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Government, Houthi Rebels Signal Support for Ceasefire Talks; Jewish Home Party Backs Down from Threat to Leave Government; Trump

November 20, 2018



<Date: November 19, 2018>

<Time: 11:00:00>

<Tran: 111901cb.k29>

<Type: SHOW>

<Head: Government, Houthi Rebels Signal Support for Ceasefire Talks;

Jewish Home Party Backs Down from Threat to Leave Government; Trump

Triggers Controversy with “Raking” Remark; Khashoggi Affair Casts Shadow on

Trump’s Agenda; Hook, Saudi Arabia Helping to Regulate Oil Markets; Nissan

Chairman Carlos Ghosn Arrested; Trump Criticizes U.S. Admiral Who Led bin

Laden Raid; White House, Acosta’s Press Pass Could be Revoked Again. Aired

10-11a ET - Part 1>

<Sect: News; International>

<Byline: Becky Anderson, Sam Kiley, Christiane Amanpour, Oren Liebermann,

Kaylee Hartung, Julia Chatterley, Dean Obeidallah, Brian Stelter>

<High: New hopes for a cease fire in Yemen. Some last-minute political

maneuvering by Benjamin Netanyahu has managed to keep his coalition alive.

Trumps says California should rake its forests to prevent fires. Jamal

Khashoggi and the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and the political fallout

that has dominated the news cycle for several weeks. Nissan accusing the

chairman Carlos Ghosn of underreporting his salary and for personally using

company assets.>

<Spec: Middle East; Yemen; United Nations; Saudi Arabia; Murder; Jamal

Khashoggi; Israel; Government; Politics; California; Fire>

<Time: 10:00>

<End: 10:59>

[10:00:00] BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST: A very warm welcome to what is CONNECT THE WORLD, with me I’m Becky Anderson live from Abu Dhabi. It is 7 o’clock in the evening here.

And we begin tonight with new hope, real hope that the guns may finally fall silent in a war that has triggered one of the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. There is now broad support, among the warring parties, in Yemen, for U.N. sponsored cease fire talks. Now, just a short time ago, the country’s internationally recognized Saudi-backed government says it will take part in talks after Houthi rebels announced they would stop attacking Saudi coalition targets as a goodwill gesture. All this as Britain’s U.N. ambassador is as we understand it circulating a draft resolution, this hour, on Yemen, in the Security Council in New York.

I’m joined now by our senior international correspondent, Sam Kiley, for more on this. And Sam, is this really the beginning of the end of a conflict that has cost hundreds of thousands of lives, and has forced Yemen to the brink of famine?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think it is the beginning of a glimmer of hope. Ultimately, who knows where these talks, if they ever happen, go anywhere. But we do have two remarkable developments in the last 24 hours, as you were saying there. The internationally recognized government, which is of course backed by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, saying it would go to talks. That’s the first of any of the belligerence to sign up publicly to the idea of talks. The Houthis have said that they are going to stop using their long-range weapons -- the ones that they used to cross borders into this country and neighboring Saudi Arabia, and drones. That was part of the original 2015 United Nations Security Council resolution, which demanded that they stop shooting first effectively. That sort of what they have offered.

It has been interesting over the last week -- two week. There has been a big uptick in fighting around the port city of Hodeidah, all of the belligerence there up until now, have said that they would begin to respect a pause in the fighting but not the Saudis. And it is going to be how the Saudis react, I think, that will also be determined by what the wording is of this resolution being circulated at the moment in draft form by the British.

ANDERSON: That’s right. And as we understand it, that draft resolution, the wording of which is now being circulated amongst security council members and it will be a period of some days, as we understand it, before we get to see that draft resolution, and it be voted on. There is, as we have discussed, Saudi resistance reportedly to this new resolution. Because Riyadh quite frankly as you rightly point out, thinks that resolution 2216, from several years ago, still holds. That called for -- and let’s just bringing it up. And viewers, isn’t getting stuck in the weed, this is really important.

It called for quote, all parties in the embattled country, in particular the Houthis, immediately and unconditionally, end violence. And to refrain from acts that threaten the political transition.

A political transition, it is seen, we certainly know, three years in the making. And until General Mattis called for this cease fire, and these talks, by the end of November, it seemed we were going absolutely nowhere. So, if we are getting somewhere at this point, why are the Saudis so exercised by any new resolution that will be tabled by the U.K.? And what is the point of any of these resolutions?

KILEY: Well, take the first question, the first part of that question. The Saudis are exercising, they’re under pressure at the moment, over what happened to Jamal Khashoggi, they’re very sensitive, they’re very thin- skinned at the moment. Any kind of implied moral equivalency between their war against the Houthis, which, let’s face it, does have international support, it has the support albeit waning from the United Kingdom, the United States. It used to have the support of the French, the Germans just suspended arms sales but more over Khashoggi. But in this context, they are feeling the pressure, they are ultra-sensitive, they don’t want to be put into equal camp as the Houthis. In their view it is the Houthis who try to depose the legitimate government and they are legitimately trying to protect that government. That is the Saudi position.

More widely though, there is a sense, particularly among Saudi Arabia’s allies, that there hasn’t been enough recognition of the humanitarian costs that have been paid by the Yemenis for this war, and they want to try to reign in the Saudis and their allies in the UAE, elsewhere.

[10:05:03] ANDERSON: Well, the executive director of the World Food Program, David Beasley, recently visited Yemen to assess the situation there. He talked to our Christiane Amanpour just in the past hour or so about what he saw there, and about the efforts to ease this crisis. Have a listen.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: I wonder what you can tell me, the king of Saudi Arabia, who as you know, they lead the big, the anti-Houthi coalition, the United States is supporting, the king has just said that Saudi Arabia remains open and supports the possibility of a political solution. What have each side done in regard to this war and to the possibility of resolving it off the battlefield? Because you’ve had to deal with both sides.

DAVID BEASLEY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME: We’ve had to deal with all sides. You’re exactly right. If you recall a year ago, I was pretty hard on the Saudis for the blockade and for the lack of financial support for the humanitarian disaster that resulted from the war. And so, the Houthis were like so appreciative of the fact that I was being hard on the Saudi, and I looked at them and I said let me tell you something very clearly, I’m not taking sides but if you cross the line with us with humanitarian support I will be on your back too. And so, now today I’m being hard on Houthi’s because they don’t provide the access we need. They deny us the visas and equipment that we need for the personnel to deliver the food assistance in the different regions throughout Yemen.

The Saudis have been more cooperative. The UAE has really been remarkably cooperative in working with us in terms of humanitarian financial support and access, and the U.S. and the U.K., but the pressure is building on all sides now. The difficulty with the Houthis is this. There’s not just one simple faction. In fact, some of the Houthis that we deal with, we can deal with reasonably effective. There are elements that we can’t deal with and it seems like they just don’t care.

And so, we had positive meetings last week. I’ve been meeting inside Yemen for three days last week, in Hodeidah at the port itself in Aden, in Sunna , meeting with the different leaders of the different factions and, of course, they’re telling me what I want to hear. Now we will see what type of fruit takes place in terms of progress on the ground.


ANDERSON: Well, that was David Beasley speaking just an hour or so ago, to the network, and it’s fascinating. Because the Saudi coalition position is, they do not want to be seen as equivalents so far as these warring parties are concerned, when it comes to the Houthis and David Beasley pointing out there, that it is access from the Houthis at this point that the humanitarian organizations need on the ground.

KILEY: Well, neither side, and by that, I mean neither the Saudis nor the Iranians who are the big powers in this game, can possibly afford to be blamed for what could be the starvation of 400,000 children, according to the United Nations Children Fund, and threatening 14 million people with starvation. Whatever the agenda of their proxy war in the Yemen, none of them -- and right now, Jeremy Hunt I’m sure is making that point to the Houthis backers in Tehran, there is no upside to killing Yemenis civilians.

ANDERSON: Sam Kiley, in the house. Thank you, Sam.

Later on, in this show we will bring my conversation with Brian Hook, who is the U.S. special representative to Iran, and special adviser to the U.S. Secretary of State, about the pressure campaign against Iran, about fixing Yemen, and an awful lot more, not the least the U.S. relationship with the Saudis at present. You won’t want to miss that.

To Israel now, where some last-minute political maneuvering by Benjamin Netanyahu has managed to keep his coalition alive. A party that could have toppled the Prime Minister’s government by forcing early elections, made an abrupt U-turn backing down from a threat to leave the coalition. Unless Naftali Bennett was appointed defense minister. Now this concession came after Mr. Netanyahu addressed the nation, promising to ensure Israel’s security and talking tough about an unspecified plan of action.

Let’s get the details from Oren Liebermann who is live for you tonight in Jerusalem. So, Oren, the cabinet minister, who could have been king maker, deciding to back down. How significant is this?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is incredibly significant. Even before or just before, I should say, this announcement from the right-wing education minister, and the justice minister, who is part of the same party, all of the reporting here that he was about to resign. He was about to take down Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as he had threatened to do, if Netanyahu didn’t give him the defense ministry. He repeatedly said if I don’t get the defense ministry, I’m taking down the government, we’re going to elections. It came down to a showdown between Benjamin Netanyahu and Naftali Bennett.

[10:10:00] In the end it was Bennett who folded and folded in a big way changing his tune entirely. Saying we’re taking all of our political demands off the table. We just want to see this government become more right-wing. For now, we will support Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as he moves forward. And that was a complete sort of acknowledgment of political defeat by Bennett, and handing it to Netanyahu, averting elections for now.

Now there is one more key here, Becky, the finance minister, last Thursday, was the first to call for early elections. He was then echoed by the interior minister. The finance minister, Moshe Kahlon, has not spoken yet. So, he may still have a move he wants to make here. But it looks like Netanyahu has avoided elections for now.

ANDERSON: So, the Israeli defense minister’s job often becomes a steppingstone for the role of Prime Minister, when you look back at how many Israeli leaders have served in both roles, including Ehud Barack and Ariel Sharon and Yitzhak Rabin.

Why then would a clearly ambitious politician -- and that is an understatement -- like Naftali Bennett give up his demand for the defense minister’s job?

LIEBERMANN: There is a simple answer to that and it’s because he is going for the same right-wing voter base as Netanyahu. And if he were to take down the government simply because he wasn’t handed the defense ministry, that would be seen by right wing voters as a betrayal of their cause. They would be seen to be taking down what they have proudly proclaimed as the most right-wing government in the history of the country, and they would pin that on Naftali Bennett. And so, would Netanyahu. And could cost him dearly in the polls. His only option there really then was to stay in the government and simply try to move Netanyahu more to the right. Sure, he’s ambitious. Sure, he might have his eyes on the prime minister somewhere down the road here. But to take down the government now, because he doesn’t get the defense ministry spot was not going to help him in that quest.

ANDERSON: Mr. Netanyahu said that holding early elections now would be, and I quote him, irresponsible. One of the issues behind the scenes here could be, could be the expected unveiling of Donald Trump’s so-called deal of the century. Now, Axios reporting that the U.S. President is about to launch his long-awaited Middle East peace plan. But says the timing could depend on Israel and how this political crisis plays out. Does that resonate with you, Oren?

LIEBERMANN: Well, there’s been plenty of reporting for a long time now that the peace plan is about to be unveiled. There was speculation here that if Israel goes to elections, the peace plan would be delayed but the plan itself could be very difficult for Netanyahu. If the plan involves concessions of the Palestinians which Trump has said it does, if it involves the establishment to the Palestinians, which Trump has said it does. If it involves the establishment of the Palestinian state, if it involves the division of Jerusalem, then accepting this plan by anybody in the current coalition would be seen as a betrayal of the right wing.

So, if Netanyahu accepts the plan, he could lose and election. But if Netanyahu rejects the plan, he may lose Trump. Because it would be seen as a rejection of President Donald Trump’s plan. And he wouldn’t like that very much. So, it’s a very difficult position, when this peace plan comes out, that’s partially why the administration has been so careful in how they’ve unveiled it and why so little of the details of the plan have been revealed so far.

ANDERSON: Oren Liebermann in Jerusalem for you viewers tonight. And speaking --thank you.

Speaking of political survivors, the British Prime Minister is at the start of a week that might have felt like, well, it couldn’t have come soon enough, after winning cabinet support, for her Brexit plan, and avoiding an open rebellion in her own party. Theresa May is fighting back, and she means business. Literally. In the past few hours, Mrs. May pitched her draft Brexit deal to British business leaders, saying it will install stability. Now, the focus, Europe. Where two key meetings are scheduled this week.

Well the so-called “camp” wildfire in northern California has caused so much death and destruction, it is hard to believe it isn’t even halfway finished burning yet. That is the word from emergency officials there. They say the fire probably won’t be contained until the end of the month. It has killed 77 people and destroyed thousands of homes.

There is a bit of good news, on the other side of the state, where the deadly Woolsey fire is 91 percent contained. U.S. President Donald Trump seemed shocked by what he witnessed during his visit to California over the weekend. But he, well he triggered controversy, flack on the internet and denials from the President of Finland, when he said this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was with the President of Finland, and he said, we have a much different, we’re forestation.

[10:15:00] He called it a forest nation, and they spend a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things and they don’t have any problem, and when it is, it is a very small problem. So, I know everybody’s looking at that, to that end.


ANDERSON: Well, let’s get to you our Kaylee Hartung in Chico, California, for an update on exactly what is going on, where you are -- Kaylee.

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, where we are here, in the parking lot of a Walmart, about ten miles from the town of Paradise that was essentially completely wiped out by the campfire. Here you see some of the people in this community whose needs are the greatest. A tent city of sorts has pops up behind me. Some people who have been living here for 11 day, ever since they have been forced to flee as the wildfire rapidly approached and engulfed Paradise. The crowd here though I should say has thinned out over the course of the week end. This was only supposed to be a short-term fix for some of these people.

Volunteers and local officials, now feeling a sense of urgency to find a safer, more secure shelter for these folks, as rain is approaching in the forecast, on Wednesday. Rains could bring mud slides and floods to this area. And so, three American Red Cross shelters are advertising that their doors are open, that they are welcoming anyone who needs shelter. But some of those shelters are more than an hour away from where we are here. So again, transportation needed. Another challenge for these folks who have lost everything, where they’re having to rely oftentimes on the kindness of strangers.

And while officials try to cater to the needs of the living, there is also the difficult balancing act of the recovery of, and the search for human remains. The list of people unaccounted for at this time, that list stands at 993 names. But authorities caution that number will continue to fluctuate, it will do so sharply, and suddenly, with tens of thousands of people displaced, it has been a very difficult process for them to comb through all of their records and sources of information, from 911 calls and e-mails to incident reports, to call together this list. They say, while we’ve seen the number jump in recent day, just yesterday, they were able to remove 283 names from it.

So again, while tens of thousands of families await news on the fate of their loved ones, who may be missing, that gut-wrenching news, that this fire is barely halfway done burning, as you mentioned, another 11 days, authorities expect, before it will be fully contained.

ANDERSON: Kaylee, thank you.

We will circle back to our top story next. Bringing you an interview with the manhandling the Iran file for Trump, really helping to shape how Washington thinks, talks, and acts, on the Middle East, and the Gulf region. Brian Hook, the U.S. special representative for Iran, right here on CONNECT THE WORLD. We ask him about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, punishing Iranians, not the regime, with sanctions, fixing Yemen, and more. You don’t want to miss that. Stay with us.

Almost gone, Nissan is prepared to oust its chairman, Carlos Ghosn, after making stunning allegations against him. Find out what those are in just a bit.


ANDERSON: The matter of Jamal Khashoggi and the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and the political fallout that has dominated the news cycle for several weeks continues. It has put immense pressure on the Trump administration, and its ties to Saudi Arabia. A country Mr. Trump calls a spectacular ally and one he chose to visit on his first overseas trip as President. Well, all this now, casting a shadow over Mr. Trump’s number one Middle East priority, keeping Iran in check.

Well, nothing that happens in this region happens in isolation. And much of what happens has a direct link or line to Washington. Well, earlier, I spoke with a man charged with putting pressure on Tehran for the Trump administration. Brian Hook is a U.S. special representative for Iran. He is also a senior adviser to the former CIA chief. Now, U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.


ANDERSON: Brian, what do you make of these reports that the CIA has intelligence that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia was involved in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi?

BRIAN HOOK, U.S. SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR IRAN: The reports that the United States has reached a conclusion about the death of Jamal Khashoggi are inaccurate. We are still gathering the facts. And so, we have taken some actions against suspects. We’ve imposed sanctions and visa sanctions on them. But we are still gathering facts. We are determined to hold those accountable, who were responsible for the death of Jamal, and while we are doing that, we will maintain our strategic relationship with Saudi Arabia.

ANDERSON: Mr. Trump spoke to Fox News on Sunday, and this is what he had to say on Yemen.

TRUMP: I want to see Yemen end. But it takes two to tango. Iran has to end it also. And Iran is a different country than it was when I took over. It is far weakened because of what I did with the Iran, so-called Iran deal, Iran nuclear deal, which is one of the great rip-offs of all time. But I want Saudi to stop, but I want Iran to stop also.

ANDERSON: How concerned are you, Brian, of a fundamental breakdown in trust between Riyadh and Washington at what is a really decisive time, when it comes to your file, and Washington’s attitude towards Riyadh’s great foe, Tehran?

HOOK: Well, a couple of things there. We will maintain our strategic relationship with Saudi Arabia while we are holding those accountable for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. In terms of Yemen, as Secretary of Defense Mattis and Secretary of State Pompeo have said, we do need to accelerate the peace process. We need to have a political track. That is being led by the U.N. envoy Martin Griffiths, we very much support him. The war in Yemen has gone on for a very long time. We are doing everything that we can to support a diplomatic solution to end the war in Yemen.

ANDERSON: What has been the impact of the Khashoggi killing on U.S./Saudi relations? Crucial of course, when you consider the file that you have, that being Iran.

HOOK: Saudi Arabia has been very helpful in terms of increasing its oil production, as we have taken off one million barrels of Iranian crude oil from the oil markets. We have asked Saudi Arabia and other oil producers to increase production. Saudi Arabia has been very helpful, very responsive, to insuring that we have a well-supplied and stable oil market.

[10:25:00] In fact, when our sanctions -- when the President got out of the deal in May, oil was at 74, six months later, it’s now at around 67 or 68, and we’ve taken off a million barrels of Iranian crude.

ANDERSON: I know you’ve said, that the U.S. does want a deal, but why would Tehran ever trust Washington again?

HOOK: Well, I don’t know if it is really about trust. It is about pressure. This is a regime that historically does not come to the table without pressure. And so, the Iranian regime has a decision to make. They can either start behaving like a normal country, stop behaving like a violent revolutionary regime, or they can watch their economy crumble.

This is a dark and brutal religious dictatorship that has been robbing its people blind for 39 years. And they have sowed so much instability over the time of the regime across the Middle East and secretary Pompeo has made very clear the kind of vision that we see for Iran to behave like a normal country. And in return, we are willing to restore diplomatic relation, commercial relations, lift our sanction, and welcome Iran into the international community.

ANDERSON: You talk about running an economic pressure campaign, and you say that works. There is no doubt sanctions on Iran will hurt. They will hurt the average Iranian. And “The New York Times” recently laid it out giving the example of one Iranian whose father’s cancer treatment, quote, used to cost roughly $28 a bottle. Well, the last time he bought any three months ago, the price had increased to $43. He says he can’t even find that important medicine anymore, even if he could afford to buy it. You say your policy is aimed at changing Iranian -- the Iranian government’s behavior. But do you acknowledge the people will suffer?

HOOK: No, in fact, that is not going to be the cause of the United States. The Iranian people know where to blame, to place the blame on their economic misery. This regime has been mismanaging its economy for 39 years. Instead of investing in their own people, they spend it in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, wherever they can advance their revolutionary goals. And the Iranian people -- I’ve seen polling on this consistently -- they blame their economic troubles on President Rouhani. Our sanctions make exemptions for the delivery of humanitarian assistance, including food, medicine, and medical devices. If the Iranian regime would have a financial sector that was transparent, it would be easier for banks to conduct these transactions.


ANDERSON: Brian Hook there, extremely important take on the Middle East, from right here in the heart of the region at CNN’s regional programming hub in Abu Dhabi.

Up next, you’ll see people driving around in their cars all the time. And now Nissan, the household name, says its chairman has been arrested after major allegations from the company itself. Find out what they are, and what it means, for the car giant, in just a moment.


ANDERSON: Recapping our top story for you now, I’m Becky Anderson, this is CONNECT THE WORLD. If you’re just joining us, you are more than welcome.

New hopes for a cease fire in Yemen. There is now broad support amongst the warring parties for U.N. sponsored ceasefire talks. Yemen’s internationally recognized Saudi-backed government, says it will take part after Houthi rebels announced they would stop attacking Saudi coalition targets. They say as a goodwill gesture. Well, that is the biggest concession from the rebels since 2015.

One of the biggest business leaders in the world is on his way out. After being arrested over allegations from his own company. Nissan accusing the chairman Carlos Ghosn of underreporting his salary and for personally using company assets. Nissan says it has been going on for years. Board member Greg Kelly also accused in this scheme. Julia Chatterley is at the epicenter of world business. That being the New York Stock Exchange. Julia, just explain the enormity of this news, and its significance, if you will.

JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN BUSINESS, ANCHOR, FIRST MOVE: Shock. I think that’s how investors are reacting this morning. And we see that here in New York. We’ve got Nissan shares that are down by some 7 percent. Renault stocks off by some 9 percent following the arrest of Carlos Ghosn. After months of investigations into his conduct, as you’ve alluded to, Becky, this is a hugely complex situation. Because of the triple role that Carlos Ghosn plays. He’s chairman of Nissan. He’s chairman of Mitsubishi and he’s the CEO of Renault over in France.

As you said, these allegations are coming from Nissan, and they allegedly are, quote, serious misconduct carried out over a number of years that includes underreporting his earnings and misusing company assets.

That’s all the information that we have so far. As you also mentioned, will is another individual involved here, Greg Kelly. He’s also a board member of Nissan. The board is set to meet tomorrow, and it’s believed that Ghosn will be removed from the chairman role.

I go back to what you were saying, Becky, and I agreed with you, I think everyone at this stage is shocked. He’s such a huge heavy weight in the auto industry. He’s been at Nissan since the late ’90s. My first thought here when I read the story was how was this even possible? Where was the corporate governance and the oversight here?

Update hourly