Return to Transcripts main page

Connect the World

Lebanon: Four Detained in Connection to Rocket Attacks; First Provincial Capital in Afghanistan Falls to Taliban; Barcelona President Blames Finances for Losing Messi; Will Human Rights Change in Iran Under President Raisi; Lebanese Party Leader Talks to CNN; Lebanese Film Paints Clear Portrait of Corruption There. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired August 06, 2021 - 11:00   ET




BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST, CONNECT THE WORLD: A very warm welcome back. You are watching "Connect the World". This hour, the sharpest escalation along

the Israel Lebanon border in several years, Hezbollah, the Iranian backed militant group admitting it fired rockets from southern Lebanon towards

Israel today.

This happening in the very week Iran inaugurates a new hardline president and in the very week Lebanon, mired in political and economic chaos

observes the anniversary of the Beirut port explosion. Now Hezbollah calling the Rockets aimed at open land, a response to Israeli airstrikes in

Lebanon on Thursday.

Israel Defense Forces tweeting that it says strikes are a response to rocket fire from Lebanon. And that attacks on Israeli civilians cannot go

unanswered. Look, no casualties are reported and important to note, Israel does not believe Iran is directly involved or that Hezbollah wants further


I want to drill down on the detail here and take a step back to look at the bigger picture as ever in the Middle East, nothing happens in isolation. So

the context is extremely important.

Let's get you to Hadas Gold who is with us near the Israeli Lebanese border and to Ben Wedeman, this hour who is in Beirut connecting us to all the

angles of what is extremely important story in the Middle East.

Let's start with you Hadas, you are on that border, just explain what we understand to have happened in the past couple of days also.

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So Becky, I am, as you said near the Lebanese Israeli border, I'm actually near in artillery base. That was part

of the response to some of these rocket attacks. 19 rockets fired from Lebanon towards Israel. This is according to the Israeli Defense Forces.

They say 10 of them were intercepted by the iron door missile defense system. Three of them fell short. Six of them they said fell in open areas

in this mountain behind me. This is called Havot by the Israeli Shebaa Farms by the Lebanese and the U.N. it is a somewhat disputed territory.

But this is one of the sharpest escalations, as you noted that this region has seen in some time. Because although there have been sporadic rocket

fires from Lebanon into Israel, including us as soon as a few days ago, those have largely been attributed to sort of offshoot Palestinian


Now while they don't do anything without the tacit approval of Hezbollah, this is the first time in several years we're seeing Hezbollah take

responsibility for an attack and especially a rocket attacks.

We have not seen Hezbollah take responsibility for rockets being launched from Lebanon towards Israel since at least 2006. Now, the IDF has been

responding with artillery with other strikes, but the IDF says that they do not want this to escalate any further, although they say they are prepared

to do so.

They also know that they do not think that Hezbollah necessarily wants to escalate this further because of where they aim their rockets, not

necessarily towards heavily populated civilian areas.

They also as you noted, very important, the IDF does not think this was directed by Iran, although Iran of course backs Hezbollah, I think that is

a very important distinction to make. But as you noted, this is happening in an incredibly sensitive, volatile situation right now.

Lebanon in crisis, this new Iranian hardline Iranian President being inaugurated, there are of course, tensions filtering between Iran and

Israel, especially after the attack on the Mercer Street ship which killed two crew members, one British one Romanian.

You have to keep in mind also, there's a relatively new Israeli government in place, and there is a lot at stake here, a lot of trying to figure out

where everybody stands. But in such a volatile situation, even though both sides might not necessarily want things to escalate.

One wrong move one attack seen the wrong way could cause this to escalate even further to really dangerous levels, Becky.

ANDERSON: Ben, the U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon calling for maximum restraint and urging all sides to stand down. Just explain what you are

seeing and hearing from, from your perspective? And what's the bigger picture here?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think it's important, Becky to note the fact that both sides seem to want to show that

they can do something. And both sides are actually avoiding hitting anything that could lead to a further escalation of the situation.

Hezbollah has made it clear; it is firing its rockets into open areas.

The Israelis aren't hitting much on the Lebanese side. And therefore it's clear that they just don't want this to go beyond what appears to be a bit

of saber rattling. But not actually start to stab with those sabers.


WEDEMAN: In the bigger picture, if you look at this situation from here from Beirut, it clearly is not an escalation. Anyone in Lebanon wants to

see go any further. This is a country deep in economic and financial crisis. This is a country where the U.N. says 78 percent of people now live

in poverty.

We saw this incident earlier today, where Hezbollah even admitted a rocket truck containing a rocket launcher was returning through a village. The

villagers who are Drew's stopped it and were very angry about the fact that these rockets were being fired near their town.

The Lebanese army came in detained for Hezbollah members and confiscated the rocket launcher. So from Lebanon's perspective, nobody seems to want a

war, which seems a sensible position at this point.

But in the broader context, let's keep in mind Israel and Iran is engaged in a shadow war, where each side seems to be behind attacks on ships and

other facilities of the other. Let's not forget, Israel is behind a series of high profile assassinations of Iranian scientists going back several


And therefore perhaps because Hezbollah is affiliated with Iran, this is one way for Iran to remind the Israelis that they are exposed on another


And also just going back to the rockets that were fired by Hezbollah, I think anybody familiar with Hezbollah's technical sophistication would know

that if Hezbollah wanted to hit targets in Israel, they would probably be able to do so much more than, for instance, Hamas or Islamic jihad in Gaza.

So this is behind a facade of escalation. I think both sides are sending the message that they don't want this to go any further, Becky.

ANDERSON: Hadas, just to the position as you rightly pointed out a difficult time for a new administration. This is a coalition government, of

course, run by Naftali Bennett. What's been - have we had an official response? Our viewers are aware of how the IDF spokesman is playing this

one. Have we heard anything from the Israeli government?

GOLD: Well, the Prime Minister Naftali Bennett did tweet about this. And he essentially said, putting the responsibility for Hezbollah's actions at the

feet of the Lebanese government saying that this, that they need to be very careful that this responsibility ultimately, even if Hezbollah is

responsible, claiming responsibility that ultimately it's up to the Lebanese army and that they are in control.

Of course, everyone knows that Hezbollah is essentially the ones in control in southern Lebanon. The IDF believes that this, these rockets that were

launched was part of a message being sent about how they are still in control of southern Lebanon.

Of course, Israel, the Israeli government is really experts are also very much connecting this to Iran, what's happening with Iran, the tensions

rising there. Yesterday, we had an important moment where the Israeli Minister of Defense Benny Gantz was asked directly in a TV interview is

Israel ready to militarily strike Iran?

And he gave a very simple one word answer. He said, yes. Now, when he was pressed further on whether that military action would be happening very


He sort of hedged a little bit and said that it's very important for the world to realize that Iran is not just an Israeli problem, of course,

referring to tensions along the border with Lebanon, because Iran backs Hezbollah, saying that Israel and other countries need to think both

diplomatically and also strategically about how to thwart and how to keep at bay this Iranian pressure, Becky.

ANDERSON: To both of you, thank you. These cross border attacks happening in the shadow of that drone attack on a tanker off the coast of Oman that

Israel and the U.S. blame on Iran. That sparked its own war of words between Israel and Tehran as Fred Pleitgen now tells us from the Iranian


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Iran is issuing strong warnings towards the Israelis not to retaliate after a recent attack

on an Israeli link tanker in the Persian Gulf, the U.S., Israel, the UK and Romania all blame Iran for the recent attack on the tanker Mercer Street,

which is Israeli linked and in which two sailors were killed.

Now, the Iranians are saying they were not behind that attack and the head of Iran very powerful Revolutionary Guard Corps. He was recently in that

area in the Persian Gulf and inspecting Iran's Military facilities there.

He said they were fully combat ready. And he also said that if the Israelis were to make a move, that Iran's answer would be Military and would not be

diplomatic. Now, the Prime Minister of Israel, Naftali Bennett, he came out and he said that Israel could take action against Iran by itself. And that

was also criticized by the Iranians.


PLEITGEN: This is the spokesperson for Iran's Foreign Ministry speaking, he said, "In another brazen violation of international law, Israeli regime now

blatantly threatens Iran with Military action. Such malign behavior stems from blind Western support.

We state this clearly, any foolish act against Iran will be met with a decisive response. Don't test us. Of course, all of this comes right after

a new hardline administration has taken office here in Tehran. Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Tehran.

ANDERSON: Well, fighting that began in the Tigray region of Northern Ethiopia last November has now spilled over to another region. Next door in

Amhara, witnesses say fighters have now taken control of the town of Lalibela.

That's churches are a U.N. World Heritage site as well as a holy site for the country's Orthodox Christians. The U.S. is imploring the fighters to

leave them alone. CNN's Larry Madowo has been following this conflict for us. And he joins us now from Nairobi, in Kenya.

Just what are the details of this latest incident if you will? And how does this play into the wider story here?

LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So the details are sketchy, Becky and part of that is because communication is hard in Amhara where Lalibela is, and

the Ethiopian government has so far not commented directly on this situation.

What we know is based on eyewitness accounts, that the Tigrayan fighters to cover Lalibela this important cultural and religious location for Ethiopian

Orthodox Christians, we understand that there was no fighting and this was a peaceful takeover.

However, the exact details are hard to come by. This plays into the wider picture because the conflict integral has been running since November that

already displaced something like 2 million people, 1000s of people have died.

And it shows no signs of abating if anything now these Tigrayan fighters are taking over territory that they initially were not interested in,

because this means they've taken over their neighbor a much larger region than Tigray and we don't know where else they're going to go.

So that is why there is this international concern that this 13th century New Jerusalem could be at risk if these Tigrayan fighters continue to

expand the territory and show no regard for important cultural sides.

ANDERSON: Yes, bottom line here. Is that this - we are away way from a solution in Ethiopia at present and the incidents continue. Larry, thank

you. Well, we've just gotten word out of Afghanistan.

The Taliban militants have captured their first provincial capital, CNN's International Security Editor Nick Paton Walsh joining me now. Nick?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yes, it is possibly a watermark moment for advances being made by the Taliban insurgency across

Afghanistan. Just to give you the significance, Zaranj, the capital of Nimruz Provinces on the border with Iran, the key for crossing into Iran's

Western neighbor in itself.

The first it seems to have fallen. Videos from inside the city show that appears to be the case a government source echoes that facts, too. There

are reports suggesting that in fact, a lack of reinforcements may have led those forces inside the city to essentially negotiate and less violent end

to the clashes there.

But it's important it is the first provincial capital to fall to the Taliban. And the significance of that is over the past years, Taliban

insurgency pushes offensives have often pushed briefly into cities, found they able to hold for a matter of days and then being pushed out again by

Afghan security forces and airstrikes.

It's possible we could see that again when it comes to Zaranj, but many have been looking to see as this new Taliban offensive gets underway,

whether they would be able to push into key cities and hold them. Now this Zaranj is obviously significantly far away from Lashkar Gah and Kandahar,

the two Southern provincial capitals that are greatly under pressure now, too, from the Taliban.

And you might be able to see here something of a strategy where Taliban forces push on multiple cities at a time possibly overstretching Afghan

security forces and enabling them in this one case, to take one particular provincial Capital.

It also come so Becky, as today a senior government media official was killed, assassinated by the Taliban, who claimed responsibility for it very

clearly, in the capital of Kabul, Dawa Khan Menapal ran the government media Information Center killed on Friday.

A lot of uproar, frankly, amongst journalists who he worked with reminding the Taliban of their promises not to take reprisals on those who'd worked

with or for the government as things move forward.

But it's the second key assassination in this week on Tuesday; the Governor of Sayedabad in Mayden Wardak, his name Amir Mohammad Malikzai was also

killed in Kabul too.


WALSH: And then on that same day, there appears to be an attempt with an enormous car bomb on the life of the acting defense minister in Kabul as

well. So while for many months, if not almost years, Kabul had been quieter, certainly, particularly during the beginnings of the U.S.

withdrawal announcement.

They're off as the Taliban seem to want to let the Capitol kind of get on with that seismic American departure. Now, we are seeing the sort of so

called ring of steel of Kabul being punctured on number of occasions, and I think, to increasing nervousness amongst government officials about where

that may go in terms of the climate of safety in Kabul.

And now, as you see around Kabul to the Taliban pressuring places where Lashkar Gah for example or Kandahar and it always seemed unlikely, they

might actually be able to have some sort of sustained presence, deeply troubling months ahead, Becky.

ANDERSON: What chance of any peace talks being successful anytime soon, at this point?

WALSH: Minimal, frankly, I mean, they've been, there are two schools of thoughts on this. I think it's part of the American withdrawal strategy,

even under the Trump Administration and possibly even before the Americans always hoped they would get a deal out of the Taliban.

They always hoped they could somehow pray on the part of the Taliban's mentality they believe exists who except that the 90s was a mastered. The

government they ran in Afghanistan there, the Taliban was internationally a pariah subject to sanctions.

And it didn't get international aid and therefore, it was sort of failed before it got off the ground. But as you see, the Taliban use these

negotiations, the edge forwards, they seem to give something take back something this process has been going on for years now.

And there are many critics of it saying, frankly, it's a fraud, a sham and should be declared as much and walked out off. But then there are some

saying, well, you will eventually get to a point. Maybe we're at a stalemate reached on the battlefield.

The Taliban don't want to go into the capital Kabul or other major cities to. And then why shut down negotiation possible strategy or platform just

because you're angry at its lack of progress now. So certainly peace talks not going anywhere.

It seems at this time, a lot of progress on the battlefield against the government's direction. A lot of this frankly, whatever what he thought was

going to happen when the Americans withdrew. But it is happening at a pace and with the severity that I think is leaving many shocked, Becky.

ANDERSON: Yes, Nick Paton Walsh on the story. Thank you, Nick. Well still to come, a shock for football fans worldwide is one of the best if not the

best player on the planet is leaving his longtime club. We're going to speak to a journalist who covers FC Barcelona and the man many called the

GOAT, Lionel Messi, as in just a moment.

And as a new hardline president takes office in Iran, I talked to an Iranian actress and activist about the calls for change from prominent

Iranian dissidents. And the latest on the ever changing advice on COVID vaccines, we'll tell you what the U.S. and UK authorities are now advising

for pregnant women all that coming up after this.



ANDERSON: It's the question on the lips of every football fans wherever they live and watch the game. And where will Lionel Messi go next.

All we know at the moment is that he will not be staying with Barcelona, the President, FC Barcelona says that a new contract for the six times

Ballon d'Or winner just will not fit into the Spanish leagues financial fair play rules.


JOAN LAPORTA, PRESIDENT, FC BARCELONA: Lio wanted to stay at Barca and we wanted him to stay. Of course, he's the best player in the world and has

other offers. After all this process, there comes a moment in a negotiation where you have to say enough.

You have to analyze it; you must leave emotions out and look at the numbers. In LaLiga, we have to abide by the rules. We think there could be

more flexible. But that's not an excuse. We knew this rule and we couldn't abide by it.


ANDERSON: So what is going on here? Where does Messi go next? And how are fans of Barsa reacting to losing their longtime superstar, I'm delighted to

say. Joining me now is Semra Hunter, a football presenter with LaLiga, TV and let's just back up.

For those watching who are not familiar Semra with the LaLiga rules, why is it that the player who wants to stay at a club he is played for his entire

career - and a club who wants to keep him on April to do so, just explain if you will.

SEMRA HUNTER, FOOTBALL PRESENTER, LALIGA TV: Becky, I could be sitting here all day with you explaining everything in detail and breaking it down

because that's how long it would take. This is such a complicated situation.

But the long short of it is really that Barcelona has been in serious debt for a long time now they've been overspending their budget over the last

several seasons. That of course was done by the previous board.

This is a financial crisis; a method has been inherited by Joan Laporta and this new board. And they have been explicitly told by Javier Tebas, who is

the President of LaLiga time and time again that you need to sort this out before you can even consider resigning Lionel Messi as well as registering

him to play in LaLiga this season.

And we all suspected that there were some serious issues there that perhaps that that was about 200 million in losses over the last season. But as it

turns out from what the courts have said today, it's actually more like 500 million, so we're talking about half a billion in losses that is absolutely


And because of that they haven't necessarily been able to cut their spending either. Tebas has said, you need to lower the wages, you need to

lower the salaries, you need to sell players, you need to loan players do whatever you can do, but slash the cost, slash all of the money that you're

spending, because it's the only way you can make this happen.

Part of the problem is the players are happy, they don't want to leave. This is a buyers' market up because of COVID things have changed massively

in the market across Europe. So a lot of clubs are looking to sell and not to buy.

So that certainly doesn't help them when they're trying to offload these players. And so quite frankly, it's put them in a very, very difficult

position. There had been a lot of confidence for a long time that Laporta was sort - sounds.

In fact, a few weeks ago, it seemed as though it was a done deal between him and Messi. But of course, they had to take it to LaLiga and it had to

be approved. And it wasn't in the end.

So by virtue of not sorting out their finances in enough time, they just don't have the bandwidth to keep him on board. They were spending 110

percent on their wages and still of the revenue that was coming in without Messi that's 95 percent, the recommended figure should be about 65 percent.

ANDERSON: Got it, OK. So I get that and I think that that makes sense to our viewers. For fans of Barcelona, what does Mercy's departure mean? And

those fans will not just be in Barcelona, there will be many people watching this show around the world who are massive Messi fans and massive

Barsa fans as a result.

HUNTER: Well, it really does run the full spectrum. I mean, there are people who are absolutely devastated. This feels like a huge loss to them.

They've been following his career for many, many years.

And he's someone who's so intrinsically linked with the identity and the meaning of what it means to be a Barcelona player. He's our talisman he's

our captain. It feels almost personal in a way to them. So there's a lot of sadness, a lot of anger, frustration, deception, even disbelief denial as

well too.


HUNTER: But there is a section of the fan base that says, you know what, let's take the emotion out of this. Let's look at this economic situation.

And maybe it's not such a bad thing. He needed to go sooner or later anyway, because retire soon enough in the future, he's 34 years old.

But maybe now the time has come. And this allows for the club to then kind of lighten that burden financially. And it gives them an opportunity to

rebuild from the ground up. They can sort out things at the club, they can rebuild the squad's, and they can prepare for life without Lionel Messi.

So you do have kind of both ends of the spectrum where people just don't want to see him going. They're hoping that there'll be a U turn in this

situation. But there are others whoever who think maybe this is the right moment.

ANDERSON: Yes. OK. Well, I guess the next question has to be where does he go next? Will another club have to pay him at this point? And what's your

best bet about where we will see Lionel Messi playing next?

HUNTER: That's the million dollar question. Pep Guardiola just a couple of hours ago already ruled him out for Manchester City. He said that no, not

even thinking about him right now. They had moved on months ago when that's why they focused on jack relish and perhaps bringing in Harry Kane.

The only real likely possibility does seem like PSG. PSG is the only club really out there right now that has pockets deep enough to be able to

afford him. But the big question remains whether legally they can do that. Of course, our limits are a financial fair play rules in Europe, as well as


So they already have - they brought in secure Amazon a free transfer --. Yes, they come for free, but you still have to pay their wages, you still

have to pay agent fees or maybe signup, bonuses, et cetera.

And that would be the case within that messy. So while they may be able to do so, and pay for his wages et cetera, they may have to sell an MRP or

sell an - to make sure that they can make room for Messi to come on board.

It's not necessarily a guarantee that they can do that with keeping everybody into the sword. But most likely they'll find a way perhaps that's

what her end up in Paris.

ANDERSON: Just remind us how much does he earn at this point a week?

HUNTER: A week, to be honest, I don't know. But it certainly was negotiated that he would reduce his salary by about 50 percent. He was earning about

100 million, it was reported with Barcelona.

He apparently was willing to take about 20 million per year. He understood the financial situation of Barcelona and he was willing to make a massive

salary cuts whether he will want to do that, I don't know the club remains to be seen. But in any case, you certainly can command a high wage.

ANDERSON: Yes, a very high wage. Well, is The GOAT according to many the greatest of all time, although you will open that kind of worms and we

could be talking for hours about whether he is in fact, the greatest player on the planet?

Thank you so much and always a pleasure. We'll have you back. Thank you. You're watching "Connect the World" with me Becky Anderson live from London


Still ahead the urgent warning from the United Nations of the Hezbollah fires rockets from Lebanon towards Israel. And Israel responds with

airstrikes. Plus who is leading whom. A Lebanese party leader tells me why he thinks Iran is controlling Lebanon through Hezbollah. You will hear why

coming up.



ANDERSON: Welcome back. You're watching "Connect the World". I'm Becky Anderson for you. The United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon is

calling for maximum restraint after Hezbollah and Israel traded fire across Lebanon's border.

Israeli say the Iran backed militant group launched 19 rockets towards Israel, Israel responded with airstrikes into Lebanon. Importantly, no

injuries reported and Israeli Military Spokesman says Israel does not want to escalate this into a full scale war and says it appears Hezbollah

doesn't either.

Well, my next guest is an Iranian born actress and activist who tweeted that she stands with "All dissidents demanding an end to the occupying

brutal theocracy in Iran #notoislamicrepublic". Nazanin Boniadi joins me on Skype from Los Angeles.

I want to talk to you today given that we've seen the inauguration of a new hardline president just yesterday; we are seeing Iran being blamed for a

number of attacks on tankers in the Arabian Sea. We've also got the Iran backed militant group Hezbollah, trading fire with Israel at present.

So there is a wider kind of regional story going on here, which has Iran sort of squarely, you know, added center, if you will. You just described

Iran for us in that tweet, is that how you see your country and occupying and brutal theocracy?

NAZANIN BONIADI, ACTRESS & HUMAN RIGTHS ACTIVIST: I think it doesn't take me to say those words. I'm merely echoing what the people of Iran are

saying very bravely taken to the streets risking their lives. The slogans in these protests since 2019 have been unprecedented.

They've been uniformly aimed at their own government, their own regime, despite outside pressures and despite 42 years of the Islamic Republic

habit, Republic having a monopoly on the information fed to the Iranian public with state sponsored media, the Iranian public, simply know that the

greatest impediment between them and a better future is their own government.

ANDERSON: Yesterday, we saw a new era take hold in Iran, the Hardliner President Ebrahim Raisi, was officially inaugurated into office. What do

you believe his presidency will mean for Iran both domestically, which is incredibly important, we often talk about Iran on the international stage.

But we must be clear that, you know, it's important to talk about what's going on domestically, and of course, on the international front, your


BONIADI: Very much so. Ebrahim Raisi has been a pillar of the Islamic Republic for 42 years. First as a prosecutor, then Head of the Judiciary,

and now President and his track record speaks for itself. He is a gross human rights violator.

He is implicated for crimes against humanity in particular the 1988 massacre of over 5000 dissidents, for which Amnesty International has

clearly stated, should be investigated. So it doesn't bode well for the people of Iran or neighbor - Iran's neighbors or the international

community that his president is likely to empower the IRGC, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, an arm of the Iran, Iranian army Armed Forces

tasked with protecting the Constitution of the Islamic Republic.

Notably, it doesn't have the word Iran in its name, because it's not tasked with acting the Iranian people or the nation.

ANDERSON: You are Iranian but you live in the United States, of course, and you have said that the U.S. is focused on the Iran or the nuclear deal but

not as focused on what the people of Iran are saying. What do you mean by that?


ANDERSON: And what can the U.S. under this current Biden Administration which says it puts human rights front and center on its foreign file? What

can the U.S. do better with regard Iran, in your opinion?

BONIADI: I think rhetoric matters. So when then Senator Joe Biden, in 1986, spoke to the Senate in a hearing and said, condemned the Reagan

Administration for not being hard enough on the South African apartheid regime said unequivocally that the United States must stand with the people

of South Africa, that is the type of rhetoric that Iranian people deserve.

We shouldn't prioritize any kind of negotiation or deal over human rights. Those two things don't have anything to do with each other. We must, you

know - absolutely have morals when it comes to this. And, you know, he also recently as president stood by Cuban dissidents.

So the Iranians deserve the same Iranian people are risking everything to stand for a better future. And as far as what can we do, we have to be

proactive and not reactive. And what I mean by that is the diaspora Iranian diaspora has been very active in ensuring that communication is open with

Iranian dissidents and Iranian civil society and the world.

An example of that is - to share app which has ensured that despite the fact that only 20 percent of Iranians have access to the internet in 2013,

those of the statistics and 70 percent have access to satellite dishes, which are illegal in Iran.

He's created an app, which allows Iranians to have access during internet shutdowns have access to information which is sensitive inside Iran that

allows them to have hope and continue their movement know that they're not alone and have access to accurate information. So those are the things that

we can do.

We need to ensure that internet crackdowns and shutdowns don't happen so that people can organize and civil society is empowered inside Iran.

ANDERSON: And Iranians, of course, fearing that a new bill, new legislation will indeed further restrict the internet in Iran. So you are making the

point that that is something that Washington needs to be vocal about.

As you rightly point out, they have been with regard internet access in Cuba and support for Cuban dissidents who are making, you know, a perfectly

sensible analogy that beat. The state of play in Iran domestically, let's be quite clear, is not optimistic.

The economy is in dire straits. We've seen deadly street protests as of late due to water shortages, which were met with brutal crackdowns by the

authorities. And I know you speak to people in Iran regularly so do we. What do you think can be done realistically, to bring about some positive

change for Iranians on the ground?

BONIADI: Well, that's the million dollar question, isn't it? I think, exactly what I just alluded to is being proactive and not reactive is very

important. So we have to have strategic plans in place that when internet shutdowns happen when 360 protesters are detained as they just were in

Uzbekistan, during the protests, which quickly became anti-government protests.

It's important to note that, yes, they started as protests against the lack of electricity and water shortages, but they quickly became slogans,

slogans include death of the Islamic Republic, death to the Supreme Leader, these are unprecedented.

And so we need to make sure that the internet crackdown that happened in the aftermath of that, and stopped the protests in an attempt to crack down

on protesters doesn't happen. And it's also important to note that when kids as young as 12 are being detained, and teenagers are being shot dead.

This becomes absolutely urgent.

ANDERSON: With that, we're going to leave it there. It's been a pleasure talking to you. Thank you so much. And please come back and speak to us

again. Thank you.

We've been reporting Iranian backed Lebanon based Hezbollah, says it fired rockets towards Israel calling it a response to Israeli air raids inside

Lebanon. No serious injuries or damage has been reported but in Lebanon, people are growing very frustrated with Hezbollah's influence in the

country, especially after what has been such a tough week this week, which marked the first anniversary of the Beirut Port blast and its impact.

Now after the blast, you'll remember French President Emmanuel Macron said Lebanon wouldn't be able to access any aid money until a government was

formed there and the flow restructured government.


ANDERSON: Well, here we are 12 months later, and Lebanon still hasn't formed that government. Samy Gemayel is a Former Member of the Lebanese

Parliament and Leader of the Lebanese Kataeb Party join me for a discussion, which included a discussion about Hezbollah.

We started though, by discussing the people's demands in Lebanon for answers and accountability in the investigation over that port blast a year

ago. Have a listen.

SAMY GEMAYEL, LEADER, LEBANESE KATAEB PARTY: No one should be above the law. Whether it's the president or the prime minister, or anyone in, in

Lebanon should be above the law. This is what we witnessed on the 4th of August was a crime against humanity.

It was a dramatic event that will change the course of history in Lebanon, and anyone who is responsible, who knew about this, these explosives in the

Port of Beirut should be held accountable.

ANDERSON: You said in a recent interview, and I quote you here, everyone knows who is responsible for the port. Everyone knows about the existence

of nitrates, everyone knows who received correspondence about the danger of their presence, which was guarding them, and how they weren't used to drop

barrel bombs in Syria.

Who are you suggesting is to blame here? And if everybody knows, why have we not seen any accountability?

GEMAYEL: I don't want to be a judge here. It's the role of the judges. My role as a political responsible in Lebanon is to ask the right questions.

My question is, was this reservoir in the Port of Beirut, this huge hangar in the Port of Beirut?

Was it like a place where Hezbollah facilitated the, as you said, the transfer of nitrate to Syria so that it is used by Bashar Assad to bomb its

people? And I think that here, the international community should help because this is not an internal matter, when it has to do with Iran with

Syria. It became a regional and international issue and not a domestic Lebanese issue.

ANDERSON: Do you see any evidence to date that the international community is interested in actually helping out to get to the bottom of this


GEMAYEL: We heard bits and pieces. There was a report from the FBI saying that only 500 tons exploded - 500 tons of nitrate exploded in the Port of

Beirut, when we all know that the original amount was 2700 tons of nitrate.

So there is 2200 tons missing. Where did it go? How it - how did it disappear? We need the international community's expertise. We need their

technological means, especially the satellite means and I don't think that the Lebanese domestic judiciary is capable of having this much resources.

ANDERSON: Do you accept that you represent a part of Lebanon's broken sectarian system? And do you take some level of accountability for the

catastrophe that Lebanon is facing at present?

GEMAYEL: We have been confronting this political establishment for the past 66 years. We resigned from the government in 2015. We resigned from

parliament in 2020 after the explosion, and we are proving every day that the Lebanese need something new and we want to be part of this because we

believe in a new Lebanon.

And it is our job as new generation to be able to transform ourselves and to look to the future and not look to the past.

ANDERSON: Let's talk about what's going on, on the ground as the newly appointed Prime Minister Najib Mikati says he plans to build his cabinet in

the next couple of weeks. Are you confident that he can do that?

GEMAYEL: As long as the same players are playing the same game again and again we will have the same results. You can give to two different chefs

the same ingredients and you ask them to do the same thing. You will have the same - main course at the end of the day.

ANDERSON: Well, party is among those accusing Hezbollah of forming a state within a state and blaming them for the weakness and dysfunctional ties

inside Lebanon.


ANDERSON: The Prime Minister Designate Mikati has said he "Knows his limits in the relationship between Hezbollah and Iran and that he does not want

Lebanon to be in". I quote him here, a conduit for conspiracy against any Arab country. What do you understand his point to be here? And let's be

quite clear to your mind how big an influence is Iran, on Lebanon today?

GEMAYEL: Hezbollah is not a Lebanese, a purely Lebanese party. It is formed by Lebanese citizens. But its hierarchy is it goes up to Iran. And I'm not

the one saying that. It's Mr. Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary General of Hezbollah in Lebanon, stated very clearly that his leader was Mr. Khamenei,

which means that the decision of Hezbollah is in the hands of Iran.

And when Hezbollah controls Lebanon, it means that Lebanon is in the hands of Iran. Iran is totally in control of Lebanon, through Hezbollah, and its

weapons and its militia.

ANDERSON: Samy Gemayel, speaking to me a little earlier this week. Well, ahead on this show many pregnant women fear what a COVID vaccine might do

to that unborn child? We'll get you the latest guidance from health officials for moms to be.


ANDERSON: Advice around COVID and COVID vaccines has been changing almost as fast as the virus itself has been mutating. And look, we all get it is

confusing and many people are finding the information quite frankly difficult to keep up with should kids, for example, get vaccinated should

pregnant women get vaccinated?

Well, now health officials in the UK and the U.S. are saying yes, pregnant women should get a vaccine. Still and perhaps understandably so many women

are afraid of what that vaccine might do to their unborn child?

CNN's Salma Abdelaziz spoke to women on both sides of the Atlantic. And she joins me now from London. What do they tell you sell?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: Hello, Becky, they tell me that they get contradictory, conflicting, confusing information from their doctors from

online from medical professionals. And you can understand the concern, Becky, at the beginning when vaccines were first rolled out pregnant people

were told not to take the vaccine and that's because pregnant people were not included in initial trials.

So doctors couldn't recommend it. They couldn't say it was safe enough. But now we have real world data that health experts are pointing to that show

both benefits and the risks.


ABDELAZIZ: Let me just tell you about some other risks because what health experts are saying is that pregnant people are now at greater risk than any

point in this pandemic. Here in England if a pregnant woman is hospitalized with COVID-19, she has a one in seven chance of winding up an ICU and a one

in five chance of delivering pre term but all of these parents to be are telling me we're still really confused as to how to make an informed



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So that tummy has got to come in.

ABDELAZIZ (voice over): Pregnancy in the time of pandemic comes with a big question whether or not to get vaccinated?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Staying up at night researching, it became slightly like an obsession being told woman not to have it the next minute to have

it. It was a bit confusing.

ABDELAZIZ (voice over): Guidance keeps changing. British officials first advised expectant mothers against vaccination, but since July, strongly

urging. In the U.S., the CDC does not directly recommend it for pregnant people, but say they are eligible.

While two leading obstetric groups say expectant mothers should be immunized. Unable to find clear answers, Christine Kaufmann (ph) in

Maryland decided not to get vaccinated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was definitely worried about it being so new and that's not having a lot of research on it.

ABDELAZIZ (voice over): One week before her due date, she tested positive for COVID-19.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At that time, I thought that I was going to die. But it was terrifying knowing that I had this infection coursing through my


ABDELAZIZ (voice over): As mom and baby got sicker, doctors performed an emergency C-Section.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They took her to the NICU and I didn't see my baby for two days, because I had COVID.

ABDELAZIZ (voice over): Both are now back home happy and healthy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just really want my story to be an advice if you're thinking about getting the vaccine gets it.

ABDELAZIZ (voice over): 98 percent of expectant mothers admitted to hospital with COVID-19 in England since May, were on vaccinated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The balance is very much in favor of the benefits of vaccination versus the risks of the infection.

ABDELAZIZ (voice over): Initial vaccine trials did not include pregnant women. But experts point to the nearly 200,000 pregnant people now safely

vaccinated across the U.S. and UK. Back in the park we asked if the real world evidence is enough.

ABDELAZIZ (on camera): Raise your hand if you've gotten the vaccine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For me, there's not enough data there. Personally, from what I've researched to make me feel comfortable getting it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just felt more comfortable and safer knowing that I had some protection than no protection at all.

ABDELAZIZ (voice over): A majority of pregnant people in the U.S. and the UK remain unvaccinated with many still waiting for answers.


ANDERSON: Important stuff. Salma thank you. Well, a Lebanese filmmaker talks to us about her poignant new film the movie she almost gave her life

for. We'll find out why?



ANDERSON: This week in fact, to introduce you to a Lebanese filmmaker whose film "Costa Brava Lebanon" tells the story of a family that chooses to

retreat to the Lebanese mountains away from these city's corruption and violence. Now, it was originally her view of a dystopian future, a future

she tells us that has already arrived.


MOUNIA AKL, DIRECTOR, "COSTA BRAVA LEBANON": On August 4th, a big part of the creative team was in the office in Jamaica. And then in a split of a

second our lives changed. We went from being like, you know, burning with passion, preparing the movie to trying to find each other on the rubble

wondering if some of us we're going to make it or not.

The film is about a family that chooses isolation from a city that has broken their hearts. It's about a family that chooses to retract the

Lebanese mountains in the land that they inherited, and create a bubble away from the country's corruption, violence and rot.

What's really strange is that I wrote a movie five years ago, and the movie was said to be in a dystopian future where violence and corruption have

taken over the country. And when we started shooting the movie, the country was what I had imagined the 2030 dystopia would be and this dystopia we

were fearing is our reality.

I feel like the shoot of this film is the most beautiful but also most difficult moments of my life, as a human being and as a director, because

as a director, you have to inspire you have to be tender, and you have to take care of people. And sometimes I felt like I couldn't take care of


This film crew trying to make a film against all odds and trying to protect themselves in this bubble of creativity and of resistance through art in

many ways, this film crew mirrors the story of what the film is about because making this film became an act of resistance for us. I didn't want

to feel like they took everything from us. And I think this energy is what drives me until today.


ANDERSON: Thank you for joining us. See you next week.