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CONNECT THE WORLD
U.S. Congress Debate Action Against Syria; Diana Nyad Swims 165 Kilometers from Cuba To Florida Unaided; Nelson Mandela Goes Home; Verizon Pay Vodafone $130 Billion to Buy Back Shares
Aired September 2, 2013 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FIONNUALA SWEENEY, HOST: Tonight, laying out the plans for war: top Senate leaders react to Barack Obama's plan of action in Syria. But can he overcome a skeptical U.S. Congress?
And how will a potential attack impact the wider Middle East?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DIANA NYAD, SWIMMER: We should never, ever give up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SWEENEY: And give up she didn't. Swimmer Diana Nyad makes history swimming from Cuba to Florida.
And good bye London, holler Madrid, a record sale for Gareth Bale as football's summer transfer window closes.
ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center, this is Connect the World.
SWEENEY: Catastrophic, those are the words the U.S. Senator John McCain on the potential consequences if congress were to reject a vote on Syrian intervention. McCain and his colleague Lindsey Graham just got a one on one with the president and they say the credibility of America is at stake. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: A rejection of that vote against that resolution by congress I think would be catastrophic, because it would undermine the credibility of the United States of America and the President of the United States. None of us want that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SWEENEY: Well, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel are both set to testify at a senate hearing on military intervention tomorrow to try and drum up support. But Kerry will have to do a better job there than he's done convincing Russia. Moscow says his so-called evidence is vague. They want to send a delegation of lawmakers to Washington to meet their American counterparts face-to-face.
So let's get the view from Washington now. Elise Labott joining us from the State Department.
Elise, does it appear that President Obama has got the backing now of both John McCain and Lindsey Graham?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right Fionnuala. Obviously the administration laying out a full court blitz, if you will, trying to lobby congressional support, but also lobby support from the American people and that's one of the reasons why this Russian delegation seems to be coming to Washington to meet with congress sensing this hesitancy, the polls saying that most Americans are against intervention.
Secretary Kerry also spent the day on the phone with Democratic Lawmakers who also seem very reluctant trying to make the case that the U.S. does have robust international support, countries like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates he told them offering military assets and he expects in the coming days for the U.S. to have even more support.
So Fionnuala, part of this real lobbying, both on the part of congress and the U.S. allies around the world to try and get more support for any action against Syria.
SWEENEY: Well, during their briefing with the press after their meeting with Barack Obama, both Lindsey Graham and John McCain both very influential senators kept bringing up the topic of Iran, that Syria was a link to Iran. And Lindsey Graham said he was going to go back to his constituents in South Carolina to convince them why it is important.
So if they are behind Barack Obama now, but want to see more than a limited strike, what kind of price are they trying to exact from the president?
LABOTT: Well, that's exactly right. I think these are two of the senators who have been the biggest proponents of action in Syria and I think they want to see a little bit more than what senator McCain has called a pinprick of a strike, really wanting to go at the Assad regime and really weaken them, weaken it in terms -- against the opposition.
So I think what Senator McCain, Senator Graham and others want to see is a more comprehensive policy of the U.S. against Syria, what is the U.S. going to do to kind of capitalize on the gains of any type of attacks.
But it does seem clear that these senators and others feel that if the U.S. doesn't act it sends a message to countries like Iran and other dictators with weapons of mass destruction, chemical weapons, that if they use them that it'll be with impunity.
So obviously U.S. credibility really on the line here.
SWEENEY: All right. And on that note, I'm going to play something that Lindsey Graham just said there in that news briefing and I'll come back to you for comment, Elise.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: I can't sell another Iraq or Afghanistan, because I don't want to. I can sell to the people of South Carolina that if we don't get Syria right, Iran is surely going to take the signals that we don't care about the nuclear program. And it weighs on the president's mind strongly about the signals we send.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SWEENEY: And in terms of the signals the United States is sending at the State Department where you are, Elise, is there a sense that the phones are buzzing between not so much the supporters of U.S. action, but those like Moscow?
LABOTT: Well, that's been the message to Moscow all along, not just in terms of the humanitarian aspect, but also in terms of what kind of message this is going to send to Iran, for instance. The U.S. has been working very closely with Russia on trying to deter Iran from launching a - - from building a nuclear weapon. And so when they send this message to Syria and other countries that the U.S., the international community doesn't act, it doesn't really put the fear of countries like Iran.
And that's one of the great concerns not only of the United States, but of Israel, that if the United States and the international community don't act that Israel will feel it has a green light to build a nuclear weapon.
SWEENEY: All right. We leave it there. Elise Labott thanks very much indeed.
Let's look at what President Obama will be coming up against in congress. There are a total of 435 seats in the House of Representatives. The Republican Party holds a 54 percent majority with 233 seats. The Democrats hold 200 seats. There are two vacancies. So any bill needs 217 votes to pass.
In the upper house, the Senate, Democrats have the upper hand. They hold 52 of the 100 seats. Republicans have 46 seats. Independents holding two.
While President Obama will need to rally Republican isolationists and war shy Democrats in both houses to get approval on the Syria resolution.
Well, let's cross now to Dana Bash. She's outside Capitol Hill.
Dana, that's where all the action is going to be for the next few days. What did you make of what Lindsey Graham and John McCain, these two hugely influential senators had to say after their meeting. Do you think that they will be influencing the more isolationist people on both sides who don't want to get involved?
DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Will they be able to influence those who are isolationist? Likely not, because there definitely are two very distinct wings inside the Republican Party. And those who don't want to do anything abroad, they're not going to be convinced.
But the critical, sort of persuadable group are those who are simply not sure. And there are a number of Republicans and Democrats, but specific with regard to McCain and Graham. Republicans matter the most. And I think that they made pretty clear that they are going to do what they can to help, because John McCain, Fionnuala, used the word catastrophic several times to explain what he though would happen and what it would look like if congress didn't back the president on a military order that he has already authorized as an old military guy, as somebody who was a prisoner of war for seven years, this is something that is just anathema to him.
But there are also good politicians. And they have been pushing for years for the administration to do a lot more, and do really anything to back the Syrian rebels, to help them, to train them, to fund them, you know, what have you. And so they were pretty clear going into this meeting with the president that they were going to use their support for this authorization vote and their help with getting other support for this authorization vote as leverage to get the president and the White House to better articulate what their plans are and promise that they were going to help, in McCain's words, upgrade the rebels in Syria.
So you saw a lot of politicking going on here, a lot of savvy, hip politicking going on here on both sides, because the White House knew full well what the benefit of having John McCain and Lindsey Graham coming out to the White House would be. Never mind that Lindsey Graham in sort of vintage way trashed the president right on his front driveway. But that's politics.
SWEENEY: That didn't go unnoticed for many people.
Thanks very much indeed. Dana Bash there covering that for us from Capitol Hill. We'll be talking to her, of course, over the next few days.
But France, as we know, is fast emerging as Washington's biggest ally when it comes to the potential military strikes. The French prime minister met members of parliament to present his evidence of chemical weapons. And much like America, France has satellite images show the chemical strikes came from government controlled areas and that the government subsequently bombed the areas to wipe out the evidence. Unlike America, though, French intervention won't be put to a vote.
I want to bring in Dominique Moisi in Paris. He's the co-founder of the French institute for international affairs. Thank you very much indeed.
Why is the evidence in France so convincing, do you believe? Or is it convincing in your view?
DOMINIQUE MOISI, FRENCH INSTITUTE FOR INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS: Well, the French government is convinced, French public opinion, like American public opinion, may be convinced, but is very reluctant to get involved. So if the Americans decide by a vote that they won't go, it would be an embarrassment for France.
But France, of course, is not going to go at it alone. So in fact we are waiting for a policy to see what the legislative power says to the executive power in the United States of America.
And in a sense, the French president has a freer hand than perhaps David Cameron in Britain did, because of France's strong opposition to the Iraq war. And the French, yet, however, won't get to vote on this kind of intervention. What is your opinion? Does that matter? Or is -- does it at all look in any way a potentially messy political situation for President Hollande?
MOISI: Well, it's not easy. I think after the British vote, he felt embarrassed on the one hand and proud on the other to say and appear I'm the closest ally of the United States. And now after Barack Obama's decision, he's more embarrassed than anything else. He feels a bit alone in his position.
And of course the French system does not need a vote. To a large extent, France, when it comes to foreign and security policy, is like a monarchy of the (inaudible) regime, the executive has the power to decide. But to decide what? Since we can't go at it without the United States.
SWEENEY: So there's potential fallout for President Hollande politically, but also for France diplomatically around the world, if not more so. And I want to reference something that happened earlier today where Bashar al-Assad has warned France of repercussions if it joins the U.S. in any military strikes. And in an interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro, al-Assad said, and I'm quoting here, "whoever works against the interest of Syria and its people as an enemy and so far as the policy of the French state is hostile to Syrian people, this state will be their enemy. There will be repercussions. Negative as is well understood against the French interests." And he also warned of a regional war if Syria is attacked.
I mean, Bashar al-Assad has always tried to present himself as the fulcrum of stability in that part of the world. And it now may be bearing fruit, that statement.
How concerned do you think France is, both the public and the politicians, about any not only diplomatic fallout, but really the threat there of violence?
MOISI: Yeah, there is a concern. We care for our security before caring for the lives of Syrian to put it very bluntly.
But of course if the American congress decides that Barack Obama is right, which I really hope, the French government will be behind the United States whatever the maneuvers by President Assad to in fact blackmail and to deter France by threatening us directly.
We will go with the United States. We will not go without the United States.
SWEENEY: All right. That explains it quite succinctly. Thank you, Mr. Moisi joining us there from Paris.
Well, the reporter who interviewed Bashar al-Assad for the French magazine Le Figaro talked to CNN's Richard Quest. And he asked Georges Malbrunot if the Syrian president seemed concerned that his country might be on the receiving end of U.S. tomahawk missiles.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGES MALBRUNOT, LE FIGARO: President Bashar Assad, whom I met this morning, was calm, but extremely concerned by the situation. And he wanted to show that he was not living in a bunker. I met him in a house on the -- on a hill behind -- beside the presidential palace, but with a very limited security system. I was not -- there was no check security before I got there, just one in the car. And I think he wants to show that he is not living in a bunker.
But he is obviously concerned by the seriousness of the situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SWEENEY: As are many others.
Still to come tonight, as politicians wrangle over the Syrian crisis, the bloodshed continues. We'll look at the latest details, including how it's effecting the entire region.
And the fifth time is victorious for endurance swimmer Diana Nyad. We'll tell you how she made history by swimming 165 kilometers from Cuba to Florida.
SWEENEY: You're watching CNN. This is Connect the World. I'm Fionnuala Sweeney. Welcome back.
It is a dream she's been chasing for 35 years. And now Diana Nyad has made history by becoming the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage or flippers. It took the 64-year-old almost 53 hours to swim the arduous 165 kilometers.
CNN's John Zarrella joins us live from Key West, Florida with the latest.
I mean, is the excitement still, you know, at fever pitch there a couple of hours after she made it safely?
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, everybody is gone from the beach. I mean, it's over that she did it and there were hundreds of people here. And I guess, Fionnuala, we can safely say that the swim went swimmingly. She didn't face a whole lot of obstacles along the way. The water, as the viewers can see, perfectly calm here today. And that's pretty much what she faced all the way across.
And just about two-and-a-half hours ago she made it here to Smathers Beach in Key West. 110 miles across from Havana here to Key West. And she got out on her own power, fell into the arms of one of the many people who have been supporting her for so many years and so many tries. And then she still had the strength to talk about what an achievement it was.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NYAD: I have three messages. One is, we should never, ever give up. Two is, you never are too old to chase your dreams. Three is, it looks like a solitary sport, but it's a team.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZARRELLA: So you know Fionnuala, it was amazing that earlier today there were very, very few people out here.
I think because she had made four tries and they had been failed attempts before this, a lot of people didn't think she was going to be able to make it this time. But as the morning wore on and it became very evident that it was no longer a matter of if, but a matter of when and when we can start to see that flotilla out on the horizon, that's when people began to pour out here onto the beach.
And in fact, within the last couple of hours people have been coming up to us right and left asking us when is she coming in? They missed it, she actually got in earlier than anyone really thought she would.
So -- but a tremendous, tremendous achievement for a woman 64 years young who has for 35 years been chasing that dream and finally caught it.
SWEENEY: All right, we'll leave it there, John Zarrella, but it is one of the greatest news stories of this day, a day when there's often very sad and horrendous news, so we leave you there right on the beach in Key West in Florida, just you, and your crew, working away.
Thanks very much, indeed, John Zarrella.
Now it will be one of the largest deals in corporate history. Verizon has agreed to pay $130 billion to Vodafone for its 45 percent stake in Verizon Wireless. The deal will give Verizon 100 percent ownership of America's largest wireless provider. Vodafone says it will return $84 billion from the deal to its shareholders.
CNN's Jim Boulden reports.
JIM BOULDEN, CNN CORRESPONDNET: Fionnuala, what to do with $130 billion? Well, that's what Vodafone will be getting from this megadeal.
Now Vodafone has already said that some $84 billion of that will be returned to shareholders, small shareholders like people here on the streets, because some 40 percent of shareholders are based here in the UK. And the thought is it could actually help the UK economy. The investors could put their money in other stocks, helping the stock market itself in London. They could use that money to buy presents. They could use that money to invest in maybe buying homes.
What about for Vodafone? Well, it's already investing in these super fast broadband networks. It's already investing in cable TV, for instance in Germany. It's expanding in emerging markets.
The question now is will Vodafone buy some of the content providers, maybe a television studio or a movie studio, own some of that content that comes down its super fast pipes in order to become a more diversified company so we could invest that money in something wisely.
Analysts say they don't want them to just spend it on anything, because this is a unique opportunity to take Vodafone into new areas -- Fionnuala.
SWEENEY: Jim Boulden there reporting from London. Well, now all the way to Mexico where its President Enrique Pena Nieto gave his first state of the nation address on Monday since he took office nine months ago. During his speech, Mr. Pena Nieto defended the sweeping reform agenda his administration has pushed forwards for education as well as energy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ENRIQUE PENA NIETO, PRESIDENT OF MEXICO (through translator): As soon as I took office last December 1 I expressed my commitment to decisively promote the structural changes the country needed. My goal was not to manage, but to transform Mexico.
When my administration started, we had two options: keep the status quo or begin the transformation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SWEENEY: Egypt's state run media says ousted President Mohamed Morsy will stand trial with 14 other members of the Muslim Brotherhood. No date has been given for the hearing. Morsy is charged with committing acts of violence and inciting murder. The charges stem from when pro and anti- Morsy protesters clashed outside Egypt's presidential palace in December last year. Morsy is being held in detention since early July.
The chairman of Japan's nuclear watchdog says several tanks and pipes at the Fukushima Daiichi plant may be leaking toxic water. Shunichi Tanaka said on Monday that contaminated water is being moved to other tanks and the parts involved are being checked. The plant suffered reactor meltdowns after an earthquake in tsunami in March 2011. Over the weekend, Tepco, the plants operator said it has detected a sharp spike in radiation levels.
Well, here is how Tepco explained the higher numbers. It says contaminated water in some storage tanks and pipes was emitting radiation of up to 1,800 millisieverts an hour, that's 18 times higher than earlier readings. And that is because the instruments initially used couldn't measure higher levels, it could only give a maximum reading of 100 millisieverts.
If even actual levels were much higher, Tepco now saying most of the radiation detected was beta radiation and not the more harmful gamma. Beta radiation travels just short distances and can be blocked using proper equipment and clothing.
Well, live from CNN Center, this is Connect the World. And coming up he's back home after three months from hospital. We'll get the latest on the health of Nelson Mandela next.
SWEENEY: You're watching Connect the World live from CNN Center. Welcome back. I'm Fionnuala Sweeney.
Well, after spending nearly three months in a Pretoria hospital Nelson Mandela is back at his home in Johannesburg. The former South African leader's condition remains critical, but his former wife Winnie says he's receiving a high level of care.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WINNIE MANDELA, EX-WIFE OF NELSON MANDELA: The hospital is there. The home has been turned into a hospital and the doctors have done a brilliant job of (inaudible) because it really looks like a hospital. There isn't any machine that is not available there, so if there's any emergency they would be able to treat him at home and not rush him to hospital.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SWEENEY: An ambulance took the 95 year old apartheid icon home early on Sunday. He was hospitalized in June with a recurring lung infection, a health problem Mandela has battled since his imprisonment on Robben Island.
CNN's Robyn Curnow with more now.
ROBYN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fionnuala, we know that Nelson Mandela's bedroom looks like an intensive care unit. Now of course that'll mean its sterile and there will be lots of machines in there. The ventilator to help him breath, the dialysis machine to help support his kidneys.
We also know that he'll have a lot of intravenous tubes, a catheter, a feeding tube as well as being treated with a number of drugs and antibiotics.
But what is different about his room compared to the hospital room is that those who have been in there say it is sunnier, it's warmer, it overlooks a garden. It's more comfortable, it's more private. And that's why family have wanted him back home for the past few weeks now.
SWEENEY: Robyn Curnow there.
We'll have the latest world news headlines just ahead.
Plus, Gareth Bale's controversial signing to Real Madrid. We'll bring you all the details just ahead.
And few of us can pull off a move like this. So we'll introduce you to an amazing group of contortionists. That's coming up.
Plus, Bashar al-Assad labels the Middle East a powder keg. His country threatens to ignite the entire region. A closer look up ahead.
SWEENEY: This is Connect the World. The top stories this hour.
U.S. Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham have met U.S. President Barack Obama to discuss his plans on Syria. After the meeting, McCain has long called for active U.S. support for Syrian rebels told reporters he is more supportive of a limited military strike.
Diana Nyad has made history by becoming the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage. It took the 64-year-old less than 53 hours to swim the arduous 165 kilometers. It was her fifth attempt at the record.
Verizon has agreed to pay $130 billion to Vodafone for its 45 percent stake in Verizon Wireless. It will be one of the largest deals in corporate history and it will give Verizon 100 percent ownership of America's largest wireless provider.
After nearly three months in a Pretoria hospital, Nelson Mandela is spending a second day recovering at his home in Johannesburg. Mandela remains in a critical condition, but doctors say he's receiving the same level of intensive care treatment as he did in hospital.
Well away from the diplomatic merry-go-round, the bloodshed in Syria continues. Opposition groups report 63 people were killed in fighting today, including 8 children. Meanwhile, many Syrians feel in limbo while the US deliberates on action.
Syrian state television aired Obama's speech over the weekend. Many regime backers jumped to call it a victory for Syrian president Bashar al- Assad, but the opposition didn't hide its frustration, saying the delay will cost lives.
A short while ago, we spoke to an independent member of Syria's parliament in Damascus. She says the US and Syrian leaders have the same enemies and that the US is aligning with the wrong side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARIA SAADEH, INDPENDENT MEMBER OF SYRIA'S PARLIAMENT: If really Obama and the citizens want to help Syrian people, they should stay with the Syrian people against this al Qaeda and the terrorism and the armed group who bomb us every day since two years.
The Syrian people want the reality. Syrian people, if you want to help, if Obama wants to help Syrian people, he should really be more credible in front of all of the world as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SWEENEY: Well, let's cross to CNN Beirut, where Arwa Damon joins us live. Arwa, we heard those comments there from this member of the Syrian parliament.
And it really does explain the conundrum here about what's going on and the deliberations for President Obama as he weighs up whether to strike at Syria. Probably not whether to strike, probably to strike, if he can get authorization. But what is the view, generally speaking, with inside Syria? Does it go across very simple black and white lines?
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, Fionnuala, it most certainly is not. In fact, it's a very murky battleground. And for a lot of people, there is no easy answer, and as we know only too well, there is no easy solution.
It's lose-lose no matter which way you look at it, no matter what happens. The window of opportunity that one could argue existed well over a year ago, where any sort of international military intervention would actually possibly help at least stem the violence or somehow maybe bring about an end to the bloodshed that's happening, that window closed a long time ago.
Because we look at the landscape of Syria today, and it is one that does, yes, include these extremists, al Qaeda-affiliated groups, who are part of the rebel fighting force, although they are not the majority at this stage. But that most certainly is a factor that the US has to consider as part of the main reasons why it has been so reluctant to even send weapons to the opposition.
What's been interesting, too, Fionnuala, is that speaking with some activists inside Syria, speaking even with some of the rebel fighters, they are saying that the plan that the US has put forward when it comes to a potential military strike, having specific targets but not having the aim of regime change, well, they're actually quiet concerned about that.
They do and have been calling for military intervention, but they want it to be much more decisive. They want it to be more of a game-changer. This plan that the US has put forward, they are saying, is possibly going to strengthen these extremist groups because they are the most powerful entity when it comes to the rebel side of the battlefield, at the very least.
And they're also very worried that the Assad regime will then in turn retaliate against opposition strongholds, and that this US strike would potentially harm the people, the opposition, much more than it would harm the regime itself, Fionnuala.
SWEENEY: All right. We leave it there. Arwa Damon, thank you, joining us from Beirut.
Well, of course, the backdrop of all of this is Iran, which has strongly condemned any US plans for an attack on Syrian soil. Iran and Syria have been regional allies for many years. And as Reza Sayah reports, the tensions between Iran and the US are decades long.
REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Islamic Republic of Iran's warnings are growing louder against a potential US military strike against Syria. US threats and possible intervention in Syria is a disaster for the region, says Iran's supreme leader.
Newly-elected President Hassan Rouhani tweeted, "Military intervention in Syria could destabilize the region and lead to the spread of extremism." Analysts say Tehran's warnings are an effort to protect the Syrian regime, Iran's only Arab ally.
In the 1980s, Syria was Iran's lone Arab friend during the Iran-Iraq war where, ironically, Saddam Hussein's forces used chemical weapons against Iranian troops. For the next three decades, Tehran and Damascus forged an alliance based on common strategic goals.
Iran is a bitter rival of Israel, so is Syria. Iran is a staunch opponent of US intervention in the Middle East, so is Syria. Syria also gives Tehran access to Lebanon-based Hezbollah, the Shia militant organization long believed to be Iran's most critical proxy in its conflict with Israel.
SAYAH (on camera): For those reasons, Iran's position on a possible US-led strike against Syria is clear: Iran is against it. But how Iran would respond if there is an attack is not so clear.
SAYAH (voice-over): In recent days, Iran's top leaders have used their familiar dark and disapproving rhetoric but have yet to publicly pledge to defend Damascus in case of an attack or threaten to hit back against the US and its interests in the region.
Iran has even stood with Washington in speaking out against chemical weapons in Syria, but stops short of blaming the Assad regime. "We strongly condemn the use of chemical weapons," tweeted President Rouhani, "but must be careful not to jump to conclusions."
SAYAH (on camera): The vague and sometimes mixed messages signal a debate in Tehran about what to do if there is an attack against Syria. Hit back and risk going head-to-head with US forces in a costly regional war, or do nothing and risk losing a critical strategic ally?
Reza Sayah, CNN, Cairo.
SWEENEY: Well, despite Iran's warnings, the US secretary of state, John Kerry, is trying to drum up support from Syria's neighbors. He says Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE are offering military assets. But Germany has said it would have no part in a military strike.
Joining me now to discuss the wider impact of this crisis is Walter Posch. He's an expert on Iran from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, and he joins me now from Berlin via Skype. Thanks for joining us, Doctor. My first question is, how do you think Iran would respond in the event of a US-led military strike?
WALTER POSCH, GERMAN INSTITUTE FOR INTERNATIONAL AND SECURITY AFFAIRS: Good evening. Well, first of all, the Iranians will make very strong statements, they will a very gloomy picture, they will warn about al Qaeda elements, which is even sincere, because they fear al Qaeda more than anybody else, perhaps, with the exception from the US.
But beyond that, I think we saw already how the Iranians react when they lost a round in Bahrain, where Iran basically couldn't do too much and didn't do too much. The Iranians will not sacrifice themselves, and they will not go and escalate the situation furthermore.
SWEENEY: And yet, just over an hour ago after their meeting with President Obama, Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham were talking to reporters very forcefully, drawing the comparison with Iran about Syria, saying that while the American public was against any intervention, that Lindsey Graham, for one, would be going home to his constituents and explaining what this was really about, in his view, which was about Iran.
So, how much do you thin of the planning that's going on in the United states now, is really to do with Iran, or is it, in your view, solely to do with the chemical attacks on Syria.
POSCH: Well, first of all, I'm very well aware about their current state of planning inside the US. The fact is, of course, that there seems not to be any willingness to go -- to do any military action against Iran directly because -- for a simple reason, that there too many strategic equations open which are simply unclear --
SWEENEY: Sure, but do you think --
POSCH: Syrians who --
SWEENEY: My question really is, it would seem, from what these senators were saying, that one eye is on Iran in terms of what America might be doing in Syria?
POSCH: Well, yes, that's quite clear. You use this political language, this diplomatic language to warn the Iranians not to exploit the situation and definitely not to see -- or to make the grave mistake to see American reluctance and American moderation as weakness. That was a mistake Saddam Hussein did, that was a mistake typical dictators did.
But when you look at Russia and China's behavior today, when you look at some of the Iranian media of today, they grasp that they have to calm down and -- they are insincere that the use of chemical weapons is a red line and they're very concerned about their situation, but they can't do too much.
Yes, to take the US seriously, yes -- actually, they only take the US seriously -- but I don't think that the Iranians will do -- would escalate right now.
SWEENEY: OK, let me ask you, what do you believe today, more than two years after the civil war began, what is Iran's involvement on the ground in Syria?
POSCH: Well, apart from the very famous and very well-reported fact of intelligence advice and some, the Iranians really thought that Saddam Hussein -- I'm sorry, that Hafez al-Assad -- I'm sorry again, Bashar al- Assad -- would hold the ground and could face down the insurgency. So, in this sense, it was an investment. Many things you mentioned already, he was an ally.
But what -- Iran has two big problems apart from the ideological front line states strategic game against Israel. These are first that the radical Sunni, what we call al Qaeda radicalism and extremism could spread over all the way from Syria to Iraq to Lebanon to even Iran itself, with its 20 -- or at least 25 percent Sunni Muslims.
That's one major headache, because this illegitimatizes Iran's role, Iran's status as an Islamic power. If you don't agree that the Shiites are Muslim at all, you have to kill them, then of course the scale's ultimately against Iran and the Iranian influence.
But the second major headache of the Iranians is quite under-reported in the West, and that is the Kurdish issue. The Kurdish issue, which perhaps much more a trans-border issue. Kurdish fighters move from Iran to Turkey, they move, then, to Iraq. You have new, on-the-ground -- actually, the Iranians thought that the Kurdish issue was under control.
They defeated the big insurgency in the mine in the 80s, and in the 90s, mines, they had their strange relationship to the PKK, to infuriate the Turks. But basically, it just was under control.
POSCH: Now, the Syrian situation changes a lot, and that becomes Iranian domestic security and very gets news.
SWEENEY: All right. There we must leave it, the Kurds being a big problem for the Iranians. Dr. Posch in Berlin, thanks very much, indeed, for joining us.
CNN iReporters have been sharing their thoughts on military intervention in Syria, and while some have offered their opinions, others have sent through footage of anti-war rallies that have taken place over the past few days. Here's a look.
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CROWD (chanting): Hands off Syria! Hands off Syria! Hands off Syria!
MARK IVY, IREPORTER: Any way you look at the situation in Syria, there is no upside for America. It is truly damned if we act and damned if we don't act. While from a humanitarian standpoint we want to step in, without Congressional approval, the president should not act.
This is not a case of eminent threat, thus not under his purview to act unilaterally. The injection of chemical weapons does not change that. The president should act only with approval of Congress.
UNIDENTIFED MALE: Chemical weapons, weapons of mass destruction, we have heard these terms thrown at us countless times. These are words of propaganda to get us pumped up and paranoid and ready for war. But who are the real terrorists? Certainly not the people having their own real problems without us bombing their country, and certainly not us trying to stand up for peace.
When are we going to say enough is enough? Stand tall, brothers and sisters, and let us promote our call for peace. Our voice will not go unheard.
RICHARD HUFFMAN, IREPORTER: The American people have had enough war in the past 13 years to last them a lifetime. We don't need any more war. We need economic recovery. We need jobs.
JOEL CAMAYA, IREPORTER: Obviously, a line has been crossed. It is a situation that aches for a solution. Definitely, the international community has to be more sensitive and responsive to this situation. It has to get its act together to end this violence.
But the problem now is which solution to take? What would be the best stand to end the war without adhering to more violence? Where in war this is no winner, we only have losers, at the bottom of which are helpless victims, the poor and the innocent, the elderly, the women, and the children.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SWEENEY: Just some of the many views about Syria.
Live from CNN Center, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. And in our Art of Movement series, the art of contortion. That's coming up next. Stay with us.
SWEENEY: And welcome back to CONNECT THE WORLD. On this month's Art of Movement, we meet some of the most flexible performers in the world. The art of body contortion is a rare skill, as Nick Glass shows us.
NICK GLASS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In an intentionally sensual Cirque du Soleil show, a pair of contortionists perform in water. The act is called "The Water Bowl," and since it was premiered here almost a decade ago in Zumanity, it has been much imitated elsewhere.
There are about 20 contortionists working in Las Vegas, and almost all of them from Mongolia. What's intriguing in Zumanity is the partnership. One girl is Mongolian, the other a former Russian acrobat.
GLASS (on camera): I don't know how old you were when you became a contortionist.
GYULNARA KARAEVA, CONTORTIONIST, "ZUMANITY": Seventeen. At thirteen, I finished acro-sport. The professional sport was done for me. And then I went to circus school. And I looked around, and I go, oh, this girl is so flexible, I think I need to improve my flexibility. And I just started to stretch more and more and more every single day from 9:00 AM until 10:00 PM.
GLASS: What could you do before, and what additionally could you do afterwards?
KARAEVA: For example, imagine this is my legs, could go that much, and now they can go that much. And all I had to do is in that time, I would sit in a splits for ten minutes on each leg. One chair here, one chair there, and I would just sit for ten minutes. Struggle, sweat, and cry, but I knew what the result was going to be. Long, beautiful legs.
GLASS: You're becoming a Russian contortionist.
KARAEVA: Yes. Russian-style. But I was always looking up to Mongolians. I was like, oh, they're so flexible!
GLASS: Why Mongolia?
ODMAA BAYARTSOGT, CONTORTIONIST, "O": It's more -- I would say why Mongolian? We are the best.
BAYARTSOGT: It's true. Our technique, our perfection, it's different than Russian contortion and Chinese contortionists.
GLASS (voice-over): Before every show, they warm up for half an hour or more. The back must be warm and kept warm to bend.
GLASS (on camera): Oh, my God!
ANGELIQUE JANOV, CONTORTION COACH, "O": Head on knees. Smile. Yes.
GLASS (voice-over): It seemed somehow irresistible. Down on my knees, chin up, we quickly formed a pyramid, Mr. Inflexible at the bottom, the Incredible Flexibles on top and around.
JANOV: Five minutes, you have to go on stage contortion act. We need to work, we train five years. Only for a five-minute act.
GLASS (on camera): Five years?
JANOV: Yes. A lot of training, a lot of work.
GLASS (voice-over): We watched them from the wings. They all made it look so effortless.
GLASS (on camera): What do your parents think of you now?
ENKHJARGAL DASHBALJIR, CONTORTIONIST: They always tell me that they are very proud.
GLASS: Have they come here to see you?
GLASS: And what do they say after the show?
DASHBALJIR: They have tears in their eyes, and it's such a joy to see.
GLASS (voice-over): Mongolian contortion is much admired, especially within the circus community. The Russians and the Chinese have their own contortionists, but there is a sense in which no one does it better than the Mongolians, with such grace, such fluidity, modest and forever smiling, they beguile us all.
SWEENEY: Extraordinary. Well, coming up after this short break on CONNECT THE WORLD, he waited and waited, and eventually, he got his wish. But is Gareth Bale's move to Madrid really a record football transfer? Details after the break.
SWEENEY: Welsh footballer Gareth Bale was officially welcomed to Real Madrid on Monday. The club reportedly paid an unprecedented $132 million for him. But as CNN's Al Goodman found out, the transfer may not have been a record breaker after all.
AL GOODMAN, CNN MADRID BUREAU CHIEF: It's a lot of millions, whether in pounds, euros, or dollars, and the controversy over the transfer of Gareth Bale from Tottenham here to Real Madrid continues.
Reports from Britain say it's the most expensive transfer in the history of professional football, but here at Real Madrid, they say no, they paid some millions less for Bale than they did for Cristiano Ronaldo, the Portuguese star brought from Manchester United a few years ago.
Clearly, Real Madrid's prodigious marketing machine is ratcheting up already. You can see it right here, and they'll be looking to sell t- shirts and every type of merchandising to recover the cost. Bale himself said he was quite happy to be here.
GARETH BALE, REAL MADRID WINGER: I'd want to come here whether it be for a penny or whatever it was, I'd want to come here and do my best for the club and show what I can do on the football pitch and give 100 percent. And all I can say is that and I want to win titles, play in the Champions League, and become the best player I can.
GOODMAN: And for many of the fans here, they say it really doesn't matter what he cost if he can help lead the club to the coveted, desired tenth Champions League title, the title that has eluded them for years.
Of course, Spain is in a deep economic crisis, 26 percent unemployment, but for Real Madrid and its Galacticos, they've always sort of been, people say, in their own separate universe.
Al Goodman, CNN, Madrid.
SWEENEY: Indeed. Well, CNN's Alex Thomas joins me now, live from CNN London. Hi, Alex. Apart from the massive publicity, what are Real Madrid getting for their money?
ALEX THOMAS, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: They're getting a 24-year-old, mainly left-footed midfield player who's very attacking, is very, very fast, and can score goals that change matches. At 24, he's got his best years ahead of him, potentially, having spent the last six seasons or so at Tottenham Hotspur in England's Premier League, one of the best and richest on the planet.
However, many people are questioning the fee that is indeed a world record. We saw the arguments for and against in Al Goodman's report there, many saying the Spanish media have been told a different figure purely to protect the ego of Cristiano Ronaldo.
And he is another Real Madrid player. He's going to be a teammate of Gareth Bales. People wondering how the two of them are going to play on the same side. And he and Lionel Messi, the Barcelona star, are considered the two best footballers in the world right now.
Bale, despite the fee, despite possibly being the most expensive player on the planet, certainly isn't the best player on the planet, Fionnuala.
SWEENEY: All right. But that news certainly capturing the imagination of many people, not even people who wouldn't normally be football fans. Have there been any other signings during this European transfer window that have captured your imagination?
THOMAS: Well, we're speaking on European transfer deadline day. Some of the transfer windows in some countries like Germany are already closed. For others, there's an hour or so still to go, and some frantic business being done behind closed doors.
On transfer deadline day itself, no real major news. Perhaps Real Madrid will recoup some of the money they spent on Bale by selling German international Mesut Ozil to Arsenal in England's Premier League.
But if you look back over the course of the summer, all the big signings have been made outside of England, Edinson Cavani going from Napoli to Paris Saint-Germain for $85 million, Falcao from Atletico Madrid to Monaco for $80 million, Neymar to Barcelona for $76 million, and James Rodriguez for $60 million from Porto to Monaco. It has been a record transfer spend in European football for many of the leagues, Fionnuala.
SWEENEY: All right. A final question, switching gears somewhat. There are some new signings in Formula 1 as well.
THOMAS: Yes, Red Bull, the champion -- world championship-winning team, have confirmed that Daniel Ricciardo, the young Australian, 24 years old, will replace Mark Webber as Sebastian Vettel's teammate from next season.
That seen really as an appeasement toward Vettel, who's a triple world champion going for a fourth title. Webber, he had a prickly relationship with. The young man, though, should certainly let Vettel get things his own way.
SWEENEY: Alex, we're going to leave it there. Thanks for joining us.
And in tonight's Parting Shots, we pay tribute to two men who were masters of expression. British broadcaster David Frost died on Saturday at the age of 74. He was best known for his series of interviews with disgraced US president Richard Nixon.
The Frost family said he died aboard the Queen Elizabeth cruise ship, where he had been due to give a speech. He's survived by his wife of 30 years and three children.
Irish poet Seamus Heaney was laid to rest in Derry, Northern Ireland, today after a funeral was held for him in Dublin, Ireland. He passed away on Friday at the age of 74 after a short illness. Heaney won the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature, and his son spoke at his funeral today, revealing his father's last words.
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MICHAEL HEANEY, SEAMUS HEANEY'S SON: His last few words. In a text message, he wrote to my mother minutes before he passed away, were in his beloved writ Latin. And they read "Noli timere," don't be afraid. Thank you so much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SWEENEY: A touching tribute there from Seamus Heaney's son, and Ireland still very much in shock. I'm Fionnuala Sweeney, that's been CONNECT THE WORLD. Thank you for watching.