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CONNECT THE WORLD

Kenyan Government Announced End To Nairobi Mall Siege; Thaw In U.S.- Iranian Relations?

Aired September 24, 2013 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: An historic opportunity for detente -- the U.S. president extends an olive branch to Iran during a speech at the United Nations. Now all eyes on this man, Hassan Rouhani, who steps up to the podium in the next hour. Tonight, how his words could have huge consequences for the Middle East.

Also this hour...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UHURU KENYATTA, PRESIDENT OF KENYA: We have ashamed and defeated our attackers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: That's Kenyan Uhuru Kenyatta announces the end of the four day siege at a Nairobi mall, we explore the origins of the attackers.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN London, this is connect the world with Becky Anderson.

ANDERSON: Well, we will get you the very latest on that mall siege in just a moment in a live report from Nairobi.

We begin, though, tonight at the United Nations where there is great anticipation about an address by Iran's new president. It's the first day of the annual general assembly. And one by one, world leaders have been sharing their concerns and policy priorities. Perhaps no speech, though, will be more closely watch than Hassan Rouhani's, especially after he promised, and I quote, constructive engagement with the world.

The Iranian president due to speak about an hour from now, though the assembly is running a little behind schedule.

But only a short while ago, U.S. officials made it clear that there will be no face-to-face meeting between Rouhani and U.S. Barack Obama.

Now Mr. Obama spoke to the assembly this morning, making clear that Iran is a top priority.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the near term, America's diplomatic efforts will focus on two particular issues: Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons, and the Arab-Israeli conflict. While these issues are not the cause of all the region's problems, they have been a major source of instability for far too long, and resolving them can help serve as a foundation for a broader peace.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Well, let's check in with our corespondents as we await the Iranian president's speech. Isha Sisay is live at the United Nations. And Reza Sayah is in Tehran.

Isha, let's start with you. A sense of anticipation, the excitement of the UN general assembly. This is usually a pretty gray affair, isn't it? Oft times cheered up by the odd rant by a dictator.

This year, there are real high stakes issues, not least this opening of the door to U.S.-Iranian relations after what three decades of frost.

ISHA SISAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, you're absolutely right, Becky.

And to give some context to our viewers, I've covered the UN general assembly four out of the last five years. And you are absolutely right, it's normally a gray affair, sometimes it drags on a fair bit I've got to say. But this time, there is definitely a sense of anticipation and great interest in what is happening in the building behind me. And a lot of that has got to do with Iran and their new president Hassan Rouhani who in recent days has basically been giving signals of a change in attitude going so far as to say in that Washington Post editorial that he was ready to pledge to constructive interaction with the world.

The question now is what will he say in that speech to the general assembly, which he'll give about an hour or so from now? How will he build on that theme, how will he build on that sense of optimism that he and his -- and other cabinet members have been building in recent days?

But we need to back up a little bit and say that as they make this outreach to the United States and the International community, there are those that are watching this with some apprehension, some cynicism even. And U.S. President Barack Obama in his address to the UN general assembly earlier on today made it clear why there's still a long road to go before things will be normalized between the U.S. and Iran.

Take a listen to some of what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The United States and Iran have been isolated from one another since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. This mistrust has deep roots. Iranians have long complained of a history of U.S. interference in their affairs, and America's role in overthrowing an Iranian government during the Cold War. On the other hand, Americans see an Iranian government that has declared the United States an enemy, and directly - or through proxies - taken Americans hostage, killed U.S. troops and civilians, and threatened our ally Israel with destruction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SISAY: So Becky, as you hear there from the U.S. president in a speech earlier on today to the general assembly there is a lot of history here, a lot of deep rooted mistrust between Iran and the United States. The question is, what will Hassan Rouhani say in his speech to the general assembly a short time from now to try and bridge that distance -- Becky.

ANDERSON: The White House had signaled ahead of this that they were open to an informal meeting between the U.S. president and his Iranian counterpart. We've heard in the past, what, five, 10 minutes or so that this has proved even an encounter on the margins and the corridor, this sort of handshake that people were waiting for, hoping for, perhaps proving too complicated. Does that surprise you?

SISAY: No. It doesn't surprise me. I think that the high anticipation was built up by political watchers, but I think if you spoke to actual diplomats on the ground they felt it might be a stretch too far.

Yes, Becky, we have heard these positive statements coming from the new president, but you know, to go from there to a meeting with the U.S. president, something that hasn't happened between leaders of these two countries since the Iranian revolution of 1979, that was a pretty big ask, a pretty big leap. So I'm not entirely surprised.

Let's not forget, however, that Secretary Kerry will meet with his Iranian counterpart in those P5+1 nuclear talks later on this week.

So there will be an engagement between these two countries at a high level.

But I think it was too much to expect. And as of yet it hasn't happened. They could, of course, surprise me.

But it seemed to me too much to expect that President Obama would meet Hassan Rouhani today here at the United Nations, Becky.

ANDERSON: No fist bumps, no winks, no meeting in corridors then we are told at this point. We are awaiting the speech by the Iranian president within the next hour. Let's cross to Tehran where people are waiting to see their president take the world stage.

Reza Sayah joining us live.

And Reza, many Iranians sick to death of their country's international isolation and poor reputation, voting with their feet for a more moderate presidential candidate in Hassan Rouhani earlier this year. What's been reaction there to a potential detente in the words of the U.S. president earlier today?

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The reaction, Becky, has been one of hope and optimism. But before we talk about that, we should pass along some new information that we received that could explain why Presidents Rouhani and President Obama didn't meet earlier today in New York. Many anticipated that they could cross paths if this luncheon at the UN general assembly.

But Press TV, state funded English language Press TV here reporting that the reason President Rouhani didn't' attend that luncheon was because alcohol was being served. Of course Islam and the Koran generally forbids alcohol.

So the reason these two presidents didn't cross paths could have been the presence of alcohol and nothing more. So maybe it's a mistake to read too much into that.

That hasn't dampened the spirits and the optimism here. Here many are hopeful that U.S.-Iran relations will improve and a source of that optimism has been Iranian President Rouhani. He's only been in office for about eight weeks, but he's already become pen pals with President Obama, exchanging letters with him at least once. He's released a number of political prisoners and pushed for better relations with the west.

His office has even tweeted happy new year to the world's Jewish community.

And it's that type of charm offensive that has a lot of Iranians very optimistic. Here's a taste of that optimism here in Iran.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is Tehran's famous bazaar. If you want to get the pulse of this country, this is where you come.

The Hayatis have been in business for six decades. The last time Iran and the U.S. had diplomatic relations, Ali (ph) wasn't even born.

ALI HAYATI, STORE OWNER: I want to see Mr. Rouhani and Mr. Obama sit in front of each other and speak about life.

SAYAH: The Medit House of Persian Carpets (ph) hope Rouhani is the key to ending decades of economic sanctions against Iran.

SADEGH KIYAEI, RETAILER: We believe that two nations, Iran and American, they realize that they need each other, they like each other, and they feel that it's the right time to get together and to start talking at least.

SAYAH: "100 percent, I want to see better relations so we can live a little easier," says barber Hassan Ahmadi (ph).

Not everyone at the barber shop is optimistic. Oshva (ph) says nothing has changed. She still plans to leave Iran so her son can have a better future.

"I want him to have a good education, a good life," she says. "I don't think you can get anywhere here in Iran."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAYAH: We've talked to a lot of people here in Iran. And we've met only one person who is not optimistic, everyone else hopeful that U.S.-Iran relations will improve, Becky, but they're also realistic that's going to take awhile to get rid of 34 years of mistrust.

ANDERSON: Yeah. And a very rare opportunity to have you in Tehran tonight. Reza Sayah, one of the very few western correspondents there in the country and with a real slice of life and a sense of the mood on the streets as we await this historic speech and the potential for more to come tonight from Hassan Rouhani.

We're going to speak to analysts from both Washington and Tehran about the diplomatic dance between the U.S. and Iran. That a little later this hour.

And dozens of people have been confirmed dead in the Nairobi mall attacks. We're live in Nairobi next for the very latest from there.

And an earthquake in Pakistan so powerful it created an island in the middle of the sea. We'll bring you the details on that after this. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: You're watching CNN. This is Connect the World. 13 minutes past 8:00 in London.

Kenya's president says the siege at the Westgate mall in Nairobi is over, that's leaves 61 civilians were killed in an attack claimed by al Qaeda's affiliate al Shabaab. Men, women and children are among the dead.

And the Red Cross says 65 people still remain unaccounted for.

And Kenya's president says five of the gunmen were killed in the fighting and 11 people have been arrested over possible connections to the attack.

Addressing a mourning nation in the last few hours, President Kenyatta spoke of defeating and shaming the attackers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UHURU KENYATTA, PRESIDENT OF KENYA: As a nation, our head is bloodied, but unbowed. The criminals found us unafraid as we shall ever be. We cannot be conquered.

(END VIDEO LCIP_)

ANDERSON: CNN's Nima Elbagir joins us now live from Nairobi with the very latest. And we heard the president speak there more about the mourning period perhaps than what was actually going on or had happened at the mall. What were the details that you had, if anything?

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we understand that during the final rescue operation -- I should say during the final stages of the operation, three floors of the mall collapsed. And so there are more bodies trapped still inside there this evening, Becky. And that's going to be some very difficult news for those waiting to hear for news of their loved ones.

The Kenyan Red Cross say that 65 people still remain unaccounted for. And although the Kenyan authorities said they've begun the process of moving bodies out from there, if there are floors collapsed bearing in mind that the attackers set on fire mattresses before they left, and given that this is still effectively a crime scene, that intelligence agencies are going to be coming through that, this is -- it sounds like a very, very difficult situation indeed for those waiting to hear any further news.

And for people gathered around their TV sets here in Kenya listening to the president's statement, they're dwelling on much of what he didn't say as what he did. What he didn't say is he didn't talk about the remaining hostages, Becky. He said nothing about whether they are still alive. And hat's really the lifeline that people here had been hoping for when he heard that President Kenyatta was going to address the nation. They were waiting to hear if anyone in there was still alive. We still don't know.

What he has said is that five terrorists, five attackers have been killed. And in response to the resorts that we've been getting that some of those attackers were foreigners, he acknowledged the reports of the American's and the Brits, but he said they're still waiting on forensic evidence, Becky.

ANDERSON: Yeah, let's just pursue that line, if we can, because there have been many reports across media around the world. There have been international characters involved in this siege in this attack. I certainly put that to the foreign minister last night. She admitted that she believed there have been Brits and Americans involved.

And again, as you suggest the president eluding to that as well.

Let's just have a listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENYATTA: Five terrorists were killed with gunfire, 11 suspects are in custody in connection with the attack. Intelligence reports had suggested that a British woman and two or three American citizens may have been involved in the attack.

We cannot confirm the details at present, but forensic experts are working to ascertain the nationalities of the terrorists.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: One, Samantha Luthwaitte (ph), a British woman married to one of the 7/7 bombers here back in 2005 who was killed in the bombings of the tube is said possibly to be involved. What do you know about that, Nima/

ELBAGIR: Well, that is the name that we've certainly been hearing again and again. And of course when you start hearing about British woman involved with al Qaeda, involved with al Shabaab, that is the one name that people are familiar with.

And I know that the foreign minister, after speaking with you about the nationalities of the attackers, in a subsequent interview she acknowledged that this British woman that intelligence reporters were talking about, that she was very famous indeed, that she had been involved in other attacks.

So of course that brings us all back to Samantha Luthwaitte (ph). But for now we're not getting nay information.

What I find interesting about Presidnet Keynatta, the way that he put that is that he was speaking about intelligence reports, which is quite solid, it's a step up from what we've been hearing so far about speculation and rumors.

He's saying that this where our intelligence reports are leading us, but we still don't have anything solid yet, Becky.

ANDERSON: Yeah, and he suggested that you'd have to wait for the forensic reports before it became clearer, suggesting, one assumes, that these characters have been killed.

All right, Nima Elgabir Is in Nairobi for you at the end of what has been a four day siege.

Well, there have been long concerns over foreign fighters being recruited to Somalia. The former head of MI-5 warned three years ago about extremists from the UK fighting alongside al Shabaab.

In 2010, a federal grand jury charged 14 people in the United States with aiding the group.

MI-5 has also identified training camps in the tribal areas of Pakistan. The intelligence service says a number of terrorist plots in the UK have involved foreign fighters who trained there.

And the British intelligence agency says Syria has become, and I quote, "an attractive destination for UK extremists wishing to engage in violent jihad."

Intelligence sources believe about 100 British Muslims are currently fighting in Syria.

Well, the FBI has launched an investigation into a possible American connection to the attack. Former FBI agent Ali Soufan joins us now live from our New York bureau.

And if these intelligence sources are correct and indeed there are two to three Americans of Somali origin involved in this Kenya attack, would that surprise you?

ALI SOUFAN, FRM. FBI AGENT: Not at all. I mean, since 2008, as you correctly mentioned, the FBI and the law enforcement agencies in the United States has been focusing on the threat that comes from al Shabaab in the United States, especially in the area of Minneapolis and St. Paul where a large Somali community exists.

And I think we have probably between 40 to 50 U.S. citizens who went to Somalia to fight with the Shabaab movement.

So it's not surprising at all that al Shabaab will be using some of these fighters in their terrorists attacks in the region, especially the one that you just saw in Nairobi/

ANDERSON: How do they recruit in the United States?

SOUFAN: Well, so far the recruitment of al Shabaab movement have been specifically focused on a nationalistic narrative. You know they wanted to liberate, allegedly, Somalia from foreign invaders and bring stability to Somalia.

But recently, in the last two years or so, we start seeing tat narrative changing a little bit and it seems the jihadi faction of al Shabaab have now complete control of the organization s it sees and the way they conducted that attack in Nairobi indicates there is significant links to the global jihadi network and al Qaeda.

So now al Shabaab is operating more as al Qaeda affiliate rather than a nationalistic movement it claimed to be in the last years.

ANDERSON: Ali Soufan, the group it certainly warned that it would hit a soft target in Kenya after Kenyan forces mobilized in Somalia. Was there any U.S. intelligence to point to this attack ahead of time?

SOUFAN: No, not at all. I mean, if there's any intelligence whatsoever, it could have been shared with the Kenyan government. I think the Kenyan government a few months ago they disrupted a plot by al Shabaab to do something I believe similar to what we're seeing today. And I believe that now we're going to see probably more cooperation between global intelligence services and between the Kenyan governments to focus on al Shabaab.

But, you know as you know al Shabaab suffered strategic setbacks because of Kenya and because of the other African nations' involvement in the peace mission in Somalia. They lost Mogadishu. They lost the port city of (inaudible). They lost significant amount of fundings, millions of dollars that they used to generate from taxation and from the port operations.

So they have a lot of reasons to be very angry.

ANDERSON: I know you've heard -- said in the past that al Qaeda is more of a motivational force, these days, than an operational force and it's sort of motivation, its umbrella sort of motivation will drive organizations like al Shabaab.

Is this a new phase, do you think, for the Somali militant group?

SOUFAN: Well, you know, they declared their allegiance to al Qaeda, al Shabaab, about a year ago. But now it seems that operationally they are functioning under al Qaeda.

After 9/11, al Qaeda shifted from being chief operator to being a chief motivator. So al Qaeda became more about the narrative and about the ideology rather than about the operations. And today we see al Qaeda narrative all the way in Nigeria with Boko Haram to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb to Mali was a different al Qaeda affiliate groups over there to Syria with al Nusra and the ISIS to Yemen with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

And we see it spreading. That narrative is spreading all the way to Southeast Asia, to Indonesia and Malaysia.

ANDERSON: Fascinating. Ali Soufan, a pleasure to have you on, thank you.

Live from London, this is Connect the World.

Coming up, a possible thaw in relations that are being frozen for the past 30 years. Stay with us for more on that.

This is Connect the World. 23 minutes past 8:00 in London. Back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Right. Welcome back.

Let's get you some other news this hour.

UN inspectors are preparing to return to Syria to investigate new claims that chemical weapons have been used on both sides of the conflict. Damascus submitted an initial declaration of its chemical weapons stockpiles to the international watchdog last week. Now that move was part of a deal laid out by the U.S. and Russia.

Well, speaking at the UN general assembly earlier today, U.S. president Barack Obama said that the security council must now draft a resolution to check that the Assad government is keeping its commitments.

For more on that, Nick Paton Walsh who is at the United Nations -- Nick.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Becky, that declaration you mentioned was handed in at the weekend. And in fact, was Syria adhering to the accelerated American and Russian timetable that was put forward in Geneva by John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

But still, there is the question of a UN resolution here and exactly technically how will the UN and its monitoring body the OPCW determine if Syria is in violation of the time table of handing over its chemical weapons.

The American position as stated here by Barack Obama still very clear. They want an enforceable resolution. Here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The Syrian government took a first step by giving an accounting of its stockpiles. Now, there must be a strong Security Council Resolution to verify that the Assad regime is keeping its commitments, and there must be consequences if they fail to do so. If we cannot agree even on this, then it will show that the U.N. is incapable of enforcing the most basic of international laws.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALSH: And that kind of statement really is teeing up pressure for a meeting in about 40, 45 minutes between John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov in this building. A lot focused on that. They have to agree on the mechanism for determining if Syria is in violation of the convention, the Russians want a decision to be made at the security council if Syria is in violation. The Americans -- or rather the monitoring body made that call. And they have to agree on the wording of the UN resolution that would back up and enshrine all the things we though we'd already agreed in Geneva over two weeks ago now.

So the issue what's in the text of that. Suggestions I'm hearing today from diplomats that they will make a reference to something chapter 7, part of the UN charter here, which might mandate force if Syria is considered to be in violation. But they'll still require another vote for any measures.

A complex day ahead. Everyone looking to see if Kerry and Lavrov can really bridge those significant differences.

ANDERSON: Yeah. Big week for John Kerry.

All right, thank you for that.

France's president Francois Hollande also talking about Syria at the UN. He called on the security council to take up a resolution that would hold to account those who carried out a chemical weapons attack on the outskirts of Damascus last month.

And he told my colleague Christiane Amanpour that a resolution should be backed up with sanctions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRANCOIS HOLLANDE, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE (through translator): France is looking for a resolution that must be binding, enforceable so that in case of a breach we can go back to the security council and allow it to take sanctions.

So yes, the resolution -- a quick one -- yes we would like the agreement between the U.S. and the Russians to be translated, this agreement in order to destroy chemical weapons, but with a requirement, a requirement for sanction in case of breach.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: And tomorrow, you can watch Christiane's interview with the Iranian Presidnet Hassan Rouhani. That is Wednesday 7:00 pm here in London just before this show.

Well, the latest world news headlines are ahead.

Plus, could there be a breakthrough in relations between the U.S. and Iran? We're going to get you some in depth analysis.

And in the aftermath of the deadly attacks in Nairobi, Kenyans come together to heal and overcome their grief. More on that story after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Just after half past 8:00 in London, this is CNN and these are the headlines. The Iranian president is expected to speak at the UN General Assembly later today. Hassan Rouhani has called for greater international cooperation on issues including Tehran's nuclear program. It has now been confirmed that he won't meet, though, with US president Obama.

Kenya's president says the siege at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi is now over. He said Kenya is "bloody but unbowed" after the terror attack killed 61 civilians. The Red Cross says 65 people remain unaccounted for.

A 7.7 magnitude earthquake killed close to 50 people in southern Pakistan and sent people fleeing into the streets. Buildings collapsed, and officials fear many more victims could be found. It was so strong, it caused a small island to rise off the cost. The island is more than 10 meters high.

UN inspectors are preparing to return to Syria tomorrow. It's to investigate at least a half a dozen claims that chemical weapons have been used on both sides of the conflict. Damascus submitted an initial declaration that the chemical weapon stockpiles to the international watchdog last week.

Iran's president Hassan Rouhani prepares to address the United Nations General Assembly later today, within the hour, we are expecting. But a meeting or handshake between presidents Obama and Rouhani now off the table despite signs of a thaw in relations between the two nations. Let's just take a step back on what is this volatile history between the US and Iran over the past 60 years.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON (voice-over): Iran, 1953. A revolution backed by the CIA unfolds on the streets of Tehran. Prime Minster Mohammad Mossaddegh was ousted in the coup after nationalizing the country's oil production, restricting flow to the West.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FORMER US SECRETARY OF STATE: The Eisenhower administration believed its actions were justified for strategic reasons, but the coup was clearly a setback for Iran's political development, and it is easy to see now why many Iranians continue to resent this intervention by America in their internal affairs.

ANDERSON: That resentment only grew during the quarter-century rule of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. The Shah was criticized for his lavish lifestyle and for spurning Islamic traditions in favor of stronger ties to the West.

By 1979, riots led by supporters of Islamic leader Ayatollah Khomeini were sweeping Iran. The Shah fled into exile and Khomeini was appointed religious and political ruler of the country.

US ties with Iran were shattered after Islamic militants took 66 Americans hostage in the US embassy, holding them for 444 days. Washington later struck back at Iran by supporting its invading neighbor Iraq in a war that lasted throughout most of the 80s.

The hostility was cemented in 2002 when US president George Bush named Iran in his so-called "axis of evil."

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: North Korea is a regime arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction while starving its citizens. Iran aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror.

ANDERSON: The debate over Iran's nuclear ambitions has only intensified, and under the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the United States has resorted to sanctions to try to crush Iran's capacity to build weapons of mass destruction.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are showing the Iranian government that its actions have consequences, and if it persists, the pressure will continue to mount and its isolation will continue to deepen.

There should be no doubt, the United States and the international community are determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

ANDERSON: Now there's signs of a thawing in the relationship. New Iranian president Hassan Rouhani has called for constructive dialogue to end what he describes as "unhealthy rivalries."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: In his speech, President Obama urged a strengthening of diplomatic ties between the two countries. So, how probable is a real thawing in relations, and what are the impediments. Well, joining me live from the Iranian capital is Mohammad Marandi, professor of North American Studies at Tehran University. Thank you for joining us, sir.

From the Brookings Institution in Washington, we have the former CIA analyst Bruce Riedel. And from our Washington Bureau tonight is Reza Marashi from the National Iranian-American Council.

So, you've been pushing for a thawing of relations and some sort of engagement for some time. So, your expectations, I assume, are high this week. Just walk us through what you believe we might expect.

REZA MARASHI, RESEARCH DIRECTOR, NATIONAL IRANIAN AMERICAN COUNCIL: I think expectations should be high but realistic. We should always have high expectations of our political leaders, whether we're in Washington or Tehran.

But what we've seen so far has been very positive. It's not just been more potentially fruitful rhetoric coming from Washington and Tehran, but also tangible actions that we should consider to be very groundbreaking given American secretary of state John Kerry and an Iranian foreign minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif, who are going to be spearheading negotiations within the P5+1 context --

ANDERSON: Right.

MARASHI: -- the UN Security Council plus Germany. That's huge, and that's a step in the right direction. It's high-level ownership of this very important national security issue.

ANDERSON: Mohammad, positive in Tehran tonight?

MOHAMMAD MARNADI, PROFESSOR OF NORTH AMERICAN STUDIES, TEHRAN UNIVERSITY: Yes, I agree, I think on the whole it's positive. Although I think people here are still very cautious. There's the issue of whether Obama actually can deliver, because many of the sanctions which are directed at ordinary Iranians have been passed by Congress and the Senate, and it's quite unclear whether he has any leverage to have these sanctions removed.

And there's also what the Iranians believe is a need for the United States to change its mentality towards Iran and to accept Iran's nuclear program within the framework of international law. If the United States can do that and it can change this mentality, then I think the Iranians would be quite flexible -- more flexible --

ANDERSON: All right.

MARANDI: -- and to help reassure Western countries if they have any fears about the nuclear program.

ANDERSON: All right, yes. Bruce, isn't one of the problems here that the US foreign policy community has simply failed to lay out at this stage what it wants, saying only that it wants the suspension of uranium enrichment without offering much on the sanctions, sanction relief in return? That is a problem, I know, not just for Tehran, but for the Europeans involved in the P5+1 talks as well.

BRUCE RIEDEL, SENIOR FELLOW, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: And the president didn't talk about sanctions release very much in his speech at the UNGA today. It was notable for not pointing out that carrot.

He had a couple of other carrots. He said that America was not interested in regime change. He acknowledged that Iranians had been gassed in the Iran-Iraq War, which I think is a very important point for Iranians. And he said that he accepted that the Supreme Leader and Rouhani have both said Iran doesn't want nuclear weapons.

ANDERSON: Sure.

RIEDEL: But you're right, he didn't talk very much about what the United States is putting on the table in terms of sanctions release.

ANDERSON: And Reza, although he didn't make the tie explicit in his speech, is it likely that Obama and Washington want the ongoing war in Syria, of course, which Iran plays a big role in supporting Assad in, will they want that as a component of any larger US-Iran debate, do you think?

(CROSSTALK)

MARASHI: I think that's one of the questions that's --

RIEDEL: Well, that's another thing that I was looking for. Is he offering Iran a seat at the table --

ANDERSON: Sure.

RIEDEL: -- at any kind of Geneva 2 conference that deals with the future of Syria? Iran is a direct military participant in this war now. It is providing billions of dollars in aid to the Alawite government of President Assad, which is a significant strain on Tehran today. We didn't hear whether the Iranians would be invited to that table.

Now, we're early stages. There's a lot that's just beginning.

ANDERSON: Yes.

RIEDEL: And I agree with both of the other speakers that this is positive so far, but the details are the devil, and we still need to see a lot more of those details.

ANDERSON: Yes, sorry Reza, you were just talked over a little bit there. Your point?

MARASHI: I think it's an important question to see whether or not the Iranians or the Americans are willing to budget on their previous positions on Syria. I think so far, in recent weeks at least, I should say, we've seen some positive movement. There's been an acknowledgment that neither side can find a political solution on their own that will stop the killing of Syrians.

So, perhaps it's worthwhile having these kinds of discussions. There are still some details that need to be ironed out, but I think it's safe to say that we're in a better position now that the track has shifted more towards diplomacy than we were just a couple of weeks ago when it was more of a hardened stance.

ANDERSON: And Mohammad, there are winners and potential losers in all of this. Iran, the US, and those who do business with Tehran will be looking for this thawing of relations and bilateral and multilateral relations going forward. Israel and perhaps other Arab dictators not so much, right?

MARANDI: I think since Iran is the most important pillar of stability in this region right now in this uproar that we see, we see that Iran is the only state that is completely stable. It's had very important elections recently and a very high turnout.

If this region does -- if the United States and Western countries do not want this region to collapse further, then they need Iran more than before. And the Iranians are quite willing to help resolve the situation in Syria.

In fact, Iranians are mystified that the United States has chosen allies in Syria -- directly or indirectly, it doesn't matter -- which are the same forces that the United States launched the war on terror because of. In other words, al Qaeda, which carried out attacks on the United States, are now on the same side of the battlefield more or less as the United States.

But if the United States changes its attitude towards Iran, I think that the situation -- and in Syria can be resolved through free and fair elections along with international monitors, and the situation in Iraq and other parts of the region can stabilize.

But at the end of the day, if the United States doesn't come to some sort of rapprochement with Iran, I think the situation across the board will simply deteriorate.

ANDERSON: To the two of you who are in Washington, Bruce, it seemed to me in the past that Washington has simply had two speeds. It's either sanctions on Iran or asleep. In fact, somebody wrote that in what I would suggest was some expert analysis I read earlier on, sanctions or asleep.

The Iranians certainly giving the impression that they are prepared to bend, but I think they used the analogy of a wrestler. That wrestler can bend, but in the end, he'll get up and fight again if he doesn't think he's getting his way.

It's really important that it's clear what will be discussed and what will be conceded on, I think, isn't it, in the next couple of days?

RIEDEL: Right. We need concrete, specific proposals. We need to come up with a way of turning the Supreme Leader's commitment that Iran won't seek to acquire nuclear weapons into something the international community can have confidence in.

That can be done through inspection regimes, it can be done through additional protocols from the IAEA. That's what we need to see, that's what Secretary Kerry and his Iranian counterpart need to get down and speak to the specifics and the details when they meet later in this week.

We've had the good-sounding music to get started. That's important. We're not asleep anymore. But we need to now talk about sanctions, inspections --

ANDERSON: Sure.

RIEDEL: -- and the hard details.

ANDERSON: We've just got a minute or so left. Reza, we are expected to hear from Rouhani, who is due to speak in less than an hour, a little bit late at the UNGA, as they always are. Briefly, wrap this up for us. What do you expect to hear from him today? Anything that we haven't heard in the past couple of weeks?

MARASHI: Oh, what a difference an Iranian president can make when it comes to style, and what we're hoping to see is a shift in substance as well. I think you're going to hear a more concilitary (sic) -- excuse me, conciliatory tone without giving up what Rouhani and others inside of Iran perceive to be Iran's rights.

You're going to see a willingness to engage diplomatically with the United States and the broader international community. And you're going to hear some signals, I think, that he puts out in his speech that speak to his willingness and his government's willingness to engage.

Again, the process is just getting started. The devil's in the details, but I think this is a good start. Now it's time to turn words into actions.

ANDERSON: Gentlemen, it's been an absolute pleasure. Out of Tehran and Washington for us this evening, we thank you very much, indeed, for joining us.

Well this, we are told, will now not be President Obama's China moment, but let's take a look back at some of the more famous diplomatic handshakes, shall we? Starting with US president Richard Nixon's landmark trip to China in 1972. By shaking hands with the Communist leader Mao Zedong, Nixon ushered in a new era of Chinese-American relations.

In 1985, handshake in Geneva between Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan sparked a thaw in Cold War relations, but sometimes a handshake isn't necessarily a good thing. Although he says he has no regrets, former UK prime minister Tony Blair was roundly criticized for shaking the hand of Libya's former dictator Muammar Gaddafi back in 2004.

And this moment between President Obama and Venezuela's late president Hugo Chavez prompted many Obama critics to call the handshake a sign of American weakness.

Live from London, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. Coming up, Kenyans unite to overcome their grief following the attacks at Westgate Mall in Nairobi. We're going to do more on that for you after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: This week on Leading Women, we hear from the head of one of the biggest humanitarian organizations in the world. Dr. Helene Gayle is the CEO of Care USA, but getting to that position meant taking risks that she didn't always anticipate. My colleague Isha Sesay went to meet her. Have a listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HELENE GAYLE, PRESIDENT AND CEO, CARE USA: Every year, they award the Desmond Tutu Award, and I was the honoree in 2009. That was my first picture with Nelson Mandela.

ISHA SESAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As president and CEO of Care USA since 2006, Helene Gayle has seen her share of humanitarian crises, whether caused by conflict or natural disasters. Gayle has a particular soft spot for children. She started her career as a pediatrician and later spent 20 years with the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.

She left in 2001 for a director role at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle. The Gates Foundation is a Care donor.

GAYLE: When I left CDC, I was running one of the largest centers within CDC, focusing on HIV and other related diseases. Going to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was a fabulous experience. When I went, it was early in the days of that foundation, but it is now the largest philanthropic organization in the world.

Each time I've made those moves, it's been scary. It's been a bit of a risk, it's been kind of zigging when I could of zagged or not a straight line path. But each time, I feel like I've gained a lot as a professional, I've gained a lot personally, but I've also gained -- felt like I've been able to even give back even more.

SESAY: That commitment to family, giving back, and her work ethic, she says, come from her upbringing. The family-owned beauty supply store in Buffalo, New York, where Gayle and her four siblings pitched in to help.

GAYLE: It was fun. It was enjoyable. I think it taught us a lot about integrity. My father was kind of the more soft, kind-hearted. My mother was the brilliant analytic force of nature. One of the things she used to tell us all the time was to use our voices and to speak up. She'd say, you've got a good brain, you've got a big mouth, use it.

(LAUGHTER)

GAYLE: So, she really encouraged us to take risks in life and kind of grab life by the horns.

SESAY (on camera): Your mother suffered from mental illness, and I just wonder what -- how that has shaped you and the journey you've taken.

GAYLE: I think it gave me a sense of compassion for people who are marginalized, who are stigmatized. And so, I hope I pass that on by the way I treat other people, in the way that we do our work here at Care.

SESAY (voice-over): We were there in Atlanta as Care celebrated its 67th birthday and Gayle spoke to staff.

(APPLAUSE)

GAYLE: Sixty-seven incredible years of service, a real legacy that we are all a part of.

We always say at Care that we would love to see if we could work ourselves out of business.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Coming up after this short break on CONNECT THE WROLD, a population united. Kenyans come together after the deadly attacks that took place over the weekend. We'll do more on that for you after this. Do stay with us, you're 90 seconds away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: I want to get you back to one of our top stories this evening. Kenya's president says that the Westgate Mall siege in Nairobi is over. But these attack devastated families. CNN's Zain Verjee, my colleague here, grew up nearby that mall in the city that was attacked. She spoke with her aunt earlier today, who was inside the shopping center when the attack happened. Have a listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDOETAPE)

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Commandos and police cordons. This is the area that I grew up. Unbelievable to be standing here and thinking that what is pretty much a war zone, it looks like, is what we call home.

This is my Aunt Zulobia who, thankfully, escaped from Nakumatt as the shooting was going on. You grew up here, too. How do you feel?

ZULOBIA KASSAM, ZAIN'S AUNT AND WITNESS: Oh, I grew up here, and it has been a petrifying experience for me. The first time I've ever encountered something like this in a very safe country, my home. I grew up here, I went to school just around the corner. And this is just utterly devastating and unbelievable, what I'm seeing.

VERJEE: It's just a really surreal experience, I think, right?

KASSAM: It is, and when I see all this and -- I'm quite nervous, actually.

VERJEE: Really?

KASSAM: Coming out, yes, because --

VERJEE: Well, you had a horrifying experience.

KASSAM: Absolutely. I was at Nakumatt in the supermarket, right cowering at the back of the shelves. And these guys just passing near us, almost coming towards us. And that was very sad, I wanted to see my family again.

VERJEE: We're happy that she's OK. We're unhappy to see what's happening here in Nairobi. But you know, Kenyans are resilient.

KASSAM: Oh, yes.

VERJEE: We've come through a lot.

KASSAM: This is home.

(CROSSTALK)

VERJEE: It's home, where are we going to go?

KASSAM: It's a beautiful country -- it's a beautiful country.

VERJEE: Yes. Amazing people. Love you, Aunt.

KASSAM: Thank you.

(LAUGHTER)

KASSAM: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Aw. They're absolutely right, I spent a lot of time in Kenya, and it is an amazing country with amazing people, and they will get through this. In the wake of such an atrocity, Kenyans have come together to heal and emerge from their grief strong than before, let's hope.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TYLER SADONIS, STUDENT: It seems like -- like I said, for the most part, life is going on as usual, but people are really kind of coming together and rallying behind this event and trying to turn it into something positive.

Very close to the mall, there were people actually cooking and bringing meals to those who were waiting outside for their loved ones who might still be stuck inside the mall. So, it seemed like there's a very resilient spirit in the Kenyan people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the most part, people are just passing messages of encouragement and togetherness and encouraging people to go and donate blood and give whatever they can.

Most of Nairobis actually go out to the mall. People are going back to work, but obviously people are keenly observing on TV, on radio, and on social media to see exactly what is going on in Westgate.

I think as soon as this thing is over, it's going to be out of our news, and we'll just move on with our lives.

I know a few friends who have lost some friends and others who were injured, but for the most part, we are going to be just fine. We are going to emerge from this move enlightened and stronger and more able to deal with this al-Shabaab menace.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: That's it from us. A very good evening from London.

END