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Connect the World

Organization of Islamic Cooperation met to Discuss Humanitarian Assistance for Afghan; Health Officials Battle Exponential Increase in Omicron Cases; Omicron Impact in South Africa much Milder than Delta; U.S. Intel: Saudi Arabia Building Missiles with China; Former Afghan Leader Reflects on U.S. Role in Regional Stability; Connect the World Wraps up 2021. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired December 23, 2021 - 11:00   ET




ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN, Abu Dhabi. This is "Connect the World" with Becky Anderson.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST, CONNECT THE WORLD: Well, in my final show of the year, I want to go back to one of the most important stories of 2021. And

that is the story of Afghanistan and its people. This hour my exclusive interview with the Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Well, another story that continues to dominate is the COVID pandemic. As we wrap up the end of our second year of the pandemic, it is clear that this

virus is not going away anytime soon. The Omicron variant case count continues to skyrocket around the globe, particularly in Europe where

governments are clamping down and imposing further restrictions to try to reduce the spread.

But unlike last year, with the emergence of the Delta strain, a potential glimmer of hope three new early studies suggest a reduced risk of

hospitalization when infected with Omicron compared to Delta. This hour I'm going to take a deeper dive into this.

But first, I do want to take you to Afghanistan for months global - aid groups and indeed this show has sounded alarm bells about the coming winter

in the country. U.N. aid agencies warning 1 million kids are at risk of dying from starvation if relief doesn't arrive soon, but winter has already

arrived and so too will desperately needed aid.

Wednesday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a U.S.-backed resolution to get that humanitarian assistance into the country. The Biden

Administration also easing some restrictions on the Taliban to speed up the flow of that age of starving Afghans. This help cannot come soon enough.

CNN's Anna Coren reports on the humanitarian efforts, and we must warn you, the images in her report are at times difficult to watch.


ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A little girl sobs gently rubbing her ears in a feeble attempt to ease the pain tormenting her body.

She doesn't have the energy to cry the way other sick children do. Camilla (ph) is exhausted as she lies in a hospital bed in Kandahar, Southern

Afghanistan, slowly starving to death.

The 2.5 year old weighs just over five kilograms 11 pounds, about a third of what a normal toddler her age should. Her mother is sick and we are poor

people explains Camilla's grandmother, she tried to breastfeed but had no milk to give.

Camilla now one of at least a million Afghan children under the age of five at risk of dying from starvation for months, the U.N. has been sounding the

alarm, warning that Afghanistan was on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe.

The Taliban takeover on the 15th of August, so international funds immediately dry up, triggering an economic collapse in an already

impoverished country where foreign aid represented 43 percent of the country's GDP and 75 percent of government spending according to the World


But as the U.S. withhold billions of dollars in Afghan reserves and sanctions are imposed on the Taliban government the West's attempts to

force fundamental change within the group or hurting the Afghan people and with the country in the grips of winter, facing one of the worst droughts

in decades, the most vulnerable of paying the price.

In this hospital in Ghor Province in Northwestern Afghanistan, up to 100 mothers and children turn up each day with varying cases of malnutrition.

Dr. Faziluhaq Farjad has been working here for the past six years and has never seen this level of desperation taboo.

DR. FAZILUHAQ FARJAD, HEAD OF MALNUTRITION, GHOR HOSPITAL: Almost 70 percent of the cases are severe and this is in the city. Imagine how bad

the districts are? If nobody pays attention, it's going to get much worse. We are in a disaster.

COREN (voice over): One of his patients receiving treatment is Razia (ph). This is her third visit to hospital in eight months. But skeletal frame a

clear sign his child who's just a few months away from turning three is not getting better.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no work, no income and no food to bring her sometimes we have nothing to eat. Every time I see her I get upset.

COREN (voice over): The humanitarian community is collectively issuing an SOS. UNHCR says the country is witnessing truly unprecedented levels of

hunger, now inflicting more than half its population of 38 million people.

International Rescue Committee describes a global system failure fueling the crisis, naming Afghanistan the most at risk country of a deteriorating

humanitarian crisis in the year ahead. Well, the International Committee of the Red Cross says the country is on the precipice of manmade catastrophe.

The World Food Program has been distributing aid around the country and says the middle class teachers and civil servants are now joining the poor

in the cubes.

MARY-ELLEN MCGROARTY, AFGHANISTAN COUNTRY DIRECTOR, WORLD FOOD PROGRAM: Please, please think of just the ordinary people of Afghanistan, the

children of Afghanistan, who are - who are facing into a winter of abject hunger and destitution through no fault of their own to just a lottery of


COREN (voice over): Dr. Paul Spiegel from Johns Hopkins University has just returned from Afghanistan consulting for the World Food Program, and is

alarmed by what he saw. He says Afghanistan's health system that once relied on 80 percent of its funding from international donors, is now

barely functioning and blames the West sanctions which are gravely impacting government run hospitals imploring for the system to be changed.

DR. PAUL SPIEGEL, JOHNS HOPKINS BLOOMBERG SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Western governments, U.S., U.K., the E.U. have to make some decisions quickly or

it's going to be too late. And therefore there's going to be a tremendous amount of I would say unnecessary deaths.

COREN (voice over): For little Camilla, her trip to hospital has saved her life for now. After 15 days, she's being discharged with some medicine that

may last a few weeks. She's not very well, but at least she's alive, says her grandmother. It's better from the first day we brought her here. But

having put on just a few 100 grams her face is as precarious as that of her country edging closer to the abyss. Anna Coren, CNN.


ANDERSON: Well, we mentioned the U.N. resolution earlier to speed the flow of aid into Afghanistan and help also coming from other places too. This

past weekend, Islamic countries pledged to start a Humanitarian Trust Fund for Afghanistan. Pakistan's Prime Minister warning without immediate

action, Afghanistan is headed for chaos.

Well, the former Afghan President Hamid Karzai had both praise and criticism for Pakistan as we talked about the global response to

Afghanistan's crisis. Here now is the second part of my exclusive interview with the Former President.

HAMID KARZAI, FORMER AFGHAN PRESIDENT: I welcome very much the resolution by the U.N. Security Council in addressing the liquidity issues in

Afghanistan, of the flow of money, and in trying to provide an hopefully as soon as possible assistance to the Afghan people. This is a welcome step

and we welcome it.

As we speak today indeed there is serious economic deprivation in the country. We want the institutions to work. And we want the Afghan

businesses and the Afghan enterprise, agriculture and all of that to resume its functions as a normal country that needs an immediate assistance from

the international community.

I'm glad that the first instance of this assistance is humanitarian assistance to bring food and essential supplies to Afghan households, which

is - which is highly appreciated but more important than that is Afghanistan returning itself to a running and functioning economy, to the

Afghan government institutions working as well in that direction.

There is a difference between helping a country or helping someone and using an occasion to undermine someone. We welcome the OIC conference in

Islamabad, we welcome the foreign ministers of all those Muslim countries there but for the Prime Minister of Pakistan, the honorable Prime Minister

of Pakistan to stand there and say that Pakistan suffers from attacks of - coming across the Afghan border to them, across the Afghan territory to

them, and for saying that the Afghans in the countryside were against education.


KARZAI: And for similar remarks that he made, those were the remarks that I protested against as an Afghan citizen. And I hope that the Government of

Pakistan would not seek to blame Afghanistan, for what Afghanistan has been the victim of.

ANDERSON: Is the way that the Americans pulled out of Afghanistan, to blame for the current state of the country now. I mean, I just want you to be a

little clearer about the role that the states has played in where Afghanistan is today, this winter of 2021.

KARZAI: Had that role been played properly and I should also say, honestly, had that role been played properly and honestly, Afghanistan would not have

been where it is now in seeking assistance for our daily lives, from the international community.

And what happened at the Kabul Airport from 15th of August onwards for about 15, 20 days, was a disaster for us, an insult to the Afghan people

that could have been avoided by so many different ways. The fact that we suffered like that, though, the fact that our people rushed to the airport

like that is itself an indication of how things went wrong I don't think I need to explain on that. We all saw it. We saw the misery that unfolded


ANDERSON: You talk about the Americans, and you talk about should the Americans have acted properly and honestly. I just want you to be a little

bit more explicit about those two terms properly and honestly.

KARZAI: We are very grateful to the American people for their taxpayers' money coming to Afghanistan, rebuilding the country roads, education, in

some form of electricity and lots of other assistance to Afghanistan that did provide help and long term betterment to Afghan lives.

But in terms of their conduct militarily in Afghanistan, in the name of war against terrorism and all that it was a disaster for us. And we are

suffering the consequences of that.

ANDERSON: What do you see as the U.S. role in a future Afghanistan?

KARZAI: We do want very much to be friends with the United States. We do want very much to be allies with the United States. The United States is a

great country, and the American people have done their best to share their bread and butter with Afghan people.

But we want this relationship to be one of respect and one of understanding in one between two sovereign countries.

ANDERSON: What do you see is your role in a future Afghanistan? And are you able to move around freely work freely? Do you believe that you have a role

going forward? Or is retirement ultimately, what you are looking at this point?

KARZAI: My role is that of a citizen. I'm the citizen of this country. I have done my work as the President of the country for 13 years. And that's

enough. I have no other desire in the form anymore, and will never have.

I would like to live here as a citizen, and do all I can for this country for the children of this country, as a citizen so we can live in a

peaceful, stable and dignified country. That is my objective.

ANDERSON: Hamid Karzai the Former Afghan President some choice words about the U.S. there is the last 20 years.


ANDERSON: Still to come on "Connect the World" a look at the increasing influence of the UAE is Abu Dhabi increasingly takes a leadership role in

a, as many see Washington's influence here, wane. And three new early studies add to the evidence that the Omicron Coronavirus variant, maybe

milder than Delta we dig into those findings with our Senior Medical Correspondent that coming up after this.


ANDERSON: European nations are clamping down on COVID-19 ahead of the Christmas holidays. Some are imposing new mask mandate, social distancing

rules and renewed vaccination campaigns health officials battling cases rising exponentially in the U.K. for example, around 1.4 million people are

now estimated to have contracted COVID-19 in the week ending December the 16th.

That is the highest number on record since figures like these started being tracked back in October of 2020. But folks, some positive news as the

Omicron variant takes over new early studies at least suggest that people's risk of being hospitalized is much lower as compared with the Delta

variant. Well, let's get more on these findings. Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Curran has been looking at a couple of these

studies specifically walk us through what you found.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Becky, let's take a look first at a study that was done out of South Africa where of course Omicron

first appeared. And what researchers there found is that when you look at cases in October and November, in Omicron, 2.5 percent of cases were

admitted to the hospital.

Whereas in Delta 12.8 percent were admitted to the hospital. That's obviously a huge difference in something of course we really want to see.

Let's take a look at a study that was done in Scotland, they found a two thirds reduction in hospitalization risk also good news, and they found

that a booster was linked to a 57 percent reduction in risk of symptomatic infection.

So before we all get lulled into thinking oh, who cares if Omicron is spreading widely? It doesn't seem to be making people sick. You need to

remember even if it's a relatively small percentage or entering - ending up in the hospital Omicron is so transmissible so many people are going to be

getting this virus this variant that is a small percentage of a large number can still be a large number.

We could still be seeing huge hospitalizations. And that's so important also so important. We need to protect people even if you feel like you're

not going to get all that sick from Omicron. You could spread it to an elderly person, you could spread it to someone who's immune compromised,

that transmissible that it can happen without you even knowing it.

So the bottom line is taking precautions like masking and social distancing where appropriate, gets vaccinated. And if it's time to get a booster and

if it's available to you go ahead and get one Becky.

ANDERSON: Yes, that's fascinating. Elizabeth, do have a listen to what Dr. Anthony Fauci had to say about what was discovered in South Africa where

the Omicron variant was first detected? I think this is important for our viewers to hear.



DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIR., U.S. NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: In fact, it appears that in the context of South Africa, there is

a decrease in the severity compared to Delta, both in the relationship and ratio between hospitalizations and the number of infections, the duration

of hospital stay, and the need for supplemental oxygen therapy.


ANDERSON: Thoughts.

COHEN: You know, he is really repeating in many ways what we just talked about with this study out of South Africa and the study out of Scotland,

we're really seeing that well this is more transmissible it causes much milder illness.

And again, that's a great thing. It's I'm happy to be sitting here saying this rather than saying the opposite, right, this is good news. But

remember, even if only a small percentage of people become desperately ill with Omicron, Omicron is so transmissible so many people are going to get

it that a small percentage of a large number can still be a large number. Becky?

ANDERSON: Elizabeth finally according to a clinical trial, it was found that the Merck COVID-19 anti-viral pill reduces hospitalized - let me say

that again, hospitalizations death in high risk unvaccinated adults. What do we know?

COHEN: So what we know is that Merck developed this antiviral pill in many ways. It's similar to the antiviral pill that Pfizer has. And Merck today

announced that they have emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

So it can now be distributed in the U.S. as a Pfizer's - as well. So let's take a look at what Merck found in their clinical trial, they took hundreds

of people divided them in half, and half of them got a placebo. All of these people had COVID-19.

What they found is that those who had a placebo 68 ended up in the hospital over the next month, and nine of them died. But if they received the drug

on the Pierre Riviere 48 were hospitalized, and one of them dies.

So you can see, especially with the deaths, that that is really a significant difference. Now one thing about both of these antivirals,

Pfizer and Merck, you got to take them early. You got to know you have it. You got to call your doctor, all of that, but still to have a pill that you

can take in early COVID, it's a game changer.

ANDERSON: Yes, Elizabeth, always a pleasure. Thank you very much indeed for joining us. One of South Africa's top scientists say the country has now

passed the peak of its Omicron outbreak and other tells us that this latest wave of COVID-19 infections was steeper and significantly shorter.

And a South Africa and Vaccinologist tell CNN that the number of people there who will die from the Omicron variant will be substantially lower

compared to the Delta variable. Look, let's be really clear here.

We have to be careful just because this news out of South Africa is encouraging it doesn't necessarily mean other countries will have the same

experience that the South Africans have had with this new variant and that is mainly because the delta wave had led to Chaos in South Africa. CNN's

David McKenzie reports.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Dispatch south of Johannesburg, paramedic Muhammad Rasul says Omicron is nothing like delta.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: During then it was only COVID! COVID! COVID! COVID! COVID! And nothing else will you be able to walk sir?

MCKENZIE (voice over): We were with them during the chaos when the delta wave of COVID-19 ripped through South Africa. Severe patients crashed

quickly. Russell's team spent hours looking for hospital beds, charities like gift of the givers rush to set up field clinics scrambled to

distribute oxygen concentrators to save lives. With Omicron they say they haven't sent out a single one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a patient that complains of tightness in chest.

MCKENZIE (voice over): Resource says they call outs now for less severe patients, like this 46 year old who tested negative but he's still

suspected of having COVID.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After five minutes, check the chest.

MCKENZIE (on camera): But there's been a surge of cases of COVID-19 with Omicron. But there hasn't been a surge in severity or hospitalization this

kind of call out is pretty typical. What advice do you have for other countries that are facing Omicron wave?

NICHOLAS CRISP, ACTING DIRECTOR-GENERAL, SOUTH AFRICAN DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH: Don't panic. This is it will you will ride the wave for this use of

oxygen far fewer people being admitted despite the high numbers of cases, very high transmission of people getting mild illness not even getting

diagnosed at home.

MCKENZIE (voice over): It's still unclear why it's seemingly milder, or whether that will translate globally. Scientists here believe up to 80

percent of the population in South Africa may have had COVID-19 before, likely providing a shield of immunity against severe infection. Vaccine

coverage also plays a major part.


CRISP: This would have been an absolute nightmare, if it was delta. So, I think we can just be very grateful that it has not been as devastating as

it could have been.

MCKENZIE (on camera): But there's still reason to be cautious. It seems.

CRISP: Yes. Well, we've learned with COVID generally you never let your guard down.

MCKENZIE (voice over): For a brief moment, though, Rasul dares to hope.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Severity of the illness was a lot better than it was. So I'm actually quite optimistic about it.

MCKENZIE (voice over): David McKenzie, CNN, Johannesburg.


ANDERSON: Well, COVID-19 case numbers may be heading in the right direction in Japan. But the country is reporting its first locally transmitted

Omicron cases and can't trace them back to anybody who's been traveling which means controlling the spread of the virus may be about to get a lot

harder. CNN's Selina Wang shows us where it all stands as of now.

SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: COVID-19 cases are dropping dramatically here in Japan even as the Omicron variant explodes around the world.

Japan's worst wave was back in August when the country was reporting 25,000 cases a day. Today it's at around 200 a day or less.

And the daily death toll is in single digits or even just one a day. Experts tell me a big reason for this big drop is Japan's comprehensive but

delayed vaccine rollout. The Tokyo Olympics started in July, the country had only fully vaccinated about a quarter if it's 125 million people. Today

it's at around 78 percent.

But the delay means that the effects of the vaccine have not started to wait for much of the population. And also as you can see around me, mouth

scoring is pretty much universal here in Japan, inside or outside people are wearing their masks pretty much all the time.

Even in restaurants, people often wear their masks up until the point they start eating and when they finish, they put their masks back on. Even

before COVID people were used to wearing masks when they felt sick. There's also a societal pressure here in Japan to follow the rules.

But some scientists have also speculated that there could be an X factor to explain the low COVID-19 rates here in Japan. A recent study done by

Japanese researchers identified a potential genetic feature in Japanese people that could lead to a stronger immune response to the Coronavirus.

But experts say that more research needs to be done before drawing any conclusions. Doctors also warned that these low case numbers come with a

big caveat. They say the real numbers likely are much higher because of the low testing capacity for COVID-19 across Japan.

They also warned that the situation in Japan could get worse, immunity will start to wane and the country has been slow to roll out booster shots.

Right now only medical workers are eligible. And even though Japan has had strict border controls, the country has already identified its first case

of community transmission of the Omicron variant. So yes, the situation has improved dramatically here in Japan. But the country is also bracing for

potentially another wave. Selina Wang, CNN, Tokyo.

ANDERSON: Well, Vladimir Putin says the ball is now in NATO's court. He is explaining his side of what is this tension within Ukraine, but will not do

anything to quell the growing animosity between the two countries.

We'll take a look at that after this break and we will look at how the chaotic evacuation from Afghanistan has impacted U.S. influence elsewhere

in the Middle East and wider region.



ANDERSON: Russian President Vladimir Putin is again making his message very clear to NATO back off. His comments came at his annual end of the year

news conference where he defended his Military buildup near Ukraine's border as a deterrent to NATO's eastward expansion.

The West sees it as a prelude to invasion. Mr. Putin, though, says the solution is simple promise not to expand any further east and keep Ukraine

out of NATO. Melissa Bell is in Moscow with the details of what was Melissa a marathon news conference.

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And yet, Becky, not a record, we've seen longer ones in the past this time, just under four hours, but you're quite

right. What this gives us an opportunity really to see into the mind get some of the insights from a man that frankly, the world has been waiting to

hear more from on this particular issue, of course, Ukraine.

And I think one of the most interesting things that we heard was that when it comes to his January talks that we now know, that we can expect between

the United States, NATO and Russia, Russia is determined, he said, to stick to its guarantees.

It will not be a function of how the negotiations go, he said as to whether he would invade Ukraine or not. But rather whether the West accepted those

terms that you laid out a moment ago that have clearly been made, detailed explained as being unacceptable to the west, in the terms in which they've

been framed.

He also tried to explain that the problem had not been his aggression, but rather had come from the west. Imagine he asked if the United States found

missiles suddenly parts in Canada or Mexico, he also expressed a great deal of distrust when it comes to NATO. Have a listen.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT: Not a single inch to the east, they told us in the 90s. And what do you know, they cheated. They just deceived us

blatantly, five waves of NATO expansion. And there you go. Now in Romania and Poland, weapon systems appear. This is what we are talking about, is

not as threatening someone when we come to the borders of the USA or the UK, maybe they came to us.


BELL: And that speaks to the heart of Vladimir Putin's fears and to the heart of his increasingly aggressive strategy around Ukraine in terms of

that Military buildup, that should that NATO eastward expansion continue. There could be massive missiles pretty close to the Russian border. He also

Becky's spoke about the fact that he's under the impression that a war may be being prepared in Ukraine.

And essentially gave a justification for what would be could be a Russian invasion, explaining that those Russian speaking parts of it historically,

part of Russia, he's speaking here of Donbas, had essentially been incorporated into Ukraine as a result of the Soviet era breakup therefore,

justifying the very invasion that he is denying preparing, Becky.

ANDERSON: Melissa Bell is in Moscow view, Melissa, thank you. Well, CNN has learned from U.S. Intel sources in exclusive reporting that Saudi Arabia is

making its own ballistic missiles with the help of China.

The U.S. is worried if it is verified that this could send shockwaves across the Middle East and complicate efforts to break a new nuclear deal

with Iran not to mention the U.S. efforts to salvage a relationship with Beijing. CNN's Barbara Starr joining us live from the Pentagon. What are

the details as we understand?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, a number of U.S. sources are telling CNN producer Zachary Kohn that yes, now, there is

satellite imagery. There is an assessment by the intelligence service that in fact Saudi Arabia is collaborating with China, and beginning at least at

one site to manufacture its own ballistic missiles.

Now, Saudi Arabia has a long standing weapons relationship with China. So the fact that they might turn to the Chinese for missiles may not be a big

surprise. But if they are in fact manufacturing them, we don't know exactly yet what kind of missiles the distance the range of these potential

ballistic missiles.


STARR: But if this manufacturing is now taking place, it puts a very serious new factor into the Middle East calculation, of course, because the

question is you reflected is how will Iran react? Iran, of course, already has a significant ballistic missile inventory, the U.S. constantly worries

hit Iran can hold targets at risk in the region. Will Iran react to these developments in Saudi Arabia in some sort of aggressive manner? Nobody

really knows.

And then, of course, the question, what happens to the Iran nuclear agreement? And carrying it a step further, that U.S. Chinese relationship

if the U.S. objects to all of this as expected, how will that will impact the effort to, as you say, salvage a relationship with the Chinese. So it's

a very interesting intelligence development, with huge ramifications from the Pacific to the Middle East, Becky.

ANDERSON: Barbara Starr is on the story. This Chinese influence in the region, which let's be quite clear, isn't new, is though, being seen as

complicating Washington's relationship with many of the capitals here in the Gulf and wider Middle East region.

The waning U.S. influence in the Middle East, especially among Arab nations was evident right here in the UAE this past year. The Emirates have long

been a strong ally of Washington, but 2021 saw that shift, or at least that begin to shift at least a little bit. CNN's Sam, Kylie has the story.


SAM KILEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It's a little bit out of date now. Then dub, little Sparta, the United Arab Emirates took a muscular

approach to foreign policy, supporting NATO in Afghanistan, making war in Yemen, back in rebels in Libya, and it didn't work.

Criticized by human rights groups in the UN, the Emirates is out of Yemen, and out of punching its way to recognition. It's a move from war to jaw.

ANWAR GARGASH, DIPLOMATIC ADVISER TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UAE: So reset that began in 2018, in our final days of presence in Yemen, it's a reset

that was re - that was influenced by the whole COVID ordeal. And I think from that reset, we realize that the challenges of the next decade are not

necessarily the same challenges of the past decade.

KILEY (voice over): The emirate shift is from taking sides to bringing opposing sides together.

GARGASH: We are going to be an influencer in the region. But our influence is going to be through different tools through this sort of diplomatic

navigation, through keeping this balance between all these different relationships that we had.

KILEY (voice over): That already meant snubbing U.S. appeals for more sanctions on Iran, controversial outreach to Syria's dictator Bashar al

Assad, and warming relations with Turkey. The Emirates has met an American request to halt construction of what the U.S. says was a secret Chinese

Military intelligence facility inside a seaport, but it ignored U.S. appeals to cancel Chinese tech giant Huawei's installation of 5g networks.

The U.S. is still the Emirates most important ally, but it's seen as an unreliable friend after the sudden evacuation from Kabul and years of chaos

in Iraq. And now the Emirates have suspended talks over buying $23 billion worth of F- 35 stealth fighters from the U.S., citing technical issues and

concerns that American restrictions on future use eat into Emirati sovereignty.

The loss of the aircraft sales is a blow to U.S. arms exports. But not to the Emirates Air Force, which has done a $19 billion deal for 80 French

Rafale fighters and now that the Emiratis are opening their arms to friend and foe. They may not need America's stealth fighters anyway. Sam Kiley,

CNN, Abu Dhabi.


ANDERSON: Let's just be clear that F-35 deal with the U.S., of course has just been suspended at this point, but no sense as to when those

negotiations will be picked up again, if at all. Let's bring in an expert on the region.

And a very good friend of the show Fawaz Gerges is a professor of Middle Eastern politics and international relations at the London School of

Economics. He's also the author of the book "Making the Arab World". There couldn't be a better guess then to assess for me what we are seeing here.


ANDERSON: We are far as most definitely seeing a recalibration of relations in this region. Here in the UAE with many of its erstwhile foes, and in

other capitals around this region, your assessment of where this is all going, if you will?

FAWAZ GERGES, AUTHOR, "MAKING THE ARAB WORLD": Well, I think we are. And I think the only way we can understand the positioning or repositioning of

the foreign policies of the major, or pivotal regional states, like Turkey and Egypt and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, is my

understanding three drivers Becky on the international levels.

There's a widespread perception in the region everywhere. That America is this engaging from the region that America is retrenching. And the pull out

of Afghanistan, the chaotic pull out has reinforced this wide perception, widespread perception in the region that America can no longer really be

relied on as a dependable ally.

The second driver is the reassertion of Russian power. I mean, think about it, you talk about Turkey. Turkey is a full member of the of NATO, yet

Turkey against the advice of its allies, the United States and Europe and NATO allies, basically decided to purchase one of the most advanced anti-

air defense systems from Russia, the SS 400.

So in this particular and the third driver is China. China now is there in the Middle East to stay. China is seen as the future, whether you're

talking about Saudi Arabia, whether you're talking about the United Arab Emirates, whether you're talking about Iran.

I mean, the Chinese have already concluded a $400 billion deal with Iran over the next 10 years; everyone is purchasing arms and resources from

China. China is the biggest purchaser of Middle East and oil and gas and the largest investor in the Middle East and infrastructure.

So it's on the international level, the changes on the international levels that are really forcing key regional states to recalibrate their foreign

policies and basically emphasize diplomatic engagement and try to restore diplomatic relations with regional Bibles that have basically been fighting

proxy wars in the past 10 years.

ANDERSON: Sure, it's a fascinating time. And you have some the why and how I'm extremely well, you mentioned that U.S. troop withdrawal from

Afghanistan and all the chaos that ensued in the aftermath.

This hour our viewers had my exclusive interview with the former Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Here's what he told me about how he sees the role,

certainly of the U.S. in Afghanistan going forward. Have a listen.


KARZAI: We do want very much to be friends with the United States; we do want very much to be allies with the United States. The United States is a

great country, and the American people have done have their best to share their bread and butter with Afghan people.

But we want this relationship to be one of respect and one of understanding in one between two sovereign countries. But we do want a good relationship

very much with the United States of America.


ANDERSON: And he described the U.S. war in Afghanistan over the last two decades as frankly, a disaster and described how it had cost Afghans who

were the victims so much.

And I thought it was important that our viewers were just reminded of that, because as you rightly pointed out, so much of what we are seeing today in

this region is as the result of the wane in American influence that was going on and the rise of course in the Chinese influence that was going on

over the past few years, but this chaotic departure from Afghanistan.

Many people in this region, tell me really sealed it for so many capitals that they could just not rely on the Americans going forward. Look, what's

really precedent and we know is important in this region are the JCPOA talks.

We are told at least by the European side that those will be beginning again on the 27th of December. Just today it was announced those talks will

be ongoing again in on Monday.


ANDERSON: I spoke to the U.S. Special Envoy for Iran, Rob Malley earlier this week. He told me that the U.S. is ready to lift all sanctions on Iran

that are inconsistent with the deal. Have a listen.


ROB MALLEY, U.S. SPECIAL ENVOY FOR IRAN: The reason why President Biden has made this - his policy, is because we have experienced the results of

President Trump's decision to withdraw from the deal in 2018. We've seen an expanding runaway Iranian nuclear program and the more belligerent Iran on

the regional scene.

So it was a catastrophic decision that was made, we're prepared to reverse it. It really is up to Iran to decide whether it wants to go down that path

or chooses a different path of an escalating crisis.


ANDERSON: Right and he also said the Iranians just have weeks as far as he is concerned. How do you read what is going on?

GERGES: Well, I mean, what's going on is that we know, Becky, that the Iran nuclear talks this year 2021 had been indecisive, no major breakthrough

between Iran and the great powers, not just the United States.

My take is that next year 2022 will be decisive, because reviving the Iran nuclear deal will either succeed or collapse. And this will have major

consequences on the Gulf region and on the greater Middle East. So in this particular sense, it seems to me we have to wait and see whether a

breakthrough is possible in 2022.

But what we need to take into account now Becky, the larger picture, is that whether you're talking about Turkey, or Saudi Arabia, or the United

Arab Emirates, or Egypt, regional powers now are trying to take care of their own security, they can no longer really rely on the United States.

That's why Turkey is trying to normalize relations with Egypt. Turkey has already normalized relations with the United Arab Emirates, and trying very

hard to do so with Saudi Arabia. Here you have the United Arab Emirates, whoever believe that the Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates would

visit, anchor and meet with the Turkish president. And the Turkish president will be visiting the United Arab Emirates in the next few weeks.

They have been regional rivals and - in the past ten years. And another point I know I'm taking too much time. The Emirati National Security

Council, Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed visited Tehran, and basically offered a formal invitation for the Iranian president to visit Abu Dhabi in the next


This tells you, Saudi Arabia, and the Iranians have been talking almost four rounds of - of talks. All these regional developments are really

driven by a new assessment of regional balance of power and America's retrenchment.

And finally, on Afghanistan, sadly, Becky, the Afghan people now are pressed between the American rock and the Taliban harder place. Afghanistan

now is on the brink of a mass starvation, which really threatens to kill almost a million children next year.

Half of the population of Afghanistan is really near starvation. Its economic collapse is a disaster. That's why and that's why when you talk

about American foreign policy towards Iran or American foreign policy towards Afghanistan, this is part of a larger global war on terror that

basically began after the explosions or the bombings of the United States in 2001.

ANDERSON: Right. Fawaz it is always a pleasure. I have run out of time, I must take a break. We will talk again at the beginning of the year. Thank

you very much for your reflections and assessment. We are taking a very short break back after this.



ANDERSON: Well, today on "Call to Earth" the UAE's coral reefs have thrived for thousands of years in what are extremely hot temperatures. Scientists

John Burt says the reefs are a proxy for what's to come for the rest of the world due to climate change, have a look at this.


JOHN BURT, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, NYU ABU DHABI (voice over): Coral reefs provide hundreds of billions of dollars a year and services and benefits to

humanity, these beautiful ecosystems with fiber and colors and fishes floating around everywhere. They're the richest ecosystem that we have in

the seas.

So they're incredibly important in terms of biodiversity. Probably in the next three decades, we're going to see substantial declines of coral reefs

around the world by 2100; they'll largely disappear as a result of climate change.

BURT (on camera): My name is John Burt. I'm an associate professor of biology at New York University, Abu Dhabi. My team and I are out several

times a week on these reefs. This is a beautiful natural laboratory to try and understand how organisms might respond to future climate change and

other regions because it's so warm here.

Coral reefs of the Arabian Gulf are some of the most interesting in the world because they exist in conditions that are a proxy for what we're

going to see at the end of the century in other parts of the world. When you look at climate change, we have greenhouse gases that are going into

the atmosphere, our oceans are slowly warming up. And that heat is then affecting marine organisms as a result.

So science is in a bit of a race right now to try and outpace global climate change by doing things like assisted migration, moving corals from

a warm location to a cooler environment, as well as coral crossbreeding.

In my lab, we've published a paper just recently where we crossbred corals from the Persian Gulf, the world's hottest sea, with those of a more benign

environment in the Indian Ocean. And we saw upwards of an 84 percent increase in survivorship of the offspring of those corals. We have this

extreme environment, the extreme environment filters out a bunch of species.

So we do have lower diversity. But the species that are here are really robust. Extract the DNA. We've also done genetics work, for example,

showing that the coral animal itself as well as the algae that associated with it, are genetically distinct here in the southern Gulf from those that

are in the Indian Ocean.

And so they really have adapted to this unique extreme environment that we have here and offer a lot of hope for science in terms of trying to

understand how organisms might respond to climate change and adapt to it.

These reefs are the most thermally tolerant in the world, but we're losing them at an astounding rate because of these recurrent heat waves that are

coming through. So there is some hope out there, but we're running against time.


ANDERSON: And let us know what you are doing to answer the call that is #calltoearth.



ANDERSON: Well, in tonight's parting shots a parting message from me and the entire "Connect the World" team as we wrap up this year, and get ready

to welcome 2022. The pandemic once again dominated our coverage of course in 2021 and for good reason.

But it wasn't the only shocker was it August brought a new nightmare as the world watched Thunderstruck as Kabul fell to the Taliban. I went to

Islamabad shortly after that and sat down with Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan.

He told me none of us expected what happened. But as ever, this show brings you the light as well as the dark. So we brought you stories of human

innovation and progress perfectly captured in events such as Expo 2020 Dubai.

Its main organizer, UAE's Minister Reem Al-Hashimi told me how she hopes that global event would inspire solutions for some of our biggest

challenges like climate crisis for example.

We celebrated this country's 50th birthday and toured the UAE pavilion at the expo with Culture and Youth Minister, Noura Al Kaabi. And at Expo, I

learned to Irish dance run with the world's fastest man, sat down with Bill Gates and got in fooled by Alicia Keys and her grasp of the Arabic


You know, this is no laundry list, signaling how great we are, if you're a regular viewer of this show, you will know that's not what we are all

about. This is all about you. It's making sure that you have all the angles and stories that affect every one of us.

And even though it has been another year of heavy news, it's also been mixed with moments of inspiration and joy. Let's hope for some better news

as we move towards 2022. Let's hope for an end for example to this pandemic.

To those of you celebrating a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, stay safe keep healthy. This is my last show, so I will see you all on the other