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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Iranians Vote In Presidential Election; Presidential Candidates Using Social Media In Iran; An Iran Without Ahmadinejad; Female Voters Hopeful As Iran Votes
Aired June 14, 2013 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT tonight, live from Tehran, the polls close here in Iran. Will there be any change when it comes to leadership and Iran's nuclear program. That's coming up with a special report.
Plus, the Revolutionary Guard, you may have heard the name the all powerful and mysterious military linked group that control the economy. Well, we went to see one of the banks that they control today, that the U.S. says sponsored terrorism. We have a special story on that.
Plus, ice cream, what is ice cream? Joyful past time here as well as everywhere else around the world for children have to do with sanctions? We'll explain, all that's coming up. Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, live once again from Iran. I'm in the capital of Iran in Tehran tonight. It is Election Day and the polls here closed at 11:00 p.m. local time. Right now, it's 3:30 a.m. There was hope there could be some results, an early rumor, pretty soon, but they're going to come in some time in the next day.
We should find out whether this goes to a run-off election or not, voting was extended a little later tonight than had been anticipated. A lot of people voted today. The Ayatollah, the Supreme Leader voted this morning. Of course, there was a press gaggle that went with him to film him formally casting his voting. We're not yet sure, of course, who it was for.
He had said though earlier in a headline that was captured in this country that high turnout would be the blow to the enemies of Iran. The enemies of Iran, of course, being a very direct reference to the west and to the United States. You know what? It seemed like that worked. There were plenty of people who were out there, and you know, perhaps a little bit of a last-minute interest in voting.
Today is the weekend, and we saw long lines at the polling stations we visited and we saw that early in the day. We also, though, talked to people who said they weren't voting at all. They didn't want to talk about it on camera. When we asked why, they said it should be pretty clear why we don't want to talk about this on camera, but they were very frustrated and said what's the point in voting at all, frustrated with the lack of change that they saw in this country?
Today, we also saw some of the world's most expensive luxury brands and saw them here, and they were nice stores and they were the real Bulgari, even the fancy Italian brands, they all were here. We also had a chance to speak to some women. There were a lot of people, 686 people originally running for president, there were women on that list. None of them actually made the cut from the supreme counsel and supreme leader to run for president of this country.
Well, we asked some women of what they think about that and we'll share that with you. But as I said, the government really wanted high turnout. They wanted it to make a point to the world, and they're going to report that they got it. I think it's fair to describe it that people felt patriotism and they felt pressure when it came to voting. Here's what we saw.
BURNETT (voice-over): The lines started early with people waiting in the boiling sun to cast their vote. This polling station, a mosque transformed for the day. Here's how it worked. Voters must bring their national ID card and birth certificate to vote. A utility bill just doesn't cut it here.
JAFFAR SHAFIZADEH, RUNS POLLING STATION: The vote has two parts on the left, write the name who comes to vote, name, surname, date of birth, national code, the name of the city, the name of father, and these things. OK?
BURNETT (on camera): And here is where I fill out for president.
BURNETT (voice-over): Jaffar is in charge of this polling station and insists it's practically impossible for the government to know who a voter picked.
SHAFIZADEH: We can't find this person is for this person.
BURNETT (on camera): You can't find that out?
SHAFIZADEH: We can't find that out.
BURNETT (voice-over): The majority of votes at this station seem to be for the mayor of Tehran. They came home from Kuwait to vote for them.
(on camera): Can you tell me who you decided to vote for?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Ghalibaf.
BURNETT: Mr. Ghalibaf?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's very good man. I love him. He's a great man. He changed the city. BURNETT (voice-over): The supreme leader's words influenced some people. High turnout for election will dash enemies' hopes was the front page headline in the "Tehran Times."
(on camera): Maybe this headline is why the people we talked to who aren't voting won't talk about it on camera. They say they voted before and nothing changed so what is the point.
(voice-over): It wasn't just Mayor Ghalibaf who got a lot of buzz today, another name we heard a lot of, reform candidate, Hassan Rowhani. When we visited Tehran's Toshal neighborhood north of the city, some of his younger supporters were enjoying their day off in the mountains.
(on camera): Did you vote today?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I did.
BURNETT: You voted, and who for?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For Rowhani, for the purple.
BURNETT: The purple nail.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, the purple man.
BURNETT (voice-over): But she wasn't hopeful. She told me she doesn't think Rowhani will win.
(on camera): We wrapped up our day at this polling station in a conservative neighborhood of Tehran and we did find some people voting for the most conservative candidate, Said Jalili. Leila Zari told me why she voted Jalili.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Because of the Hijab, God willing, he will make it stricter.
BURNETT (voice-over): Still, even the most ardent supporters all told us they believe this election will go to a runoff.
BURNETT: And they believe it will go to a runoff. Now to win outright so that there's no runoff, a candidate would have to have 50 percent plus one, plus one individual vote to actually win and not have this go to a run out. As I said, everybody we spoke to thinks it will go to a run off. We're going to get the results in the next 24 hours or so.
Well, joining me now is Steve Inskeep, the host of NPR's "Morning Edition." Of course, here it's really very early. I guess you're used to getting up these hours. We were just talking about a little bit about what we. We did see at least here in Tehran, enthusiasm, lines, the mayor of Tehran was very popular here. What did you see at the polls? STEVE INSKEEP, HOST, NPR'S "MORNING EDITION": Well, I was interested that some people seemed to make up their minds at the last minute to actually show up. You mentioned earlier that some people were determined not to vote. We talked with some voters who said, you know, last night, we were 50/50 and we decided to show up.
I also heard the word several times, change, Erin, sometimes spoken in English. You know, that American political consultants talk about being the candidate of change in a time of when there's trouble. There's a lot of trouble in the country and the people who want change seem to be going for Rowhani who is the most liberal candidate in a very conservative place. There were people who turned out hoping their vote can change things.
BURNETT: And that's interesting. You really did see that. We saw that, some of the younger voters for Rowhani. What was it like for you covering this? I want to share this with our viewers because we were having this conversation before, sometimes people flock over and want to talk to you. With those people very quickly come authorized or self --
INSKEEP: Self-appointed, yes.
BURNETT: Self-appointed security and police forces.
INSKEEP: Absolutely. Those are two things that go together over the last several days. We were told the people were very depressed, very sad about the situation here. But as soon as I showed up and I'm obviously not from here, people come to me, and I was in the bazaar just a few hours off the plane, immediately drew a crowd of people who wanted to tell more and more intense stories about things that had happened to them.
A woman talking about her son who had been imprisoned and tortured, one story after another and then we were stopped by the police because there is massive security here. I was outside of a campaign rally on Monday night and you walked outside, there were hundreds of security people, uniformed and plain clothes along an iron fence. This is everywhere in Tehran, everywhere else we have been able to go, really intensive security.
BURNETT: I think just to try to explain it to people, what it's like, you're there and we're not from here, so we don't recognize who is who and what is what and they demand your papers. Someone who worked for the supreme leader at one point came up to us or it might be someone who is informal and then all of a sudden they are filming what you're filming. And as a journalist, the people have fear and you have fear because you don't want to jeopardize those people.
INSKEEP: I got impatient in the last 12 hours and there was one guy who demanded my papers, I demanded his. He didn't take to that very well. It turned out to be OK. There were people who seemed rather threatening. There were also people I think who we were just afraid themselves of failing to catch something because they would get in trouble. There's a lot of fear in the country and a lot of courage. People are speaking out when they can. BURNETT: Yes and you know, on that front, I'm sure you had people who even when they were aware, very well aware of who is filming, who is following you around and we weren't aware. They still wanted to talk to you and they still wanted to tell the passionate stories of go ahead, bring it on, because I want to talk.
INSKEEP: Which was a bit of a surprise again, and maybe that will be reflected in the election results. We don't know who is going to win or if even we're going to have a winner in what may be the first round, but we saw at least in the polling stations that I was able to go to, an increase in turnout through the day. Light in the morning and heavier and heavier and lines in the end.
BURNETT: Yes. All right, Steve Inskeep, thank you so much. For those of you who listen to "Morning Edition" and I'm one of them, you finally got to see Steve Inskeep and what a pleasure it was. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. All right, Steve Inskeep live in Tehran, covering this election for NPR's "Morning Edition."
Coming up after the break, social media, I have not been using Twitter since I have been here in Iran, and a lot of the internet sets, we were talking about BBC and CNN, you get redirected, but it's kind of a little more complicated than that. We have a special report Outfront on that.
Plus, the luxury goods, Bulgari, Escada, Tag Heuer, all of them in a very fancy neighborhood where, well, if you're linked in with the powerful Revolutionary Guard, you might have access to those kind of brands and sanctions haven't seemed to hurt those people, and who are those powerful Revolutionary Guard, the ones who control the economy so overwhelmingly and who are so powerful and yet still so secretive? We'll talk about that. All that coming up OUTFRONT live from Tehran after this.
BURNETT: Here in Iran, there are tight restrictions on the use of social media and the use of the internet, but that doesn't mean that they just don't exist, that they're not here. That's not true, and there's a lot of tech savvy individuals, some of whom I have spoken to who say there are ways around this, this is how you get on Facebook, on Twitter.
And as CNN's Reza Sayah finds out, some of the most surprising users of Twitter, of social media, are the presidential candidates here in Tehran.
REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the eve of Iran's presidential elections, candidate Hassan Rowhani tweets he's ahead in the polls. His rival tweets a link to a young rapper's campaign rhyme. It is one of Iran's many head-scratching contradictions, that in a country where the regime blocks social media sites, most of Iran's presidential candidates have Twitter accounts. KARIM SADJADPOUR, CARNEGIE ENDOWNMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE: The irony is that these candidates have taken to using social media, Twitter and Facebook, are hamstrung by the policies of the Iranian government. They have very few followers actually, in the hundreds, precisely because it's very difficult for people in Iran to access social media.
SAYAH: Iran banned most social media soon after the 2009 elections when sites like Twitter and YouTube fuelled an anti-regime uprising when the government barred reporters from covering the protests, Iranians used social media to expose the regime's brutal crackdown. A graphic YouTube clip of the dying moments of a 26-year-old allegedly shot by authorities, made much of the world stop and pay attention to Iran.
Authorities eventually crushed the opposition movement and clamped down on internet access. Today, Iran's cyber police restrict the free flow of information by slowing internet speeds and blocking thousands of web sites and blogs. This week as elections approached, Iranians said internet speeds slowed to a crawl. Google said a spy campaign targeted Gmail users. The outcome has been a chilling effect on political discourse and debate online.
SADJADPOUR: They're trying to make it clear to the population that don't even try a repeat of the 2009 protests. It's a highly securitized atmosphere.
SAYAH: Even so, Iranians have more access to the internet than any other country in the Middle East, despite aggressive regime controls, tech savvy Iranians are still finding ways to Facebook and tweets, even the presidential candidates themselves.
BURNETT: So amazing that some of the contradictions that you point out there in that piece. I was just smiling because some people today were saying the joke here in Iran is you call it the worldwide web. We call it the worldwide wait, when you were talking about how slow the internet is. It looks like the government is determined to restrict access. How are they able to get online in such big numbers and do so without the government being able to identify them and punish them?
SAYAH: Erin, when you're young, tech-savvy, and tired of the government messing with your internet, you're going to find a way. Half of Iran's population is under 35. They're sharp, educated. You probably met a lot of them this week and what they have done is use VPNs, virtual private networks, to get around cyber blocks, to get online, but the problem is the government has hit back.
They found ways to block those VPNs and now they're working on a national internet. This is an internet that if it worked and it's ready, it's going to only offer Iranians Iranian web sites, no more Google, no more Yahoo, but it's very unlikely than Iranians are going to stop efforts to use sophisticated ways to get online -- Erin. BURNETT: Certainly, certainly is, and just a fascinating report there by Reza, a lot of you watching may think things are shut down. It's just so much more complicated and more fascinating than that in so many ways.
I want to bring in Christiane Amanpour. Again, of course, as you know, she's covered so many elections in this country. Christiane, I know as we're waiting for the results and there were some rumors coming from here in Iran, actually, on Twitter, ironically, in light of Reza's report, that there might be results in a few hours.
Now they're saying it could be longer than that, and we'll hear them from the Iranian state media. Everyone is saying there's going to be a runoff. What are you hearing a runoff might look like?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'm hearing that as well, and I even heard that to be honest with you, before the voting began. Certainly from Mr. Rowhani's camp, the reformist candidate who believed that a last minute surge towards him could either make him win outright that is from his camp or put him in a runoff, and they believe that the likeliest to face him in that runoff would Mohammad Ghalibaf, who as you mentioned is the mayor of Tehran.
He is a hard-line conservative, he has very deep ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and that's where they think the potential runoff will be. So interesting that you're talking about all these -- the internet and what people have said coming up to you. Covering it for so long, there's an eternal cat and mouse game. People figure a way around it and on and on it goes.
Also, all these people coming up to you and Steve mentioned as well, they are desperate. The Iranian people are desperate to talk to people from outside, to travel outside, to have better relations with the rest of the world, including the United States. And it's not clear that this election is going to provide them with that.
BURNETT: Yes. Yes, and it is so poignant, how you say it, we did just hear that from so many people and how they just, in that moment, they didn't seem to care who was watching or filming them. They wanted to seize the moment to talk. And it really, really brought it home to me in so many ways.
Christiane, I know Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a name most Americans know partly because of his rhetoric, right, about Israel and about the holocaust, but what happened to him now? He's had a tense relationship, obviously, with the supreme leader. Does he stay and everything is fine for him in this country, or what happens, do you think?
AMANPOUR: Well, I mean, potentially, everything is fine for him in the country. It's hard to know. You know, he made a career out of being the belligerent face of Iran. He made a career out of standing up to the west and really poking a stick in the eye of the west for the last eight years. That was popular for a while outside of Iran with many Muslim nations, many Muslim people around the world. Not so much inside of Iran because what the Iranians could see was that this attitude was actually making things worse for them. And so Ahmadinejad, while he has challenged the supreme leader, has never done it in a way to benefit the people of Iran. It would be to benefit his own personal ambitions. This will be interesting to see where in fact it leads.
I covered his election and I covered the disputed election of 2009, promising to deliver the goods to people, promising to put, as he said, the oil money of Iran, on the table of the Iranian people. Well, in fact, exactly the opposite has happened. The mismanagement of the economy and the incredible sanctions had simply made life just exponentially worse for each and every Iranian.
As you just reported, since the 2009 uprising, there have been more and more people put in jail and right now so many journalists and bloggers are in jail in Tehran so they can't write about what's really going on. And you have mentioned all these police and undercover police and others on the corners.
They're there, and they are, you know, they're deciding who goes in, who doesn't. Who reports, who doesn't. It's very, very much under control, but they might get a surprise at the polls. We'll see.
BURNETT: We'll see, and certainly, it is just fascinating dynamics. Thank you very much for taking the time to join us. Christiane has been covering these elections for so many years.
When we come back, we're going to talk about what women want. There were women on the slate for election, but ultimately, it was the supreme leader who had control over who the final candidates were, and not a single one made the cut. What do women think? We talked to some women about that.
Plus, ice cream. It's been really, really hot here, and ice cream is a staple. How ice cream has become a symbol of Iranian resistance to international sanctions. You heard me right, ice cream a symbol for resistance to American sanctions. We'll be right back.
BURNETT: On Election Day, it was time to think about the fact there were 686 candidates in this country who were only running for the presidential election. When it came to the final ones who you were allowed to vote for, the Ayatollah decided who those were. There were eight people who made that cut. None of them were women.
As a woman here in Tehran and anytime I'm in the Middle East, I'm fascinated to understand a little more about what they want. And so we talked to women, and the ones who would, because a lot of them were cautious and hesitant to talk to us on camera about what they wanted. One who was willing to speak to us and actually in English was a well- known politician.
She was an official in the former reformist Khatami administration, and I asked her who she's voting for. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Running the country for the past two years and they believe we should be on the sidelines -- isolated more, the representative of modern Iran, the representative of those who seek reform and change within the constitution.
BURNETT: Appearances can be deceptive, a woman in Iran can vote. She can drive, and she can go to college. In fact, about 60 percent of the college graduates in the country are female, but the truth is only 12 percent of the work force according to freedom house is comprised of women. And one candidate actually campaigned of women staying at home. And this has some women we spoke to pretty angry.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The most important is to raise their positions in the government so that they can show their abilities. Then they can achieve their goals directly, to remove the obstacles. For example, when a woman becomes pregnant, they leave the work force. This is the reason women are generally not chosen. This is really terrible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And what she was talking about, she said there was sort of a nine-month required time women had to take off during and after their pregnancy and she said that's why they're not hired, not promoted and they're often laid off. And that conversation was fascinating, there were a lot of women when she spoke I had been trying to speak with, who said they didn't want to speak, but they said it's OK for me, I have an education, but for most women, they have no chance and we need changes.
But then more and more women came over to watch the conversation that I was having with that woman as she was going through what was happening and she didn't care who was watching and who was filming it. She was passionate. She wanted to make a point, and she believed strongly in her conviction and was inspiring to speak to, standing up, saying what she had to say, and to seize that moment and it's something I certainly will always remember.
After the break, we'll talk about something we saw today in a very nice area of Tehran because there are some incredibly, incredibly wealthy people here, Bulgari, Escoda, Tag Tag Heuer, all of these brands, some of the big fancy Italian fashion house. You can go right into a very, very glamorous mall and buy them here. You might be scratching you head and saying, wait a minute, aren't there supposed to be sanctioned?
Plus this --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: We saw bank branches everywhere here in Tehran. It's a bank that the United States says proliferates weapons of mass destruction and sponsors terrorism, and it's part of a secretive military group. The IRGC as it's called by some estimates control between 50 percent and 75 percent of the Iranian economy and it's at the heart of the regime. Who are the Revolutionary Guard? That's coming up next.
BURNETT: Sanctions in Iran are front and center here, but they're also a huge topic in Washington. United States has put all of its eggs in the sanctions basket to try to change what it says is a nuclear program here in Iran that is focused on building weapons. Of course, the country says no, it's for peaceful power.
But for the ranking member of the Senate Relations Committee, Bob Corker, they're a crucial part of how the United States can change what's happening here in Iran. And I spoke to him today. We're going to get to that in a moment.
But, first, I just wanted to share with you what we have seen on the ground about the impact of sanctions. Some of this is really going to surprise you.
BURNETT: Iran is an oil mega power, so you think gas would be plentiful, right?
Well, that actually wasn't the case until sanctions. Iran used to have to import nearly all of its gasoline, but sanctions forced them build refining capacity. And now, a gallon of gas at this gas station is less than 30 cents.
And this year, Fax Global Energy says Iran will be completely self sufficient in terms of gasoline production. Pretty incredible, huh? Thirty cents a gallon could get even cheaper. It just goes to show you, sanctions don't always have to impact you think.
(voice-over): I stopped by a dealership in central Tehran yesterday where I asked the manager Hamid if sanctions were making it impossible to sell certain kinds of cars, especially the high-end kinds of cars like Lexus and Porsche. Surprisingly, Hamid is selling everything, including Mercedes.
(on camera): So, you're probably asking where do these cars come from? Because after all, Germany is not supposed to be sending Mercedes to Iran, and Lexus, and Japan certainly isn't supposed to be sending them here either.
Well, that's not where they're coming from. Hamid told me they're actually coming from Dubai and the United Arab Emirates, Doha, and Qatar, Kuwait, and Oman, that's where most of these luxury cars are coming from.
And he said, by far, the most popular brands they have here are the Mercedes and the other German brands like Porsche and the Japanese brands. And for the luxury carmakers like the ones sold here, that's a Lexus.
(voice-over): Cars aren't the only luxury brands making their way into Iran, either. Apple is by far the most popular American brand here when it comes to electronics. And just a couple weeks ago, the U.S. actually lifted sanctions when it comes to selling things like mobile phones and computers. At this Apple store, we were told it hasn't affected the prices because Apple still won't sell directly to them. So, they're getting their Apple products from, you guessed it, Dubai.
And a 16 megabyte iPhone unlocked cost about $850. That's 30 percent more than the United States and too expensive for a lot of people here. The people in the store were telling us that business is down.
(voice-over): But what about necessities like food? There's new U.S. measures that are going to take effect on July 1st and they take aim at Iran's currency. The impact could be food prices are driven sharply higher.
(on camera): So that costs me 20,000 rial, and that is double for these tomatoes was it was a year ago. This is a poor neighborhood. Every single one of these vegetables is grown locally here in Iran, but even the locally produced items have surged in price. Labor costs have gone up. Even the sanitization costs have gone up. So, just in one year, the price for a tomato has doubled.
BURNETT: Senator Corker, thanks so much for taking the time to be us.
You know, today, I was in various neighborhoods of Tehran. One of them was a very upscale neighborhood. I saw a Zegna store, Tag Heuer store for the watches. They also had Bulgari and Escada. I mean, there was a whole mall of luxury stores that we saw.
And, you know, we just see yesterday of Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsches at a dealer. And they were a lot more expensive. It sort of seems like the richer are doing just fine here. Whereas, the poor, you know, shrimp prices have doubled, tomato prices have doubled from a year ago, and they're talking about how their incomes aren't going up as quickly and they're really struggling.
Is this how sanctions are supposed to work?
SEN. BOB CORKER (R-TN), RANKING MEMBER, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Well, first of all, I think you know there's another round of sanctions both Congress has passed and now an executive order from the president that kick in on July 1st.
But I think you're hitting on something that we discussed in our last hearing regarding these sanctions. And that is it's affecting the broad population a lot more than the rich and the powerful and those people that are close to the supreme leader. And as we move down this road, we've got to really cause this to be painful for those around the supreme leader and not the mass population because those are the -- the supreme leader is the one who controls the nuclear portfolio. So that's where the behavior change needs to take place. I think your point is well-taken. I think most of us understand the difficulties with this. We still want to keep the sanctions going. But we got to figure out a way to make it more targeted towards those people that actually affect the public policy in Iran.
BURNETT: You know, we were at a rally for Saeed Jalili who may win the presidency, who knows? And they were chanting when the nuclear program came out, "Death to America, death to Israel." Now, they were very friendly to me, personally. But that was the platform and people were onboard with it.
And then when I asked regular people, are the sanctions working, are they making you want to negotiate as an Iranian citizen? Here's what they said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Once science is learned, science cannot be unlearned.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Resistance and also progress. That's what we want, and we will persist until the very end.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: What does that say to you when you're talking about winning over the hearts and minds of the Iranian people, Senator?
CORKER: Well, I think generally speaking, the Iranian population, as you mentioned, is generally individually friendly to Americans. And again, the point of our sanctions should be to change the behavior of the regime, the supreme leader, not to have a negative effect on the people themselves.
I do think, Erin, that this is going to affect their economy and much more substantial ways beginning on July 1st. And I think we're doing everything we can to target these in an appropriate way, and to keep the collection of countries who are supporting us together. We've got to do this in a way that does that also.
So, look, I don't -- I don't know of a better way for us to try to change behavior. I realize there are outcomes that are unintended, but I mean, I don't know what else to do. I mean, the only -- others stuff that's being advocated is military action. I think the world community and certainly the citizens of our country expect us to do everything we can on sanctions to try to do it in a more effective way.
But I think they expect us to do that to try to do everything we can to change behavior before we move to a step that is obviously one that most people want to do everything they can to avoid, but know that it's on the table if behavior change doesn't occur.
BURNETT: Thanks very much to Senator Bob Corker.
Some big decisions coming up for the U.S. and for Iran. It shows you how crucial this election is.
Well, one of the forces in this election, perhaps the most powerful force, is the Revolutionary Guard Corps. It's called the IRGC, Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Now, it's about 125,000 strong. That's a formal number, though. It's really the case if you are an up and comer, someone who has a really successful business in this company, you are part of -- you are subservient to the Revolutionary Guard. That's simply how it works.
Now, the guard was founded in the 1979 revolution but has become stronger and stronger and stronger, and now some estimate controls between half and three quarters of this entire economy. And some are saying because of sanctions while regular people have been hurt, some of the incredibly wealthy members of the Revolutionary Guard have gotten more powerful, stronger, and richer, certainly an unintended consequence and a very crucial one for the world to see.
OUTFRONT tonight, Alireza Nader. He's a senior international policy analyst at the RAND Corporation.
And, Alireza, thanks so much for taking the time.
ALIREZA NADER, SR. INTERNATIONAL POLICY ANALYST, RAND CORP: Thank you. Great to be here.
BURNETT: The Revolutionary Guard has such enormous control. You experience it when you go to the nice neighborhoods and see the businesses here and you see it through this entire economy. Why do they have so much power?
NADER: Well, it's because the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, has relied on them to consolidate power. He's relied on the Revolutionary Guards to crush his opponents. In 2009, the guards played a major role in preventing Mir Hossein Mousavi from becoming president, and in this election, they're going to play a role in making sure their guide becomes president. And if it's not their guide, whoever is president listens to them.
So, this is Khamenei's tool to control his power in Iran given all of the challenges he's facing.
BURNETT: Now, what does it mean for the election, you think, Alireza? I mean, I know obviously, the mayor of Tehran, Mohammad Ghalibaf, is very closely links to the Revolutionary Guard. Do you think he's the one for sure that they want? Or who else would they be all right with?
NADER: Well, that's not very clear, but I think the government's strategy has been to engineer the election. This is a term that Revolutionary Guards themselves had used. They want to engineer the election to make sure only certain candidates emerged, that these candidates are not threatened to the system, Ghalibaf is not threatened to the system, Jalili, the nuclear negotiator, one of them, Hasan Rouhani, not as much. But again, we have to remember when President Khatami, the reformist, was in power, the Revolutionary Guards did a lot to constrain his ability, to change Iran's direction domestically and in terms of foreign policy. So, whoever is president, he's going to have his hands relatively tied by the Revolutionary Guard if they don't really like what he's doing.
BURNETT: And, Alireza, what has been amazing here looking at the impact of the sanctions is, you know, you see food prices have surged, and that has hurt regular Iranians complaining to us about how painful it is to them. And yet, you see at the higher end, sure, sanctions are biting and the currency restrictions on July 1st will impact some of those luxury cars we're showing you that are readily available.
But, yet, you can go to Bulgari or Escada or these nice fancy restaurants, and it seems a lot of the wealthy, you know, who are part of the revolutionary guard who are doing absolutely fine, and in fact, maybe even better than before because there's a black market and they're being forced to develop new industries and that's more opportunity for them. So, sanctions won't work unless that power group is affected.
Are they being hurt or helped?
NADER: Well, the wealthiest Iranians aren't going to suffer as much. The poor are going to get even poorer. So the population is really bearing the brunt of sanctions.
But at the same time, the regime is also feeling the pressure. Look, the Revolutionary Guards were dependent on oil revenues during Ahmadinejad's presidency, and oil revenues have declined. Their budget is dependent on that.
So, we can't say that the Revolutionary Guards are not hurting. It's just not as obvious at this point. And if the nuclear crisis and impasse continues year after year, the Revolutionary Guards are going to feel it. I think that even though it's very close to Khamenei are very aware that Iran faces a crisis, and this crisis affects everybody and not just the average Iranian.
BURNETT: All right. Well, obviously some crucial insight there. Alireza, thank you for your time tonight.
NADER: Thank you. Thank you very much.
BURNETT: We're going to take a break. When we come back, some of the crucial domestic headlines tonight.
The wildfires in Colorado as well as new details on the gunman in Santa Monica. We're finding out new information on where exactly he got that gun. We'll have that on the other side of the break.
We'll be back, live from Tehran.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BURNETT: We're going to have more from our coverage here live in Tehran later on in the program, and we'll be back here in just a couple moments.
But I want to send it to New York, and Don Lemon is standing by with some of the other major stories we're following in the United States tonight -- Don.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Thank you very much, Erin.
We want to get to those deadly wildfires raging in Colorado right now. The Black Forest Fire scorched close to 16,000 acres and forced nearly 40,000 people from their homes. Officials in El Paso County are calling this the worst fire in the state's history.
Martin Savidge is in Colorado Springs.
Martin, last night at this time, there was zero containment. What's the situation right now?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, much better today, Don. There is very good news to report. I talked to the incident commander. They are crunching numbers but he thinks the containment today is up around 30 percent. That is a huge development.
They made a lot of progress. A lot of that due to the fact of the weather. You may remember, for the past three days now, it's the weather that's been primarily the enemy. You've had very high temperatures, low humidity and extremely high winds that have been forcing that fire in many different directions.
Well, the 370 homes were destroyed but now that weather is an ally as today, there was a lot of cloud cover and then this afternoon, rain, lots of rain in some areas, predominantly over the entire fire zone. Now, that in no way put the fire out, and I shouldn't give anybody that false illusion but it did help firefighters significantly.
I was out on the fire line today. There is no major wall of fire anywhere. It is primarily hot spots and hot zones that they are dealing with. The fire did not expand beyond the containment that they have managed to draw around it. That is good news.
And also, at least in Colorado Springs, those mandatory evacuations have now been called off, which means at least some people, a small amount of people can begin returning home. Those in the most heavily impacted areas, still no word on when they could go back, but this is the day they turn the corner. They are feeling that they switched from the defense to the offense, and for the hard working firefighters here and especially, for those who lost homes it is the first step of trying to get back what they lost, Don.
LEMON: Some good news. Thank you, Martin Savidge.
SAVIDGE: We want to go now to new details on Santa Monica shooter John Zawahri. Officials say the 23-year-old tried to purchase a gun in 2011 but was denied likely due to a brush with the law in 2006, but officials believe the rifle recovered from the scene was assembled by him from parts he obtained legally, though the fully assembled weapon is considered illegal in California.
To Kyung Lah now live for us in Los Angeles.
Kyung, explain the legality of this. How is the shooter able to buy these parts if he was considered unfit to own an actual gun?
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Because the parts are illegal. It's only when you assembled it all that it's considered illegal and assembled in a certain way here in California.
What Santa Monica police Zawahri bought is referred to as an 80 percent. Like is name suggests, it's an 80 percent complete weapon. Beyond that point, it's considered a firearm up until 80 percent. These are just parts that don't require registration, don't require background checks or serial numbers and can be purchased easily via the web or out of magazines.
Here is what the Santa Monica police told us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACQUELINE SEABROOKS, SANTA MONICA POLICE CHIEF: You can buy legally certain parts, it's called an 80 percent, you can buy those parts, and you can buy an under receiver, the over and the under. You can put them together with a trigger group and you can manufacture your own gun if you make some adjustments. In this particular case, the weapon that he ended up with was by definition would be illegal to possess here in the state of California.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAH: Now, under federal law it's perfectly legal to manufacture and own gun as long as if it's private use and you don't sell it.
So, Don, even though this man is considered unfit to own a gun, he was still able to build one -- Don.
LEMON: Kyung Lah, thank you very much, Kyung.
This Sunday, CNN Films presents "Girl Rising", which takes a look at the importance of education for girls around the world. In Afghanistan, more than half of girls are married by the age of 16 including a girl who named Amina (ph), who was married off at the age of 11.
"Girl Rising," it airs this Sunday, June 16th at 9:00 p.m.
When we return here on CNN, more of our coverage on the elections in Iran. Erin Burnett is live from Tehran.
BURNETT: So what's it been like here in Iran? You know, as an American journalist, it's been a fascinating experience. You know, I've been to Iran once before to the free trade zone of Kish and been amazed at that time by just the incredible generosity and hospitality of the individual people we met. And here in Tehran, it was the same.
I mean, people we met on the street who would talk to us were very gracious, very kind and frankly, wanted to tell their story and it was very courageous in many cases but here in Tehran, you are under surveillance. There are formal, official police, and there are people that -- the people here the people may recognize as we would say undercover police but a lot of them with the supreme leader in some cases.
There was one young man -- I took this picture of a man who came up to us right after we had actually gotten off the plane, one of the first things we were doing, we went to film a piece of video you saw at a Samsung store we were filming there. And this young man came over and demanded our papers, wanted to see them and we had to produce this paper that we had with all of our permissions. It took 10 or 15 minutes of time and after that happens you have to leave and go someplace else because these situations can spiral rather quickly.
And that happened in a lot of other places. When we were talking to other women at bazaar, when we were at a mall filming. Some of these people, as I said, officials some of them were self-appointed, people who just wanted to take it upon themselves to watch either, because they wanted to or afraid they didn't, they might get in trouble themselves.
So the people that wanted to speak were courageous and they really wanted to tell their stories, and we want to thank them and just tell you how curious they were and how full of hospitality.
Just one story I just want to tell you before we live tonight, and that was one young man that we met. He was a frankly fervent and a little bit angry at the United States and Iran because he wanted to get a visa to the United States. That's desperately what he wanted. He couldn't understand why the U.S. wouldn't give it to him and that turned into anger.
But there was one moment where sort of -- I don't know, some sort of essence of him came through. At least it felt to me, he was so young and he was wearing roller blades, probably 20 years old. We said, "Why are you wearing those?" And he said, "I'm wearing rollerblades and I wear them every minute of every day, and it's how I go everywhere because it's the only freedom that I have." It was just a moment that really will stay with me.
Thank you for watching our coverage here of the past two days, and for watching the Iranian election which have been such an amazing experience to cover.
We'll see you back in New York on Monday.
Right now, "A.C. 360" starts now.