Return to Transcripts main page


Tehran Summit Ongoing Attended By Russia, Iran And Turkey; Frantic Search Inside The White House For The Anonymous Op-Ed Writer; North Korean Hacker Charged; Twitter Bans Alex Jones; Russia, Iran and Turkey Meet for Key Idlib Summit in Tehran. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired September 7, 2018 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong and welcome to "News Stream."

A high stakes meeting that (ph) includes players from the Syrian war meet in Iran to discuss the conflict ahead of what could be the last major


Hunting for the author. The White House scrambles to find the senior administration official who wrote a scathing anonymous op-ed on Donald


And good-bye to the mustachioed mega star. Hollywood bids farewell to Burt Reynolds.

As the seven-year war in Syria enters its final stages, the leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran are meeting in Tehran at this hour. Now, an all-out

government assault on Idlib, the last major rebel stronghold, seems all but certain. The Iranian president Hassan Rouhani opened the summit by saying

the only pass to peace is to fight and defeat terrorism, but he warned against leaving a scorched earth behind.

Some three million people live in Idlib and they are bracing for what is likely to be the last major battle of the country's civil war. We are

tracking developments across the region with all the major players. We have Matthew Chance live for us in Moscow. Arwa Damon is in Istanbul, Turkey,

but let's start with Frederik Pleitgen in Damascus. And Fred, the talks are underway. The fate of Idlib is at stake. Can Russia, Turkey and Iran find

common ground to avoid a catastrophe?

FREDEDRIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's a very good question and certainly something where I think you will see on

the one hand, you'll have the Iranians and the Russians really on one side and the Turks possibly on the other side with both the Iranians and the

Russians coming out in the past couple da, past couple weeks saying they believe that Idlib is what they call a hotbed of terrorism that needs to be

dealt with.

Also, of course, the reality on the ground here in Syria, Kristie, that what we're seeing and what we've have heard is that apparently Idlib

province is completely surrounded by Syrian government forces and it's not just that they have a lot of armor there on the ground.

They have some of the most battle-hardened elite groups on the ground in many of those places who are veterans of many of the big battles that have

happened here in Syria, like for instance in Aleppo, like for instance here and around Damascus as well.

So certainly there are some very alarming signs that something could kick off very, very quickly. Certainly, the Syrian military seems to be ready

and when you hear some of the officials that we've been hearing over the past couple of days, they also say that they believe that the situation in

Idlib is something that they say needs to be dealt with.

Now, does that mean an all-out offensive? Does that men something perhaps smaller in scale? That is something that of course will be up for debate at

that summit and will of course also be very key to the future of the many civilians who live there as well.

The Syrians for their part, Syrian military is saying and Syrian government is saying that they believe that there's a lot of jihadists on the ground,

some of them formerly affiliated with al-Qaeda. They also said there's a lot of foreign fighters on the ground there as well from places like China,

Central Asia and Russia, and the Syrians are saying that's not something that they're going to allow to happen, Kristie.

LU STOUT: All right, let's go to Matthew Chance in Moscow next. And Matthew, along with Iran, Russia is an ally of the Syrian government? What

does Russia want to see come out of these talks?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well publicly, and Vladimir Putin has already come out with some initial statements to this

meeting. They're talking about the stabilization of Syria and how much has been achieved so far. Its reconstruction and the possible return of

refugees and displaced people after the conflict is over.

But behind closed doors, it's almost certain that Vladimir Putin and officials there with him are going to be trying to convince the Turks who

are opposed to an assault on Idlib fearing a flow of refugees into their country, of the merits of attacking that last major rebel stronghold. Of

course, there's very little question that the Russians want that.

It would be a culmination of their strategy, which began in 2015 to support their Syrian ally, Bashar al-Assad, if they can bring that back under

government control, that area of Idlib, they are then able to promote that and tout it as a symbol of their renewed -- Russia's renewed muscle on the

international stage.

[08:04:57] I think even more importantly at this point, once Idlib has fallen, if it falls, and comes back under the control of the Syrian

government, that may be alibi enough, a smoke screen for the Russians to finally get out of a conflict which has become something of a quagmire for

their military, Kristie.

LU STOUT: And let's go to Arwa Damon standing by in Istanbul. Arwa, we really need your insight about what is at stake here because you were

recently in Idlib, in Syria. It's a densely populated area. What would a major offensive do to the city and the people there?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It would be utterly devastating, Kristie. This war already has been for so many years and what

you have in Idlib is a population of about 3 to 3.5 million, at least a third of them are children and a lot of them, Kristie, are people that have

already been displaced from other areas.

The issue is that in the past when there were ceasefire agreements that allowed rebels and civilians to leave, they left to Idlib. Well there is no

Idlib for Idlib. And when were there just a few weeks ago, we were at the aftermath of an area that had been bombed repeatedly, residents said.

We met a father who was pulling out the clothing of his dead children. Four out of his five children had died. One can't even begin to imagine the

impact that has on an individual. Not to mention these massive, sprawling refugee camps that are inhabited by a population whose homes, in theory

right now, are back under regime control.

Yet people who fled years ago from areas like Aleppo and when you ask them why they haven't gone back home as opposed to living inside a tent, they

say because they're too afraid of repercussions by the regime. They don't trust that just because they were living in opposition areas, just because

they left they're not going to somehow end up detained or killed or lost within Syria's vast prison system.

They really feel as if they have absolutely no option at this stage. And you're talking about a population that has nowhere to go and nowhere to


LU STOUT: The Tehran talks are under way. The fate of the people of Idlib hanging in the balance. Arwa Damon, reporting live for us along with

Matthew Chance, Fred Pleitgen, we thank all of you for your reporting. And we will continue to monitor those talks underway in Iran.

Now, to the United States where the corridors of power in Washington, they are still buzzing with speculation over who wrote the shadowing critique of

the Trump presidency in that "New York Times" opinion piece, and the White House is launching a furious hunt to find out who is responsible.

On Thursday, President Trump blasted the anonymous op-ed at a campaign rally in Montana. He suggested it could be considered treason. And he also

addressed ongoing talk of impeachment.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And what you're going to have is you'll have a country that's going to turn into a third world

country because if the opposite party becomes president, every time before it even starts, before you've even found out whether or not he or she is

going to do a great job, they'll say, we want to impeach him.

And you'll impeach him. It's so ridiculous. But we'll worry about that if it ever happens, but if it does happen, it's your fault because you didn't

go out to vote, OK?


LU STOUT: Well, Abby Phillips joins us from outside the White House with more. And Abby, after that and the op-ed it seems that President Trump is

still very much on the attack.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right. He was very focused on this issue of the op-ed at that rally last night in

Montana telling his supporters that people were out to get him, and he was also urging the "New York Times" to do more to reveal who their sources



TRUMP: Nobody knows who the hell he is or she. For the sake of our national security, the "New York Times" should publish his name at once.

Unelected, deep state operatives who defied the voters to push their own secret agendas are truly a threat to democracy itself.


PHILLIP: Now, the search in the White House is really continuing today as they scramble to figure out who might be behind this. Aides are trying to

identify this person through all sorts of means but there is a lot of speculation happening as well. Some of it not based on a whole lot. The

"New York Times" is reporting that there is, perhaps a list of 12 people who are suspected.

But again, I mean, this is a process that people in this building understand to be one that will be very difficult considering the wide range

of people who could possibly be behind it. Meanwhile, the president's cabinet have all come out one by one over the last day or so, each of them

claiming that they did not author that op-ed.

[08:10:00] LU STOUT: And it's been -- it's quite a week for President Trump. You know, this double punch from Bob Woodward and the release of

"Fear," the anonymous op-ed in the "New York Times," and we saw him at a rally in Montana. Is Donald Trump turning to his base to literally rally up

support this week?

PHILLIP: Well, these issues are in his mind as we heard him say last night, very much connected. These rallies that he's doing in Montana, and

today he's going to North Dakota, this is about the midterm elections which he thinks will ultimately be a referendum on himself and whether or not

control of Congress is going to shift in a way that could lead to impeachment.

He is trying to urge his supporters not to take this one lightly. To get out and vote because as he said last night, if control over the Congress

changes, Democrats take control, he believes that he could be impeached, and the president is trying to shift the attention, as you mentioned, to

the economy.

He said in the past that he believes he can't be impeached because he's doing such a great job and of course with these job numbers coming out in

the next few minutes, I think a lot of people expect that they will continue a kind of trend of a positive growth on the part of the United

States' economy. The big question remains, however, will that be enough to overshadow all of this other chaos and controversy that constantly seems to

surround this president, Kristie.

LU STOUT: Yes, it depends on just how good those numbers are, and they'll be out in about what, 20 minutes time. Abby Phillip, reporting live for us

in the White Hous. Abby, thank you.

Now, if the amateur detectives out there among "News Streams" viewers have been paying attention, they will have realized that the White House kind of

needs your help right now. The Trump administration has been working overtime to figure out who wrote the "New York Times" op-ed. Randi Kaye has

the full story.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Three little words --


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: They're saying senior administration official.


KAYE: -- have set off a collective game of "Clue" across the country.


RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: Is it a Trump appointee? Is he in the White House?


KAYE: Calling all amateur sleuths.


WHOOPI GOLDBERG, TALK SHOW HOST: There are plenty of suspects. Do you have any other guesses?

DOUG BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: There is some good people in the Trump administration like Dan Coats, who is somebody who, you know, has

realized the horror of what happened in Helsinki. And people like General Mattis. So we won't know. I don't know when we'll find out who anonymous



KAYE: When or if. One former speechwriter for President Bill Clinton thinks anonymous could be a speechwriter, too.


DAVID KUSNET, FORMER SPEECHWRITER FOR PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: It reads like a speechwriter. There is a lot of alliteration, words starting with the

same way.


KAYE: Like this, "it may be cold comfort in this chaotic era." Others are speculating it's the president's chief of staff.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unnamed senior administration official --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kelly would be high on my list.


KAYE: General John Kelly clearly has a military background and the buzzword lodestar used in the op-ed is a military term.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sounds like a military person to me.


KAYE: Still others are quick to point out lodestar is a word Vice President Mike Pence likes to use.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Vigilance and resolve will be our lodestar.

Be our lodestar.

With vigilance and resolve as our lodestar.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's too obvious to say lodestar when you're Pence if you've used it a million times.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you want to be conspiratorial it's even possible that someone wrote it knowing that the word lodestar was a favorite word of

Vice President Pence and wanted to either cast suspicion on the vice president or wanted to distract attention from themselves.


KAYE: The guessing game moved into hyper drive with names such as White House counsel Don Mcgahn, CIA Director Gina Haspel and even George Conway,

who is married to Kellyanne Conway and often trolls Trump on Twitter.


CONWAY: It's not clear to us anyway that it's somebody in the White House.

GUILIANI: It may be a guy inside the White House. He may be upper level, lower level. Maybe he's in the old executive office building.


KAYE: The FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver, who makes a living making predictions zeroed in on the words anti-trade in the op-ed, tweeting that

it made him wonder if it's someone in treasury or at least highly concerned with economic policy. Whoever anonymous is, it's a whodunit, tailor made

for TV.


JIMMY KIMMEL, LATE NIGHT SHOW HOST: I have to say I'm surprised by how good a writer Ivanka is. I mean --


KAYE: Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


LU STOUT: Now, one thing Mr. Trump can feel more relaxed about is his pick for the Supreme Court. Now, Brett Kavanaugh got through two days of tough

questioning by the Senate Judiciary Committee unscathed. In the hearing, he faced questions about his views on abortion, the constitution and potential

criminal proceedings against a sitting president.


[08:14:59] BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE NOMINEE: One, my only loyalty is to the constitution. I've made that clear. I'm an independent

judge. Two, the Justice Department for 45 years has taken the position and still does that a sitting president may not be indicted while still in

office. Three, I have not taken a position on the constitutionality and promised you I have an open mind.


LU STOUT: And just like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton 11 years ago, Democratic senators are using the high-profile senate hearing to launch

presidential bids. Senator Cory Booker appears to have thrown his hat into the ring. In some good old-fashioned political grandstanding, he declared

that he was releasing confidential e-mails about Kavanaugh's views on racial profiling.


SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: I understand that the penalty comes with potential ousting from the senate. And if Senator Cornyn believes that I

violated senate rules, I openly invite and accept the consequences of my team releasing that e-mail right now.


LU STOUT: OK, but there was one problem for Senator Booker. The e-mails were no longer confidential.

You're watching "News Stream."

Up next, in a surreal plot twist to Brazil's presidential race, the country's front running candidate was attacked in broad daylight in a crowd

of supporters.

Also ahead, Twitter takes a well-known conspiracy theorist off its site a month after other tech titans did the same. We'll tell you why.


LU STOTU: Coming to you live from Hong Kong, you're back watching "News Stream." Now, we've been closely monitoring the Tehran summit taking place

in Iran, this summit between the leaders of Russia, Iran and Turkey to figure out what's going to happen next in the war in Syria. Hassan Rouhani

is speaking. Let's listen in.


HASSAN ROUIHANI, PRESIDENT OF IRAN (through translation): I'm positive in this summit. And in the summit we have -- there was satisfactory

consultation and coordination regarding the current and future issues on efforts of Syria. This summit has been convened at a time that (inaudible)

is thinking about labeling and other allegations imposing and slapping another allegation on Syrian government and they are after -- they are

after new and illegal interferences in Syria, which in this summit we have stressed on the non-interference of others like the U.S., like the

(inaudible) regime.

[08:20:10] I stress this put in my especially on all out friends have shared this point that forwarding military interference in Syria must

create new problems and intensify the campaign on Syria and also put Syrian people at more agony and suffering. Also, we talked about Idlib government

as one of the most -- as a sensitive issue which has been described by the public opinion.

And in the role (ph) -- on one side there are large number of people, hundreds, thousands of terrorists from ISIS (inaudible) and other terrorist

groups. They are stationed in Idlib and are fighting against the security of the Syrian people. They have taken measures against the security of the

Syrian people. And in a form of terrorist measures they are doing their anti-human actions and on the others, such eradicates these (inaudible).

Because of the large civilian population, this concern has been started that an arrangement must be met, that civilian peoples must be saved and

must be protected from and this meeting -- and also in the form of (inaudible) also after discussion and negotiations that we have out there,

we addressed that we had reached an agreement that as much as possible, we must encourage terrorists to lay down their arms.

And this continued, this armed actions because this could correct a lot of problems for the Syrian people. It could be dangerous for us. The Idlib

people are also in decision (ph). We stressed this point that the process of formulation or finalizing the constitution of Syria must be expedited

and a formulation of laws in the constitution must be implemented.

With the president of Syria government and the representative of the opposition, it is crucial for the future and (inaudible) security of Syria

were also covered. The issue of Syrians displaces in different countries and their repatriation, trade of prisoners and also the issue of

reconstruction of Syria. (Inaudible) all of the three precedents (ph), as (inaudible).

So these are the steps that must be taken for the future of Syria. We are very delighted that after seven years in -- seven years of massive

suffering and agony of the Syrian people, today the Syrian people -- the Syrian people is very close to its final victors in different parts of --

terrorist and different parts of Syria.

They have been pushed out and driven out of the region. They had (inaudible) occupation and the legal government of Syria is exerting

control on all parts -- most parts of syria and also in the entire region. This hope has been promoted and in a not too distant future, peace and

security will be restored and implemented in Syria, which beneficial for the whole region, also for the three countries whose presidents are here.

It is very important and crucial for us and also the three presidents has stressed that our cooperation must be continued. We must continue this

process up to the end of the process or implementation of democracy in Syria. Repatriation now (inaudible) full implementation of security and

simply that Syria must continue and (inaudible) continue making -- first in this regard and hopefully, the next summit, the summit of the (inaudible)

will be held in federation of Russia and the declaration --


LU STOUT: You've been listening to the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani speaking. This is live video from Tehran with the leaders of Iran, Russia

and Turkey have been discussing the conflict in Syria. And hanging in the balance, the fate of Idlib, the last major rebel stronghold.

[08:25:001] We will continue to keep tabs on that press conference with some additional comments from the other leaders who are attending and we'll

bring it to you right here on CNN.

Meanwhile, the United States is bringing cyber hacking charges against a North Korean computer programmer. The Justice Department says Park Jin Hyok

is behind the massive hack on Sony Pictures Entertainment from 2014 that attempted to block the release of the movie "The Interview." It was the

comedy depicting the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The DOJ says that he is linked to the WannaCry ransom ware attack from last

year as well as an $81 million fraudulent online bank transfer in 2016.

Now, Alex Jones, his name his synonymous with far right conspiracy theories including bizarre claims that the September 11th attacks were an inside job

and that the Sandy Hook scholl massacre was a hoax. But today, he has one less place to spread his ideas after Twitter permanently banned Jones and

his Infowars website.

Now, this move follows similar ones by YouTube as also Facebook and others and it comes almost a month after the twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey defended

keeping Alex Jones on the platform saying that back then, he had no the violated twitter rules. So what's behind this apparent change of heart? Now

for more of that, let's bring in David Kirkpatrick. He is the founder, host and CEO of Techonomy and he joins us now. And David, welcome back. Thank

you for joining us.


LU STOUT: So, why now? Why did it take so long for Twitter to finally do this and ban Alex Jones from its platform?

KIRKPATRICK: Well, he gets for two reasons. First of all, the mood is changing with much more scrutiny on these platforms and, you know, they've

been getting tons of pressure to come up with some kind of consistent policy, but I actually admire Twitter and Jack Dorsey for having been


And from the other reason that it's happening now, is that Alex Jones continued to violate the very explicit rules that Twitter has about

especially regarding things like threatening people with violence and doing other extremely harmful to others activities on the platform that are

banned and legitimately give them cause to keep him from using it.

LU STOUT: You admire Twitter for its consistency. You know, it's (inaudible) Alex Jones is banned, but what if other Twitter users keep

linking to his site and keep quoting his latest conspiracy theories? Will they too be banned and should they?

KIRKPATRICK: It's not about conspiracy theories that he's being banned, It's threatening violence and really specifically targeting individuals. I

think that's the thing -- unfortunately, they didn't say exactly which tweets it was that he violated their terms with. So, I don't know the exact

details of that, but they didn't say so.

But the reality is, there is no way that they can control and restrain his views from getting across twitter, and that's not their intention. The

reason they allowed Jones to continue remaining on twitter when the other platforms had banned him was because the conspiracy theories themselves is

really incendiary and truly divisive rhetoric, is not in itself a violation of twitter's rules. And so that is probably acceptable to Jack Dorsey and

twitter, even if his followers continue to repeat that on their own tweets.

LU STOUT: Got it.

KIRKPATRICK: But Jones himself is no longer on twitter and that's a big change but he's not the first.

LU STOUT: Yes. Unfortunately David, we're going to have to leave it there. Always appreciate your analysis. Thank you so much and take care because

right now we have to take our viewers back to Tehran. Vladimir Putin is speaking live. He is attending that three-nation Tehran summit where they

are just talking about the future of Syria. Let's listen in now.


VLADIMIR PIUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translation): -- representative of the government and also the opposition group and also

international organization and institution to -- and portray any future for the Syrian people, security and independence and right of sovereignty must

be honored by Syrian people and Iran, Russia and Turkey.

We have paid a special attention for -- in taking coordinated -- in deducting coordinated measures to improve the humanitarian conditions to

resolve the issues and social problems of Syrians and we expect that in future we created, conducive conditions for repatriation and return of

displaced and migrants and refugees.

Meanwhile in Syria, we have been acting on such basis. We have -- the condition is right for repatriation of about 2 million Syrians without any

racial discrimination, without any ethnic discrimination, for everyone who wants to return to their own country. We have agreed with our Iranian and

Turkish friends to step up our coordination efforts regarding humanitarian conditions to help the civilian population.


I would like to ensure that put that collective -- Russia has donated about 3,000 tons of humanitarian aid to the civil population, about more than

6,000 hectares they have -- about 6,000 hectares regarding the massive devastation and ravages of war in Syria.

I do believe that there must be -- there must be international reconstruction of Syria in place. And I would like to ask my -- I would

like to thank Syrian -- my Turkish and Iranian friends for the useful points they have raised. I would like to thank Mr. Rouhani's hospitality.

I'm sure the result of this meeting could greatly contribute to long-term peace and stability.

RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, PRESIDENT, TURKEY (through translator): Thank you, Mr. President. I appreciate -- I appreciate you, Mr. President, for the

hospitality you've extended to me and to the (inaudible) this event. If you are not afflicted -- if you are not affected by affliction of others and

pain of others, you cannot be called aptly -- you cannot be aptly called -- the reason for our presence in order to express our sympathies with Syrian

brothers and sisters and searching for a way to end and to settle -- to end this tragic humanitarian conflict (inaudible) and we are convening this

third edition in the same format in order to create and promote security and stability.

It has been very beneficial in these summits and ask us to give us the opportunity to have assessments of the real situation in Syria and provide

and help -- and provide for the future. These conflicts have been going for eight years. I think this is not logical expectation. We can

allegedly spend to resolve this conflict. This conflict involves in a single -- but unlike others, they have turned their back to this fire.

Unlike others, we have tried to extinguish this fire (inaudible) dwelling on the decision they have tried to concentrate on coming out of this. We

have understand (ph) that this process has been a catalyst for Geneva talks in order to achieve a diplomatic solution in this sensitive juncture

safeguarding. This, of course, has been the result of sacrifices, but importantly we must also reaffirm or resolve to continue these efforts.

The press, the media, as you have heard from the next -- the second summit which was held in April 2018. We have same belief -- we have similar

developments not under the leadership of (inaudible). I think all of these developments -- they have developments covered this in every (inaudible) as

Syria. We have told them that failure to contain Syrian Army will have catastrophic consequences. We have said that invading Idlib you would have

catastrophic consequences as the city has set up 12 observation points.

So in order to continue restoring peace, we have adopted a very important responsibilities in protecting the (inaudible) of this through separating

the ranks of terrorists from each other and also keeping the status quo in Idlib is of crucial importance because Idlib is the same the entire Syria

for us. The wrongness that they have been taking will have -- the wrongness they have will result -- will have far-reaching negative

consequences in every part of the region in implementing dangerous measures that puts the lives of civilians at risk, and holds them arrest.

[08:35:00] They will only put fire -- put oil -- put oil in the fire of terrorism from the various -- from the (inaudible). We have always tried

to stop the terrorism. We have opened up our arms and have distant relations to our brothers and sisters. Like yesterday, we don't want -- we

don't want to see any drop of oil shed from (inaudible). Again, we don't want to -- we don't want to see that. We don't want to see intensification

of problems for the Idlib government as they have been dealing, but this has made this very important for us.

The issue of Idlib must not cause any irretrievable damage. And so, any issue must be resolved within this desperate framework (inaudible). I think

our -- Turkey has been very clear that we have had discussions and consultation with Mr. Rouhani and assured our consultation preserves --

preserving the fundamentals of the peace process for achieving a sustainable diplomatic solution is very important as there is agreement and

also the process under the pretext of the presenters. We must not rush decision. Also at this point, (inaudible) Turkey and Syria must be -- must

be protected. And we also must -- the sensationalist groups who are working in line that the other objectives --

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN NEWS STREAM HOST: Quote, "Keeping the status quo of Idlib is of critical important." That was Turkish President Recep Tayyip

Erdogan, who is speaking live n Tehran, sharing the podium there with the leaders of Iran Russia. The three leaders have been discussing the

conflicts in Syria.

Earlier, we heard from Vladimir Putin as well as the host of the Tehran talks, Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani. Of course, Russia and Iran are

major allies of the regime in Damascus. At stake here, what will happen next in the seven-year long conflict and what will happen to Idlib, the

last major rebel stronghold?

Let's get analysis now with our chief international correspondent, Clarissa Ward, joins us now from CNN London. And Clarissa, it's incredible just to

see these three leaders, Putin, Erdogan, Rouhani, sharing the same podium. They're on the stage. But ultimately, what will come out of these talks

involving these men there in Tehran?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kristie, I mean that's the million dollar question. As you said, it's extraordinary to see

them all staging -- sharing the stage because what has become clear in this conflict is that really these are the only three men who have a real say in

what happens next on the ground.

I'm not talking about the Syrian actors, but the international actors. You'll notice who's not there. The U.S. is not there. Europe is not there.

But Turkey, Russia and Iran are ultimately going to be the ones who really decide the course that this conflict takes.

We heard President Putin and President Rouhani, both of them saying very strongly that measures must be taken to protect the civilians of Idlib. Of

course, there's an estimated 3 million civilians in Idlib. Roughly, 1 million of those believed to be children. So it's in everybody's interest

to overt and all-out blood bath.

And yet, what we didn't hear from President Putin and what we didn't hear from President Rouhani is how exactly one would go about that given the

regime of Bashar al-Assad's track record, given that this is a regime that has used chemical weapons against its own people, that it has bombed

civilian infrastructure, hospitals, schools, courthouses.

How exactly are they planning to launch an attack against what they called these terrorist havens in Idlib without doing significant damage not just

to civilian infrastructure but to human lives, Kristie. And I don't think we're any clearer after listening to these press conference so far to

knowing how they plan to do that. They say there will be another round of talks that will take in Russian federation, no date given yet. But

presumably, one can hope to hear for more clarity then.

LU STOUT: Yes. Very little clarity in the meantime, but what will happen to Idlib? Another round of talks to follow the Tehran Summit. Let's talk

about the three international players involved here because they have three very different interests when it comes to Syria. And we know that Russia

and Iran, they backed the regime in Damascus. Turkey has been backing rebels. So, when they come together and talk, how much common ground do

they all have?

WARD: Well, Turkey, you will notice had pretty strong rhetoric coming out of the gate. They said Turkey will not tolerate the murderous intentions

of the Assad regime. As you pointed out, Turkey has supported the rebels, particularly Muslim brotherhood aligned elements within the rebellion.

[08:40:03] We have seen a pivot from Turkey any recent years. There has been a sort of reluctant recognition of the limits of Turkey's power to try

to essentially coalesce the rebels together under a singular banner that the international community could potentially get behind. We saw them last

week designating the most powerful group on the ground, Hay'at Tahrir al- Sham as a terrorist organization essentially saying what most of us already knew, which is that this is just another incarnation of Jebital Mustra

(ph), which of course back in the days swore allegiance to al Qaeda. Turkey has a significant military presence now in Idlib province. They

just brought more trucks, tanks, howitzers. They have about a dozen military outposts, largely observation posts scattered around the province.

But the real issue for Turkey, Kristie, is trying to workout what they're going to do about this massive refugee crisis in the making. They are

already hosting millions of Syrians. They simply can't afford to have another 3 million try to cross over into Turkey. So that's the primary

objective for them is trying to work o how to overt a blood bath, overt a crisis and sit down at the negotiating table with two powers that up until

recently had little in common with in terms of how they see the Syrian conflict, Kristie.

LU STOUT: All right. Clarissa Ward reporting live for us from London, really appreciate your analysis as we've been following this Tehran talks

happening at this moment at the Iranian capital. Hassan Rouhani hosting this talks along with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and the

Turkish leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. There may be more talks to come after this, but still, lack of clarity about the logical stronghold in

Syria Idlib and just the human catastrophe that we are trying to avoid. That remains to be seen, but will happen there.

We will continue to follow the situation for you, but that is it for "News Stream." I'm Kristie Lu Stout. But don't go anywhere. We got "World Sport"

with Amanda Davies coming up next right here on CNN.


[08:45:00] (WORLD SPORT)