at least 100 others.

The Houthis have been reaching into Saudi Arabia in larger and more daring attacks for months now. Like drone attacks targeting remote oil pumping stations in May, and the (INAUDIBLE) oil field last month. Back in June, a cruise missile attack on a Saudi airport, injuring almost 30 civilians. The two sides have been engaged in a deadly battle to wrest control of Yemen for four years. Clearly now, both sides are playing with fire very close to home. Becky Anderson, CNN, Abu Dhabi.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Let's get some analysis on all of this now with former U.S. Ambassador Matthew Bryza. His last post as ambassador to Azerbaijan, currently the Director of the International Center for Defense Studies. Ambassador Bryza joining this hour from Istanbul, Turkey. It's good to have you with us.

MATTHEW BRYZA, DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR DEFENSE STUDIES: Thank you, George. Great to be with you.

HOWELL: Mr. Ambassador, so you have served as a mediator in some of the world's most entrenched conflicts. Given the tensions between the United States and Iran, what do you make of the president's tweet, stating that the U.S. has reason to believe that we know, he says, who's responsible for the attack, and that the country's locked and loaded but waiting on verification from Saudi Arabia on the issue?

[02:35:00]

BRYZA: Well, yes. Well, it's a predicted escalation of the rhetoric by President Trump. You know, it's no secret that he had been favoring possible discussions with Iranian President Rouhani. Reportedly, President Trump wanted to take away some of the sanctions, and that's led to a big battle within the Trump administration and I think played a big role in Ambassador John Bolton's firing or resignation last week.

So, in this case, Iran appears, if you believe what Secretary Pompeo said, Iran appears to have escalated attacks quite seriously. This is a really serious attack on Saudi oil production capabilities and on global supply. And so, it would be expected that the U.S. president would want to say something that is coming to the aide of the U.S., as Saudi ally, especially President Donald Trump, who's made such a point to be close to Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

HOWELL: Well, whoever is behind the attack, it has turned a regional tension into global pain, by simple way of a drone attack, affecting the world oil supply.

BRYZA: Well, listening to the emotion in your statement, I actually agree with sort of the incredulous behind what you're saying. It's hard to believe this was a drone attack. My colleagues in information sources in the oil industry and in governments are telling me they're convinced these were cruise missiles, 15 or more, maybe 17 against a -- maybe a couple more against the -- what I'd say an oil production facility. So, this was a really sophisticated attack, which therefore makes it difficult to believe Houthi rebels could have carried it out.

HOWELL: And now, the finger pointing ensues. Iran's President slammed the U.S. and Saudi Arabia for the war in Yemen. The U.S. pointing the finger back at Iran without evidence, keeping in mind Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility. And the Houthi is one of many different groups backed by Iran, that work as proxies. Given this attack, how big of a game changer do you see this as within that region?

BRYZA: I think it could be a real game changer, maybe not so much in Yemen, because the Houthis are already under attack by the UAE and by the Saudi Arabians with U.S. support, not active military support but material. But what this could really change is the dynamic between Iran and Saudi Arabia face-to-face, and could lead to the United States, you taking some sort of military action.

We remember back in June, President Trump at the 11th hour called off a military strike against Iran. Hawks in both Tehran and Washington have been spoiling for a confrontation. The nuclear agreement was not popular with the hardliners in Iran, that oppose President Rouhani, and they have been looking for a way to derail any sort of normalization of Iranian-U.S. relations, particularly the meeting with Rouhani that Trump has been advocating.

HOWELL: The U.S. president looking ahead at an election based on his America First approach, which was, you know, to keep the country from getting involved in conflicts overseas. At the same time, it does seem that the drum beats are picking up for that possibility. Where does this leave President Trump on the world stage with this happening now?

BRYZA: Well, he's backed himself into a diplomatic corner, because he's had such a confrontational approach with the U.S.'s allies, especially NATO allies, that they're not coming to the U.S.'s aid maybe as readily as they would have in the past. What the U.S. needs now is diplomatic solidarity, to make very clear -- make totally clear to Iran that if they -- if they conducted this attack, there is a cost to be paid, hopefully not a military one, hopefully one in which the U.S. allies come together, I suppose, increase the sanctions that have been really biting on Iran.

So, President Trump doesn't have that tool at his disposal, the diplomatic solidarity. So, he's left with having to impose the sorts of veiled military threats to strike against Iran. And that's quite an exposed position there. There are plenty of Americans, I'm sure, who without really thinking about it in a knee jerk way, might think showing -- teaching Iran a lesson militarily is a good idea, but I think those who think a little bit more systematically and historically realize that could really be opening a Pandora's box.

HOWELL: Ambassador Matthew Bryza, we appreciate your time and context on this. Thank you.

BRYZA: I thank you.

CHURCH: Another story we are following, Welsh rugby legend Gareth Thomas has made a stunning announcement about his health. The former British Lions Captain has revealed that he is HIV positive. And now, he's battling to break the stigma surrounding the condition.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GARETH THOMAS, FORMER WELSH RUGBY PLAYER: I am living with HIV. Now, you have that information. That makes me extremely vulnerable, but it does not make me weak. I choose to fight, to educate, and break the stigma around this subject. I'm asking you to help me to show that everyone lives in fear of people's reactions and opinions to something about them. But that doesn't mean that we should have to hide. But to do this, I really, really need your support. (END VIDEO CLIP)

[02:40:25]

CHURCH: And Thomas told the Sunday Mirror he's been living with this secret for years. He says he decided to make his condition public after being threatened with blackmail. He's believed to be the first British sportsman to announce he's HIV positive.

HOWELL: The Prime Minister of Israel is making a controversial campaign pledge one that could damage prospects for peace. We'll look at whether it will help or hurt his situation in Tuesday's election.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOWELL: Following the election in Israel and the polls show Tuesday's election is tight between the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's party and the former Israeli military chief Benny Gantz's party.

CHURCH: Yes, Mr. Netanyahu vows to annex parts of the West Bank if he wins his reelection. This pledge has sparked international condemnation and threatens prospects for peace. But the Prime Minister remains focused on appealing to his base. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL (through translator): We will apply this sovereignty immediately when the next government is formed. In the next Knesset, I'm proud to convene this special cabinet meeting in the Jordan Valley. It's not only the eastern gate of the State of Israel, it's the defense wall from the east since the Jordan Valley along with the territories that control it, which will be a part of the State of Israel, assures that the Israeli army will be here forever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[02:44:56]

CHURCH: So, let's bring in Gil Hoffman. He is the chief political correspondent and analyst with the Jerusalem Post. Gill, good to see you.

GIL HOFFMAN, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, JERUSALEM POST (via Skype): A pleasure.

CHURCH: So, we're looking at a very close election, could go either way here. What's some of the research telling you about which issues will decide this Tuesday and how motivated the voters by Netanyahu's promise to annex parts of the West Bank if he's elected?

HOFFMAN: Well, this election is Shakespeare. It's to Bibi or not to Bibi. This is very much a referendum on 13 years of Netanyahu's rule whether Israelis want to continue to have Netanyahu be in power because he makes them feel more secure than any potential candidate does. Or whether they want to have an alternative who is cleaner, who is a fresh face for the world, and who can also potentially keep Israel secure.

The corruption charges against Netanyahu will certainly be taken into account by Israeli voters with three criminal cases hanging over his head. I don't think Israelis are going to be voting on the settlement issue that hasn't been an issue until Netanyahu forced it into the headlines over the last few days.

I don't think Israelis take too seriously campaign promises that are made a week before the election. I think that pledge that Netanyahu made is being taken a lot more seriously by the international community than by the voters who was intended to influence.

CHURCH: Your sense is that what -- after the election you don't think he's going to follow through on that promise. I think you've said previously, right?

HOFFMAN: Yes, not only do I think he's not going to follow through on the promise, I think the opposite. I think there's going to be a peace process starting Donald Trump has been delaying the presentation of his peace plan now because Israel's had one election after another.

The reason why he's done that is because Israel have to give up a lot in any kind of process. And that would hurt Netanyahu if he -- if the people of Israel hear that he's going to be giving up concessions.

And so, as soon as the elections out of the way, regardless of who wins this election, that peace process will begin, and whoever the Israeli prime minister is, will cooperate it -- will cooperate with it, whoever the Palestinian leader will be. I have my doubts that he'd come to the table.

CHURCH: How can you be so sure of that? Because certainly, the international community very concerned about this pledge regarding parts of the West Bank being annexed.

HOFFMAN: So, I traveled to Netanyahu to London for his meeting with Boris Johnson, a week and a half ago, and Netanyahu kept on hinting like very soon after the election, I happen to know that this plan is about to be presented.

He kept on speaking in one of those I know something you don't know. A kind of tones without being more specific.

CHURCH: Right. Well, we'll see what comes of that, of course. Let's go back to this very close race. How ready do you think Israelis are to try a new leadership by selecting former military chief Benny Gantz? Will that be too big a leap for some voters and how different is his vision for the future of Israel compared to Netanyahu's?

HOFFMAN: Well, Netanyahu is either persuaded very well with his persuasive abilities or brainwashed, depending, I know, which way you're looking at him. The people of Israel to feel that he and only he can make them feel secure. And that's why when those who wanted to defeat Netanyahu searched for a candidate, they decided to have not one but three former chiefs of staff of the Israeli army running together.

Benny Gantz has been very careful not to reveal too many of his views knowing that if you have an opinion on a key issue, you might distance to people that disagree with you. And the more vague you are, the more likely you are to succeed politically nowadays.

And so, his views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there is no doubt that he would go farther to solve it. His views on Iran and other security issues are identical to Netanyahu.

Whether the people of Israel willing to take that risk, though remains to be seen, and it probably had an election, and it was a tie, anything can happen.

CHURCH: Yes, indeed. I know, they -- I mean, they're looking at this very close race now. So, whoever wins is going to have exactly the same problem as last time in building a coalition.

How big a concern would that be for Israel going forward and how do you see the possibilities of building a coalition given either leader?

HOFFMAN: Sure. I'm on record saying that I don't think Netanyahu or Gantz is going to be a prime minister after this election. That Gantz will be given a chance to form a government because there he will have a majority of members of parliament who will recommend him to the president, then, he will fail ahead forming a government.

Then, Netanyahu will be given a chance to form a government. During that six-week period is when his indictment is expected to happen, and I don't think he'll succeed in forming a government because of that indictment. And then, we could end up having a snap election inside the Likud Party, similar to what the British had that elected Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party. And he automatically became prime minister.

We could very well see a new candidate take over Likud and become the prime minister of Israel shortly thereafter.

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CHURCH: Well, interesting. We shall watch to see what happens Tuesday and the days that follow. Gil Hoffman, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

HOFFMAN: Thank you.

HOWELL: Just weeks after Hurricane Dorian ripped through the Bahamas, the islands have avoided a second natural disaster this month. Find out where the storm is headed next.

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CHURCH: An already devastated Bahamas has dodged another direct hit as Tropical Storm Humberto moved away on Sunday.

HOWELL: Humberto has now strengthened -- it's a hurricane at this point. Let's check now to see if there are other areas of concern with our meteorologists Pedram Javaheri in the International Weather Center. Pedram.

[02:54:39]

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN INTERNATIONAL METEOROLOGIST: Yes, George and Rosemary, you know, this was a storm system that had the potential here to be a devastating storm, of course, in an area that the last thing you want to see is additional rainfall.

And look at these ominous photos here coming out of the Bahamas and Nassau, where tourists looking northbound where this particular storm was just offshore. And it took a very interesting track kind of meandered between the islands and a closer perspective shows, you were talking about 120-kilometer per hour winds which is a Category 1 system.

And again, thunderstorms right there across portions of -- not only Grand Bahama but also the region around Abaco Island as well that have been impacted by these -- of course, with Dorian. And rainfall still coming down across some of these regions with this particular storm system.

But strengthening is unfortunately what we are looking at here over the next couple of days. And look at this, this is the track of Humberto as it kind of meandered between the archipelago got very close proximity to the Abaco region, and then, pulled away in the past several hours, becoming a Category 1.

But model suggests this will continue moving towards the east, potentially, get up to Category 2 strength. And notice there is one area of land area in the path of it and that is the island of Bermuda that's going to be in the path of the storm potentially Category 2 sometime later into this week.

But there is quite a bit of variability between the storm, potentially moving away from the island as it approaches.

But that's not the only system we're watching. There is one system in the Gulf of Mexico -- just for thunderstorm activity at this point. And then, at one farther towards the east in the Atlantic Ocean. This is the one that's the most concerning at this hour, it has an 80 percent chance of forming within the next week or so. This storm forecast to become Hurricane Imelda, later on into this weekend.

And again, notice the potential area that we're watching with the system would be around the Leeward Islands that would include Antigua and Barbuda. Potentially, on into the Virgin Islands, and then, eventually even Puerto Rico could be in the immediate path of the storm.

And then, you know what's beyond that if it tracks towards this direction, Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas. So, certainly very early in the hurricane season here, and unfortunately, long ways left before we are out of the woods in these areas.

HOWELL: All right, Pedram. Thank you so much.

CHURCH: Thank you.

JAVAHERI: Thank you, again.

HOWELL: And thank you for being with us this hour for CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell.

CHURCH: And I'm Rosemary Church. We'll be back with another hour of news next. You are watching CNN. Do stay with us.

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