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Tunisian Mediators Win Nobel Peace Prize; Syrians Face New Threat from Bombing Campaign; Tense Friday in Jerusalem; Fight to Free American Journalist Jailed in Iran; Chaos in the Republican Ranks; Slain Journalist's Father Wants Tougher Gun Laws; CNN's Fred Pleitgen Has Star Turn in "The Martian." Aired 10-11a ET

Aired October 9, 2015 - 10:00   ET




ROBYN CURNOW, CNN HOST: Welcome to the INTERNATIONAL DESK. I'm Robyn Curnow at the CNN Center. Thanks so much for joining us.

Our top story this hour: a Nobel Peace Prize award that recognizes one country's struggle for peace and democracy after the Arab Spring uprisings.

The prize went to the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet.

The quartet was formed in the summer of 2013 when the Tunisian democracy process was on the brink of collapse. It helped the North African country

move forward and establish a constitutional system of government.

Well, let's get more on what the quartet accomplished as other Arab Spring countries continue to struggle. Our Phil Black joins us from London with


Why them and who are they?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Robyn, the context of the Arab Spring is so important in this in the Nobel committee's decision. Remember Tunisia is

the only democracy still standing from all of those countries who rose up in North Africa and the Middle East to try and oust authoritarian-style


Today Tunisia is being recognized for the one country not to follow the bloody paths of perhaps Libya and Syria or the difficult and past return to

authoritarianism that we're seeing in Egypt.

Instead, it's stayed true to democracy but it almost didn't. It entered a very dark transitional phase where there was unrest on the streets,

political assassinations.

And in the words of the Nobel committee it was on the brink of civil war. So it was at this point that these four civil society groups, groups

representing industry, labor unions, human rights and lawyers, came together and established this political dialogue.

They're credited with steering the country back into a political process, to a democratic process, one that resulted in the country's very first

democratic elections late last year -- Robyn.

CURNOW: So on one hand this is a reward and on the other hand, as always with the Nobel Peace Prize committee, it's an encouragement. Because we

know; we have covered two major terror attacks in Tunisia this year.

How does that play into it?

What's the message they're trying to send here?

BLACK: Well, the committee makes the point really very clearly, that the challenges for this country not over. Its democratic future is not

assured. You're right, we saw two big terror attacks in Tunisia this year with Islamist terrorists massacring largely Western tourists.

That is an industry. That international tourism industry for the country's economy is built on and so its political stability very much depends upon

on that as well.

In this country, the dialogue and the divide remains between secular politicians, secular society and Islamist politicians and Islamist society.

There is clearly some Islamist sympathies that are pretty strong throughout Tunisian society. Tunisia exports, we believe the largest number of

foreign fighters into the battleground of Syria into the ranks of ISIS there.

We know that ISIS has a foothold in neighboring Libya and the chaos and the bloody violence that is taking place in that country as well, all of this

means is that Tunisia remains a country under enormous pressure, one that really still requires enormous support.

And so the point of this, it's not only to sort of highlight an example that can be followed by other countries but to remind other countries, the

Tunisian people themselves, that the work here has to continue in order to keep building a democratic tradition in Tunisia, a country which hasn't had

one until now -- Robyn.

CURNOW: Indeed Thanks so much, Phil Black there in London. And the Nobel prize committee making the obvious choice. Angela Merkel and the pope were

front-runners but this is clearly a very important message they're trying to send.

Phil Black, thank you so much.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said that the U.S. is changing the focus of the training for the Syrian rebels. Speaking from London with his

British counterpart, Michael Fallon, Carter said President Barack Obama will announce the details in the coming hours.


ASH CARTER, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We're looking at different ways to achieve the -- basically the same kind of strategic objective, which is the

right one, which is to enable capable, motivated forces on the ground to retake territory from ISIL and reclaim Syrian territory from extremism.

So we have devised a number of different approaches to that going forward.



CURNOW (voice-over): Well, France meantime has launched new airstrikes on ISIS targets in Syria. The French defense minister says the overnight

strikes focused on an ISIS training camp in Raqqa.


CURNOW: In September, France announced it was adding Syrian strikes to its aerial campaign against ISIS in Iraq.


Well, more than four years of civil war in Syria has killed more than 300,000 people and forced 10 million to flee. And as Arwa Damon now

reports, Russia's military campaign adds a whole new threat amid the devastation.

But first, we do want to warn you, some of the images you are about to see are graphic and disturbing.


ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Barely able to see through the thick dust, somehow members of the civil defense

team, also known as the White Helmets, pull out a little girl.

"Grab her," one orders and turns around.

Miraculously the children appear unharmed. But then, another strike.

Frantic cries of "God is great."

Luckily, this time it seems everyone got out -- but often not. The White Helmets, an independent medical rescue team, have been through this before,

too many times for most to count. But now, it's not just Assad's warplanes and barrel bombs.

Since Russia's bombing campaign began on September 30th, they say they have documented around 182 civilian deaths, including two of their own, which

they say were caused by Russian strikes.

The Kremlin boasts of its accuracy, insisting civilians are not being targeted or killed. But those on the ground say it's a lie. The strikes

are indiscriminate and often land on areas far from the front lines or rebel bases.

A child here, treated for wounds. Two others appear shell-shocked. Childhood, they will never know.

We cannot independently verify the activist claims of Russian responsibility for these casualties but perhaps what is most despicable is

that it's happening at all and has been happening for too long, no matter who to blame. As the Russian, Syrian regime, Americans, NATO and other key

players talk of war maneuvers and strategic gains, this is what that rhetoric looks like on the ground.

These images are graphic. And they are real, a child covered in blood screaming in pain, crying out for his mother -- Arwa Damon, CNN, Istanbul.


CURNOW: Powerful report there from Arwa. Thanks for that.

Well, you're at the INTERNATIONAL DESK.

Still to come, What's fueling the latest round of tensions between Israelis and Palestinians? These are live pictures from the West Bank. Find out

what leaders from both sides are saying.

Plus, an American journalist detained in Iran reaches a disturbing milestone. All that and more here at the INTERNATIONAL DESK.





CURNOW: Israeli prime minister is urging both Arab and Israeli leaders to stay away from one of the country's holiest sites over fears there could be

an explosive event at the site the Jews call the Temple Mount and Muslims the Noble Sanctuary.

Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians are rising again and there are new incidents of violence.

Well, let's get more on this from Ben Wedeman. He joins us from Ramallah in the West Bank.

Hi, there, Ben.

What's the atmosphere like where you are, what's happening?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the atmosphere is fairly tense. This has been going on for about four hours now. Clashes

between hundreds of the Palestinian youth and the Israeli troops just down the road from here.

We have seen them -- the Israelis coming in and firing rubber bullets. Some -- a lot of tear gas as well as what's known popularly here as skunk

water, which is something used to disperse crowds with just horrific smelling liquid that's sprayed on protesters.

This is really actually just relatively mild in terms of what's going on, for instance, compared in Gaza, where we understand there have been clashes

between Palestinians around the edges of the Gaza Strip, where we're told as many as six people have been killed. Six Palestinians have been killed,

dozens wounded in clashes there.

In addition to that, there's been a variety of incidents we understand in Afula, which is Israel just north of the West Bank. There was an incident

where a woman with a knife apparently tried to attack somebody in a gas station. She was surrounded by security personnel, who shot her. There's

some fairly graphic video of that happening as well.

Clashes elsewhere in the West Bank. There was another incident in Dimona, which is in the Negev Desert in Southern Israel, where an Israeli Jewish

teenager attacked four Arabs, two Israeli Bedouins and two Palestinians in that instance. And of course he's been arrested as well.

So scattered instances of violence with no letup at the moment -- Robyn.

CURNOW: With all that in mind, reaction from Palestinian and Israeli leaders?

WEDEMAN: Well, on the Israeli side, we have heard the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, accusing Hamas and the leader of the

Palestinian authority, Mahmoud Abbas, of inciting this violence.

For their part, the Palestinian leadership certainly -- some of the many of the factions, of course, joined this call for a day of rage, which is, of

course, what you're seeing right now.

Others for instance, Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, has called for nonviolent protests against Israeli actions on

the Temple Mount or the Haram el Sharif, as it's known to Muslims.

But at the moment, it appears that the situation here is calming down a bit. But this has basically been the scene at this spot, just north of

Ramallah, every day for quite a while now.

CURNOW: Ben Wedeman, there on the ground, thank you so much for that.

Well, it's been an unhappy milestone for a "Washington Post" reporter detained in Iran.

Jason Rezaian has been held longer than the diplomats and U.S. citizens taken hostage 35 years ago and held for 444 days. He was put on trial for

espionage but we don't know what the verdict was. Becky Anderson has more on his detention and the ongoing efforts to free him.



BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): June 2009: Protests rocked Tehran after the disputed elections saw the radical president

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad return to power. A young reporter, Jason Rezaian, had just left Iran.

JASON REZAIAN, JOURNALIST: I wasn't so much fearful about being detained but I was told last Wednesday that I had to stop working. They revoked my

press pass a couple of days before it was to expire.

ANDERSON (voice-over): But Rezaian went back and began working for "The Washington Post." In the spring of 2014, he and his Iranian wife, Yeganeh,

talked with CNN's Anthony Bourdain about the challenges of reporting from the country.

JASON REZAIAN: The difficult part is convincing people on the other side of the world that what we are telling you, we are seeing in front of our

eyes, is actually there. When you walk down the street you see a different side of things. People are proud. The culture is vibrant. People have a

lot to say.

ANDERSON (voice-over): There were frustrations.

JASON REZAIAN: I miss certain things about home. I miss my buddies. I miss burritos. But I love it. I love it -- and I hate it. You know. But

it's home. It's become home

ANDERSON (voice-over): Six weeks later, Jason and his wife were detained, their home ransacked. Yeganeh was released on bail, but Jason remained in

prison with only one visit with a lawyer and unable to talk with his family for four months, until last Thanksgiving, when he was suddenly allowed to

make a call home.

YEGANEH SALEHI, WIFE OF JASON REZAIAN: We talked about past Thanksgivings with people who are now departed. We both choked up a number of times.

ANDERSON (voice-over): His mother, Mary, appearing on CNN's "AMANPOUR" in December 2014, worried about his health.

MARY REZAIAN, MOTHER OF JASON REZAIAN. His continued mental state is in question, Simply because I understand he's been in chronic pain.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Rezaian was finally put on trial five months later accused of espionage and facing a 20-year sentence if convicted. The trial

ended late this summer.

And "The Washington Post" again appealed for his release, saying "Jason is a dedicated law-abiding journalist and a good man who is being targeted

with nonsensical unsupportable and entirely baseless allegations of espionage and other offenses."

Iran's judiciary news services said his arrest has nothing to do with his being a journalist. Through a website and on Twitter with the #FreeJason,

his family have kept up the pressure to get him released.

ALI REZAIAN, BROTHER OF JASON REZAIAN: These delays are just completely inhumane. They're illegal by Iranian standards, they're illegal by

international standards.

ANDERSON (voice-over): But months after the end of his trial, still no verdict announced. Only a recent hint from President Rouhani that Jason

and other Americans in Iranian jails could be part of an exchange for Iranians convicted in the U.S. on charges related to nuclear technology.

HASSAN ROUHANI, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): If the Americans take their appropriate steps and set them free, certainly the right

environment will be open and the right circumstances will be created for us to do everything within our power and our purview to bring about the

swiftest freedom for the Americans held in Iran as well.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Jason's mother says all her son ever wanted to do was report.

MARY REZAIAN: He loves Iran and he took it upon himself to try to show modern Iran to the rest of the world, to the Western world, that's been

closed out for so many years.

ANDERSON (voice-over): For 445 days now, Jason Rezaian has been unable to report or even speak to the outside world -- Becky Anderson, CNN, Abu



CURNOW: We'll have more on this story in an upcoming edition of the IDESK beginning in a little over 90 minutes from now. And we'll talk to the

foreign editor of "The Washington Post," where Jason Rezaian works. The paper is calling his detention "intolerable." We want you to tune in for

that one in about an hour and a half's time.

Well, new surveillance video shows the attack that left an American hailed as a hero stabbed and in serious condition.


CURNOW (voice-over): U.S. Air Force Airman Spencer Stone was wounded Thursday in an altercation outside a California bar. The video isn't clear

but you can see Stone fighting off several people before being stabbed. Police say they're looking for two men who then fled.

Stone, if you'll remember, was one of three Americans and a Briton who were awarded the French Legion of Honor for thwarting a terror attack on a

Paris-bound train in August. He was also stabbed in that incident. too.


Well, this is the INTERNATIONAL DESK. Coming up, U.S. House Republicans are in chaos after the man expected to become the next House Speaker drops


So who will succeed John Boehner and what does this all mean for the U.S. presidential race?

We'll have a live report.





CURNOW: Welcome back. I'm Robyn Curnow. You're watching the INTERNATIONAL DESK.

Well, this is a big weekend in North Korea. A major celebration is set in Pyongyang to mark the 70th anniversary of the ruling Workers Party. For

months performers have been practicing day and night to make sure nothing will go wrong. We're expecting to see a lavish parade of military hardware

as well.

Now, the U.S. House Speaker is one of the most powerful positions in American politics but the process of choosing a new Speaker is in total

chaos after the congressman widely assumed to succeed John Boehner dropped out.

Well, CNN's senior political reporter Manu Raju joins me now from Washington.

This -- beyond the ins and outs and the intrigue of who might be in and who might be out, what does this tell us about the state of the Republican


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: They're deeply divided really between two wings of the party, one of which really wants the party

to adhere to its conservative principles, believes that the leadership in Washington has been too quick to cave, to compromise with Democrats and

sacrificing those very small government purist principles.

Then you have the more pragmatic, governing wing of the party that realizes and argues that you really need to cut deals, even if it does go against

their core beliefs.

This debate has really been playing out for years, really ever since the 2010 midterm elections and it's intensified over the last couple of years

and particularly over the last two months which is one of the reasons that forced John Boehner, the Ohio Republican, from the Speakership which was a

big surprise at that point.

And also later, Kevin McCarthy, who was seen as his likely successor, suddenly decided to step aside from his effort to win that Speaker's race

just yesterday, which caused a huge -- it really put Republicans in disarray here on Capitol Hill.

Now they're struggling to find their best candidate and they are trying to recruit someone who could fill that void and bridge --


RAJU: -- the two wings which has been elusive so far.

CURNOW: Well, there are many descriptions of that; you're saying that whoever gets the job, that it's a career killer. They've been saying that

the Republican Party can't find someone to govern themselves.

Is this a bit of a gift for the Democrats, particularly in a year that's seeing a U.S. presidential election?

RAJU: Yes, absolutely. I think the Democrats want to argue that they're the party that can govern and get things done. So clearly, any sense of

disarray in the Republican Party is good for them.

But I would say that, look, the election is more than a year away and there's plenty of time for things to turn around. The Republicans got a

lot of heat in 2013 when the government shut down. But they came back and they won big time in 2014.

So there's a lot of time right now and we'll have to see what does happen in the next year or so.

Manu Raju, thank you so much for your analysis, always interesting, covering what's happening on Capitol Hill. Thanks so much.

Ahead on the INTERNATIONAL DESK, U.S. President Barack Obama is visiting the Oregon community, where a gunman killed nine people on a college

campus. Why some in the community want the president to stay away.





CURNOW: Welcome back, everyone, to the INTERNATIONAL DESK. You're watching CNN. I'm Robyn Curnow. Now here's an update on a story we told

you about a short time ago.


CURNOW (voice-over): Violence continuing to increase between Israelis and Palestinians this hour. It's 5:30 pm there. These are pictures from

Ramallah in the West Bank. There's also unrest in Gaza, with Palestinian medical sources reporting as many as six people killed, 30 others injured.


CURNOW: Well, U.S. President Barack Obama heads to Roseburg, Oregon, today to meet families of victims of last week's shooting at a community college.

But not everyone there is looking forward to his visit. Many residents oppose Mr. Obama's stance on toughening gun control laws. Some protests

are planned.

Family members of a woman wounded in the massacre say Mr. Obama's priorities are misplaced.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would tell him to look where the problem really lies and quit running the agenda -- quit running the gun agenda. It's not the

problem. It's our mental health in America. It's obvious. All of us talk about it. And I don't know why we're hiding from it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel that our children should be able to protect themselves somehow.


CURNOW: Well, Andy Parker has been a vocal advocate for tougher gun laws in the U.S. since his daughter, Alison, was fatally shot while reporting

live on air for a Virginia TV station. He joins me now via Skype from Commonsville (ph) Virginia.

Mr. Parker, firstly, your daughter's death affected all of us here who report from the field. Our condolences, our love.

Why would a community -- you just heard that sound bite, why would a community affected by a mass shooting say they don't want tougher gun laws?

ANDY PARKER, FATHER OF ALISON PARKER: Well, Robyn, thanks for having me on the program. I think the people that were interviewed were a fringe

element. I don't think they reflect the views of the majority of Americans that want to have these loopholes closed so that people with mental illness

can't get -- and that's what they just don't get.

Anything that you suggest that advances sensible gun legislation to keep these weapons out of the hands of people that shouldn't have them is

immediately met with, well, they're trying to take our guns away. This is a mental health issue.

Well, you know, Robyn, we don't have the market cornered on mental -- on people with mental health issues. There are certainly, you know, every

advanced country, every country in the world has people with mental health but we have the market cornered on people with mental health issues that

can have access to guns. That's the common denominator.

CURNOW: So why, then, is it so difficult to change this?

You said after Alison's death, that you didn't -- how many more Alisons must go?

But today, even now, CNN is reporting on another shooting at an Arizona university and President Obama, clearly frustrated and angry.

Our international audience, you know, asks that question, why is it so difficult?

PARKER: Well, you know, you would think that this would be a simple solution. I mean, you really would. But what's happened is the gun lobby,

the gun manufacturers funnel millions of dollars through the National Rifle Association, which is supposed to be, you know, the safety people that are

promoting gun safety and they do nothing of the kind.

And so the millions -- they're basically nothing but a gun lobby for -- a lobby for the gun manufacturers. And they put millions and millions of

dollars into the pockets of these politicians. And the politicians that take the money, they don't want that money to go away.

So you have a small group of legislators across the country that are blocking the wishes of the majority of not only the American people but the

majority of responsible gun owners, too.

CURNOW: So if it's so difficult to make broad, sweeping changes, even in the face of people being shot in church or at school or while they're

working, what are the baby steps?

What are the small steps that can be done?

What is your thought on this recent debate about naming gunmen?

Because a lot of the shooters like the media exposure and the infamy that comes from it.

PARKER: I think that's one step. I think that the media can -- you know, listen, that's part of the job, is to name the shooter. The -- you know,

Alison was in the news business. She would, if she were in the same situation, she would probably -- I'm sure she would name the shooter. But

wouldn't glorify the person and give them the kind of notoriety that they want. So those are the steps -- that's a small step to take.


PARKER: But literally, just closing loopholes so that the wrong people can't go to these flea market gun shows, where people are walking around

with AK-47s, saying no background check required, that's an easy one.

People can go online, the wrong people can go online and get guns. I mean, those are steps that we can take. It's not -- is it going to save every

person out there? Of course not.

But it -- but those are small steps to take. But to throw up your hands like lawmakers are saying, well, we can't do anything about this, Jeb Bush

just insulted me and I think everybody in the country when he said, you know, stuff happens.

This complete idiot, crazy man, Ben Carson, you know, the comments that he made are just completely irrational. I can tell you that if I were in a

medical emergency and he was the only doctor around, I'd probably just go ahead and just, you know, check out myself, because I can't imagine this

guy's qualified to do anything, much less be president.

CURNOW: OK, emotional issue, difficult issue and yes, Ben Carson, one of the Republican presidential contenders.

Good luck. Thank you.

PARKER: Thank you, Robyn.

CURNOW: We'll have more on the IDESK after this short break.




CURNOW: "The Martian" is on course for another stellar weekend at the box office. The film, which is about an astronaut stranded on Mars, made over

$54 million in its debut weekend. Here's a clip.


MATT DAMON, ACTOR, "MARK WATNEY": I'm entering this log for the record. This is Mark Watney. And I'm still alive obviously.


Ridley Scott's film clearly has audiences on the edge of their seats. "The Martian" stars Matt Damon, as you saw, as the stranded astronaut, among

other big-name actors. But CNN viewers may notice another familiar face on the screen. Check this one out.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's a mood, a tension and anxiety here outside of Johnson Space Center. As you can

see, many people have gathered here to see whether or not the mission to retrieve Mark Watney will be a success.

Mark had some contact with them but it hasn't been very (INAUDIBLE). I want to remind our viewers that we're watching this as it unfolds. And

we'll try to keep you up to date as what exactly is going on. Let's listen in to NASA making contact with Mark Watney.


CURNOW: Our very own Fred Pleitgen, appearing there in "The Martian." Fred joins me now on the phone from Berlin to talk about the making of the


So how did you end up in the biggest movie of the week?

PLEITGEN: Hi, Robyn. Well, it was -- I'm not sure it was an accident but it was something that certainly did come a little bit out of the blue.

What happened was that I had been doing a lot of the coverage around --


PLEITGEN: -- the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall here in Germany. And then straight afterwards, I was sent to cover a landing on a

comet, the Rosetta Mission, which happened late last year.

And so we did a whole day of live shots of talking about the European Space Agency for the first time landing a probe on a comet. And then a couple of

days later, apparently the movie people around Ridley Scott contacted CNN and that one thing led to another and then, all of a sudden, I found myself

on a movie set.

CURNOW: And what was it like?

I mean, often when -- you know, as reporters watch movies about the news and we're always critical of how things don't work like that, at least you

had a set truck behind you. Sometimes they go live without any way of going live.

PLEITGEN: Well, there's always two things that always annoy me or often annoy me about movies. One is when --

CURNOW: Ah, what a pity, just as he was going to get to the good stuff. That was Fred Pleitgen for us, coming clearly from Berlin, not Mars. But

he did make some amazing appearances on this movie.

Apparently my team is telling me that we have him back again.

Are you there? Calling Fred Pleitgen, continue your sentence, please.

PLEITGEN: Yes. Robyn, I'll continue, yes. Seems we have -- sometimes it's more difficult to talk --

CURNOW: Exactly, as you were saying.

PLEITGEN: -- from Mars. But I'll continue, yes, so, yes, there's two things that I would find annoying or often find annoying about movies.

One is when things aren't portrayed the way that they really are and the other is when news people are sort of made to look as though we're all

these ridiculous, sensation-seeking crazy people, which every once in a while happens.

But the interesting thing was -- and I really think that Ridley Scott is someone who wants to get it exactly right and he's also someone who is

very, very interested in the news, very much up to date with current politics, with what's going on. He wanted to have it all be very authentic

and I think it came out that way. I think it looked really good.

And there were a few little adjustments that we also made while we were filming, like on that scene that you saw before where we had the commentary

of the launch at the Johnson Space Center, at the beginning of that, I started out and I was reporting and I didn't have an earpiece in my ear.

As you know, when we report from the field, we always have the feedback that we hear from the studio. We have the earpiece in there. That's one

little thing that we changed. So there was some adjustments that we made. And I think it did come out very authentic. So that was really a good


CURNOW: Fred Pleitgen, fabulous, thanks so much. Urgently want to go and watch. And of course the best thing about this is that you couldn't make

the premiere because you were reporting from Iran.


CURNOW: Thanks a lot, Fred.

Well, that does it for us here at the INTERNATIONAL DESK. I'm Robyn Curnow. "WORLD SPORT" for the latest on the on the suspensions reaching

the highest levels of FIFA. That's next. Thanks for watching.