Return to Transcripts main page
Interview With Haaretz Military Correspondent And Defense Analyst Amos Harel; Interview With GWU Elliott School Of International Affairs Adjunct Professor And Middle East Institute Senior Fellow Firas Maksad; Interview With "How To Blow Up A Pipeline" Director And Co-Writer Daniel Goldhaber; Interview With "How to Blow Up A Pipeline" Co-Writer And Actress Ariela Barer. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired April 07, 2023 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR. Here's what's coming up.
Violence escalating in Israel, Gaza and now, Lebanon. We get the latest on this tense situation and hear from senior Israeli journalist Amos Harel and
regional expert Firas Maksad.
Also ahead --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUSTIN JONES, EXPELLED TENNESSEE STATE HOUSE DEMOCRAT: Rather than pass laws that will address red flags and banning assault weapons and universal
background checks, they passed resolutions to expel their colleagues.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Fury as Tennessee Republicans expelled two state representatives. How America's relationship with guns, democracy and race
meet in this one moment.
Then, are Russian troops regaining momentum in the key Ukrainian city of Bakhmut. We have the latest from Kyiv.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Michael, what do you think the odds (INAUDIBLE) they said that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't really care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: The explosive new film taking on the climate emergency. I'm joined by the director and star of "How to Blow Up a Pipeline."
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour, who will be back next week.
The Israeli defense forces are ordering the mobilization of some of its reserves as violence that began in Israel and Gaza has spread to Lebanon.
Israel says it struck Hamas targets in Southern Lebanon and Gaza early this morning, just hours after dozens of rockets were fired from Lebanon into
Israel. The Lebanese foreign ministry now says that it will make an official complaint to the U.N. Security Council. Salma Abdelaziz has the
latest details in this report.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): A day that began with rockets from Gaza that struck a home Sderot. No one was killed in the
attack, the latest in a wave of missiles fired from Gaza and Southern Lebanon in recent days.
Violence also spread to the West Bank on Friday. There, two Israeli sisters were killed and their mothers seriously wounded in a shooting, described by
Israeli forces as a terrorist attack. Hamas praised the deadly attack as a heroic act of resistance.
In recent days, a major escalation across the region has raised fears of a wider conflict. This is the latest catalyst, Israeli police twice stormed
al-Aqsa Mosque Wednesday. Overnight footage showed the dramatic raid. Israeli forces hitting worshippers with rifle butts and batons. Israeli
police say they entered the mosque after hundreds of rioters barricaded themselves inside and that their officers were attacked with stones and
Palestinians and the wider Muslim world see the raid on the mosque as a provocation, particularly during the holy month of Ramadan. Condemnation
quickly poured in, as well as rockets from two directions, Southern Lebanon and Gaza.
ABDELAZIZ (on camera): It all begins and ends at the holy site you see behind me here, known as the noble sanctuary to Muslims or the Temple Mount
to Jews, it is dictated by a decades old agreement that says only Muslims can pray at the site. Some non-Muslims are allowed at certain times at the
complex, but any violation real or perceived of that so called status quo agreement could quickly ignite tensions.
ABDELAZIZ (voiceover): And many Palestinians fear that's exactly what's happening. There have been calls by Jewish extremist groups to slaughter
goats at the mosque compound during Passover. And in January, an inflammatory visit by Israel's far-right national security minister, Ben-
Gvir, drew international condemnation. He is convicted of supporting terrorism and inciting anti-Arab racism. Prime Minister Netanyahu has
insisted his government is not seeking to change rules at the holy site.
On Friday, tens of thousands gathered at the steps of al-Aqsa Mosque after peaceful prayer service. Banners read, al-Aqsa is a red line. Another said,
do not test our patience. The U.S., U.N. and other members of the International Community have called for restraint and calm. But with nearly
two weeks of Ramadan left and the Passover holiday underway, it remains deeply sensitive time in a deeply sensitive place.
Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, Jerusalem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Our thanks to Salma for that report.
With me now on this is Amos Harel. He is a military correspondent and defense analyst at Haaretz and he joins me live from Tel Aviv. Amos, thank
you so much for joining us.
There we heard that very informative build up in that piece from Salma as to what the current situation is. Give us your -- from your vantage point,
where things stand right now in Israel.
AMOS HAREL, MILITARY CORRESPONDENT AND DEFENSE ANALYST, HAARETZ: Look things have been tense for quite some time. The tensions are building
between Israel, the Palestinians and Hezbollah, and to some extent Iran for the last two or three months.
It's quite apparent that since Ramadan started two and a half weeks ago things are moving towards escalation. We've seen the events on the al-Aqsa
Mosque that your reporter has just mentioned. We've seen rocket fire from Lebanon, which is quite rare in recent years. Rocket fire in Gaza. And some
Israeli strikes, air strikes in retaliation. But what we haven't seen is any attempt on either side to reach a full-scale military conflict.
We saw that the Israelis, after the attacks yesterday, their strikes were quite limited, and they targeted Hamas and not Hezbollah. The IDF, the
Israeli military, is saying that the Hamas is behind rocket launching from Southern Lebanon, and it doesn't blame Hezbollah directly, as long as
Hezbollah is on the sidelines, but I think there's still a good chance of things the de-escalating and of preventing a widescale was.
GOLODRYGA: And that's somewhat reassuring to hear. The Israeli military attributed the rocket fire that we saw yesterday, some 34 rockets -- and as
you said, we haven't seen that number of rockets coming from Lebanon since 2006, they attributed to branches of Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad
and two militias based in Gaza that have a presence in Lebanon as well.
The military believes that this was an act of coordination. Is that what you're reporting suggests as well?
HAREL: Apparently, yes. But what we saw in the past was that Hezbollah, at least during the last few years, has gotten more and more cozy with Hamas
and other Palestinian organizations, and we saw Hamas leadership in Gaza trying to establish this network of terrorists of gunmen in Southern
So, although they're not blaming Hezbollah directly, it seems as if there's some coordination or at least some consent from Hezbollah, because hardly
anything happening in Southern Lebanon happens without Hezbollah approving it.
I should also mention. I think, three or four weeks back there was an incident in Megiddo, which is Northern Israel, but is about 70 kilometers
south of the border. There were explosives there, a rouge bomb that exploded. And apparently, it was Hezbollah terrorists who managed to cross
the border and then, ride all the way down south, 70 kilometers to the south in order to operate those explosives.
So, we see Hezbollah more daring, more willing to confront Israel, and this hasn't happened for quite some time. We also heard some speeches from
Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, who seemed more willing to provoke Israel and was actually saying, again, he compared the Israeli
society to cobweb, to a spider's web, and also, said that Israel would not live to see its 80th Independence Day in five years' time. Also, the
Iranian supreme leader, Khamenei, talked in similar terms.
So, this raises suspicions in Israel that some of this may be coordinated with Hezbollah and Iran and not necessarily happening just because Hamas
felt like launching rockets to Israel from Lebanon.
GOLODRYGA: And we should note that the prime minister of Lebanon who, you know, just truth be told, does not wield much power in the country has
condemned these rocket attacks. But it really is Iran and Hezbollah that has more of the weight and power in that country right now.
It's interesting because you pointed to events that took place a few weeks back. There are some that are pointing this to this rocket fire as a
consequence of Israeli police storming the al-Aqsa Mosque this week, which is it? Is this something that you think was well prepared in advance, or do
you think that this is directly related to what happened at al-Aqsa?
HAREL: It's probably a little bit of both. We saw the wider trends in the region for quite some time, as I mentioned. It's quite clear that the
incidents in al-Aqsa and those photographs, those videos of Israeli police storming into the mosque and then, arresting quite violently hundreds of
young Palestinian men who were there, it's quite clear that those -- when those videos went viral, the reaction in the Arab world and the Muslim
world was harsh.
And then, I would assume that Hamas and other Palestinian organizations were using this as a context for their attacks. But the roots of the
problem were there a few weeks back, and it was quite apparent to anybody following that during Ramadan, there will be more escalation along the
border and not only in Gaza, but possibly in Lebanon as well.
GOLODRYGA: What is the response internally in Israel to what are many are accusing of provocation by extremist Jews by even making an attempt to
celebrate some sort of ancient ritual that isn't largely celebrated, we should note, in practiced amongst Israelis today at al-Aqsa?
HAREL: The far-right movements, some of them call themselves, the Temple Mount movements, have been trying to change the status quo on the Temple
Mount on Haram al-Sharif for quite some time. And the current Israeli government and quite a few of the last Israeli governments were more
willing to give them more leeway to act.
But the specific actions you've mentioned in recent days, the police have tried to prevent them, and I think that it's hard to talk of a general
consensus now in Israel, considering the domestic problems right now and the political and constitutional crisis. But I think a wide majority of
Israelis would like to avoid any kind of religious conflict or confrontation regarding in al-Aqsa or the Temple Mount, that's the last
thing that Israelis need right now, especially considering the domestic ceremony that we've been through.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. And especially considering that they've been there before. Just a couple of years ago, we saw war launched as well that was sparked
from actions there at the Temple Mount. Let me ask you finally about the internal crisis happening domestically within the government there because,
typically, when you see a flare up like this militarily. you do see the security cabinet convening for emergency sessions. But what's different
this time is that the Security Council is made up of two rather radicals and extremists who have caused a lot of the consternation now within the
government, and that is Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and the National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, both hardliners here.
What impact is that having on any sort of decision-making in terms of a response to what is going on within Lebanon and Gaza now?
HAREL: So, the cabinet hasn't been consumed for two months, and this is because Prime Minister Netanyahu avoided that on purpose. Yesterday, he
didn't have any choice because so many incidents were happening and because the turmoil on the Lebanese border was so rare, he needed to call the
But even then, I think what is happening -- what we see is Netanyahu and his defense minister, Yoav Gallant, was actually fired by Netanyahu, and
then, Netanyahu decided to make a U-turn and leave him in office. But both Gallant, Netanyahu and some of the security chiefs are actually calling the
It's Smotrich and Ben-Gvir, members of the security cabinet, I assume that they have their opinions, they probably push far-right positions or
policies and they probably recommend more aggressive reaction from the Israeli side, but I think it's Netanyahu who is actually making the
decisions. And as long as it's up to him, he will try to ignore them as much as possible.
He needs them in government because he's trying to go for the judicial overhaul, and he's trying to move forward with all those laws he's trying
to pass. But other than that, he will avoid their influence as long as he can in order to move --
GOLODRYGA: Right. Because he's also a man -- I was just going to say, because we're tight on time, he's also a man who ran on peace and bringing
peace to the country and the region as well. So, that has always been a top priority for him. And clearly this is why he is leading these movements and
talks right now.
Amos Harel, thank you so much for your time. I always look forward to your podcast and listening to your insights and reporting. Thank you.
HAREL: Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: Well, let's hear from Firas Maksad. He is a senior fellow and director of Strategic Outreach for the Middle East Institute, and he joins
me now from Destin, Florida. Firas, thank you so much for joining us.
I have been following your reporting as well, and it's very insightful, especially now when we're seeing continued, once again, unrest in the
region. In your view, why is this violence happening right now? Do you attribute most of it to what happened at al-Aqsa this week or do you also
agree with what we heard from Amos that this is sort of been a build up for months now?
FIRAS MAKSAD, ADJUNCT PROFESSOR, GWU ELLIOTT SCHOOL OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS AND SENIOR FELLOW, MIDDLE EAST INSTITUTE: Well, Bianna, first,
it's a pleasure to be on the show. And I agree in the sense that this has been no surprise whatsoever. It's been growing for some time. In Israel, we
have the most far-right-wing government in the country's history. And with Lebanon we have Hezbollah whose resistance credentials have been far
diminished and have been tarnished by allegations of corruption and its protection of a client holistic political class, which it dominates that
has run the country to the ground and is responsible for an ongoing financial crisis.
So, re-brandishing its resisting credentials works in its favorite. And obviously, this coming at a time when we are celebrating Ramadan and
Passover and Easter, there's fervor and all sides and the potential for conflict on the Temple Mount. So, in many ways, this is not a surprise.
I would also add and say that all sides stand to benefit. In Israel, again, you know, with Prime Minister Netanyahu on his back foot, far -- you know,
surrounded by protests, some of the largest protests in Israel's history, his government feels besieged. This is a moment for him where he can rally
Israelis behind the flag, a moment where he can claim that Israel is under attack, call up reserves and have others, his opponents, fall in line. I
think that's the play there.
And again, I think Hezbollah also stands to benefit. And we ought not to forget Iran that casts a long shadow over Lebanon, Hezbollah, Hamas too,
its support for these movements. And I think what's happening allows Iran at a time when it's under pressure, when the nuclear negotiations with the
West are going nowhere just to remind everybody its capacity to cause mischief in this part of the world.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. It's interesting that you say all sides stand to benefit from escalation of tension here because it appears that reporting, at
least, from Israel and Lebanon is that the push is to deescalate, to avoid another war. I want to get you to weigh in on newsflash that we got just a
few moments ago, and that is that Qatar is mediating to deescalate the situation on all sides. What role could Qatar play here?
MAKSAD: Well, Bianna, first, to answer your question, I think this is a carefully calculated game that both sides have played for a very long time.
Let's not forget that, you know, Bibi Netanyahu has been perhaps the longest serving Israeli prime minister, he's been on the scene for a very
long time. Hezbollah too knows its opponents very well, studies Israeli politicians very carefully. They both understand the limitations and the
politics on the other side of the border and they both understand how not to cross into a territory where it's an all-out conflict.
I agree. I think both sides don't want to bring utter devastation, do not want to see a repeat of an all-out war, as was the case in 2006. But what
this allows Hezbollah and Lebanon to do is to begin to chip away at Israeli deterrence. Deterrence that was established as a result of the 2006 war and
the utter devastation it inflicted on most Lebanese. It also, again, allows Bibi Netanyahu to rally Israelis around the flag without going for and
conflict. So, I do agree that, I think, both sides want to keep this relatively contained.
Now, in terms of Qatar and mediation, you know, Qatar has traditionally played that role. There are others too that are involved. The Egyptians are
also very involved as far as Hamas and Gaza is concerned. So, I do think that, you know, the various parties will reach out to those actors in the
region that have traditionally played the role of mediator, and Qatar and Egypt are some of the two that come to mind.
GOLODRYGA: And the country that's playing really the collateral role here and taking the collateral role is Lebanon, which it's been facing for years
now, not only because of internal strife economically, but also because being used in situations like this really as a proxy. We had the prime
minister who condemned these rocket attacks. But as we noted in our previous conversation, he really wields no power in terms of Hezbollah. And
even now, Hamas in Lebanon and the Hamas' leader was in Lebanon on Thursday, which adds to the notion and the idea and hypothesis that this
was a coordinated attack.
I was struck by a tweet you wrote, and you said, I am from Lebanon. I am against firing rockets at Israel on behalf of anybody, Palestinian, Iranian
and/or otherwise. If you are a Lebanese and feel the same, speak up. What prompted you to write that and just give us in these final moments, a sense
of where things stand in Lebanon right now.
MAKSAD: Lebanon has been in the midst of a financial collapse, and it's lost -- its currency has lost over 90 percent of its value over the past
two years. Much of that collapse has been brought about by a corrupt political class. The godfather of which is Hezbollah, the most mobilized,
most powerful political military actor in the country that protects those politicians.
So, most Lebanese, right now, do not have an appetite for war. Many of them blamed Hezbollah and the politicians for their fate, and their inability to
do the most simple things, paid their bills, you know, have 24-hour electricity or be able to, you know, pay the school tuitions on behalf of
their kids. So, in many ways, Hezbollah and Iran here are kind of escaping some of this criticism by trying to brandish their resistance credentials.
But also, this is a moment that's, not just particular to Lebanon, in the region, amongst the Arabs, there is this divide between those that are
focused on bread and butter. You know, and we see the likes of Saudi Arabia and the UAE that are focused on de-escalation, even reaching out to Iran,
normalizing with Israel in the interest of economic development and international project. And then, you have all these Iranian proxies in
south tropic (ph) countries that are focused on bullets and bred conflict, and their people are suffering as a result, and Lebanon is part of that.
GOLODRYGA: It really is an important point you make there, and we'll continue to cover this story in this region beyond just the current
escalation that we're seeing there right now. Firas Maksad, thank you so much for the time. We appreciate it.
MAKSAD: My pleasure.
GOLODRYGA: And coming up after the break, stunning scenes in Tennessee as two legislators are expelled for staging a protest demanding stronger gun
control right after another mass school shooting. What it -- why it's making waves and what it means for America when we come back.
GOLODRYGA: Welcome back. Well, some of the most heated issues in the United States are converging all at once in the State of Tennessee.
Discussions on gun policy, race and democracy are being prompted by the states legislature's decision to expel two black Democrats from the House.
Representatives Justin Jones and Justin Pearson had staged a demonstration calling for gun reform after six people were killed in a shooting at a
Nashville school last week.
House Republicans say the pair broke rules of decorum on the House floor. While President Biden called the expulsions undemocratic. Let's take a
listen to expelled member Justin Jones.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUSTIN JONES, EXPELLED TENNESSEE STATE HOUSE DEMOCRAT: They thought they won today, but they don't realize --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, yes.
JONES: They don't realize what they have started. They started the movement they can't stop. Rather than pass laws that will address red flags
and banning assault weapons and universal background checks, they passed resolutions to expel their colleagues.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
JONES: And they think that the issues over.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
JONES: We'll see you on Monday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Joining us now from Nashville is CNN's U.S. Correspondent Ryan Young. Ryan, it has been a busy some 48 hours now for you. You and I were
on the air last night covering history in the making. It was just jaw dropping. I hadn't seen anything like that. You said you hadn't seen
anything like this as well.
Tell our viewers internationally what the significance was of expelling these two elected representatives and the timing and as to this happening
just days after another mass shooting at a U.S. school.
RYAN YOUNG, CNN U.S. CORRESPONDENT: Yes. When you peel this back, this is like an unbelievable onion, when you think about all the pieces and all the
layers to this. As we were on TV last night, I had people who have been born and raised in the states saying they had never seen anything sort of
play out like this.
In fact, when the day started, most people believe all three lawmakers would be booted out of the state institution, but that didn't happen. The
one white representative got to stay and the two black young men were kicked out. And so, people understand the optics of this is very strange.
But then you have teachers and you had people who showed up here to protest what was going on, and they were upset about gun violence. And, of course,
as we talked to the international audience, a lot of times, people ask, well, how do people, Americans, feel about the gun epidemic?
Well, we had so many people show up yesterday saying these lawmakers should have been focused on gun control. That's absolutely what did not happen
yesterday. They were focused on making this move to exclude, to expel these members from the state legislature. And it played out all on camera, every
part of it, and it was the first time in a while that a lot of these lawmakers got a chance to speak in an open forum and you could tell the
passion was just spilling out all over the place, as you witnessed yesterday as we were live on television.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. And these three lawmakers on March, 30th broke the rules of decorum. We should just note that, that they violated the rules there
that many others said, listen, if you were going to retaliate against them, maybe you could censure them, but expelling them was just such an extreme
that hasn't happened in such a long period of time, and people that had been expelled before did far worse and we're accused of far worse than what
these three were.
And you talk about what they were protesting, and it was the state's very lax gun laws. And Tennessee really is an outlier among states in the
country, they have open carry, permitless carry, the governor was even hoping to bring in legislation now to lower the age people who were able to
get guns and to carry them openly.
The role that that all played in the build up there, of the tension that these three legislators were voices for a growing young generation of
students who had just had enough. Talk about that.
YOUNG: Well, I'm glad you highlighted that part about them being so young. So, they grew up in a generation where there used to school shootings. A
lot of us did not grow up in that era. So, for them, this is one of their front and center issues. And along with the teachers that showed up here,
they believe this is one of the greatest issues that America faces. They want to make sure that common sense gun laws like background checks go into
effect in the State of Tennessee, but they're up against a really, really tough sort of lobbying conglomerate here in the state.
And on top of that, more Tennesseans own guns almost in any other state in the union. So, there's a lot of high gun ownership in this state. And so,
they're up against that. And so, they're trying to come to a middle ground, they say, to make kids safe here. When you think about someone walking into
a school with an AR-15, and pretty much very quickly shooting over 150 rounds, that's what they walked into here thinking about, the three kids
who were shot and killed and the three caregivers who were also shot and killed.
It was almost two days later, and they went to the floor with the bullhorn where you think maybe they would get a slap on the wrist or maybe they
would get a censure. Well, that did not happen. The supermajority here with the Republicans were able to use their power and to get these two members
out. I don't think though they expected what was going to happen.
Both these Justin's, Pearson and Jones, are very smooth in the mic, and they made their plea to the public and to the nation and they've gone viral
now, almost all across the country. People are replaying moments from this yesterday, showing that these two members might have a long political life
GOLODRYGA: Yes. And it really is interesting, you mentioned the supermajority. We in the states and abroad really focused on elections on
the federal level. But this supermajority that Republicans there in the state hold really shows the power that local elections have and not only in
the role of gerrymandering, which is also a factor here in the state and what we saw transpire in the House, but also the supermajority and the fact
that they could within just one vote.
It was it was just -- what? Was it 66, was the number of votes needed to expel these members?
YOUNG: And it was. And when you -- right. And when you think about the connections here, especially to the south, I mean, Tennessee is a part of
the south. This state is where the Ku Klux Klan was founded. You have a lot of people who were saying that this felt like a Jim Crow trial, and that
the voices of black voices all across the state were silence. So, you had race playing a part in this, maybe, like never before because it was
playing out on camera, and a lot of this was broadcast not only across the state but across the entire country.
So, people have some real questions. And the lawmakers from the Republican side who stood up to ask some really pointed questions of the young men
sometimes sounded like they were almost talking down to them, according to those who were also sitting next to them, and they were very upset with the
way this was approached.
So, you understand feelings have really worn thin here. And this entire plaza that was behind me was full of protesters on the inside. It took two
and three hours for some of those protesters to get on the inside. They were making those voices heard. We were on TV together last night.
We saw those state troopers lining the inside of the capital to make sure everything stayed peaceful. When these expulsions happened, they -- the
members had to be moved out of the state house, and that only made people in the crowd cheer even more. And each one of those members talk to us over
and over again about why they thought this was a blow to democracy.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. And you bring up the role of race here. And let's put optics aside because here you have three legislatures, two of them are
black men, one is a white woman, and that is Gloria Johnson. She survived her seat by just one vote, we should say. She got 65 to boot her instead of
the 66 plus needed.
But it wasn't just editorializing that put a narrative as to what transpired. It was Gloria herself who said that she believed that race and
the color of her skin played a role in her seat being saved.
YOUNG: Yes. When we talk about people who maybe stand up and act as allies, you can tell these three have formed some sort of partnership that
even to the end, even though she was saved, she walked out holding their hands, and she made a point to say, somehow, I was saved.
Something stood out to me is she used to be a school teacher. So, she talked about the passion for that moment, the fact that she felt like she
had to go out on the floor, that she wanted to make sure they challenged the status quo here and to say something about the gun violence.
And this is really raw in this city right now, especially with the pain. Not all the victims of that last school shooting have ever even been buried
yet, and more information was coming out about the shooter. So, when you put all that into place, you could understand why their emotions were so
And yesterday, when she was saved, and that one vote didn't get cast for her, the eruption of joy in that hall was something to behold and to see
GOLODRYGA: And other legislators say this isn't over, that they want to bring both Justin's back into the state house. So, this will continue I
know on monday as well. And of course, we are still mourning the loss of those six innocent lives. Ryan Young, thank you so much for your really
important reporting. We'll continue to follow it. We appreciate it.
And still to come tonight, what new British intelligence is saying about the fight for the Eastern Ukrainian City of Backmost. A live report from
the capital, Kyiv.
GOLODRYGA: Welcome back to the program. The Pentagon is investigating what appears to be classified U.S. and NATO military information about Ukraine
circulating on social media. CNN has reviewed some of the documents but cannot verify their authenticity. The alleged leaks are heightening
interest in any potential counter-offensive by Ukraine in the spring.
Kyiv is still waging a bitter fight, you'll recall, to hold to the strategic City of Bakhmut. But British intelligence says that Russian
troops appeared to be regaining some momentum there. Joining me now on this is CNN Chief International Security Correspondent Nick Paton Walsh, who is
in Ukraine's capital of Kyiv.
Nick, thank you so much for joining us. I want to get to these leaked papers and the classified intel in a moment. But first, give us the latest
on what is happening in Bakhmut right now.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, continuing a battle of months of attrition here, this U.K.
intelligence report, part of a daily briefing they give on topics of their own choosing today, for some reason, pointing out how they believe Russian
forces are regaining momentum inside of Bakhmut.
Some social media video has pointed certainly to intense fighting in the city center, Bakhmut market. In particular, one video today and some
fighting around the train station, that suggests it's really street by street in the very center there. But the U.K. intelligence report seems to
suggest that some sort of greater cooperation between the Wagner mercenary groups fighting for Russia there and traditional Russian forces that they
may be working better together now, and that may be behind some of the change in dynamic there.
But putting aside who owns or controls which particular street on which particular day, more broadly, Bakhmut had been a bit of a disaster for
Russia, frankly. They long extolled how they thought they might take it in a couple of weeks and how important it would be a symbolic victory. But
Ukraine has frankly held on. And even if they are in their reduced presence in the west of the city, certainly, Russia has not achieved the swift
victory it would need.
And on top of that too, most analysts remind you that there's little strategic value to Bakhmut in itself. It may allow Russia further momentum
in taking other parts of Donbas. But really, it's a place where they've expended thousands of their own lives to minimal territorial gain and also,
possibly given Ukraine a bit of a break elsewhere on the front line ahead of this potential counter-offensive matter of days or weeks away. Bianna.
GOLODRYGA: And yet, it continues to hold such symbolic value and momentum for President Zelenskyy even despite being advised by other western
military officials, suggesting that perhaps it is time to withdraw from the city, he says, no, we will continue to fight for Bakhmut. And this, of
course, Nick, coming as everyone is watching and anticipating an upcoming potential Ukrainian counter-offensive.
Just curious to get the reaction there on the ground in Ukraine to this news of these documents from the classified U.S. and NATO documents that
were providing some detail on plans to help Ukraine as this counter- offensive is approaching, the leak of some of these screenshots, the impact that is having and how is Ukraine is responding right now.
WALSH: Yes. It's important to point out, we just don't know how authentic these documents are. And certainly, some of the versions posted on social
media appear to have been changed or altered over time. That's the ultimate question here, whether these are really something confidential, giving away
secrets or not.
But certainly, Ukraine, for their part, presidential adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, making the point that really there seems to be a Russian
misinformation game here, that really, they're desperate to get inside the minds of the Ukrainian general staff and documents like this are just a bit
to try and thrown noise out there.
But there's a real problem with this story, to be honest, in terms of sheer logic. If indeed it is Russia who managed to obtain these confidential
documents, why would they then put them online to make the Americans and the Ukrainians very aware what confidential information they were now in
possession of? We're talking, it seems, about numbers of troops, strength and losses, ammunition expenditure, right? That doesn't really stand up in
And so, I think we are certainly looking at somebody playing a misinformation game here to some degree, even if there is a degree of
authenticity to these documents. But as you said, Bianna, the key thing it has done is heightened focus on who knows what about this forthcoming
counter-offensive because it is, frankly, a key moment in this war. I think many observers see the western unity behind Ukraine is something that may
not go on forever, despite the rhetoric, we're hearing to that effect.
And also, both Ukraine and Russia, really running low on human, ammunition and supplies. And so, the need, I think, is certainly felt in Kyiv here to
change the direction of the war in these months ahead. And certainly, these plans we've seen whether they are genuine or not have thrown further fuel
into the fire of speculation here is exactly who knows what about whose plans and when indeed this counter-offensive may even begin, Bianna.
GOLODRYGA: And this counter-offensive, no doubt, playing a crucial role right now in terms of, as you mentioned, future assistance from the West,
as much as Ukraine would like to downplay that and the significance of this counter-offensive, it does appear to be very, very momentous in the turn of
this war. Nick Paton Walsh, thank you so much. We appreciate it.
Well, in Ukraine and around the world, Easter celebrations are taking place to mark Good Friday. It is the day when Christians around the world
commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus. In Vatican City, the head of the catholic church, Pope Francis, led the Lord's Passion Service at St.
Peter's Basilica from his wheelchair.
But the pontiff will be absent later this evening at the traditional way of the cross event, citing cold weather. This, of course, comes amid health
concerns for the 86-year-old pope who left hospital on Saturday after treatment for bronchitis.
Well, when we come back, "How to Blow Up a Pipeline," an explosive new thriller about the divisive nature of climate activism. We speak to the
film's creative team.
GOLODRYGA: Welcome back. Well, another week, another warning about the fate of our planet. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration now revealing that greenhouse gasses continue to soar in the past year.
For many, the most galling thing about stories like this one is the fact that humanity can prevent the worst ravages of climate change, we need only
to act. Well, a film is taking that message to extremes. "How to Blow Up a Pipeline" tells the story of a group of friends trying to stop the
development of an oil pipeline by, well, blowing it up, literally. Here's some from the trailer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can blow the pipe at the hilltop, keep the oil from leaking.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're not actually thinking.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not thinking about it, I'm doing it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What if you all do structural damage?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Structural damage is kind of the point.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is destruction of federal property. Terrorism.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: American empire calls us terrorists and we're doing something right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: And I'm joined now by the film's director, Daniel Goldhaber. And also joining us is co-writer and actor Ariela Barer. Thanks -- thank
you both for joining us today.
A fascinating nail-biting thriller. And that's where I want to begin, Daniel, because it's -- the film is based on Andreas Malm's book of the
same name, and I'm curious why you chose to go down the thriller route here as opposed to, let's say, a documentary.
DANIEL GOLDHABER, DIRECTOR/CO-WRITER, "HOW TO BLOW UP A PIPELINE": Yes. I mean, I think that this is something that's kind of at the core of my
practice as a filmmaker is kind of the idea of wanting to take ideas that don't really exist in the mainstream and find a way to bring them to a wide
commercial audience in an entertaining way.
And I think that this is a really important conversation to be having, this question of, you know, we are looking at facing a climate apocalypse, and I
think that we need to be asking the question of what kind of tactics and strategies are necessary for us to take to avert that. And if the fossil
fuel industry isn't going to reform itself, how will we force it to reform?
GOLODRYGA: Ariela, what drew you to the film and to this character of Xochitl?
ARIELA BARER, ACTRESS AND CO-WRITER, "HOW TO BLOW UP A PIPELINE": Well -- so, the film was initially brought to me by Daniel. He had had the idea to
have a heist movie around the book, and I was immediately drawn to the ideas in the book just as a result of the cultural movements in the recent
history while we were writing this. And Xochitl came to me as kind of an outlet for my own sort of disillusionment with systems of power and
structures that I thought were built to protect me. I was reassessing my role within all of that, through this character in this film.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. And you play a crucial role in this film, and going through the ethical and sort of moral dilemma and questions about how far
to take your passion, obviously, for a good cause in terms of turning it into a more violent extreme measure.
And, Daniel, at the heart of this, and at the heart of the book, actually, is something called Lanchester paradox. And let me just give our viewers a
sense of what that entails. It's given the scale of the climate crisis. The severity. Why has there been so very little in the way of sabotage to the
infrastructure that fuels it?
Were you able to answer that question in the time that you made this film?
GOLDHABER: I think that there's a number of different answers. I think that, you know, in part, one of the biggest reasons is just the kind of
militant level of policing that activists are facing right now. And that's something that activists are facing who aren't even engaged in sabotage.
You know, you have a situation in Atlanta, in Cop City right now, where you have peaceful protesters who were simply attending a concert who have been
arrested, held without bail and charged with terrorism. And the evidence being presented is just that they crossed state lines and had dirt on their
shoes. I think that the level of power and influence that the fossil fuel industry has in our government, the way that they have distorted the rule
of law and use that to blunt the force of even the most tame forms of climate activism has been a real problem and has absolutely dissuaded an
escalation of tactics.
But I think that the consequences of not acting against climate change, in many ways, are so severe that we really need to question what will be
necessary to, again, break that stranglehold over our governments.
GOLODRYGA: And, Ariela, I guess the real question is who would ultimately be the victims? Now, one could say that climate change has victimized the
entire global population, but that having been said, blowing up the pipeline or what have you, I mean, these massive companies have insurance.
So, one could argue that they will be fine.
But you've got plenty of people who rely on working, right, for these companies to provide for their families. You've got the impact that it
could have on the neighborhood as a whole, and also, on the perception of activists who may find a lot of sympathy, but then a situation like this
could turn people off.
BARER: Absolutely. I mean, that's one of the central tensions that we put in the movie, especially through my character, Xochitl, and another
character, Alisha, that's a lot of the sort of tension between their characters, and that is something that we wanted to represent within the
film because there is such a power that the fossil fuel industry has on all of us, and we're all sort of, in a way, forced to participate in the system
that our lives would absolutely be affected by an act like this.
GOLDHABER: I also think it's -- oh.
GOLODRYGA: Go ahead, go ahead.
GOLDHABER: I also think it's important to recognize, you know, when it comes to this question of jobs, there would be no greater economic motor
for our country than a substantial investment in green energy. I think that it's a real false equivocation to essentially say that, you know, that
people need to work in the fossil fuel industry.
What we really need in this country is to rebuild our infrastructure and to rebuild our infrastructure in a sustainable way. And that kind of
investment, which is presented in part by the green new deal, would would not just be something that would benefit our environment, it would benefit
GOLODRYGA: Yes. I think that's the point that the administration had been trying to make as well to appeal to people from a financial and economic
standpoint as well as those who have just always been sympathetic to the cause and expand that.
Daniel, I want to play a clip from the film. It's sort of picking up on what we just discussed about the impact that blowing up this pipeline,
amongst the characters in the film, would have on their perception amongst the media. Let's play that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're going to call us terrorists.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, they're going to call us revolutionaries, the game team.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. They're going to call us terrorists because we're doing terrorist work.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who cares what they call us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We ain't hurting nobody.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Boston Tea Party, they were terrorists, they didn't anybody.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Patriots.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: MLK was called a terrorist. He was on the FBI watch list.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why? He was like nice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, no, no, no. He was freaking ruthless.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm sorry. You're trying to equate civil rights movement to what we're doing here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, it's kind --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look, anytime anyone has challenged authority, they call it terrorism. And then, when the terrorism works, they lie about the
legacy and they say that it was all passive nonviolent kumbaya -- it's not.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the American empire calls us terrorists and we're doing something right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, what he said. Exactly. People talk -- about me my whole entire life. I don't give --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jesus was a terrorist.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Daniel, I'm just curious. How do you think the American public, in particular, would respond to an act of sabotage like the one committed
in the film?
GOLDHABER: I think that it's a bit of a fool's errand to treat the American public as a monolith. I think that, you know, climate change has,
you know, a widespread support as a significant issue that needs to be addressed. And ultimately, I think that, you know, on some level, sabotage
and the destruction of property is at the very core of the American identity.
You know, as they say in the clip, the Boston Tea Party was an act of sabotage. And I think that, you know, we underestimate the level of havoc
that has been wrecked on communities and on people's health by the fossil fuel industry. And I do believe that, you know, while there may be people
that would criticize an act of sabotage, I also think that there would be a significant number of people that would understand its necessity as a form
GOLODRYGA: Daniella -- Ariela, how impactful was it for you to have the characters really in this film be able to tell their stories in a
sympathetic fashion but not focusing too much on garnering sympathy, but just telling their background and their own stories, which led them to
ultimately get to this point?
BARER: I mean, this was a very personal film for me. Part of the initial idea when we had the idea to write this movie was just what would it look
like if us and our friends did this. And through asking around and just talking to our friends, we found that these stories were no further than 1
to 2 degrees of separation away from us immediately in our circumstances.
The amount of friends that I spoke to that I learned did have tumors and did have cancers from growing up in these circumstances was heartbreaking
and also, a very powerful process for us to talk and come together to work on this film. And being able to put this out in the world and put these
stories out in the world with my friends and with all these people that I now have met and learned to love and care about is an incredibly powerful
and personal thing for me.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. And the suspense part of it is that you sort of leave it open at the end, Daniel, we don't necessarily know what happens to these
activists. Why did you end that way?
GOLDHABER: I think that the movie is really about eight people who commit an act of sabotage because they believe it's an act of self-defense. I
think that the idea at the core of the film is that we have a universal understanding of that question of self-defense. If somebody is pointing a
gun at you, I think we recognize that you have a right to take that gun away from them and dismantle it. And I think that the fossil fuel industry
is pointing a gun at the proverbial head of the world. And I think that the movie is about eight people who believe they have a right to take that gun
away and dismantle it.
And what we want to leave audiences with at the end of the film is, how do you feel about their actions? And how do you -- and once you come to those
conclusions about how you feel about what these characters have done, what does that mean for the steps that you might take yourself as part of the
fight against the climate change and the fossil fuel industry.
GOLODRYGA: I'm just curious, Daniel, did you reach out to the fossil fuel industry? Did that they weigh in on any of the editorializing here or did
you reach out for a reaction? I'm -- that's just -- I'm wondering what their response has been.
GOLDHABER: No. We consulted actually with somebody who has worked in pipelines and pipeline construction because it was a core idea in the movie
that we wanted the mission of the activists to cause as little environmental damage as possible, to spill as a little oil as possible.
That's kind of the central part of the heist, is that they're doing this, you know, relatively safely and cleanly.
So, we worked with a pipeline expert just kind of, you know, in his own time to kind of answer those questions. But otherwise, we didn't reach out
in any other capacity.
GOLODRYGA: Ariela, what was your biggest takeaway and perhaps surprise from going into this project to where it is now and seeing it and it's --
on this big screen?
BARER: You know, a lot of a lot of the process affected me personally, just getting to work with people that we did and learn and research as much
as we did. I think before making this movie, I felt a lot more hopeless about the situation. I felt completely disempowered. And now, I completely
believe there is a way forward. And it does not necessarily have to be people going and blowing up pipelines. That is not what I'm saying. I'm
saying that there are communities, there are people out there doing the work and it is time to engage right now before we get to a point that this
is something that starts happening.
GOLODRYGA: It's so interesting that so many climate activists that I've been speaking to while sounding the alarm and giving us the statistics and
data always conclude the conversation by saying that they remain optimistic. How important is that, Daniel?
GOLDHABER: I think it's critical. I mean, I think that climate doom is an idea and a cultural idea that, in many ways, has been perpetuated by the
fossil fuel industry. And it's been perpetuated by this cultural idea that we put personal responsibility. First you need to consume better. You need
to buy better light bulbs. You need to eat a better diet. ' But ultimately, these are systemic problems, and people recognize that they're not really going to change until we see change on a systemic level.
But I think that the problem is that all the messaging has been to take personal action, not systemic action. And that's one of the ideas that's at
the core of the film, is eight people who are doing something personally but to demand that change on a systemic level.
And I think that once you start conceptualizing what systemic change can look like and how we can ask for it, you do start to feel hopeful because
you feel like there's something that could actually be done to solve the problem.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. There's some ownership and accountability, not necessarily going out and blowing up pipelines, but that is something that every person
can do on their own to address this growing crisis.
Daniel Goldhaber, Ariela Baber, thank you for the time and congratulations on the film.
BARER: Thank you so much.
GOLDHABER: Thank you so much.
GOLODRYGA: And that is it for now, you can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media. Thank you so much for watching. Have a
great weekend and good-bye from New York.