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Ebrahim Raisi says he will Support any Diplomatic Plan to get Sanctions Removed; Evidence of Possible Belarus Prison Camp for Dissidents; Civilians Under Threat as Taliban Target Provincial Cities; New Iranian President calls for Lifting of Sanctions; International Conference Pledges $370 Million in Aid; Victims' Portraits Etched in Glass in call for Justice. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired August 05, 2021 - 11:00   ET




BECKY ANDERSON, CNNI HOST: And a very warm welcome back wherever you are watching in the world. Sanctions against Iran must be lifted, those the

words from the republic's new president making clear his priorities upon taking office just over an hour ago.

In a bold inauguration speech conservative hardline Ebrahim Raisi also gave us an idea of his other priorities both at home and abroad. Mr. Raisi

presented Iran as occupying a strong position in the region. And he warned foreign governments to stay out of regional issues.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is following all of this for us from Tehran. So, the question is will President Raisi as he is now officially known? Well, his

words mean any changes in Iran's actions?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Why, I think it certainly stands that they could definitely been changed. And I think one

of the reasons why there is good reason to believe that is the fact that what you have right now here in Iran, is you have essentially the three

major power centers here in this country.

And the four major power centers, if you will, which is the supreme leader who of course, the final authority on everything here, the military,

especially the Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Iranian parliament, and then the Iranian presidency, all of them are on the same page.

And all of them want to move this country these politically into more conservative direction. And that agenda as you bring where Raisi laid it

out today, that agenda really seems to go both for domestic policies and foreign policies as well.

Both of them seem to be quite interlinked. On the one hand, Ebrahim Raisi was talking about the need for a more strong economy here at home for home

grown production here to be increased with the hardliners here in this country, the conservatives called the resistance economy.

But he was also talking about Iran playing a very strong role in international politics and certainly very much in this region. Let's listen

to what Ebrahim Raisi had to say.


EBRAHIM RAISI, IRANIAN PRESIDENT: The Islamic Republic's power in the region creates security. Our regional capabilities, support stability and

peace in various nations. And it will only be used to fight hegemonic powers. The nuclear program of the Islamic Republic is completely peaceful.

The establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, according to the fatwa of the steam Supreme Leader of the revolution, rejects the use of nuclear

power in any field other than peaceful civilian purposes. The sanctions against the people of Iran must be done away with. We will support any

diplomatic plan that will pursue this objective and realize this objective.


PLEITGEN: We have Ebrahim Raisi and really, Becky I mean, we've been covering this region for a very long time.

The difference between what Ebrahim Raisi said today and some of the things that we for instance, heard from Hassan Rouhani, when he was first

inaugurated with the Rouhani Administration, of course, looking for closer ties with the West, trying to mend ties with the U.S., of course, coming up

then with the Iran Nuclear agreement, which sort of fell apart under the Trump Administration.

We heard from Ebrahim Raisi of course, was very different from that, essentially. And we just heard that in some of the things that he was

saying in that speech. He says that Iran is going to continue to confront the United States here in this region.

But also, it seems as though Iran is going to start focusing more on relations with countries in this region, rather than relations with Western

countries. And of course, the big one that we're all going to keep a lookout for is how relations with Saudi Arabia are going to evolve over the

next couple of months.

ANDERSON: Yes, absolutely. Do we have any idea at this point? What his strategy is likely to be with regard these stalled nuclear talks? And who

is likely to represent Iran on the international stage? Is it clear whether we'll see some familiar faces for example, despite this more hardline



PLEITGEN: Yes, I think we might see some familiar faces. There's certainly going to be changes. It looks like in the Foreign Ministry at least at the

very top, not clear or it's pretty - we don't believe that, for instance, Javad Zarif is going to remain the Foreign Minister.

There is going to be a new foreign minister, there are some names that have been in play nothing official there yet. As far as the negotiating team

there is concerned, I think that's a very important point.

It does seem as though some folks who are currently in the negotiating team, like for instance - Deputy Foreign Minister, they might stay in that

role, just to make sure that there is a smooth transition, as far as that's concerned that the talks can continue quite smoothly.

However, those talks, of course, are very important. But they are also at an impasse at this point in time. And what the U.S. has been saying, is

that, yes, they want to get back into the nuclear agreement. They want Iran to come back into full compliance.

They want to reach an agreement with the Iranians in these indirect negotiations. But they also say that time are running out. And that's

certainly something that the Raisi Administration is going to be looking out for as well.

They have said, Ebrahim Raisi, he said that, yes, they want the nuclear agreement back. I was talking about the sanctions relief there as well. But

he also said not at all costs, Becky.

ANDERSON: And just briefly, we tend to talk more about Iran on the international stage and specifically these, these nuclear talks. But let's

just remind ourselves what sort of file this new president has when it comes to domestic issues? I mean, this is a country that is severely

challenged at this point.

PLEITGEN: Yes, yes, absolutely, absolutely severely challenging with many problems that it needs to confront. I mean, some of the things that we've

been seeing over the past couple of years, especially since those very tough sanctions from the Trump Administration came into place.

And one of the things that we always have to remind our viewers was that the sanctions, obviously, they hit the country very hard. Economically,

they hit ordinary people very, very hard.

And also, they also hit in areas that they're not necessarily on the face of it, at least designed to hit like one of the places that we've been

looking at is the medical sector, where sanctions that are actually supposed to be on other sectors are also hitting the medical sectors,

hitting hospitals as well hitting the fight against COVID.

So in many cases, this country is obviously in severely challenged and faces severe challenges. Another thing, of course, is the water supply.

Yet those protests that have been going on over the past month and a half or so, where the supreme leader has said that he understands the people

that don't have enough drinking water and that the government needs to do something about this.

Now Ebrahim Raisi has said that, yes, he has heard that message. Yes, there are experts working on this, yes, something is going to be done. But of

course, all of that would be a lot easier if Iran had sanctions relief if they had money, for instance, from oil sales, at least to a certain degree.

So that certainly is something that does play into that as well. But right now, the currency in this country, of course, is in a very difficult

situation at this point. The economy, unemployment is a big problem.

And what you bring Raisi laid out today was a completely different plan of trying to deal with it. Then you would have heard from the Rouhani

Administration before, Becky.

ANDERSON: Absolutely. Fred Pleitgen is on the ground for you in Tehran. Fred, thank you. You better received an Olympic sprinter who defected to

Poland says it was her grandmother who convinced her to seek asylum Kristina Timanovskaya speaking today in Warsaw just days ago.

She was kicked off the Olympic team after criticizing Belarusian Olympic officials. In a personal Instagram post, she says her grandmother wander in

a phone call that returning home could be dangerous and that she could end up in a mental hospital or in jail.

She says she avoided a forced return to Belarus with the help of Tokyo Police in returning there can only happen less than one condition. Have a



KRISTINA TIMANOVSKAYA, BELARUSIAN SPRINTER WHO DEFECTED: will be ready to return to Belarus when I'll be sure my stay there will be safe.


ANDERSON: In the meantime, troubling evidence emerging in Belarus, of what may be a prison camp before political dissidents. Nick Paton Walsh

connecting us in London today with more of the Belarusians sprinter and this exclusive reporting he'd have Nick, on this possible prison camp. What

do we know?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Well, the images, possible chilling sign of the sort of oppression on the way inside of


And when Timanovskaya went to the airport and received that phone call from my grandmother, I think many were asking, well, what's quite so bad in

Belarus that would mean an Olympic sprinter simply after criticizing her team's decision to make her run a real, a relay race felt she couldn't even

go back to her homeland.

She'd been criticized on television and hearing her speak finally, in safety as she said in Poland today, it was also apparent how little

political activity she'd been involved in before that.

She'd be looking she said to before going back to university to racing again in other competitions later on this year. And now has to completely

rewrite the script of her life with a humanitarian visa and the hope possibly that her next chance to chase the Olympic dream will be for


But this incident crude frankly, as it has been, it seems that the Belarusian authorities trying to drag her home for that criticism has

summer spotlight on really how bad it is inside of Belarus.

There's been months of repression there. Certainly a journalist arrested extraordinary violence from the riot Police activists dying in custody

allegations of male rape that we've also covered to.


WALSH: And now these images that we've found that appear to show a prison camp that's being constructed an hour's drive from Minsk. Becky.

ANDERSON: Let's have a look at your report Nick.


WALSH (voice over): A chilling sight not from the last century, but last month, a possible prison camp built inside Belarus for political prisoners.

CNN obtained this footage of all witnesses said looked like a newly refurbished camp about an hour's drive from the capital Minsk.

A new sign saying forbidden border, an entry, a three layer fence electrified they said new moving surveillance cameras pass and reflective

screens on the windows of newly rebuilt barracks.

No prisoners yet what looked like a soldier inside and regular Military patrols who told our witnesses outside to leave one local, talked to them

anonymously. My friend Sasha a builder told me they refurbish this place, he says.

There are three levels of barbed wire and it's electrified. I was picking mushrooms here when a Military man came up to me and said I can't walk

here. The building sits on the vast site of a former Soviet missile storage facility surrounded by forest.

The repairs came not long after defecting; Police officers released secret recordings of senior Police discussing the need for prison camps at several


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The assignment to develop and build a camp, but not for prisoners of war or even the interned, but a camp for the especially sharp-

hooved, for resettlement and surrounded it with barbed wire along the perimeter.

WALSH (on camera): Now unsurprisingly, CNN hasn't gained access to the interior of the site. So we can't definitively say that it is intended for

use as a prison camp, but a Western intelligence official I spoke to said that use was "Possible" although they didn't have direct evidence.

In the current climate it's tough to imagine what else that camp could be for. Opposition leaders fear its possible use by President Alexander

Lukashenko's forces during future protests.

FRANAK VIACORKA, SENIOR ADVISER TO SVIATLANA TSIKHANOUSKAYA: It's not surprising that he's trying to build something like a regular prison camp.

Because the new wave of protests will come up with any way. It can be triggered by his statement, it can be triggered by economic situation, but

it will come.

And he understands and he also wants to be prepared more than last year in 2020. This is why I will logo surprised if such camps are being built.

WALSH (voice over): Belarusian officials declined to comment and have called the recording about camps fake news when it was released, saying

they followed the law. These images emerge after a week's long crackdown against remaining independent media inside Belarus and dozens of arrests.

Inside Belarus the protest movement is being persecuted so hard. It now holds remote flash mob demonstrations like these filmed by drones. But some

of it is finding ways to hit back CNN has learned.

These railway saboteurs apparently in action, they say their operations, the details of which we aren't disclosing just trigger alarms that stop

trains on the tracks, risking nobody's safety and causing traffic to slow down, they say. We spoke to one organizer.

When our skies are blocked, he said we should block the land as well. The main goal is to cause economic damage for the regime, because all the

delays caused them to pay huge fines.

This action was carried out they said on a key route from Russia to the European Union, CNN can't independently confirm it was effective.

WALSH (on camera): If there is an impact on rail traffic, it could have great significance outside of Belarusian here, Lithuania because so many

goods from the east rely on this network to get to Europe.

WALSH (voice over): Signs both sides could be adopting new, harsher tactics and what may await fresh protests as the screws tighten.


WALSH: Even though the protest movement has been so heavily repressed with extraordinary scenes of police brutality last year and parts of this as

well, people are I think concerned it may come back on the streets again and the anniversary of the foreigner's election back in August.

And I think that was part of the reason why people are asking questions of exactly what this new facility with various things that has been built for.

It could necessarily before back in August, there were according to reports some protesters briefly detained in a very similar facility outside of

Minsk as well.

That was a converted Addiction Treatment Center that was swiftly used for excess prisoners at that time and as you saw in that leak recording there

too. Again, they discussed the possible need for camps like that.

We should stress again, we can't definitively say that's its purpose, but so many questions to what else it could be for. And the key point here,

Becky, is how much inside Belarus things have changed peaceful protests before, brutally repressed.


WALSH: Now we have these extraordinary flash mob demonstrations. The government, it seems with a feeling of impunity that means it can threaten

Olympic athletes without risk of the bad publicity that will bring to them.

Remember to the Ryanair jet that it caused a forced landing for just so they could arrest it seems an opposition video blogger, extraordinary sense

of free reign, it seems by Belarus's authoritarian dictator and that of course means internally as well.

He feels equally liberated to - pursue policies, regardless of how brutal they are. And so many I think, see the spotlight occasionally flashed onto

how bad it's got inside Belarus. For those left who haven't fled, it's a consistent daily problem.

And it's a problem for Europe too. Because with Belarus's fate lies that of his neighbor and massive financial backer and ally. Russia there are some

asking, well, isn't this constant headache for Vladimir Putin, his ally playing out on the stage like this globally with Olympic athletes, Ryanair

jets and possibly even prison camps being built?

And there are some analysts saying well, actually no, this is a welcome new bad man in Europe can be the subject of European sanctions and criticism

and U.S. criticism too.

And perhaps provides a slight disguise for everything that Vladimir Putin has been doing and wants to continue getting away with. But it still

continues to just get worse and worse inside Belarus right at the heart on the very edge of the European Union. Becky.

ANDERSON: Fascinating, Nick, thank you, Nick Paton Walsh, reporting for you. Still ahead on "Connect the World" the new threats to Afghan women and

girls as the Taliban advanced through the country.

I'm going to talk to Afghan women's rights activists who say years; years of hard fought progress hang in the balance. And anger boils over on the

streets of Beirut were outraged protesters call for justice a year after the tragic port blasts there, our report just a little later.

You're watching "Connect the World" it's just after quarter past four here in London. I'm Becky Anderson. Stay with us.


ANDERSON: An urgent comprehensive and permanent ceasefire in Afghanistan. That is the call coming today from the European Union after weeks of

escalating violence.

The statement goes on to read and I quote "This senseless violence is inflicting immense suffering upon Afghan citizens and is increasing the

number of internally displaced persons in search of safety and shelter.

The Taliban's Military offensive is in direct contradiction to their stated commitment to a negotiated settlement of the conflict and the Doha peace

process." Well, my next guest is asking for more international pressure on the Taliban to hold on to Afghanistan's progress.

She tweeted and I quote, "Country to the Taliban and their allies promoting the past 20 years of U.S. and international community's mission in

Afghanistan has not been a failure. The fact that millions of educated Afghans stand against Taliban atrocities and old updated forms of

dictatorship is a testimony to our collective progress."


ANDERSON: Wazhma Frogh joins me now live. She is an Afghan women's rights activist. She's a member of Afghanistan's High Peace Council. And in 2009,

she was given the International Women of Courage Award by the U.S. State Department. So to that end, do you believe the U.S.'s decision to leave

Afghanistan was a bad one?

WAZHMA FROGH, AFGHAN WOMEN'S RIGHTS ACTIVIST: I think, thank you, Becky. I think the timing was not very good for Afghans, especially because what

happened was that this transition where, you know, the military equipment's, the military support to the Air one forces, remembers, we have

300,000 young military that's fighting in 30 provinces at the same time.

While the Taliban, you know, atrocities on the civilians have increased in the past three months. So the timing, I think, is not very, has not been

very helpful, though, we knew that, you know, the, the number of years forces is very small, has been very small anyway, so it was not on the


But, you know, in terms of the Military support that is the time I think that was not the right time.

ANDERSON: And I think many people will say the opportunity lost by the U.S. to put more pressure on the Taliban and to provide more support for the

Afghanistan government. That's an opportunity that has been missed in this relatively quick withdrawal.

In a recent interview, you said that you were tracking what is going on in every district, in Afghanistan, what have you found?

FROGH: So I have around 200 colleagues throughout 35 provinces, where on daily basis, we are, you know, especially like, what's going on with women

and women and children. The brutality has really, like; I hardly slept in the past three weeks.

You know, the cries of these women that call and send messages many times, we can't connect to phones. So these voice messages, you know, they keep

sending voice messages from one community to the other.

What the Taliban are doing is that when they attack a district, they go to people's community. So imagine you're sitting in your home and suddenly

armed men ambush your home, and, you know, take away the men for fighting for them, they have taken away.

So I have been talking to, you know, women whose 11 year old boy whose 11 year old children have been taken away. And when this woman resisted, you

know, and this happened in - when the mothers resisted that, no, you can't take this 11 year old for the battlefield.

How can he fight? He doesn't even you know, he's a child. And the Taliban fighter would tell her that at least we can use him to blow a district

government. So that is the level of atrocities and the mercy, a lack of, you knows mercy or merciless, you know an attitude of the Taliban.

And that's why many of us, like I have spent my life working for peace in Afghanistan and for political --. But the way I see them, like being so

angry at odd ones, asking about the revenge that they said, you stood with the Americans, you stood after the 9/11 you toppled our government.

So now we are taking revenge. This is the common language that every Taliban fighter is using on the battlefield; they go to people's homes. So

these women that have worked with me all these years, you know, we work, we have done different community engagements, we did priests building project,

these women are at huge risk.

Their men have been taken away in Kandahar, for example, you know, the women that I've helped come out of Kandahar, they don't have a man in a

family of 19, the kids and women. And they are now in Kabul, we have to come out of Kandahar, but they lost at least eight men from their families.

And this and they have been taken pinball that where the massacre has happened. So all of this, you know, makes you question what this peace

negotiation that has been taken going on in Doha. And it makes you question, why, you know, the Doha agreement did not actually make a

difference on the ground.

ANDERSON: Right. And I just wonder then what you think of or how you respond to this most recent appeal from the European Union. I've got to

just read "what they said".

The senseless violence is inflicting immense suffering upon Afghan citizens and is increasing the number of internally displaced people. They went on

to say that Taliban's Military offensive is in direct contradiction to their stated commitment to a negotiated settlement of the conflict and the

Doha peace process.

And they say there is an urgent need for compromise and permanent ceasefire agreements in Afghanistan. To your mind, is this simply naive, this sort of

language from the European Union at this point?


FROGH: It's, it's half of the story, and it's incomplete. The full story for us as Afghans is that, the Taliban on the ground are not connected to

the men who are sitting in Doha, representing them, and those who have taken so much legitimacy from the U.S., Europe and other international

allies in the past two years.

The second thing is that we think the Taliban are getting ammunitions, they're getting suicide bombers, they get in 1000s of foreign fighters, who

are from Pakistan and other countries in the region, who are actually putting so much, you know, reality to their ground battle where they don't

see the need.

So we actually kind of love when our international allies would warn the Taliban that, you know, we would cut the aid.

They don't mean the Aid, they have actually millions of, you know, from their drug money from the, you know, they have to all the extortions that

they do and all the support that they have from international terrorist groups, and Al Qaeda, for example, in different parts of the country.

The U.N. itself reported this July actually, that over, you know, the 1500 or 15 provinces of Afghanistan have so many of armed, you know, commanders

of the Al Qaeda. And we know that they are helping the Taliban coming up with their ammunitions and all that.

So Taliban do need the international aid, actually, they don't need the international, you know, recognition when our allies are kind of warning

them --. And you know, look at what's going on the ground.

That it is a huge, you know, testimony that what is happening in Doha has no connection with on the ground. So what Afghans are asking is that the

Doha office needs to shut down because it's been, you know, taxpayers money or whoever money is being spent, it's not helping.

And at the same time, it has given the Taliban so much, you know, leverage to go around. They need to be, you know, sanction just the way Iran has

been Iranian leaders have been sanctioned by the U.S. Why U.S. cannot, you know, sanction the Taliban, the Taliban leaders? That's a question

everyone's asking today.

ANDERSON: Do you, do you believe that that will make a significant difference? I just wonder, where and I hear what you're saying, and your

work on the ground is so important to hear.

Because you have a real sense of just what an impact this latest intensified fighting is having on people of Afghanistan, what is the

solution at this point?

FROGH: You know so to be very honest and just that elephant in the room is actually the foreign fighters, the Pakistani support for the Taliban.

So on daily basis, if you look at you know, how we are being trolled by the Pakistani, you know, the armed you know, and they are non-civilian or the

intelligence kind of trolls on social media and how they have started even promoting the Taliban on the ground.

While Afghanistan is a complete different country, it doesn't want the Taliban anymore, maybe 20 years, it was a different Afghanistan, and today

it's a different Afghanistan. Today, millions of Afghans are on the streets asking for freedom.

They are saying we don't want the same old outdated, you know, Taliban we once knew what we have seen in 20 years. That's why, you know, what the

Taliban like yesterday's Taliban spokesperson, a tweet to U.S. Ambassador was that he said, you have stood with the Kabul admin and it has been a


No, that's the Taliban justification to bring them. What Afghans are saying on the ground, actually on the streets is saying no to them. And we are not

being hurt. That's what hurts many of us. Because we think that we are not being hurt.

We do not want the Taliban to be imposed on us. We are telling the Pakistani government this again and again, that please stop, you know,

sending all these suicide bombers.

But the reason we are asking for sanctions on the sources of the funding for the Taliban is because once they start running, of running, you know,

out of funds, once they start running out of suicide bombers, once they start running out of ammunition, then it will be easier for us to actually

bring those foot soldiers which are odd ones. Because we believe that many, many of their real leadership are not even odd ones.

ANDERSON: Fascinating. Thank you and we'll have you back. This isn't going away and we wish you the best and do please stay safe. You're watching

"Connect the World". I'm Becky Anderson.

Still ahead a new hardline president for Iran, we're going to take a look at what that means for the country's relations with friend and foe alike.

Stay with us.



ANDERSON: Lift sanctions and stay out of our business, that's effectively the message of Iran's new president to the west. Returning to our top story

now hardliner Ebrahim Raisi taking the oath of office just a short time ago, he struck a very different tone for Iran's neighbors reaching out to

them while insisting Iran's presence keeps the region stable.

Well, a lot to talk about here. I want to bring in two men who have followed Iran closely through the years. Johns Hopkins' Professor Vali Nasr

and Bijan Khajehpour of the Eurasia Nexus Partners both join us via Skype.

Let me start with you Vali. Ahead of his speech is today in Parliament, Ebrahim Raisi took a family photo with the foreign guests that attended

today's ceremony clearly sending a message that Iran isn't isolated even if it doesn't have the best ties with the West.

There were for example, representatives from Gulf nations that have been erstwhile foes certainly over the most recent past. Do you think we'll see

more of a pivot away from trying to improve ties with the West and embracing ties with Gulf powers and others like China and Russia?


only to say that Iran is not isolated, but also that Mr. Raisi is not going to be shunned by the world because of the bad press that he has, because of

his legacy as a judge.

And that the generally the term that Iran is taking towards conservative and much more hardline domestic and international policies will not isolate

it. So I think that's the purpose of the photo. And it's a way of saying that he's likely to be able to be as engaged with the world as his

predecessor was.

I think the outreach to the Gulf is something that started under Mr. Rouhani. And he's signaling that is going to be ongoing, but he very

clearly will be more in the campaign Iran that wants to build ties with Russia, and China is sort of a look East policy, and try to anchor

relations with the West.

So he wants some relations with the West, but he doesn't want to anchor it Iran's future in those relationships.

ANDERSON: Bijan, to that point before we talk about Iran's domestic issues, because of course, those are so perilous at this point. But to that point,

what is your perception of where this new administration might go with regard its foreign file and indeed, its relations with others who will have

a big impact on this domestic economy?

BIJAN KHAJEHPOUR, MANAGING PARTNER, EURASIAN NEXUS PARTNERS: Well, I believe what we are witnessing today is actually a continuation of what had

started under President Rouhani in response to the U.S. maximum pressure.


KHAJEHPOUR: When we go back to 2018, when a new wave of sanctions and pressure started on Iran, Iran had no choice but to really look to

immediate neighbors. And this is really the policy that Mr. Raisi is continuing or is planning to continue, basically, de-escalate with

immediate neighbors' trade with immediate neighbors.

And right now, if you look at the trade statistics, imports and exports are not Iran, top four out of the top five trading partners are immediate

neighbors with Iraq, Turkey, Afghanistan, featuring there. I believe that the "Look East" that policy that Vali mentioned, is the second layer of


Basically, Iran wants to rely on closer links with immediate neighbors. And whatever we can't get from immediate neighbors, we will go to towards China

and Russia, which by the way, is also an immediate neighbor of Iran through the Caspian Sea. So it really in response to maximum pressure, what's

happening to Iran?

ANDERSON: Vali, to those immediate neighbors over the past couple of days, we've seen alleged attacks on tankers in the Gulf. We've had heated

rhetoric from Israel and the IRGC, we've had strong comments from the Supreme Leader.

By the - by we've just heard from the UK Foreign Secretary who has said Iran is at a crossroads of opportunities in international relations after

the deadly ship attack that happened on July the 29th off the Coast of Oman. Of course, Iran denies any involvement to that.

Just how new of phase are we in with its immediate Gulf - immediate - the countries in the Gulf? And what do you read into the phase of conflict

between Iran and Israel at this point?

NASR: Well, I think Iran is not - does not see these as one hold. It sees that it's possible for it to improve its relationship with its neighbors

and it wants to do so for reasons that Bijan mentioned, but also because it does relieve some pressure on nuclear negotiations with Saudi Arabia and

UAE are not lobbying against the nuclear deal.

And Iran and Saudi Arabia actually have started a security dialogue in April. And it's been ongoing on a host of regional issues. And that's the

first and it's likely to perhaps continue once Mr. Raisi is in.

I think the attack on the tanker is more about deterrence and retaliation with Israel. There have been tanker wars between them. There have been

explosions, assassinations in Iran. There have been back and forth cyber- attacks that have been Iran support for Hamas and Hezbollah.

And that that is a response to that. And also that as Iran as the new president is coming in, I think the attack in the in the in the Sea of Oman

is designed by Iran to signal to the United States that unless there is a deal, unless they make compromises to make the deal possible and on and if

they want to continue with maximum pressure, there are risks.

In other words, Iran has an option to escalate, it may doesn't want to go there. But it can go there and can be costly.

ANDERSON: Bijan, we - you talked about maximum pressure, we often talk about how these international sanctions have devastated the Iranian economy

for sure. That's true. But you and I know that corruption is also a key challenge facing the Islamic Republic.

I wonder will we see more crackdowns on corruption and the networks that benefit from it. And given that the levers of power are all held by the

"Hardliners" at this point, I wonder whether you see some opportunities to actually get things done domestically at this point, as opposed to the sort

of infighting that we've seen over the last, what 5, 6 years?

KHAJEHPOUR: Well, first of all, I don't agree with the analysis that all the levers of power are in the hands of one, one group mean, we refer to

them as hardliners. But essentially, the Iranian power structure consists of various competing and sometimes called missing networks.

And these networks, some of them have ideological outlooks, but a lot of them are mainly focused on looking after their own interests, sometimes

driven by ethnic you know, interests, sometimes by regional interest and sometimes by ideological interest.

So we do have a new composition of power. The Hardline networks have definitely more power but it doesn't mean that they are not going to

compete against each other.


KHAJEHPOUR: So, yes, there is an opportunity to, to at least contain some of the corrupt practices in the Iranian power structure. But a lot of these

processes will be determined by the come - very harsh competition between these different networks, which will compete for interest.

And you can see, even before President Raisi started, the very hard line parliament, which we think is in line with the president passed a law a

very unpopular law on new restrictions on using no international messaging services and the internet and so on.

So you can see there is a lot of jockeying for position for power positions, and that is not going to end and unfortunately, both the

sanctions environment but also these continuous competitions between networks creates just space for more corrupt practices.

So the opportunity is there, but I don't think we will see real containment of corrupt practices in the country.

ANDERSON: its good having you both on and we'll have you back. Thank you very much indeed, for joining us. Coming up, Iran's influence across the

region has been at the heart of its tensions with Gulf allies off late and indeed with the West.

I asked the EU Ambassador about Iranian influence in Lebanon and whether Europe's plan for sanctions on the political elite there is just an empty

threat. We'll get his answer to that much more after this.


ANDERSON: Frustration and fury fueling the crisis in Lebanon. Angry protestors back on the streets of the country's capital and even though

their demonstrations may be fierce they all still being met by a deafening silence from those in power. Demonstrators and rights groups are all asking

where is the accountability for the deadly blast it devastated Beirut a year ago and thousands of lives?

Protesters losing patience waiting for answers, they clashed with police on Wednesday the first anniversary of that port explosion. The country's Red

Cross says dozens of people have been injured.

Well, Europe at least trying to help Lebanon by pressuring its leaders and also by raising money for it. On Wednesday, the French President and the UN

Secretary General led an international aid conference via video link the participants pledged a total of $370 million to go towards food security

water sanitation, health and education in Lebanon.


ANDERSON: Just the days - a couple of days before EU leaders also agreed on a legal framework to potentially sanction Lebanese political leaders who

they say are undermining democracy.

Well, again, this was just a framework. But it doesn't mean that the sanctions will be imposed. I spoke with the European Union's Ambassador to

Lebanon this week, Ralph Tarraf, and I asked him if the plan really has any teeth, or is it as some have told me no more than just an empty threat.

This is our conversation.

RALPH TARRAF, EU AMBASSADOR TO LEBANON: It's certainly not an empty threat. We have created the legal basis on which sanctions can impose against those

who obstruct the political process in Lebanon, to undermine the reforms which are unnecessary in this country, and to have taken part in corruption


The first step has been to create this legal basis, which we need and the second step will be to discuss possible sanctions, targeted sanctions

against individuals. Of course, our hope is that we don't have to go there. Because we believe that this sanctions come in a spirit of supporting the

political process and not just venting of frustration or anger at political leaders in Lebanon.

ANDERSON: Should you believe that they are necessary, how quickly would they be imposed?

TARRAF: Well, that we have the legal basis, it can go very quickly. It requires unanimity at the Council, which is not necessarily an easy task.

But it's also not an impossible task. I don't expect that this will drag on very much. We are now capable of reacting rather quickly to the unfolding

political developments in Lebanon.

ANDERSON: You haven't named anyone who could or would be specifically targeted? Why not? And can you elaborate on who we are talking about here?

TARRAF: Well, for the time being, as I explained, the logic is to create a legal instrument in order to be able to target individuals. The second

phase, which we're in, now, is a phase in which either Member States or the High Representative will announce or suggest people to be targeted by

sanctions. And of course, this requires that we have strong evidence against the people who will be targeted.

ANDERSON: OK. Just how closely is the EU working with Washington at this point? And do you expect the U.S. to take a similar step in the future?

TAFFAR: The Trump Administration has imposed some sanctions on some Lebanese leaders. I do not know whether the Biden Administration continues

to do that. But the U.S. has welcomed the step by the European Union.

And there will certainly be as soon as we enter into the stage of nominating or targeting individuals in discussion with U.S. on who to

target and what the evidence base would be for such talents.

ANDERSON: U.S. Representative Ted Deutch introduced a resolution saying, and I quote, currently, the EU only includes Hezbollah's Military wing, and

not its political wing on its list of sanctioned terrorist organizations. The U.S. makes no distinction, sir, between its branches and urges the U.S.

to do the same - the EU sorry, to do the same would you support that and if not, why not?

TARRAF: So we have this distinction, which is based on the fact that Hezbollah is both a militia, and also a political party, engaging within

the political system of Lebanon, which represents a considerable constituency in Lebanon, and upholding this distinction is one element to

engage with Hezbollah on a political level as well.

ANDERSON: Right. This is not a distinction that the U.S. makes, of course. I want to just quote another lawmaker in the U.S., the influence of the

party, and its role in dismantling Lebanon is devastating as it enhances Iran's destabilizing influence and threatens the entire region.

With respect Ambassador which part of that statement by U.S. Representative Kathy Manning, do you or the EU not agree with?

TARRAF: We have really a dramatic situation in Lebanon, which is not necessarily linked to the presence of Hezbollah, the problems in Lebanon,

the weak governance and the way how this Gulf country is governed and administered, precedes basically Hezbollah.


TARRAF: It is now the time and now the opportunity to try to modernize the Lebanese state to give it more clout and to improve the governance. I do

not disagree that the presence of Hezbollah of an armed militia in Lebanon creates a lot of anomalies and a lot of problems which need to be

addressed. The question is whether this is the right time to do so?

ANDERSON: With respect sir, there will be many people in Lebanon who says that is simply a naive point of view to which you will say what?

TARRAF: Well, there are a lot of opinions in Lebanon. This is what we have subscribed to and this is what we are focusing on right now because I do

not believe that putting the question of the arms of Hezbollah or the mentality of Lebanon on the table right now will address any of the

economic problems this country is facing currently.

ANDERSON: In return for up to $11 billion in aid, and much needed aid money of course. France has demanded structural reforms to governance and

transparency at all levels of spending billions more from Europe, as we understand it is conditioned on audit of the Central Bank, which of course

is critical to the movement of Lebanon's money. What do you want to see done to unlock that cash that's so badly needed?

TARRAF: Well, I know that this is a very popular way of presenting the issues in Lebanon around aid but it's not really accurate. It's not that

we're sitting on coffers of funds, which we will unlock as soon as reforms are undertaken.

Reforms in Lebanon are necessary to address the economic problems of the country, they should not be done because donors request them or to please

donors to unlock funds.

ANDERSON: AFP reporting that France has opened an investigation into the wealth of Riad Salameh who is the Central Bank, Governor of Lebanon, and

this follows a similar move by Switzerland. Does the EU you support these investigations into allegations of money laundering?

TARRAF: Absolutely. I believe that this is certainly a path which is worth being explored. There has been money taken out of the country liquidity

taken out of Lebanese banks by many politically exposed persons and it is certainly the right thing to do to start investigating these issues.

ANDERSON: The EU Ambassador to Lebanon. This week, we're remembering the lives cut short in Beirut's Port explosion a year ago. Some of the victims'

faces are now etched in glass, their images, unbreakable call for justice. That story is just ahead.


ANDERSON: Lives, homes, dreams for the future shattered a year ago in Beirut's devastating port blast. We mark that anniversary all week

specifically of course the day of blast a year ago on Wednesday on this show yesterday.


ANDERSON: Well, Artist Simon Berger has made portraits of some of the victims etched in glass. The images are a call to those accountable to

justice. We are unbreakable project is a joint initiative between a Lebanese Creative Agency and Lebanese TV channel MTV. CNN spoke to one of

the forces behind it.


WALID KANAAN, CHIEF CREATOR DIRECTOR, TBWA/RAAD: This explosion, it broke a lot of things, it broke lives. It broke houses, it broke and destroyed

buildings. It broke everything it brought the economy of the country. There is one thing that we fuse that this explosion will rake, which is our


We decided to break more glass in order to this time, draw the faces and the portraits of the victims of this explosion. And we did our research and

we found that there is only one artist who's capable of achieving this one tool, which is a hammer, which is Simon Berger.

Simon was extremely generous. He spent 10 days with us in Beirut - drawing using his hammer to draw these portraits. And then he was at Beirut, he

visited the site of the explosion. He visited the streets all the pubs and restaurants that were affected by the explosion.

He met with young Lebanese in the streets; he had a conversation with them. And he witnessed, you know the frustration of the young generation. But he

also met with the parents of the victims. And that was by far the most moving, emotional moment of the whole experience.

It's when he presented to the parents of the victims, the portraits broken on the glass. It was a striking moment. I hope that the portraits of the

victims are going to be a catalyst to move things forward.


ANDERSON: We share that hope. I'm Becky Anderson. Good night.