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Connect the World

CNN: U.S. Intel Warns Kabul could Collapse within Months; Rouse: Many Afghans Feel Abandoned by the U.S.; Blazes Kill at least 69 People Including Soldiers; Iran Fights to Save Rapidly Shrinking Salt Lake; Oromo Liberation Army in Talks with Tigrayan Forces; Provincial Official: Heart on the Verge of Collapse. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired August 12, 2021 - 11:00   ET




ANNOUCNER: Live from CNN, London. This is "Connect the World" with Becky Anderson.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNNI HOST: Well, this hour the Taliban's grip on Afghanistan tightening with fears that the Capitol may fall next. I'm Becky

Anderson. Hello and welcome back to "Connect the World". And we begin with Breaking News Street fighting that is said to be underway in Afghanistan

second largest city.

Local official tells us Taliban militants have broken through the frontlines into Kandahar rampaging through the streets and fighting there

with government forces. Now this comes just hours after the Taliban in their lightning offensive captured another major city.

Ghazni is the 10th provincial capital to fall in less than a week. And you can look at this map and just see how much the militants now control.

They've ramped up their offensive as U.S. troops began pulling out process, which should be completed in the coming weeks.

As militant forces patrol more and more cities, officials tell CNN the latest U.S. intelligence assessments now warn that the capital of Kabul

could be isolated in days and as little as 30 days and could fall by mid- November.

Well, for more, let's bring Kylie Atwood at the U.S. State Department. And Nick Paton Walsh, who is used to live in Afghanistan reporting from

Afghanistan, goes back and forth. He's in London.

Today, Nick the news of the relentless moves by the Taliban coming thick and fast in the past couple of hours. Our colleague Clarissa Ward is on the

ground reporting that Taliban fighters have broken through the front line of Kandahar. Just explain the significance and consequences of the moves

that we are seeing at this point.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yes, I mean, yet more to tell you Becky. I've just heard from a senior Afghan security official

that they've been prison breaks now in both Kandahar you've been talking about we knew about that yesterday. But also in Lashkargah, the neighboring

city to its West in Helmand Province, "The official saying to me, they've taken all the bad guys essentially that the Taliban's ranks have swollen

because of that."

So we have that development in Lashkargah. We are also hearing negative information about another city in the West Herat, which has been encircled

for quite some time by the Taliban that is now seeing advances by them inside the city.

Kandahar, you mentioned to yes, officials telling Clarissa --, that they've moved through the front lines there and there seems to be sporadic fighting

in the city as there has been around the city for quite some time. It's exceptionally bad day of news, make no mistake about it at all.

And, you know, difficult really, to see how the Afghan government manages to reverse this momentum if Kandahar falls, which does look like it's a

possibility, at some point in the next few days. That's a seismic moment is the birthplace of the Taliban, the second biggest city in Afghanistan.

After that, it's hard to imagine Lashkargah will stay in government hands, despite the extraordinary efforts they've made there to try and hang on to

it because of its symbolic value. And then Herat too does, as I say, look imperiled as well so very hard to see how this extraordinary week.

I mean, we're six days in and six days ago the Taliban had entered in to any major provincial capital, now they have 10, they're possibly looking at

getting that figured somewhere near 14, 15 with major cities, in that particular rank.

Maybe at some point in the next few days, it's quite extraordinary. It's hard to keep up similar things happening everywhere. And the story of

Ghazni, let me just tell you, that's the sort of was the headline this morning.

Now it's disappearing in the rearview mirror, frankly, is extraordinary, because the major local governor there has been arrested by Afghan security

forces, it seems because he surrendered and ran. Now, that's not totally hard to understand if you're surrounded by the insurgency and left with a

choice as either surrender or die.

But it shows how the Afghan government and security forces heralded for a decade in U.S. talking points as this fantastic force, they could hand the

country over to how that has been rather awfully exposed in the last weeks as not being able to do the job that sort of says on its can.

And that's exceptionally hard, I think for ordinary Afghans to accept this bitter collapse of a lot of those security forces. Yes, there's a small

number of commandos fighting exceptionally hard to hold back these advances but they can't do it do everything and they can't fight every fire.

And I have to say it's strange to still hear President Joe Biden talk about trillion dollar spent 20 years of application how there is an army there to

do the fighting. That army hasn't done the fighting so far. And the hope is that will suddenly change and it will get together and coalesce. It hasn't

happened yet and things are moving so fast.

ANDERSON: And of course Kylie, U.S. intelligence assessments now warning the Afghan Capital could be cut off and collapse within months. What more

are you hearing at this point and just how concerned are people in Washington now about what is going on the ground in Afghanistan?


KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN U.S. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, listen, Becky, a lot of concern here in Washington. And frankly, the speed at which the Taliban

have been making these gains in Afghanistan, according to sources, familiar with what U.S. government officials are thinking is much quicker than what

the Biden Administration was expecting.

And that is, of course, being reflected in these new intelligence assessments. As you said, 30 to 60 days now, a U.S. intelligence assessment

is saying Kabul could be isolated and by the Taliban and therefore, of course, potentially overrun by the Taliban soon thereafter.

Another intelligence assessment, a source tells me says, in 90 days, the U.S. believes the Kabul, the U.S.; the Afghan government could be overrun.

So things are quite dire if you look at what these assessments are saying which, of course is driven by what is happening on the ground.

I also want to note that the U.S. Embassy in Kabul has just put out their second alert in just over a week, urging U.S. citizens who are in

Afghanistan to leave the country immediately.

And one of the things that this alert says that we didn't see in the previous alert is that any U.S. citizens who are waiting for visas for

their children or for their spouses should get in contact with the U.S. Embassy immediately.

So what we're trying to follow up now on, you know, is what can the U.S. government, what can the State Department do for those American citizens

who are potentially delaying leaving the country because they want to leave with their family members who don't have visas to the United States.

ANDERSON: I want to come back to you in a moment, Nick; I just want to get a sense from you of why it is that we have seen the speed of these

advances, which have been so remarkable. It begs the question who is supporting the Taliban and why?

WALSH: Well, I think there are two answers to that. The first one is we sort of addressed earlier, which is it's not a paper tiger, but it's the

excess faith put in the Afghan security forces built up by the Americans over years, they haven't been able to do the job that people said they were

going to do.

The Taliban, on the other hand have always said, well, the Americans have the fancy watch, we have the time they've been waiting for this moment. And

they have, it seems significant ranks, they're able to draw on a lot of them very young.

A lot of weapons firepower built up over 20 somebody even says 30, 40 years of fighting. And then there comes into the equation of external help here.

Now, many reports suggest thousands of foreign fighters, some extremist possibly in Afghanistan, with varying allegiances to different groups, who

will be assisting in the fighting.

Now, that's something that Taliban strictly deny and say that they are an Afghan movement and they want foreigners out. The big question is Pakistan,

in all of this; it's long been the place where the Taliban go and get treatment for wounded.

It's where their leadership has been for some time. Pakistan's caught in this because it definitely wants to have a say in who runs Afghanistan and

wants to keep its main local rival India out of there.

And so yes, it's impossible to deny that Pakistan has been assisting and funding and is moving the Taliban forward for a number of years, if not

decades. But Pakistan also faces this problem that it has a Taliban of its own that has wreaked havoc and is real imminent threat that could possibly

grow if Afghanistan becomes run by their own Taliban.

Iran has long been upset to see the U.S. on its doorstep there. So there have been lots of reports of them assisting the Taliban in certain areas,

despite the fact those 20 years ago, in fact, the Iranians were kind of assisting the Americans to some degree.

So yes, there are a lot of external influences that could be assisting the Taliban here. But you can't simply deny the fact that this is the moment

the Taliban been waiting for a very long time, slow balling peace talks, building up their supplies.

And now they appear to be in a position where they can simply pressure most major cities at the same time, Becky.

ANDERSON: And Kylie, these reports of thousands of foreign fighters getting into Afghanistan primarily through borders now controlled by the Taliban.

We've heard that from sources on the ground as well.

The agreement loosely termed between the U.S. and Taliban broken in Doha if you can call it that. Was that Afghanistan would never again be a haven for

militants who could pose a national security risk to the U.S.

Could this could what we are seeing on the ground now with these foreign fighters in Afghanistan, could this change the Biden Administrations

calculus here on withdrawal?

ATWOOD: Well, we haven't seen the president himself change his calculus in recent days, right. He has doubled down, saying he doesn't regret the

decision to withdraw U.S. troops from the country saying that the Afghans have to fight this fight by them.

But at the end of the day, what are the intelligence officials looking at and finding here and that is something that will drive what the Biden

Administration does going forward.


ATWOOD: They have been very clear that he has no regrets about withdrawing U.S. troops. But fundamentally, what does this decision mean for U.S.

National Security? That is the underlying question.

And we heard earlier this year from the Director of the CIA, that look, there's going to be less capability for the United States to collect

information on the ground in Afghanistan when these troops withdraw. He blatantly acknowledged that.

But also said at the same time that the U.S. believes that there is no longer a threat to the United States homeland that is emanating from

Afghanistan, and we will have to watch to see if that changes, Becky.

ANDERSON: To both of you, for the time being thank you very much, indeed. Well, a staggering loss of land and indeed of lives, soldiers overwhelmed

and everyday places turning into battle line and shifting by the day.

CNN's Clarissa Ward brings us the very latest from Afghanistan. And she paints a vivid picture of a nation unraveling, her report is on,

you can get that on your app, or indeed on your laptop. Right, I want to connect you to Kristen Rouse.

She served in the Afghan war for more than two years working closely with the Afghan National Army.

She is now the President of the New York City Veterans Alliance. And it's good to have you with us. As someone who's served in Afghanistan, America's

longest war, what do you make of what we are seeing unfold on the ground right now?

KRISTEN ROUSE, AFGHANISTAN WAR VETERAN: Well, Becky, thank you for having me. It is beyond devastating and just heartbreaking to watch what's

happening right now. I've spent time in Ghazni. I've spent time in Kandahar.

You know, I was stationed during my 31 months in Gardez where I worked directly for nine months with, with the Afghan national armies to a third

corps that under four. And you know, and in 2010, when I worked with the soldiers and officers of logistics unit there.

They were calling on the Americans to help them to help support their systems so that they could supply their war fighters. I'm an army

logistician. That's my training. And so that's the training and experience that I shared with my Afghan colleagues.

And you know these were well seasoned, experienced professionals who knew what they need. But you know, even as our own, you know, government

reporting has shown the, you know, our U.S. forces didn't always do the best that we could to, to prepare them for what they're facing now.

And I don't know that we could have ever prepared them for the countrywide onslaught that the Afghan national security and defense forces are facing

right now. I am pained to see that - which they have to make right now.

ANDERSON: Well, there will be people who blame the U.S. for the events that are taking place right now. I mean, I've just heard what you've said; do

you share that criticism at this point?

ROUSE: I can, you know, I can't speak to the geopolitics, I can, I can read the reports, just as any other citizen can. I know from my time, you know,

in 2006 and 2010, and from 2012, that it felt like we weren't pulling out all the stops to say, to really prepare our colleagues for, for the job

that we were doing.

Sometimes it felt like we were holding back, because we were concerned for our own security, which was important. But it felt like we were kind of you

know, held back in some ways and maybe not always had the resources or maybe we didn't communicate the resources.

I can only speak from, you know, from one soldier's perspective. But you know I know many of us did the best that we could. And our Afghan

colleagues did the best that they could, but it felt limited. That's my own experience that I can speak to.

ANDERSON: Yes, and it's interesting, you say it felt limited because Joe Biden himself has been very quick to point out as he signaled this

withdrawal and is sticking to it. This was a wall that has cost over a trillion dollars, whether or not that statement is for the U.S. audience

for an international audience.

He believes it's gone on for too long, and whether this is on his watch or not. At this point, we see no change in the Biden Administration's calculus

as to withdrawing troops completely by the end of this month.

Do you agree with that? Do you agree with that decision to withdraw at this point, and it has this ultimately has this last 20 years been worth it?


ROUSE: That's a really hard question to answer; we certainly needed to have brought home our troops long ago. But at the same time, the way that we've

departed, leaving Bagram Airfield, a place where I spent many months.

Leaving Bagram Airfield in the middle of the night, without even a proper hand off, it really, it really felt like we yanked the carpet from

underneath the feet of our Afghan colleagues.

And you know, if Afghan commanders right now feel like the bottom has dropped out, it's, it's hard to ask, it's, I mean, it's hard to say, OK,

it's worth putting all of our soldiers on the line for slaughter right now.

If there's no logistics support, if we can't sustain this, if, if our own government may not be backing us properly. If the Americans just are gone,

and they're never coming back, it's hard to choose between slaughter and surrender; Afghan civilians are bearing the brunt of this right now.

People are crying out for help, to not be abandoned, to not be betrayed and in the ways that they feel betrayed right now.

So many folks that I'm certainly hearing from and seeing on, you know, their own voices on social media and you know, and recordings and, you

know, and it's really hard, it's really hard to watch this and it must be so much harder to be on the ground in Afghanistan, feeling like they don't

have any friends.

ANDERSON: Yes. And we've been talking to too many people on the ground who is echoing what you are hearing as well. This is having a particular impact

of course, on Afghanistan's women. I interviewed a Women's Rights Activist Wazhma Frogh who is also part of Afghanistan's High Council.

And she was extremely emotional about everything that is happening. Just have a listen to part of what she told me.


WAZHMA FROGH, AFGHAN WOMEN'S RIGHTS ACTIVIST: I keep getting calls from like all over who just keep asking, can you help us? Can you help us get

out of our minds and that hurts me so much, because this country, we put our blood, our sweat in building it.

And we thought that you know, United States was a friend, we stood by when America was attacked by the same, you know, a terrorist groups and Taliban

had given them sanctuary, we thought that the Americans too would actually stand.

And I'm not asking for American troops to sit to fight our war. No, it's not even our war. Do you see the composition of the militants on the

ground? You know, you would understand that it's not our word. It's a global terror right now.


ANDERSON: I mean, just part of the conversation that I had with Wazhma, I know that you have been advocating for the U.S. to take in Afghans and

interpreters, we have seen some EU countries reject asylum seekers. What's the solution here?

ROUSE: We have to bring our interpreters and our allies into safety. I know interpreters and those who have worked with U.S. forces and you know, and

nonprofits and all of this apparatus that we've had these last 20 years, they are being systematically hunted down by the Taliban.

They're being searched out and hunted down. My own dearest interpreter who, because of barriers and our immigrant visa program, is, is he's trapped,

he's in hiding. He's in fear for his life.

He has five children; he has a wife who depends on him. And I can't even tell you, I mean, I'm one of many Veterans who are sitting here in the

United States and our other NATO countries who are talking, messaging with our Afghan interpreters and allies who we can't get out.

And it is gut wrenching. These are people we relied on that we promised that we wouldn't leave them behind. And we've abandoned them through

bureaucracy and through failing to have a plan to get them out. And they're being hunted. They're being hunted and murdered.

And it is, I mean, this is something that will be very hard for us to live with. And I mean, and certainly like, how are we not helping those who

stood with us, who were alongside us who wore the same uniform? It is just, it is so sad and tragic and outrageous to me that we are talking with

thousands of individuals who need to get out right now.


ROUSE: And you know, and I'm not even in touch with the Afghan soldiers who I worked with and they have expended so much, they have paid such a high

price. And we said we're here with you we are here with "Shona by Shona" shoulder to shoulder.

We are with you, we are here for Afghanistan and to watch what's happening now. I mean, yes, Afghan government and forces must take this on. But it's,

it was this, this was not a baton handoff.

ANDERSON: We're going to leave it there. But we thank you very much indeed for joining us and look, keep up the work that you do in order to help

those you have just described to us, that work is so--

ROUSE: Thank you so much giving us --.

ANDERSON: Thank you. Thank you back after this.


ANDERSON: Well, after decades of warnings from experts, we are now witnessing some of the harsh realities of climate change. Italy has just

locked the hottest day ever recorded in Europe.

On Wednesday, temperatures in Sicily reached 48.8 degrees Celsius that is in old money as it were 119.8 degrees Fahrenheit, caused by an anti-Cyclone

nicknamed Lucifer that swept in the island is also being ravaged by wildfires.

Meanwhile, a blistering heat wave taking all around the Mediterranean producing some of the worst wildfires in years in Algeria, in Turkey and in

Greece let's not forget that with rising temperatures come bigger storms and more severe flooding, like we are now also seeing in Turkey.

Let's get you to Jomana Karadsheh, who's following this severe weather happening in the Mediterranean region. And she joins us live from Istanbul.

I want to start with Algeria because unfortunately there the death toll is increasing by the day. Jomana, what do we know at this point?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, the latest death toll according to authorities, there are at least 69 people who have lost their


The majority of them are civilians, but also more than 20 service members, soldiers who were deployed to the fire zone to try and assist with the


This is the fourth consecutive day that the country is battling these wildfires more than 100 since Monday according to the government. Today we

have seen that assistance the government has requested from the EU begin to arrive at least two French firefighting aircraft.

They were operational in Greece, they have just been moved to join this effort to try and contain the fires. And Becky, from everything that we

have been seeing and hearing over the past few days, this sort of international support right now, it's just so desperately needed.



KARADSHEH (voice over): These monstrous flames devour all that's in your path. Villagers have been desperately trying to confront this fire,

grabbing whatever they can find, but their tree branches and water hoses, clearly no match for this ruthless Inferno.

SI HAMDI KAMEL, ALGERIAN VILLAGER: We don't have tools, we are trying with what we have to put it out. It will be hard with the wind. We will try with

what we have. We can't do anything else only tried to protect the houses. May God be with us.

KARADSHEH (voice over): On the ground in the air, it's been a tough fight against some of the worst wildfires in Algeria's history. The country's

Military was deployed to help evacuate residents in battle a blaze that's claimed does dozens of lives and destroyed countless homes and livelihoods.

The smoke that's engulfed many of these hard to reach areas has made this an even tougher fight. In the record temperatures from a scorching heat

wave are making it almost impossible to try and contain the flames.

HAKIM HADJ, ALGERIAN VILLAGER: We're watching the fire to prevent it from spreading further, but it seems to be impossible. And now it has recharged

our zone. All trees are burning. The God protect because it is near the village.

KARADSHEH (voice over): The government's blaming the fires on arson, deliberate and premeditated, but it is the scale and ferocity whose fires

that has left this nation in shock.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We saw a fire in the morning from a distance and in two minutes that arrived here. It's unbelievable. We can't understand it at

all. Really we do not understand how this happened, so much fire in one day. It's not normal.

KARADSHEH (voice over): But experts have been warning. This is likely the new normal, the result of a climate crisis, severe weather conditions that

transforms seasonal wildfires into these vicious flames from Turkey to Greece, Italy and now Algeria. Scientists say the Mediterranean has become

a wildfire hotspot, where no creature is spared Mother Nature's wrath.


KARADSHEH: And Becky, the good news is international assistance is beginning to rise. More countries have offered their support to Algeria.

We're seeing volunteers from all over the country headed to the northern part of the country to assist with the firefighting effort.

And bad news though, the authorities they are had a warning for this heat wave for these near record temperatures through Thursday. They've just

extended that through Saturday, at least.

ANDERSON: But - a year in Istanbul in Turkey in a country where we are seeing some dramatic climate emergencies. I mean, of course we saw these

fires ravaging forests in Southern Turkey. And now we're seeing extreme flooding along the Black Sea coast with nine people dead so far. What more

do we know at this point?

KARADSHEH: I mean, you look at these dramatic images Becky, coming from the northern Black Sea region, at least three provinces that have faced this

heavy rainfall. But it's created this flooding, landslide, homes and buildings that have been destroyed bridges that have collapsed, cars that

have been swept away.

At least nine people have lost their lives. We've seen the death toll continue to rise throughout the day. The search and rescue operations are

ongoing in the area more than 1500 personnel are taking part in the search and rescue effort.

They've used everything from life rafts to helicopters. You've had the Military, the Air Force, and other emergency services taking part in this

effort. I mean, you're talking about areas where the water levels have reached three to four meters people stranded on their rooftops.

And you know, we've heard from the interior minister to put it all into perspective, saying some of these areas on Wednesday have seen about 300

kilograms of rainfall. He says 100 kilograms is considered a disaster.

Becky, I mean, this part of the country this time of the year, it's not unusual to see torrential rain and flooding, but it is the scale of it.

That is really terrifying people right now.

They are in shock as they watch their country go from one natural disaster to the next. You've got firefighters battling the fires in the south and

you've got this going on in the north.


ANDERSON: Tough times. Jomana, thank you and an excellent analysis and round up of exactly what is going on, as we speak. Thank you. Well, still

ahead Iran parched and short of water. Who's to blame? Well, I'll speak to a Former Iranian Environmental Official who says that the government should

be held squarely accountable.


ANDERSON: All, this week, we've been focusing on two key stories Afghanistan's war on the climate crisis. Well, in the case of the Afghan

people, both war and a changing climate are making life much more difficult.

The fighting disrupts the distribution of food while the drought is shrinking the amount of land that's able to be farmed. Here's the results,

an estimated 1/3, 1/3 of Afghans do not know where their next meal will come from.

Climate change is also caused more torrential rainfall; they're producing deadly floods in parts of the country. Well, across the border in Northern

Iran, warming temperatures and too much development have created a dramatic example of their devastating effect. CNN's Fred Pleitgen has this exclusive



FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): From a lush natural paradise to a dry, salty desert. Global warming is

literally evaporating what once was the largest lake in the entire Middle East Lake Urmia in Iran, that sixth largest salt lake in the world.

All around Lake Urmia you can see the impact of the global climate emergency on the communities here on the people, their livelihoods and of

course also their future. The authorities tell us today Lake Urmia is less than half the size of what it used to be.

The shrinkage is due in part to dam projects around here, but mostly due to years of severe drought as our planet gets hotter. A - was a tourist

photographer on the boardwalk in what used to be the Beach Resort --. Believe it or not, this photo was only taken in 1995 when tourists still

flocked here he says.

People would come here for swimming and would use the mud for therapeutic purposes. They would stay here for several days he says. The ferryboats

many use to cross the lake now lay stranded on the salty crust slowly rusting away.

This Google Maps Animation shows just how fast Lake Urmia has shrunk going from 5400 square kilometers in size to just 2500 in about 30 years. Lack of

rain and water shortages are a problem all across Iran.


PLEITGEN (voice over): Precipitation in Iran is down by more than 50 percent this year, according to the country's Center for Drought and Crisis

Management. Severe lack of water recently led to protests some violent in the southwest of the country.

Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, saying he understands the protesters and that their issues must be addressed. Iran's new president

saying he has understood the message. The matters have been detected and I assure the people that the solutions have been delineated, and we have

benefited from the views of experts and scholars, and this will urgently be dealt with, he said.

At Lake Urmia water shortage is not the only problem. The dusty salty ground left behind when the lake receded led to salt storms, causing eye

infections and respiratory problems for people around here. The local environmental protection agency planted these bushes which they say mostly

succeeded in stopping the worst effects.

As the bushes grow here, they have more leaves and the moving sand gets trapped inside he says. So it acts as a trap which keeps the sand

underneath it. Iranian authorities say they've made Saving Lake Urmia a priority and that halt a new dam projects and diverting other water sources

towards the lake have at least slowed its decline.

But - shows me his main concern the water he's able to get from as well is very salty, killing off many of the bugs on his tomato vines and slowly

causing his walnut trees to wither. The day, the soil will become unfathomable is not far away he says. When you water the earth to a depth

of 110 centimeters, it infiltrates the soil and the salt will stay there and its level increases every year.

And the salt concentration in Lake Urmia is dramatically increasing as the water body shrinks. Microorganisms that flourish in salty water have died

much of what's left of the lake in a reddish pink color. The Deputy Head of this provinces' Environmental Protection Agency tells me he believes there

are now about 6 billion tons of salt around the lake.

Still, he says he's confident that they can stop the lake from drying up. Pausing all dam construction projects has been very effective, he says. But

some of the rivers that feed the lake were full of sediment so the water didn't reach all the way to here. We've cleaned up the river beds to

increase the water inflow.

Those measures are making a big difference the authorities say but they are also under no illusion. What they urgently need here is more rain to stop

Lake Urmia a natural treasure of this region from vanishing into thin and salty air Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Urmia Iran.


ANDERSON: Well, Kaveh Madani is the Former Deputy Head of Iran's Department of Environment currently a Visiting Professor at the Center for

Environmental Policy at Imperial College London joining us today via Skype from Toronto. It's good to have you on.

Let's start wider and then we'll focus in on Iran specifically. The recent IPCC Report has been described by the UN Secretary General as Code Red for

humanity. We started this week's programming on that report and it warns of more extreme droughts, heat waves and floods to come. How dire is the

climate emergency for Iran and the wider region?

KAVEH MADANI, FORMER DEPUTY HEAD OF IRAN'S DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT: Like anywhere else in the world, Iran and the Middle East would be suffering

from this climate emergency. Now, we are talking about a region which is water short, naturally, the water budget is very limited.

Political economy is dependent on the water employment is dependent on water. Farmers would lose job as a result of drought and you know, climate

change. And then we can expect tension, lack of food and some of the problems you describe or the report described.

So this is serious and climate change is going to exacerbate the already dire problems of the Middle East.

ANDERSON: Iran has witnessed some massive water shortages that have led to deadly protests of course in recent weeks. And you said in a recent

article, and I quote you here.

This is drought has come after two excessively wet years that filled up the reservoirs and gave life to the wetlands but mismanagement of the water

that was gained and a lack of preparedness for subsequent dry conditions caused drinking water and power outages disruption to agricultural water

allocations and vanishing wetlands.


ANDERSON: All you say of which affected livelihoods and triggered anger. Just talk more about that, if you will.

MADANI: You know, so we have some bad decisions like which are seasonal like the ones, you know, which happened recently in Iran two really wet

years came and managers thought that the problem has been solved. There would be no drought.

Farmers thought the same way expansion again, started expansion of agricultural land, growing more food and so on. And now we have a serious

drought, we are going back to the stage that we were in three years ago. So it's just we're not learning from our failures.

But the problems of today's Iran when it comes to Iran's current water bankruptcy are the result of decades of that management in Iran. The same

is true for some neighboring countries. We cannot blame all these problems on climate change.

Climate change is a serious threat. But the house was already on fire. Now we are adding fuel to it. So climate change is itself a byproduct or

product - obvious unsustainable development. The other problems are also products of unsustainable development.

ANDERSON: So we have heard the Supreme Leader and indeed the new hardline president talking about climate change. You were exiled from Iran, by

"Hardliners who oppose your climate message" this president and filling his cabinet with people of his ilk. How concerned should Iranians be for the

future of their environment under his leadership?

MADANI: I don't think there would be any Superman in Iran who can reverse the problems and reverse the damages overnight. And I don't think President

Raisi would, you know, do magical things. And I don't think that if he would have been replaced by a reformist president, the situation would have

been changed.

Economy of Iran is under pressure in the resistance mode and in the resistance mode economies try to exhaust their natural resources for

survival to create jobs. And with that, there would be pollution, no attention to the environmental matters, environment would be marginalized.

And the situation will get worse and worse and worse, even though we are receiving all these signals from the nature that the situation is bad, and

we have to take immediate action.

ANDERSON: We're going to leave it there. We'll have you back, sir. Thank you very much indeed, for joining us. And before I take a break, I'm just

going to pivot here because Iran's Foreign Ministry today, summoning the Russian and British Ambassadors on Thursday after the Russian Embassy,

tweeted a picture that Iranian officials called inappropriate.

The photo shows the new British Ambassador to Iran seated across from his Russian counterpart seemingly recreating a picture from the 1943 Tehran

Conference as it is known. Well, Iranian officials said the picture is a throwback to this the Anglo Soviet Invasion of Iran when allied powers

invaded the country during World War II.

And Iran's Former Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, tweeting, "I saw an extremely inappropriate picture today. Need I remind all that August 2021

is neither August 1941 nor is it December 1943" The Iranian people have shown including during the JCPOA talks that their destiny can never be

subject to decisions in foreign embassies or by foreign powers.

War crimes possibly crimes against humanity that is how Amnesty International is describing the sexual violence committed against women and

girls in war scarred Tigray. Violence by troops and militia aligned with the Ethiopian government.

Well, CNN has previously reported on evidence of sexual violence being used as a weapon of war in the Tigray region. Amnesty warned about war crimes

back in May at the time its Regional Director for Eastern Southern Africa said and I quote, "It is imperative that international independent

investigations are carried out into the allegations of serious violations by all sides, with those responsible held to account".

To send a clear message that there will be zero impunity, or thousands have been killed in display since Tigray's fighting erupted back in November.

Now the Leader of the Oromo Liberation Army listed as a terrorist organization by Ethiopia's government is in talks to ally with Tigrayan



ANDERSON: The very latest on a story on a conflict that we have covered since the outset. That was a situation that was supposed to last weeks back

in November. That was the promise made by the Ethiopian Prime Minister we are now in August of 2021.

Well, still ahead lionfish may be a majestic addition to any aquarium but they are wreaking havoc on the Florida East Coast. CNN's "Call to Earth" is



ANDERSON: CNN's "Call to Earth" initiative is a program to promote a more sustainable future for our planet. Protecting marine habitats is a growing

concern, especially for those of us who like to eat fish. But what if you could consume with a conscience by eating the enemy of coral reefs?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice over): These eco warriors are heading into an unusual battle the enemy a dangerous and invasive species that is

destroying the local habitat.

ALEX FOGG, MARINE BIOLOGIST: It's caused a pretty major problem here in Western Atlantic waters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice over): Leading the charge is Alex Fogg, Marine Biologist and Conservationist for Destin Fort Walton Beach in the Florida

Panhandle. He's known as the lionfish guy around these parts.

FOGG: Lionfish is such a passion to what I do in my everyday life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice over): Lionfish are native to the South Pacific and Indian Ocean. They were first detected along the Florida coast in the

mid-1980s, more than 10,000 miles from home.

FOGG: There are a lot of theories exactly how they came to be. But most likely option was that lionfish were in the aquarium trade and ended up

being released by pet owner.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice over): Over the years the population has multiplied and is wreaking havoc.

FOGG: If you put something into the ecosystem that's not supposed to be there and they're eating the same food as some of your native species.

There's competition there where there's grazers like your parrot fish. If lionfish are preying on parrot fish, those parrot fish are no longer

keeping the reefs clean. And a lot of times the algae can overtake the reef and cause a bunch of coral death.

UNIDNETIFIED MALE (voice over): To make matters worse, lionfish have no predators in these Western waters.

FOGG: It comes down to something else besides predators to take charge and keep these fish under control and that's us divers. There may be fishermen

out there that would have never really considered themselves conservationists.


FOGG: But this is something where they can go diving; they can go harvest a fish and healthy ecosystem in the process.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice over): They have to be careful though, those spines along their back and sides they're venomous.

FOGG: You're not going to dive, but you may shed a tear too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice over): Just to keep their hands safe divers use a long spear to catch the lionfish and a contraption called a zookeeper to

contain them.

FOGG: It's essentially a plastic tube that allows you to put the lionfish into it and prevents the spines from poking out and potentially stinging

you. We want to make sure that you're not going to get stung.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice over): The good news lionfish happened to taste good and have become somewhat of a delicacy in upscale restaurants along

the coast, like GW Fins in New Orleans, where this has become a story of Etom to --.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we heard about what lionfish was trying to do the ecosystem here, we want to do whatever we could, you know, help solve the

problem. And when we got our first shipment of lionfish, we were actually pleasantly surprised for an invasive species. It's probably one of the most

delicious ones I've ever tasted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice over): Restaurant works directly with the spear fishermen who supply their lionfish. It's good for business and good for

the environment. Crucially, their methods avoid by-catch, and target the enemy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you run out net through the water, you really never know exactly what you're pulling up. When it comes to the spear fishermen

they are only harvesting exactly the fish that we're looking for and nothing else. Sourcing is probably the most important thing we do to make

sure we know who when, where and how all of the fish was caught?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice over): Understanding why is important to if the lionfish population spirals out of control, it could eat many of the

species the restaurant is used to having on its menu.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The really the only way to incentivize people to get out there and eradicate these and catches many they can is to create a demand

in the market for then boom, you know, you'll have a lot more people out there hunting for lionfish.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice over): The goal is to control the lionfish population, not eliminate it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So lionfish will really always be here it's just where they're going to find their place in that in the ecosystem and in the food



ANDERSON: And we will continue showcasing inspirational environmental stories like that, as part of what is this initiative at CNN. So let us

know what you are doing to answer the call with #calltoearth. We'll be right back.


ANDERSON: Well, we've been bringing you breaking news over the past couple of hours on Afghanistan and more to come I'm afraid of provincial official

in Herat says that the City of Herat is on the verge of collapse.

The official says the Taliban have taken control of the Police Headquarters there. We are following developments, of course in Kandahar, where a local

official says groups of Taliban fighters there have broken through the front lines. And in Lashkargah the Taliban have taken parts of the city

Nick Paton Walsh with a live report for you top of the hour in just about five minutes time.

Well, it's not exactly the congratulations Australia's Olympians expected when they arrived home some of them are facing nearly a month of

quarantine. Now this is part of the effort to stop the Delta variant.


ANDERSON: Australia's Olympic Committee, though calling it cruel treatment for athletes who work so hard to represent their country in Tokyo Manisha

Tank with the story.


MANISHA TANK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A hero's welcome on hold, instead double quarantine. 28 days the price of a trip to Tokyo where Team

Australia when more gold than at any games since Athens 2004. But the country has also done better than many in keeping out COVID. Its border is

shut tight, little leeway even for its sporting champions.

STEVEN MARSHALL, SOUTH AUSTRALIA PREMIER: There's nothing fair about a pandemic so many South Australians have had to make enormous sacrifices to

protect our health in South Australia.

TANK (voice over): As Australia's most populous states, New South Wales and Victoria battling an outbreak of the Delta variant smaller states are doing

everything in their power to keep the virus from crossing their borders.

In South Australia that means two weeks quarantine for anyone coming from New South Wales, even for 16 Olympians who will have already done that in

hotel quarantine in Sydney.

MARSHALL: The Australian Olympic Committee weren't able to set up a sterile corridor to get those athletes back. So in other words, they would be going

to the airport. They'd be getting on a plane with people who of course had to go into 14 days of quarantine. It's a very difficult situation.

TANK (voice over): A difficult situation the Olympians know all too well. Their time in Tokyo governed by strict rules of the bubble the Australian

Olympic Committee says more quarantine just isn't fair.

MATT CARROLL, CEO, AUSTRALIAN OLYMPIC COMMITTEE: We're talking about also the safest cohort returned to Australia since the pandemic started. They

are all fully vaccinated. They've been tested every day while they're in the village in Tokyo. We had over 1000 people in our allotment in Tokyo we

had no infections.

TANK (voice over): Despite Australia's pride in its Olympic success tough border policies have scored well with voters as the pandemic has rumbled

on. But South Australia is the only state to make athletes quarantine twice a measure that will take its toll.

CARROLL: You get to the mental health issues of having to deal with another with 28 days of lockdown and quarantine.

TANK (voice over): That upraise some athletes are now unwilling to take. The Australian Olympic Committee's there's some among the group of 16 due

to double quarantine will give up and go back overseas instead. Manisha Tank, CNN, Singapore.


ANDERSON: Well, here's something you don't see every day. It is a bear wandering through a supermarket in the wilds of Los Angeles. Surprise

shopper caught it all on video. State Fish and Wildlife Officials eventually caught up with the bear in a nearby parking lot.

They tranquilized it and safely relocated it to the nearby mountains. Turns out bear sightings in the area are not all that uncommon. They come down

from the mountains looking for food and water. Official Wildlife Spokesman tells CNN Wire Affiliate KTLA that drought could be causing an increase in

these sightings. I'm Becky Anderson and that was "Connect the World". Thank you for watching.