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Hala Gorani Tonight
Spread of Delta Variant Leads to New Global Restrictions; Hong Kong to Ban Travelers from the U.K.; Death Toll Rises As Dozens Still Remain Unaccounted for in Champlain Tower Collapse; Iraq, Syria Condemn U.S. Airstrikes On Border Region' Taliban Taking Over Northern Area As U.S. Withdraws; E.U. Divisions Rage Over Anti-LGBTQ Law In Hungary. Aired 2-3p EST
Aired June 28, 2021 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HALA GORANI, CNNI HOST: Hello everyone, live from CNN London, I'm HALA GORANI TONIGHT. From Europe to Africa to Australia, COVID restrictions are
snapping back. I'll ask the World Health Organization's top scientists, how worried should we be about the Delta variant? Then families around the
world are losing hope days after a building collapse outside Miami, Florida. We're live on the scene.
And the world's most famous tennis tournament is back. CNN is at the all England club as the first Wimbledon Championship of this COVID era kicks
off. We begin with that highly contagious variant that's gaining traction and pushing COVID-19 back to the top of the global agenda, and perhaps top
of the agenda of many people in their personal lives. The Delta variant is behind a deadly wave of cases worldwide, and there are increasing concerns
that it could become the dominant strain and hamper efforts to contain this pandemic.
Dozens of countries are responding to that threat, Portugal, Spain and Germany have issued new travel restrictions. Starting Thursday, Hong Kong
will ban all passenger flights from the United Kingdom where the Delta variant is the overwhelming dominant strain. Australia's largest city is
now under a two-week lockdown as authorities struggle to contain a fast- moving outbreak of that variant in Sydney. And South Africa is also imposing new restrictions amid a devastating third COVID-19 wave on the
continent. President Cyril Ramaphosa warns that this one could be the most dangerous yet.
Well, the new British Health Secretary says the country will lift all COVID restrictions on July the 19th, despite the threat of this Delta variant.
Sajid Javid replaced Matt Hancock over the weekend, and in his first address to parliament on the job, he pledged to build on the country's
successful vaccination drive. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAJID JAVID, SECRETARY OF HEALTH, UNITED KINGDOM: The more people that are getting vaccinated, we are seeing clear evidence that we are breaking the
link -- and this is absolutely crucial. We are breaking the link between people getting infected by COVID-19, so the number of cases versus those
that are actually ending up sadly in hospital.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Well, the country has a new health secretary because the old health secretary was caught on camera, filmed in his office without his
knowledge, essentially kissing and hugging one of his aides. He is married, Matt Hancock. This caused quite a stir, and he has stepped down,
apologizing for having broken the COVID restrictions. Salma Abdelaziz joins me now live from London with more. Well, in the middle of a pandemic, this
is the last thing the country needs with this Delta variant, very much the dominant, overwhelming strain across the country.
SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: Absolutely, Hala. But I think what the government will tell you is you have a new but steady and old hand in the
new Health Secretary Sajid Javid, obviously a main stay, somebody who's held ministerial positions here in the U.K., he's been finance minister of
the country, he's a known commodity basically.
And today was his debut in parliament. He started the day actually at a local hospital here in London, St. Thomas' hospital, meeting with doctors
and nurses, speaking to NHS staff who were urging the new health secretary to be a voice of reason, to urge caution in his approach.
He then moved on to parliament behind me here and addressed of course, his plan, his mission. And he really began by saying, I see my job as restoring
the civil liberties in this country, as bringing back Britain's economic and cultural freedoms that make it so special, that make it so great. But I
have to do that in conjunction with being careful and being wary of this growing Delta variant of this virus.
So he said we're going to stay the course here in the U.K., the final lifting of restrictions will be on July 19th. That had been the plan, but
there was an expected two-week review, that's what he was doing, reviewing that, and saying we are going to stay the course.
And he described the race between the vaccination program here in the U.K. and the virus that's growing narrower because of that Delta variant. But
says these extra weeks are allowing for that vaccination program to really take hold. The new goal now, Javid told ministers today, is to get two-
thirds of adults both jabs, both vaccinations, both shots by that July 19th date.
The government believes that will provide the adequate protection that is needed to ease restrictions to go through this final irreversible lifting
of restrictions and bring life as close to normal as possible.
So, a real introduction here in parliament, but really, the rules, the restrictions, they're staying the same. The plan is the same. The goal now
is to put all energy, all effort into that vaccination program. We know so far about 80 percent -- over 84 percent exactly --
GORANI: Yes --
ABDELAZIZ: Of adults have received the first dose. The goal now is to get that second dose, Hala.
GORANI: But let's look beyond the U.K., and by the way, the U.K. may have had a successful vaccination program, but the death toll is one of the
worst in the world and certainly, one of the worst in Europe. Let's talk about Europe. Let's talk about the Summer travel plans that people may
have. This Delta variant has -- is really causing a lot of concern on the continent. They don't have the kind of numbers that we're seeing in the
U.K., but potentially they could. It is a much more contagious variant of the virus.
ABDELAZIZ: Absolutely, Hala. I think for anyone like us who was excited about the possibility of travel this Summer, we feel a bit heartbroken. And
the reality is, yes, that Delta variant that is highly infectious, highly transmissible is accounting for over 95 percent of the current infections
here in the U.K. You have over 22,000 cases, most of those, an overwhelming number of those, over 95 percent of those come down to the Delta variant.
And the fear is of course that, that could spill over into a breaking point for the healthcare system.
Now, what does that mean in Europe? Well, we heard last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying Europe is on thin ice because of this Delta
variant. She wants to see an EU-wide response to putting restrictions in place.
In the meanwhile though, ahead of that EU-wide response, if that does indeed happen, you already have Portugal putting restrictions into place to
limit U.K. travelers, Germany speaking separately according to local papers, about putting restrictions into place to limit U.K. travelers.
There's really an attempt here to close the borders, and this is a nightmare everyone has seen before, Hala.
We saw this with the Alpha variant that occurred over the Winter. The fear is that would happen again. That's what Europe is trying to avoid. That's
what the EU is trying to avoid, especially as tourism season begins. How do you keep it out? And will these restrictions even happen quick enough,
Hala? This is happening, as we speak, these rules aren't even in place yet across the EU, of course --
GORANI: Yes --
ABDELAZIZ: And this variant continues to spread.
GORANI: And the variant exists in those countries. It's not like, you know, opening the borders would bring it in. It is already there. Thanks
very much Salma Abdelaziz. That's the picture in Europe. Africa is also very worried about this Delta variant and taking steps to fight it. As you
can see, it's fueling a dramatic third wave of cases in South Africa, already surpassing the first. You can see it there on the graph. The
country is being forced into its hardest lockdown yet. David McKenzie is there for us.
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: These lockdown measures are some of the most strict since the beginning of the pandemic here in South Africa, and
they reflect the urgency that public health officials say that the country needs to combat the Delta variant, which scientists say are driving
infections in South Africa and in fact the W.H.O. says in large parts of the continent. One of the key reasons other than people not adhering to
public health advisories in this country is also just a lack of vaccine rollout, which isn't having much impact on the spread of this wave, say
Here's the president of South Africa who painted a bleak picture.
CYRIL RAMAPHOSA, PRESIDENT, SOUTH AFRICA: Once again, we find ourselves at a defining moment in our fight against this disease. Let us call on every
bit of strength we have. Let us summon our reserves of courage and hold firm until this wave, too, passes over.
MCKENZIE: The lockdown in South Africa will last at least two weeks, and it's clear, say the W.H.O., that the Delta variant is also behind a surge
of infections across the continent, with at least 14 countries identifying this variant but perhaps many more. They also say a lack of social
distancing and masking is to blame for the surge. But predominantly say what is needed now is vaccines, and vaccines on a huge scale. David
McKenzie, CNN, Johannesburg.
GORANI: Of course, vaccines are needed. Though, I will be hopefully asking the W.H.O. chief scientist about vaccines, double-jabbed people who still
contract the Delta variant in the U.K. and other countries. Some of them end up hospitalized. Some of them sadly end up dying from it. How protected
are we after two jabs? That is one of the main questions I'll be putting to my next guest a little bit later in the program. Let's bring you up-to-date
with what's going on in Miami, outside Miami.
The death toll from last week's tower collapse in Florida has risen to ten people with 151 people still unaccounted for. Search and rescue efforts
have been underway now for five days, and the mayor says they're expected to grow in size and intensity.
One official says it's already the largest operation the state has seen for a non-hurricane response. Matt Rivers joins me now from Mexico City. And
we're going to you, Matt, because so many families in Latin America have loved ones who are missing, listed as missing and who were residents of
that building that collapsed in Surfside. Talk to us about the anguish they are going through and are they getting the kind of information they need
from authorities there?
MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Hala, I mean, unfortunately the answer is no, just like we've heard from, you know, our colleagues that are
reporting on the ground in Miami about all those American families that are waiting for news, that are watching these rescuers do their best in a
really difficult situation, but not really be able to come up with the kind of answers that people are hoping for. So too are Latin-American families
from at least six different countries in Latin America alone, three other countries outside of Latin America also with citizens represented amongst
the unaccounted for.
But you used the word anguish, and that is the right word. Because we've been reporting on this, the impact in Latin America since this happened
last week, that partial collapse. And that's the consistent theme that we hear from family members. I think everybody is realistic about the fact
that the more time goes on, the more hours that pass without any news, the chances of finding anyone alive is now extremely slim. And I think the
family members that myself and colleagues have talked to, they understand that.
But I think what we've heard is just -- it's the lack of information, not knowing one way or another exactly where their family members are and the
status of that. That at is the difficult thing. We know so far of the very relatively few people that have been identified so far. Two of them are
Venezuelan citizens according to authorities there in Miami. But that leaves so many more people, at least 29 other people from Latin-American
countries unaccounted for at this point. And that is the pain that these families are going through.
GORANI: Right, and what other countries here? You mentioned two Venezuelan nationals and potentially what other countries are -- the citizens of what
countries are --
RIVERS: Well, let me --
GORANI: Linked to this tragedy?
RIVERS: Right, exactly. So, we're looking at countries including Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, we're talking about Colombia, we're talking
about -- there are some reports that Brazilians might have been involved in those, those are unconfirmed at this point. At least, six Latin-American
countries at this point. We also know, Hala, that this is an international response in some ways. We know that teams from Israel have been sent to try
and help. And we were actually in touch with a team called Los Topos, which actually mean the Moles here in Mexico City.
It's a very famous search and rescue team here in Mexico City because this is such an earthquake prone area, unfortunately, they have a lot of
experience with building collapses. And members of Los Topos are now in Miami, we know that about a half dozen members are awaiting access to that
site, that they're there to offer their help. They say Miami authorities have allowed them access to the site. It's going to happen in the next few
hours or so, and they're going to be lending their help even though at the moment, there are no Mexican citizens involved.
But clearly, they're trying to, you know, give their expertise and their assistance at a time when it is desperately needed.
GORANI: All right, well, indeed, Mexico, very experienced rescuers. Israel routinely sends rescuers to sites of natural disasters, earthquakes and the
like. And really, when you look at that building, it is the kind of damage you see in massive earthquakes. Do we have our Rosa Flores, who is in
Surfside, Florida? Not yet. Just to recap there what Matt said, you know, this is a global story as well because the citizens of so many Latin-
American countries are among those who were and have been listed as missing.
And the anguish and the absolute worry that must be the daily reality of the loved ones of people who are unaccounted for in that pile of rubble.
I've covered earthquakes before, this is the kind of scene that you see after an earthquake, five days in. Rosa Flores can join me now. Talk to us
about these rescue efforts, I mean, we're still seeing a very large pile of rubble and sheets of concrete. Can you explain to us what is the plan at
this stage, and why aren't we seeing more of that rubble removed to search for survivors?
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, according to rescuers and officials here, they say that they're using a grid pattern to delayer the
layers of concrete. So, in essence, they create a grid and then they go layer-by-layer to find signs of life. Now, there's been multiple
complications during the search and rescue effort. First of all, the weather was an issue, then there was a smoldering fire. They couldn't get
to the fire, it was so deep. They finally put that fire out yesterday.
But they had to create a trench in order for them to do that. And just to give you an idea of what this is, it's 40 feet deep. So, about three
stories high, 20 feet wide and 125 feet long. Now, that gives you an idea of the magnitude of the pieces of equipment that are required to do this
type of work. And officials here say that this is a pancake collapse.
So, imagine the layers of a pancake. So, when this trench was cut, it allowed them to see the different layers of concrete. That, of course,
gives them an opportunity to find voids. Unfortunately, according to the fire chief, I talked to him yesterday, he says that they didn't find the
voids that they were hoping for.
Today, they spoke about some of the complications that they're dealing with right now. They said that there's a lot of pulverized concrete. There's big
pieces of steel. There's concrete the size of basketballs. And then there's also very large pieces of concrete, these layers, these areas that they
have to clear with large pieces of machinery. At any point in time, there's about 200 men and women working on the pile, but there's 400 men and women
available that are search and rescue -- part of the search and rescue team.
I can tell you that they're working 12 hours a day, and according to one fire official, they're really just taking breaks so that they can check
their oxygen levels just to make sure that they physically can continue doing this type of work.
As for the resources that they're using, using K-9s, we've seen drones, sonar equipment, very large cranes to remove those big pieces of equipment.
As for the investigation, we know that homicide detectives are working in tandem with search and rescue teams, and part of the reason why they're
doing that is because as this is going on, they are collecting evidence, and that evidence is being placed in a warehouse, according to the
So, at the end of the day, these families are going to want to know exactly what went terribly wrong here. And the only way that they're able to do
that is by collecting evidence as they go.
GORANI: All right, Rosa Flores in Surfside, Florida. Thanks very much. Let's revisit COVID now and get more expert perspective on the global
impact of the Delta variant, how it might impact you as well this Summer. Dr. Soumya Swaminathan is a World Health Organization chief scientist, and
she joins me now. Thank you very much for joining us. Let's talk about this Delta variant first off because as you know in the U.K., 99 percent
prevalence, it is growing in European countries, in African countries and other parts of the world. How concerned should we be? You have said that it
is now becoming globally dominant.
SOUMYA SWAMINATHAN, CHIEF SCIENTIST FOR WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: Yes, thank you, Hala. The World Health Organization is very concerned. And we've
been saying for a while that one of the biggest risks now to control the pandemic is the risk of these new variants, which have properties of
increasing transmissibility or even worse, you know, if they become resistant to the vaccines and the treatments that we have. And clearly, the
Delta variant has proved itself to be extremely efficient at transmitting much more than any of the previous variants that we've seen.
And that's why it's been able to very quickly establish itself as a dominant variant in many countries. More than 85 countries to date have
reported the Delta variant. And we've seen the kind of explosive outbreaks that it can cause. We saw it in India. We saw it in Nepal. And we're also
seeing the way that it's increasing in other countries. So --
GORANI: Some --
SWAMINATHAN: Go ahead.
GORANI: Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt. I thought you were done with your thought. But I did want to ask you this because this is
information that our viewers can use. Some people who have been infected with the Delta variant of COVID reported different symptoms than the
original COVID variant.
They've reported a runny nose, hay fever-like symptoms and not necessarily a loss of taste or smell or fever. Should the World Health Organization and
other health authorities update the list of symptoms so people are able to identify the beginning, potentially, of an infection?
SWAMINATHAN: Indeed, Hala. I think there are many overlapping symptoms, you know, and it depends a lot on the age, you know, the kind of infection,
what kind of immunity you have. So, it's very hard to distinguish between the variants and the symptoms that they cause, and it could be risky to
hazard a guess as to which variant you're infected with. The only real way of knowing that is through performing sequencing.
And unfortunately, as we see the world around, there isn't enough sequencing capacity in many countries. And that's why when I say 85
countries have reported the variant, there are probably many more. And this is particularly true of the African continent, but also other places we
have limited sequencing capacity. So, you know, we keep updating the information on things like clinical symptoms as well as the severity, there
have been anecdotal reports that it causes more severe illness. But these require very careful studies to document, you know, whether --
GORANI: Got this --
SWAMINATHAN: There are various changes or it just looks as though, you know, something is happening.
GORANI: Got it. I want to get also to the fact that double vaccinated people -- I'm aware of the U.K. situation because this is where I am, but
it's happened in other countries -- that double-vaccinated people have accounted for half of fatalities in the U.K. over a week period. Are we not
protected with two jabs against this Delta variant as well as we thought we were?
SWAMINATHAN: Look, I think we -- this is a really important question, and we need to be very clear that two jabs of the approved vaccines, that
W.H.O. approved or approved by one of the other regulatory agencies, does provide over 90 percent protection against this variant as well as against
others. So, I think that's the good news. Now, when you are in a country where a large proportion of people are vaccinated, we know that vaccines
are not 100 percent protected --
GORANI: Yes --
SWAMINATHAN: You know, even 90 percent is fantastic news actually for a vaccine. But there are going to be people who get infected. And
unfortunately, there are going to be some of those people who end up in hospital. But if you look at the proportions of people who would have been
in hospital or dying of COVID without this extensive rollout of vaccines in countries like the U.K., it would have been huge, I mean, just compare to
what it was --
GORANI: Yes --
SWAMINATHAN: A year ago. So, I think we have to see that in proportion as populations get vaccinated, yes, there may be vaccinated people who end up
in hospital, but the majority of vaccinated people who get the infection could be mild, could be asymptomatic. It's not going to require this kind
of intensive care that we've seen. Now --
GORANI: Sure --
SWAMINATHAN: I should add here that we have a lot of data on some vaccines, particularly the BioNTech-Pfizer and the --
GORANI: Yes --
SWAMINATHAN: Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. Those have been the two most studied and we know most about them. There are a bunch of other vaccines
that are being used in countries around the world where data is --
GORANI: Yes --
SWAMINATHAN: Still limited. This is where we actually need more research on the real life effectiveness of these vaccines.
GORANI: I want to ask you one last question about opening borders or not opening borders. What's your position on whether or not with the Delta
variant running wild in some countries that -- for instance, in Europe, as an example, I mean, we could take another region, but let's take Europe. Is
it wise at this point to allow intra-country travel this Summer with this Delta variant where it is in terms of its prevalence?
SWAMINATHAN: This is again, very important, Hala, because I think everyone should recognize this pandemic is not over. The virus hasn't gone. In fact,
it's looking for opportunities to spread and to change itself, mutate, and develop new variants.
So, I think this is the time for caution. It's not that nobody can travel or do anything, but this is really not the time for us to encourage a lot
of social mixing, to encourage mass events especially without precautions. Wherever you live in the world because these variants, you
know, they travel around the world even before you recognize --
GORANI: Yes --
SWAMINATHAN: That there's a new variant. And so, even in countries that are, you know, having higher rates of vaccinations, I think this is the
time still to be very cautious. And we should remember --
GORANI: Sure --
SWAMINATHAN: That a large part of the world still doesn't have enough vaccines even to protect their most vulnerable people. And --
GORANI: Doctor --
SWAMINATHAN: We need to be getting vaccines out to them.
GORANI: Yes, OK, that message has been sent loud and clear. Still be cautious, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan; the chief scientist at the World Health
Organization joining us from Geneva. Thanks so much. Still to come tonight, down and out in Paris and pretty much everywhere else, why France's
regional election was a national dud for President Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen. We'll be right back.
GORANI: The parties of two of the biggest names in French politics, won almost nothing in the regional elections in the latest round. The second
round of the local ballot was held Sunday and both President Emmanuel Macron's La Republique En Marche and far-right leader Marine Le Pen's
national rallies were left disappointed. Cyril Vanier is here in London with more. What's going on with these two parties? It was the same -- it
was a similar story for the first round.
CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Hala. And it's a major disappointment for both of them. And what's interesting about this is that
we are ten months away from the presidential election. And every political analyst and every poll had predicted that the presidential election was
going to turn into a duel between the self-described centrist President Emmanuel Macron and the far-right leader Marine Le Pen, that they would
both make it to the second runoff round of the presidential election like they did four and a half years ago. It now seems that might not be the
Both their parties fared very poorly in these local elections. And to the extent that you can draw national conclusions from these local elections,
the conclusion is, number one, French voters right now do not like what they see in front of them.
They do not like the politicians that are in front of them. Number two, the center-right conservatives who were believed to be in disarray after
Emmanuel Macron just stole voters from them in the presidential election, are now entering this presidential year in a position of strength. And
number three, all of this means that the presidential election could really throw up some huge surprises.
It is, by no means, guaranteed today. It is, by no means, guaranteed that Emmanuel Macron will actually make it to the final round of the
presidential election. Now, just one caveat, Hala. The president is projecting the notion that these regional and local elections carry no
implication on the national stage. You know what he was doing on the evening of the first round of the results? He was hosting Justin Bieber for
an hour. So, that is the message that he's sending, I'm not even looking at these results, Hala.
GORANI: All right, well, we'll see if these regional election results reflect the picture nationally. And next year will be a very interesting
election. Thank you Cyril. Still to come tonight, airstrikes in Iraq and Syria against Iran-back targets. What does that tell us about U.S. foreign
policy under Biden? We'll have analysis after this.
GORANI: Iraq says its territory shouldn't be used to "settle scores." That comes after the American President Joe Biden ordered airstrikes against
Iranian-backed militia in Iraq and Syria on Sunday evening. The U.S. Defense Department says the strikes targeted operational and weapons
storage facilities. The Syrian Foreign Ministry called the strikes American aggression. Our Senior International Correspondent Arwa Damon joins me now
live from Istanbul. What militias were targeted and what had they -- what actions had they taken in their attempt to target U.S. interest in the
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's a number of these Iranian-backed Iraqi Shia militias that have their bases and
logistics storage facilities along the Iraqi-Syrian border.
But one of the most prominent of those militias is one that's known as Kataib Hezbollah that is very well known for carrying out strikes against
U.S. interests in Iraq. It's the same militia that last year, almost was able to storm the U.S. Embassy early last year. And then, of course, that
was followed on by the U.S. carrying out that strike against Iran's top military commander, Qasem Soleimani.
This is back again in January of 2020. And since then, there has been this ongoing lower level back and forth between basically Iran's proxies in Iraq
and the U.S. military. Over the last few months, though, Hala, there's been a bit of a shift from the traditional sort of indirect fire that these
militias tend to use to using more and more unmanned aerial vehicles. In other words, drones. These strikes that the U.S. carried out in two
locations in Syria, one location in Iraq was specifically to take out those drone capabilities.
And these are capabilities that some of these militias have really been trying to boast about to a certain degree. There is a video that was posted
sometime in mid-June on a telegram channel that is affiliated with these militias that was reported to have been filmed in a province called Diyala
that's just north of Baghdad.
Now we weren't able to verify its authenticity and Iraqi security officials do not want to comment on it, but in this propaganda video, you see vehicle
after vehicle after vehicle with these drones on the back part of them being paraded through the streets.
So this has been something of a low level conflict that now seems to have most certainly escalated to the next level. But no matter what it is that
Iraq says to the Iranians, or to the Americans, no matter how many times Iraq begs these two countries, with whom it does have relationships, to
stop fighting each other within Iraqi territory, none of that seems to matter. And now there's a danger of course of the situation escalating even
GORANI: All right, Arwa Damon. Thanks very much. Live in Istanbul. Let's take a closer look at all of this with my next guest, Fawaz Gerges, joins
me live. He's the author of "Making the Arab World" and a professor at the London School of Economics. Fawaz, great to see you. First of all, why
would these Iranian-backed militia take aim at U.S. interests in Syria and Iraq? What are they trying to achieve?
FAWAZ GERGES, PROFESSOR, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: Well, Iran has expanded its influence into Iraq and Syria and Lebanon and Yemen. Iran now
is a pivot to regional power. What we have seen in the -- since 2019 is a kind of really both the United States and Iran are trying to send each
other messages. And since the killing the Iranian General, Qasem Soleimani, this particular war of attrition or deterrence between the United States
and Iran has escalated to a great deal.
My take on it, those sides now on the verge of a diplomatic breakthrough, both sides seem to be the one to nail down the nuclear deal in the next few
days or next few weeks. And Iran is pushing very hard, trying to really pressure the United States to basically lift its sanctions and tell the
United States, look, we have options in case you change your mind about reaching a nuclear deal with us.
GORANI: Options in terms of targeting these U.S. interests in that part of the world?
GERGES: Well, what's happening now, in terms of really the sophistication of the attacks against the American forces, according to the American
military, Hala, the -- in particular since April, the pro-Iranian groups in Iran -- in Iraq have been able to target all-American target, including the
American Embassy, a CIA headquarters in Erbil, American special operation forces, the new drones, basically explosive laden drones, the Americans are
terrified how precision -- how precise these drones are.
So, Iran has escalated. It's basically a tit for tat was the United States. And that's why President Biden -- what President Biden is trying to do is
to send a deterrent message to Iran. But the big point, Hala, neither the United States nor Iran would like to escalate. What we are really seeing
limited attacks, messages of deterrence on both sides.
GORANI: Because how does this fit in with, in your opinion, Joe Biden's foreign policy? He's withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, he's sending a
message that he's not willing to engage in any way in terms of troop or military presence in the Middle East. So what are these American interests
in that part of the world? And what do you think Joe Biden's aim is here?
GERGES: Well, the truth is, if you ask me, if you ask me to read what's going on in President Joe Biden's mind, I don't think he wants anything to
do with it.
GERGES: President Biden is not interested in the Middle East. He's not interested in Iraq. He's not interested in Syria or the Arab-Israeli
conflict. The major strategic interest that the Biden administration has is to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon. And this is why the nuclear
deal is very strategic for the Biden administration. And that's why I think we need to compare and contrast what the Biden administration is doing with
his predecessor, President Trump.
President Biden is trying to really keep the retaliation limited. He does not want to escalation with Iran, and he wants to nail down a nuclear deal
with Iran. And I think the Iranians also want a nuclear deal. What we are seeing now is basically what I call messages by far by drones and by
attacks. My take on it, we might see a breakthrough very soon between the United States and Iran over the nuclear deal, and the attacks most probably
will likely end if Iran and the United States sign -- return to the 19 -- 2015 nuclear deal.
GORANI: All right, Fawaz Gerges, Author of "Making the Arab World" and a Professor at the London School of Economics. As always, thank you so much
for joining us.
GERGES: Thank you.
GORANI: Well, we spoke about Afghanistan with Fawaz. Day by day, Taliban militants in Afghanistan are taking over more northern areas from the
country's central government.
It comes as American and NATO forces withdraw their troops from the country. CNN's Nic Robertson reports on the lightning offensive and a
warning. His story contains disturbing images.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: days after seizing the strategic border town Sherkhan Bandar, straddling the only highway linking Afghanistan and
Tajikistan, the Taliban have reopened it. Although CNN cannot independently verify the video, the loss is not disputed by the government and is a major
first for the Taliban since losing power in 2001. The Afghan border guards given sanctuary and Tajikistan, effectively becoming the first refugees of
the Taliban's northern offensive.
For weeks, a steady stream of unverified victories is being pushed by the Taliban. This purports to be in Parwan Province, Central Afghanistan. "The
district was under siege for two days now," the commander says checking his watch as if every second counts. Over the past week, the Taliban claiming
to have taken 27 more districts totaling 117 since May, a figure disputed by the U.N., the Afghan government and the U.S. military.
Videos often highlight seizure of U.S.-made military hardware, Humvees, and trucks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The partnership between Afghanistan and United States is not ending. It's going to be sustained.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTSON: At a meeting with Afghan leaders last week, President Biden promised ongoing military support, but no change to the U.S. drawdown. Not
an easy adjustment for the Afghans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ASHRAF GHANI, AFGHAN PRESIDENT: It has made everybody recalculate and reconsider. We are here to respect it and support it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTSON: The Taliban's recalculation appears to be fight first, talk later. Even so, the government still pushing for peace.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ABDULLAH ABDULLAH, CHAIRMAN, AFGHANISTAN HIGH COUNCIL FOR NATIONAL RECONCILIATION: I think we shouldn't shut the doors unless it's completely
shut by the Taliban.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTSON: Glimmers of hope Taliban gains can be quickly reversed are rare. This video, government officials say, is a Taliban surrender, A hundred and
thirty gunmen handing over their weapons is disputed by the Taliban, claiming the fighters were a local militia, not their loyal followers.
What the Taliban don't dispute is that their fighters are getting killed. Their spokesman calling out government forces for the poor treatment of
their dead in this pro-government video. The bodies desecrated. No sign of any calming in the near term. Nic Robertson, CNN, London.
GORANI: Still to come tonight, united in diversity is the E.U.'s official motto. Turns out there are some exceptions. For example, in Hungary. We'll
be right back.
GORANI: A law banning gay and lesbian content, LGBTQ content, in Hungary's schools is causing a major stir in Europe. The Dutch Prime Minister went as
far as saying that Hungary has no place in the E.U. anymore. And in a shocking statement, the Czech president said he had no object -- objections
to the Hungarian law, and even called trans people, "Intrinsically disgusting." So just what is this law? And what will its impact be? Isa
Soares has more.
ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: On the banks of the Danube River, the striking Hungarian parliament was built more than a century ago, another
era that some say is better suited for a bill that just passed inside of it. The bill which erodes gay rights in a country where there are already
precious few passed with almost no objections inside the chamber, but plenty outside.
Last week, protesters filled the streets of Budapest to rally against the bill just signed into law by Prime Minister Viktor Orban. It outlaws any
content available to children which portrays diversion from gender identity assigned at birth, gender alteration or homosexuality, effectively barring
any discussion on the topic inside classrooms, or even in advertising. Like this 2019 Coke ad which was controversial in Hungary.
This was all added to a bill meant to better protect children from pedophiles, making it difficult for lawmakers to vote against it. Leftist
opposition parties boycotted the vote.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ATTILA KELEMEN, SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGIST (through translator): To mix up homosexuality with sexual crimes is disgusting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SZEKERES ZSOLT, COORDINATOR, HUNGARIAN HELSINKI COMMITTEE (through translator): Each abused child who fears asking for help because of
homophobic or transphobic hatred will suffer because of those MPs who voted for this hate-provoking law proposal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: Prime Minister Orban says the law simply states clearly that only parents can decide on the sexual education of their children, and the band
does not place limits on the content adults can view. European Union Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted she was very concerned
about the law saying she believes in a Europe which embraces diversity, not one which hides it from our children.
The government says it's not going to apologize for protecting our children. And Orban himself insists that criticism of the law reinforces
the Central European conviction that today's liberals are, in fact, communists with degrees.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRAEME REID, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: I think it's a continuation of what we've seen in the past. This is straight out of an autocrat's playbook. It's part
and parcel of the erosion of the rule of law and the sustained attack on human rights in Hungary.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: Gay people in Hungary already cannot marry or adopt children. But it's not just Hungary clamping down on gay rights. Last year, some Polish
towns declared themselves LGBT ideology-free zones, and a 2013 law in Russia banned so called gay propaganda.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REID: In Russia, we had groups that built themselves as anti-pedophile groups who targeted young, gay men, would subject them to harassment and
torture, filmed that and then uploaded that onto social media. I expect that this could have graver implications than the propaganda law in Russia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: One more example of Hungary looking less and less like the rest of Europe. Isa Soares, CNN, London.
GORANI: North Korean State Television has aired an interview that's raising even more questions about the changed appearance of leader Kim Jong-un.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The people, including myself, were most heartbroken when we saw the respected General Secretary looking gaunt.
Everyone says it brought them to tears.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Well, it's unclear who the man in the video is or whether other North Koreans feel the same way, but I mean, it's hard not to notice.
There's a big change in appearance here. Kim has looked noticeably thinner recently. You can see it in the photo on the right the reason why it
remains a mystery. Everything is a mystery, really, in North Korea.
Kim's health is a closely guarded secret in that country among other closely guarded secrets, but, yes, he looks very different.
Hong Kong's media crackdown continues. Police have arrested yet another journalist who worked for the Apple Daily Newspaper. He was picked up at
the International Airport as he was attempting to leave the region. Kristie Lu Stout has this story.
KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: According to local media reports, a journalist was arrested at the Hong Kong International Airport as he tried
to leave the city. Fung Wai-kong is reportedly the latest staffer at the now closed Apple Daily to be arrested under the National Security Law. He
was an editor and columnist at the pro-democracy newspaper.
In his statement, Hong Kong police say a 57-year-old local man was arrested at the airport for the offensive collusion with a foreign country or with
external elements to endanger national security. A police add that he has been detained and further arrests may be made. The Apple Daily closed last
week after its assets were frozen and several top editors and executives were arrested under the National Security Law. Critics say the law
undermines Hong Kong's autonomy and freedoms. Hong Kong's top leader Carrie Lam firmly denies that the law is being used to stifle the press.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARRIE LAM, HONGKONG CHIEF EXECUTIVE: Don't try to accuse the Hong Kong authorities for using the National Security Law as a tool to suppress the
media or to stifle the freedom of expression.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STOUT: The Apple Daily's closure follows a slew of attacks on press freedom. Local authorities have recently proposed an Anti-Fake News Law. On
Saturday, Hong Kong's new police chief blamed fake news for harming relations between the police and the public.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAYMOND SIU, HONG KONG POLICE CHIEF (through translator): There's no legal definition of fake news at the moment. But if there is, any legislation
that could help us bring these people to justice as law enforcers, we absolutely welcome it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STOUT: In another move, also seen as a blow to press freedom in Hong Kong, the pro-democracy media outlet Stand News said on Sunday it would stop
accepting monthly sponsorship from readers and remove some op eds online and commentaries.
Western governments have slammed Chinese tightening control of Hong Kong and the erosion of press freedom. But Beijing is unwavering in its support
for the National Security Law. Kristie Lu Stout, CNN, Hong Kong.
GORANI: Still to come tonight, Wimbledon is proving to be the same cherished tradition, but the pandemic has left its mark and so as the rain,
by the way, unsurprisingly. We'll be right back.
GORANI: Wimbledon is back. Fans are thrilled, obviously. The Coronavirus pandemic forced organizers to cancel that hallowed grass court tournament
last year, the first time that had happened since World War II. CNN's Scott McLean has today's developments from London. Scott.
SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hala, Wimbledon is all about tradition. The white outfits on the courts, the strawberries and cream, and, of
course, the rain are all still here. But the famous queue of tens of people camped out to buy day-of tickets has moved online. Capacity is down to 50
percent on the main courts. The All England Club has though convinced the government as part of a pilot project to have full capacity stands for the
weekend of the finals.
Fans have to show up with a negative COVID test or proof of vaccination, but don't have to wear face masks or social distance once they're sitting
in their seats. The fans we met earlier didn't seem concerned about the virus, they were just happy to have the players back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I actually think it's probably one of the safest places to be. So we'll go quite nice in terms of the scanning and downloading the
NHS App. And I think in here today, you know, you're going to be around people that are pretty safe and secure.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's going to be different, I'm sure. This thing is also making a big difference so, yes. But, yes, I'm really excited.
MCLEAN: Does it feel like a normal year?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For me, it does -- this bit does at the moment, kind of queuing, getting on the train getting here. Once we get inside, depends on
people, but I think the noise and people being back will make it what it was a.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of extra checks, but a lot of help as well. So it's all been pretty straightforward, but worth it. Absolutely worth it.
Yes, it's great to be back. Great to be back.
MCLEAN: Who are you cheering for?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCLEAN: Players, though, will not have nearly the freedoms that fans do. Typically, many of them rent out some of the luxurious homes near the
courts with their families, but this year, they have to stay in a bio- secure bubble in a central London hotel and shuttle back and forth.
"Not ideal." That's how defending men's champ Novak Djokovic described the arrangement. He won his first round match today. He's chasing his 20th
Grand Slam victory which would tie him with Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal, who has opted to skip Wimbledon this year.
World women's number two, Naomi Osaka, has also opted out of the tournament this year, and the top British seed on the women's side, Johanna Konta,
will also be absent because a member of her bubble tested positive for COVID, forcing her to isolate and drop out.
Because of all the restrictions and the decrease in the number of fans allowed, the total prize money for this year's tournament is down about
five percent from 2019, though the top men and women will still take home about $2.3 million each, Hala.
GORANI: All right. Thanks, Scott. And finally tonight, you won't believe how hot it is in the Pacific Northwest and parts of Canada. Experts say the
record hot temperatures are examples of extreme heat that are made worse by climate change.
In Portland, Oregon over the weekend, outside diners at this restaurant, sat under some looks like really powerful water misters. Temperatures broke
records at 112 degrees Fahrenheit. That's 44 in Celsius. Seattle, Washington topped 104 degrees Fahrenheit. So yes, record heat. Temperatures
being set all over the world this time in the Pacific Northwest.
Thanks for watching, I'm Hala Gorani. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is next.