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Hala Gorani Tonight
Interview With Lina Khatib As Prime Minister Of Lebanon Saad Hariri Resigns; U.K. To Vote On General Election Today; First Current White House Official Testifying In Impeachment Inquiry Today; Prime Minister Hariri Announces Resignation Amid Paralyzing Protests In Lebanon; Joe Biden's Campaign's Foreign Policy Advisor Speaks With CNN. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired October 29, 2019 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone. Live from CNN London, I'm Hala Gorani.
Tonight, Lebanon in chaos and soon to be without a government. What Prime Minister Saad Hariri's resignation announcement will mean to the protestors
on the streets of Beirut. We'll be speaking live to one of those demonstrators.
Then, will there or won't there be a new election in this country? British M.P.s are debating that question again, right now.
Plus, for the first time in the impeachment inquiry, Congress is speaking to someone who was actually on the phone call between President Trump and
his Ukrainian counterpart. And the decorated war veteran says he was troubled by it. We are live in the U.S. capital.
We begin with that extraordinary resignation in the Middle East. After nearly two weeks of unprecedented protests, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad
Hariri announced that he is stepping down. Mr. Hariri had this message for his country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAAD HARIRI, PRIME MINISTER OF LEBANON (through translator): I call on all Lebanese people to put Lebanese interests and security of Lebanon and the
protection of the civilians of Lebanon before anything else.
Regarding all my partners in the political field, our responsibility is how to protect Lebanon and stop any problems reaching Lebanon. Our
responsibility is improving the country's economy and this chance should not be lost.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: The prime minister says he'd reached a dead end after protests like these brought the country to a standstill. And you can see a huge
crowd back on the street today. In fact, these were images of some Hezbollah and Amal supporters, attacking some of the protestors.
Now, police appear to fire into the crowd. We don't know if these were rubber bullets or the real thing. A lot of tension. Witnesses say a mob
stormed the capital's main protest site, setting parts of it on fire and tearing up tents. We'll have full analysis of the situation in a little
For a live report of what's going on now, Becky Anderson is in Beirut -- Becky.
BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hala, and we witnessed a lot of unrest here in the center of Beirut today. The protestors have been calling this
a revolution. So the big question, now, is, with Mr. Hariri leaving, have their demands been met? They were calling for the resignation of the
government, all of them, they said. And that means all of them.
CNN's Ben Wedeman has covered Lebanon for years, and he joins us now from the bureau here in Beirut. And I have to say, at this point, Ben, it isn't
clear whether the prime minister's resignation has actually been accepted by the president. We've seen images of him going to the president's
But be that as it may, how have things changed tonight, here, with that announcement?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the announcement, Becky, whether the resignation's accepted or not, has opened
up a huge political vacuum and only intensified the uncertainty that has been quite thick here since the evening of the 17th of October, when these
protests first broke out.
Now, we saw, prior to his resignation, these clashes in this area here, between people from an adjacent neighborhood, which is predominantly Shia.
They were chanting pro-Hezbollah slogans, but they clashed with, first, anti-government protestors. And, later, the security forces.
Now, just to clarify one point, no live ammunition was fired. It was mostly tear gas that was fired at these presumably Shia people, who came
and broke up the Martyrs' Square protests and got very -- just beneath our office here.
But that really underscores the divisions that have opened up in this protest movement, which initially saw people from all across the sectarian
spectrum, coming together, demanding the fall of the government, the end of corruption and improvement in living standards.
But now, we've seen that as a result of the essential paralysis of this country, caused by these protests and specifically the road closures by the
protests, that people are beginning to feel the pain caused by this paralysis.
We spoke to one gentleman who said he's a driver. He has not been able to work since these protests began because he cannot get around the city and
earn a living. And there are many people -- more than 30 percent of the population, according to the World Bank -- lives below the poverty line.
And therefore, they want to get back to work so they can feed their families.
So it's -- the uncertainty has only been intensified since the prime minister handed in his resignation to Michel Aoun, the president of the
Lebanese republic -- Becky.
ANDERSON: So, Ben, for those watching what is going on here in Washington, in European capitals, and in the -- in Lebanon's Gulf neighbors, what is
the message tonight? And where will they see the risks, going forward?
WEDEMAN: The risks are very apparent. Part of the reason why the situation is what it is today, is that Lebanon has been suffering from the
effects of the Syria, war in Syria. The Lebanese economy was growing as much as by 7 percent in 2011. And since then, because of the Syrian war,
because of the influx of well over a million Syrian refugees, the Syria -- the Lebanese economy has come to a virtual standstill.
In fact, we spoke recently with a senior economic advisor to Prime Minister Hariri, who said that this year, Lebanon's economy would grow at 0.0
Also, there's the sanctions. The sanctions on Iran has resulted in the cutoff of much of the funds that came from there to Hezbollah. There are
direct sanctions on Hezbollah itself. So Hezbollah at the moment is feeling an intense sense of paranoia, that all these things are coming down
Plus the fact that we saw, in places like Nabatieh and Tyre, which are normally Hezbollah strongholds, people coming out and basically echoing the
same demands that we're heard in Beirut and Tripoli and other cities. So they feel that their situation is suddenly precarious, and that's an added
element of instability on a stage that is full of elements of instability at the moment -- Becky.
ANDERSON: Yes. Ben Wedeman is here in Beirut.
I'm going to send it back to you, Hala. We'll be speaking later this hour, live, to the defense minister here. And I -- quite frankly, we need to
hear from him, whether he believes this is a victory or not for the protestors.
The Ode to Joy has been the soundtrack to this revolution. And when the announcement was made by Saudi Arabia today, we heard it once again on the
square here, Martyrs' Square, just behind me.
The real question tonight is, is this a victory? Perhaps. The fear is, that this victory could be pyrrhic at this stage -- Hala.
GORANI: All right. We'll be looking for that interview, the defense minister, outgoing, if this government is resigning. Thanks, Becky.
There are so many players in Lebanon, and our next guest says that even with Mr. Hariri on his way out, the protests are not ending. Lina Khatib
of Chatham House joins me now.
First, your reaction to the resignation of Hariri: What now?
LINA KHATIB, MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA PROGRAMME, CHATHAM HOUSE: First of all, a celebration on the streets of Beirut because the protestors will
hail this as a huge achievement. This is the first major achievement for the protest movement in Lebanon. Hopefully, for them, the next step should
be the resignation of parliament, but that is a lot harder than this step.
GORANI: Yes. But you have Hezbollah, which is really the most important factor here. Because Hezbollah is a state within a state. These
protestors want an end to the sectarian division of power, they want a modern, thriving democracy. Is it possible, with Hezbollah sharing power?
KHATIB: It's very difficult. With the current configuration, it's very difficult. Unless Hezbollah decides to play the game by the rules, just
like everybody else, then we can have some hope. But for the time being, Hezbollah is the entity that had told Hariri not to resign. Hezbollah
wanted to hold onto the government.
Right now, Hariri has gone against Hezbollah, which is, I think, going to make Hezbollah even more entrenched in its position rather than the other
way around. So the coming few days are critical.
GORANI: And there's video we want to show our viewers that we've been running, of men who say, in their chants, that they're supports of
Hezbollah and Amal, the other Shiite group attacking these peaceful protestors. There's video of them dismantling and even burning some of the
tents. Is there a risk here of renewed violence?
KHATIB: Well, violence has already happened, although in a limited capacity, because Hezbollah and its ally, Amal, sent their thugs to
intimidate and beat up the protestors on the street. Unfortunately, this has been done before. This is the kind of approach that Hezbollah uses
when it sees dissent. It reacts through violence and force.
But on this occasion, the protestors are not deterred because the wall of fear has been broken.
GORANI: You're Lebanese, and you were telling me that family, friends -- this is personal for you -- are out on the street, that you've never seen
anything like this, that this is a movement that is different. Why?
KHATIB: It's different because this is the first time Lebanon has seen protests all over Lebanon, not just in downtown Beirut. It's a protest
that is genuinely grassroots and leaderless. It's a protest that cuts across sectarianism. People from all backgrounds are protesting, from all
geographical backgrounds, all kinds of classes. And, crucially, it's not a movement led or facilitated by any of the political parties in the country.
It's a real popular movement.
GORANI: But will it survive this real popular movement, or will reality set it -- for our viewers not intimately familiar with Lebanese politics, I
mean, there's a national pact that has divided power between the prime minister, who's always a Sunni, the president, always a Maronite Christian,
the speaker of parliament, always a Shiite, a Druze in another high-level role. This has kept a fragile balance going in Lebanon.
KHATIB: Yes, but this balance is also the reason why Lebanon is where it is today, with a deteriorating economy and people protesting against a
government that's not delivering. And that's because the sectarian system has basically meant that political representatives are more like feudal
lords in parliament, rather than being people answering to the demands of Lebanese citizens.
So the protests are basically saying the sectarian system of power-sharing should go because it is the source of the problem.
GORANI: Lina Khatib. Well, let's hope, for the protestors' sake, that this yields something positive for very frustrated, frustrated people out
on the streets. Thanks very much, Lina Khatib of Chatham House.
By the end of today, hopefully -- hopefully, I say, because it's not always the case when we expect it -- we could find out whether the U.K. is heading
for an early general election in December. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is trying, for the fourth time, to get lawmakers on board with the
vote. This time, the prime minister needs just a simple majority rather than a two-thirds' majority to pass his election bill.
Mr. Johnson told lawmakers the only way to move the country forward is to refresh parliament and give people a choice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BORIS JOHNSON, PRIME MINISTER OF THE UNITED KINGDOM: I think that this delay is becoming seriously damaging to the national interest because
families can't plan, businesses can't plan, and the climate of uncertainty is not only corroding trust in politics, but is beginning to hold everybody
back from making vital everyday decisions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: There is still contention around the exact date of the new vote. The opposition leader says he will support a general election after all,
now that a no-deal Brexit has been taken off the table. Jeremy Corbyn is pushing to expand voting rights, though, in the new election, to younger
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEREMY CORBYN, BRITISH LABOUR PARTY LEADER: We will be seeking to expand the franchise in the December election. That means supporting votes at 16,
as is the case now, for Scottish parliament and Welsh assembly elections.
And I think it also means that we support the rights of E.U. citizens with settled status to vote in elections in this country. After all, we do
recognize their contribution to our society, we do give them votes in local elections. It seems to me only logical, since they've made their future in
this country, in our society, they should have a vote -- a right to vote on their future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Nic Robertson joins me now, live from outside Parliament. Are we or are we not getting a December election -- Nic.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: We're getting closer. And I think, you know, the mood music has been set, the leader of the
opposition, you know, has said that he will support it. And, really, everyone is there in their minds, I think, and listening to the debate in
parliament today, it's a lot of positioning, party political positioning because everyone knows an election is coming.
But there are still technically stumbling blocks, and what the leader of the opposition said there, about 16, 17-year-olds and E.U. citizens getting
a vote, could be one of those stumbling blocks. That will be one of the amendments, or one of several amendments that will be put forward -- or are
being put forward at the moment, that will get voted on later today.
And that could be troubling for the government. And the reason I say that is, there are already indications that if that amendment, to allow E.U.
citizens, were to pass, then the government might try to, you know, pull this whole election plan altogether.
But also, when you look at the way the government set up this vote today, they set out not to allow any amendments at all. So one of the first
orders of business, or at least amendments from M.P.s, one of the first orders of business was to challenge that, and that was voted on in support
of allowing amendments.
So this lack of trust with the government at the moment is quite extreme, and they're still -- there is still a tension over this -- over this issue
of who gets the vote. So it's going to happen, I believe, but we're not there yet.
GORANI: So it's a question of whether or not this amendment, that is, calling for the lowering of the franchise age to 16, passes or not. It all
hinges on that, right? Because if it does, Boris Johnson will pull the bill requesting that December 12th election, and we're back to square one?
ROBERTSON: We would be. I -- maybe the 16- and 17-year-olds, yes, that -- certainly he feels that very sensitively. It's the E.U. citizens that I
think there are some in his party that wouldn't be able to stomach that, and that's why they would pull it.
But we listened to, this morning, on the radio here in the U.K., the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, you know, a very senior and
formerly -- currently still very well-respected politician -- who Boris Johnson threw out of the Conservative Party for not voting to support him a
few weeks ago -- saying, very clearly, well, one of the options for the prime minister right now would be to actually spend the additional time he
now has, that the European Union has given him, to put the withdrawal agreement bill, the legislation for the new deal with the European Union,
spend the time going through that in parliament.
So that remains an option for the prime minister, not the option he's taking, going for the election. I think the election is the more likely
track, but the government has really, when it's been corralled by parliament or pushed to a decision it doesn't like, it just pulls the rug
So it's perhaps unsurprising that's the narrative that's emerging from some sources that are being quoted by British media inside Number 10 Downing
Street. But it -- that would be an option that would seem to leave the prime minister rather on the back foot, and it's not clear that he would go
through with it.
GORANI: Well, another twist, another turn. We'll see what happens later, when the vote actually takes place. Nic Robertson will be on that story.
Thanks very much.
Still ahead, very important day today in the impeachment inquiry. There is crucial testimony under way in the United States. For the first time, a
witness who was on that call between President Donald Trump and Ukraine's leader is detailing his concerns about what was said. We'll be right back.
GORANI: It is a day of firsts in the U.S. impeachment inquiry, and it could mark the most damaging testimony yet against President Donald Trump.
That's because it's the first current White House official to speak to House investigators, and he is giving a firsthand account of that July
phone call between Mr. Trump and Ukraine's president.
Alexander Vindman is a top Ukraine expert, as well as an active Army officer. He arrived on Capitol Hill today -- you can see him there -- in
his full military uniform. In his opening statement, Vindman said he was so alarmed about what he heard on that call in July, that he actually
reported his concerns to a superior.
President Trump is disputing even the most basic facts about this witness, as well as attacking his character. Vindman described himself as a
nonpartisan who puts duty to country first. But, today, the president slammed him as a Never Trumper, though there's no evidence of that, and
said it's, quote, "not possible" that he was even on the phone call at all.
TEXT: Donald J. Trump: Supposedly, according to the Corrupt Media, the Ukraine call "concerned" today's Never Trumper witness. Was he on the same
call that I was? Can't be possible! Please ask him to read the Transcript of the call. Witch Hunt!
GORANI: Let's bring in congressional reporter Lauren Fox and White House reporter Sarah Westwood.
And, Lauren, you have some new reporting from Capitol Hill about the impeachment inquiry and what the Democrats are saying?
LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, that's right. And what I will tell you is that there were some fireworks behind closed doors, as
Vindman moved forward with his testimony this morning.
We're told that Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, had to push back against a line of questioning from Republicans
that Democrats viewed as trying to get to who the whistleblower actually is. The concern, of course, from Democrats is that Republicans are trying
to oust the whistleblower to find out who that person is, something that they say is objectionable.
Now, I talked to Debbie Wasserman Schultz just a few minutes ago, and she told me this. She said, what the Republicans are trying to do in there,
very clearly, in their questioning, is to front-door or back-door Vindman into revealing who the whistleblower is. And we are told that behind the
scenes, that caused a bit of a disagreement between Eric Swalwell and a Republican, Mark Meadows, of course, a close ally of the president.
But this is important testimony today, behind closed doors, because, as you said, Vindman is the first person that these lawmakers have talked to, who
was actually on that July 25th phone call. And of course, we know that he raised concerns with his superiors after the phone call, saying that he had
concerns about the president using financial military aid to try to get something out of a U.S. ally -- Hala.
GORANI: And, Sarah, the president is saying -- is disputing the fact that Vindman was even on that phone call.
SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, Hala. Not just that, but claiming to never have even known Vindman in the first place,
someone who was supposed to be the in-house expert on the National Security Council when it comes to Ukraine, so some critics have questioned why it's
even a better defense for the president, to claim he didn't know someone so high-ranking, who was supposed to be so integral to his Ukraine policy.
The president, also slamming Vindman as a Never Trumper, as you mentioned. There's no evidence that Vindman is in fact a Never Trumper, but this fits
a pattern of President Trump, going after the motives, the character of the witnesses that House Democrats have called to testify.
TEXT: Donald J. Trump: Supposedly, according to the Corrupt Media, the Ukraine call "concerned" today's Never Trumper witness. Was he on the same
call that I was? Can't be possible! Please ask him to read the Transcript of the call. Witch Hunt!
WESTWOOD: And, of course, Republicans have complained about the lack of a more coherent strategy from the White House, that President Trump has been
sort of throwing insults, dodging back and forth between going after the process that House Democrats have followed, to arguing the substance of the
case about the Ukraine scandal, but never having a coherent defense.
In this case, the president, not actually disputing anything that Vindman is planning to tell House Democrats, any of the allegations really at the
heart of this, but simply disputing facts that can be easily disproven, like whether or not Vindman was on that July 25th call, and making claims
that he has no way of knowing, that he is a Never Trumper, an interesting claim for the president to be making, by the way, Hala, if, as he claims,
he doesn't know Vindman at all.
GORANI: And, Lauren, Vindman was alarmed about this phone call, he reported these concerns to a superior. This is something we learned from
his opening statement. What more is coming out of that testimony today from a man, as we've been telling our viewers, who was listening in on the
TEXT: Alexander Vindman: Currently Dir. European Affairs, National Security Council. Serves as Lt. Colonel in U.S. Army, Earned Purple Heart
in Iraq. Fact: Was on July 25th phone call with prez. Zelensky
FOX: Well, certainly, this causes some concern for Democrats, who worry that what they heard from other witnesses, including U.S. ambassador to the
E.U. Gordon Sondland, may have been misleading.
So Democrats are going to be trying to get to the bottom of that. But lawmakers just broke for a lunch break. They're going to vote in a few
minutes, so we're going to get some more information.
But I will tell you that Republicans, including Liz Cheney, a top Republican in the conference, she argued today that Republicans should be
careful about pushing back against this witness' patriotism. This is someone who gave and served the U.S. Army, this is an important person.
And I think that that's the point that she is trying to make this morning, even as Republicans, including the president, are pushing back on his
patriotism -- Hala.
GORANI: And did, Sarah, the White House try to prevent Vindman from testifying?
WESTWOOD: That's right, Hala. Our sources -- our colleagues on Capitol Hill are reporting that the House Intelligence Committee issued a subpoena
for Vindman to appear. The White House has moved to block the testimony of virtually everyone that has testified or the State Department, any relevant
part of the Trump administration.
After that October 8th letter from the White House Counsel, saying that the White House did not want to cooperate with what they viewed as an
illegitimate impeachment inquiry.
Now, Speaker Pelosi is essentially calling the president's bluff in that area, planning to hold a vote soon to formalize the impeachment proceedings
further, so the White House may have to recalibrate there because their main complaint, that there hadn't been any sort of formalization of this
process, that's going to be eliminated by Pelosi's latest move -- Hala.
GORANI: Thank you, Sarah Westwood at the White House and Lauren Fox on Capitol Hill.
A lot more to come this evening. We will be going live to the Syrian border with Turkey, to see how Syria's being impacted by the death of the
leader of ISIS, or at least how things are going in that part of the country.
And the situation in Syria is just one aspect of America's complex foreign policy agenda, or lack thereof. We speak to the man who's currently
advising Joe Biden on the matter. We'll be right back.
GORANI: That's the skyline of Beirut. Let's go back to our top story this hour. Lebanon is in crisis, it's also at a crossroads, as its prime
minister resigns. Let's go back to Becky in Beirut.
ANDERSON: Thank you, Hala. Prime Minister Saad Hariri said he'd hit (ph) a dead end (ph) after nearly two weeks of anti-corruption protests. And
the question now is what happens next. Well, Hezbollah's leader Hassan Nasrallah warned the government not to resign, and said if it did, it will,
quote, "change the equation."
Well, I'm joined now by Lebanon's Defense Minister, Elias Bou Saab, speaking exclusively to us. Sir, thank you for joining us. What do you
make of the prime minister's decision to submit his resignation?
ELIAS BOU SAAB, DEFENSE MINISTER, LEBANON: Thank you for having me, Becky. This is probably the second time and we don't have to -- we've never been
in the same room so I wish I can see you to read your expression.
But what I would make out of that is something very constitutional. What the prime minister did today is according to the constitution. The
constitution in Lebanon has been respected.
And this came after, as you mentioned, a long demonstration on the streets where the people have the right to protest and speak up and speak about
ANDERSON: You are the current Lebanese minister of National Defense and you were an advisor to the president of Lebanon. There is no official
confirmation yet that the president has been willing to accept the resignation. Can you enlighten us? Has he accepted it?
SAAB: Let me tell you something. The constitution allows what happened to happen. And once the prime minister resigns, it is considered a
Now the constitution also says the president will accept such a resignation and then he'll ask the government to do their care taking duties until the
new government is formed. But, again, I have to say all that is -- all this is happening according to the constitution. When the president
accepts and he will announce that, those are rights given to the president according to the constitution.
SAAB: But, Becky, let me say something. We saw over the past -- go ahead.
ANDERSON: So I just want to emphasize here because it's important. Has he accepted this resignation?
Is his government resigning? Because if it is, presumably you've lost your job, as well?
SAAB: Yes, of course. All the ministers will be now doing care taking duty until the new government is formed, as I said.
The prime minister submitted officially in writing his resignation and it would be up to the president to announce the acceptance and also he, the
president, will call on all ministers to continue doing their care taking duties until a new government is formed.
SAAB: The previous government, or the government that I'm in, Becky, that was formed --
ANDERSON: So we should wait? We should wait for that acceptance?
SAAB: -- in January -- let me explain. Yes, but as I said, according to the constitution, this resignation is official. But, also, there's a
second step that the president will have to do.
The current government that I am in, the -- my predecessor was doing care taking for nine months. So I hope that this is not the situation right
now. And I hope that we will move into a faster process.
Because as you know, the prime minister did this unexpectedly or without coordinating with different blocks that form the majority that will be
naming a new prime minister according to the constitution, which is what will be happening next or what should happen next.
ANDERSON: So -- were you surprised by his resignation?
SAAB: Not really. To be honest, this was expected. We thought that it would be done in a different form.
I was hoping that the prime minister would coordinate with at least several political groups that will accept announcing -- accept naming a new prime
minister. And at least the shape of the new government, before we move into this situation, we could have done it in a much smaller way.
But end of the day, this is a democratic country. The democracy in Lebanon prevailed. People were allowed to demonstrate and I want to give these
security forces, the Lebanese Army, credit.
And the government and the army, as you know, right now the president of the country is also the commander of the Armed Forces in Lebanon. He
allowed those democratic process to take place.
This is a positive sign for Lebanon. This is something that we should all be proud of.
ANDERSON: OK. Let me ask you this.
SAAB: Now, we are having demonstrations --
ANDERSON: Let me ask you --
SAAB: Yes, go ahead.
ANDERSON: Let me just ask you this, sir, because the demonstration's chant was all of them must go. And that means all of them.
You are an advisor to the president. He was one of those that the protesters wanted gone. Is your advice to the president that he, too,
SAAB: This -- again, Becky, what happened was according to the constitution. What would happen in the future cannot happen except within
what the constitution allows us to do.
Resigning -- the prime minister exercised his right within the constitution and the government is resigned. The president, to resign, if he doesn't
want to resign --
ANDERSON: Right. I understand that. Sorry, sir. Let me just --
SAAB: -- cannot happen --
ANDERSON: My point was that the protesters had asked for the resignation of the president, as well. So it's a very simple question. Is your advice
to him that he should, too, resign?
SAAB: Of course, not. Because you have to wait and see tomorrow how many people are still demonstrating and what the requirements are.
But still, for the president to resign, only he would take the decision and that's not something to be considered. Because we heard upfront, we had
many parties, even those that are on the streets, the majority of them are saying this is not directed at the president.
SAAB: From the right to the left, many political parties who were supporting the demonstrations behind the scene were clearly saying that the
president is not someone that we are aiming at in those demonstrations. So yes, you would hear some people on the streets --
ANDERSON: OK. I have to say with the --
SAAB: -- requiring that but that would be a minority --
ANDERSON: -- with the huge amount of protests against the president, as well. Look, some thought that this resignation was an attempt to pressure
the president and its increasingly influential has bought an amount of Shiite allies into accepting a new cabinet, transitional government under
Saad al-Hariri's leadership. That would be acceptable to the protesters who have been calling for the resignation of all of it.
If that is the case, would that work?
SAAB: I probably -- I heard half the question. If they force a new government, will Saad al-Hariri work? Is that what you said?
ANDERSON: If the idea of this resignation was to force the president and his Shiite allies to allow for a transitional government under the offices
of Saad al-Hariri leadership, would that work? Would that be acceptable?
SAABL: Again, I'll have to tell you, our system now calls for the president, according to the constitution, to call on for the major
parliament members, the different political groups to come to the presidential palace and name a prime minister. This is step one of the
process. Once that is concluded, the majority of the members of parliament's counts will name a prime minister.
SAAB: According to that, the president will ask the prime minister to form a government. The prime minister in step two that will be named will go
and do the same thing with all the parliament members and ask for a majority that will give him the vote of confidence and the parliament for
the government to be able to form a government.
ANDERSON: Let me ask you this question sir.
SAAB: This will be the only way looking forward.
ANDERSON: OK. I think I understand. I understand the way this works. OK. All right.
Let me put this to you. In the past, finally, Lebanon has been a strong U.S. partner in the Middle East. But the increasing influence of Hezbollah
in Lebanese politics and by extension Iranian influence here is causing real fear to those -- to the U.S., rising tension between Hezbollah and
Israel clearly worrying, not just the U.S. but its neighbors in the gulf.
Hezbollah members of parliament have been designated here as of July, about 50 Hezbollah related individuals and entities are under sanctions. Would
you support increasing influence of Hezbollah in Lebanese politics? And if so, what is the message to Washington and Riyadh?
SAAB: Thank you, Becky, because I think this is the most important question in what you said tonight. This president, in particular, was a
president that gave assurances that Lebanon should be an equal distance from all the regional conflicts that are taking place in here. And Lebanon
is in the middle and the heart of it.
And this president in particular is the one who said that we have to respect international law, 1701, that we should make sure there's stability
in Lebanon and not allow anyone to take control of the country or hijack the political decision.
This president, in particular, that did not allow any war to take place between Lebanon and our neighbors. And we have seen incidents where it was
very dangerously close to an escalation but this president has been the assurance for everyone that he said I will make sure Lebanon will remain at
equal distance, Lebanon disassociated with the conflict in the region, and Lebanon will do what is in Lebanon's best interest.
And the relationship with the Washington, with the United States, especially in the position that I'm in, especially as a minister of
defense, I'm telling you, we have strong ties with the U.S. They are supporter of our army. They will remain to be and this will not change.
Lebanon will not be able to accept or this president will not accept that Lebanon will play a role with one side against the other. This is an
assurance that the president has given and the track record over the past few years have proven what I'm saying is right.
And that's why I want to thank the army, again, the security forces for allowing this democratic change that took place in the last few hours to
happen and for the democracy to prevail as it happened in Lebanon.
SAAB: This is because we have a system. This is because our system has work and this president was supporting the system and he was protecting it.
ANDERSON: OK. I'm going to leave it there. We thank you very much though indeed for joining us at what is a very crucial time for Lebanon.
Hala, like it or not, Lebanon needs a lot of credit at this point. And there are only a limited number of places it can get it. This political
vacuum is extremely dangerous in a country just days away from economic collapse, according to the Central Bank governor.
He told me that in an interview that I conducted with him yesterday. So it is very clear, at this point, that the sort of story underlying all of
this, all of what's happened today, what happens tomorrow is completely unclear.
There are many, many questions to be asked at this point. We will continue to pursue answers to the questions. Hala.
GORANI: All right. Becky Anderson is in Beirut.
From the situation in Lebanon to taking out ISIS leader Abu Bakr al- Baghdadi and the allegations the U.S. president pressured Ukraine's president to investigate a political rival, there's a lot to talk about on
U.S. foreign policy.
But if you may have noticed that during this big democratic presidential debates, foreign policy questions are few and far between. So what are the
positions of some of the main candidates? Specifically, the front runner, in this case.
For unique insight, retired U.S. Ambassador Nicholas Burns joins me now from Harvard's Kennedy School in Boston. He's also currently a foreign
policy advisor to Joe Biden's presidential campaign.
Thank you, Ambassador, for joining us. First of all, what are your thoughts on what's going on in Lebanon with the resignation of Hariri after
days of protests?
NICHOLAS BURNS, RETIRED U.S. AMBASSADOR: Well, it's extremely Concerning to see the Resignation of Hariri because he's been a force for stability in
Lebanon. And I think Becky Anderson was right to point out in the that interview how central Lebanon is to security in the Middle East.
It's a country that has been fraught, as you know very well, Hala, by decades of instability. But right now, the growing influence of Hezbollah
and by extension of Iran is of great concern to Israel and to the Sunni Arab states that surround Lebanon.
And one can only hope that they can find a way forward for stability. Because nobody wants to see a return to the violence, and instability, and
civil war of the past that was so fraught in Lebanon.
GORANI: But it seems as though this time protests are different. We're hearing it from ordinary Lebanese people, from Lebanese analysts that this
protester (inaudible). We had a few incidents with Hezbollah supporters storming the sit in camps of the protesters in Riyadh.
By and large, this is pretty much a national movement and it's also outside of Beirut. So that was also interesting.
And there is some hope that it could lead to real change. Do you share that hope at all?
BURNS: Well, one would hope. I mean Lebanon is not a fully functioning democracy obviously.
It's a country -- its constitutional arrangements for four or five decades have made it, you know, finally balanced between the Sunni and the Shiite
and the political forces there.
One would hope that democracy could deepen. One would hope that the quality of life of average people could be improved.
It's hard to see that happening in the short term just given the political instability and divisions within the country. Especially those stoked, I
will say it again, by Hezbollah.
GORANI: Yes. And what would you advise -- let's talk about other big foreign policy issues. What would you advise Joe Biden to do in Syria with
regards to U.S. troop presence in that country? What do -- if he is elected, what should happen?
BURNS: Well, former Vice President Biden has been very -- he spoke a lot over the last 10 days about President Trump's decision to remove American
Military Forces from the northern part of Syria along the Turkish border. And vice President Biden has said this has been a tremendous mistake by the
Because what it did, we all saw it, it led to many thousands of refugees among the Syrian Kurds. It led to reprisals against them. It led to
extrajudicial killings by some of the Sunni Arab groups against the Arab/Arab groups, against the Kurds.
It led to Turkey and Russia and the Assad regime now claiming control of that territory that have been held by the United States --
GORANI: Would you advise --
BURNS: -- for five years.
GORANI: Sorry, just jumping in, because obviously we saw the impact of that decision. But would you advise the return in the current
circumstances of these U.S. troops to Northern Syria? Is that something you think would make sense?
BURNS: Well, I don't know if it's possible right now. I mean, to return the American forces and the Syrian Kurd fighting forces now when the
Russians and the Turks and the Syrian army are on the ground, that would be a very difficult thing to do.
BURNS: But Vice President Biden has been very clear in his denunciation of President Trump. This was a major era by the president. One of many eras
that he's made that has really weakened the United States.
GORANI: And we know certainly that he would embrace international organizations and -- whether it's NATO, Climate Accord, et cetera. So
there's a big difference between him and Donald Trump there.
Bernie sanders said about Israel, the U.S. should withhold military aid unless Israel fundamentally changes "its relationship with Gaza", saying
that Gaza is treated -- or Gazans are treated inhumanely.
Do -- would Joe Biden -- is Joe Biden in any way close to Mr. Sanders' position on this?
BURNS: I don't believe he's taken that position. I don't know what the vice president has said over the last 24 hours.
These comments by Bernie Sanders remain just in the last day or two here in the United States. So, you know, I just don't know what the vice president
But for my own personal view, this is not the right way to go for the United States. The United States has to continue its strong support for
At the same time, certainly the great majority of our political leaders here, including former Vice President Biden have always supported a two-
state solution, have supported an independent Palestinian state.
Of course, want to see humanitarian support for the people of Gaza who have suffered so grievously. But there's a two-way street here. It's not just
incumbent of Israel to make the final piece agreement. There has to be a united Palestinian delegation to make that decision.
And right now, the Palestinians are divided between Hamas and Gaza and the Palestinian authority in Ramallah. So that's been the major problem.
GORANI: Nicholas Burns, thank you so much for joining us. I appreciate it. We'll be right back.
GORANI: Now, to the latest along the Syria-Turkey border. Russia has now announced that the Kurds are out of the area. What is the reality on the
ground? CNN's Sam Kiley is there. Sam.
SAM KILEY, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hala, that would be news to the Kurds and I think news to the Turks, too. The Russians have since the
killing of Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS a few days ago, which they suggested had not occurred and was a modern myth, once again, I think
sowing to the disinformation for the reasons that I really cannot fathom given that they have troops on the ground.
There have been sporadic clashes inside the 10-mile zone, the demilitarized zone that was negotiated with the United States. And now it's supposed to
have been demilitarized of Kurdish forces, Hala, as you well know, to a distance of 32 kilometers intending there to put Turkey's territory out of
the range of weapons in the hands of the Kurds.
There are numerous Kurdish groups and not just Kurds, of course, but many many Arabs, indeed, inside the Syrian democratic forces which are
dominated, I should say, by the Kurds, Hala, as you know.
And there are -- they have not yet signaled whether or not they have gone into full compliance with this obligation that has been imposed on them by
an agreement between the Russians and the Turks. I think it would be much clearer when the daylight hours come, Hala.
GORANI: All right. Sam Kiley, our senior international correspondent at the border, thank you very much. We'll be right back.
GORANI: Last word this hour from one of the protesters in Lebanon has been out on the streets for days now. Gino Raidy joins me now in Lebanon. The
prime minister has resigned, Geno. Are you satisfied? Will you continue to protest? Why or why not?
GINO RAIDY, PROTESTER IN LEBANON: Satisfied would be a big word but for us it's fine to me. It came too little too late for us. And as you can see,
the mood on the streets has become bigger and better. And I'm getting ready to go back down now.
Every -- all the tense and all the stuff that we had put in Marches Square has already been rebuilt thankfully. So you see people determined. And
they know that the cabinet has just (inaudible) and that the system is still very much in place and they're not going to be out before something
GORANI: And what needs to change for you to be happy at this stage?
RAIDY: At this stage, we know that since the government resigned, we're expecting a transitional government to form, which is much smaller of
people that are qualified and not from any of the political parties that have been in power for the past three decades.
RAIDY: And our main goal for this transitional government cabinet will be to set an anecdotal law that doesn't gerrymander so that in a short enough
period of time, we can regenerate a government with the parliament that is able to take us out of this dire situation the country is in.
GORANI: So you're still hopeful -- there's video you posted on your Instagram, by the way, of you next to a DJ with a huge crowd below, which
is -- it's a protest Lebanese style. I actually really liked it and people shared it on social media. Talk to us very briefly about why you're
RAIDY: Well, I think the celebratory that a lot of people have been seeing of our protest here in Beirut and Lebanon, and across Lebanon, not just in
(inaudible) is a celebration of the unity of the people that has been divided since the civil war in the early '90s.
So people are sometimes asking why are these people in such a good mood, they should be angry, they should be et cetera. And they are, trust me,
but the love people see for each other for many years of hatred and mistrust, that was what everyone was celebrating from different background,
different parts of the country, different stories, different demands. Finally going together and uniting under the (inaudible) for so long.
GORANI: Understood. Gino Raidy, thank you very much. He's speaking to us from in Lebanon.
I'm Hala Gorani. "AMANPOUR" is next.