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Leaders Gather at Doha Forum Amid Regional Unrest; Qatar Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani on Communications with Saudi Arabia; U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Iran and Impeachment; Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil on Regional Rivalries; Qatar Preparing for 2022 World Cup. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired December 15, 2019 - 11:00:00   ET




BECKY ANDERSON, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello, I'm Becky Anderson. Live from Doha.

The Gulf, once a gateway to riches, now a geopolitical flashpoint, world leaders dipping into diplomacy and dialogue, from foreign influence to

rising powers and non-state players. There has been plenty on the agenda.

Humanitarian crises from Syria to Yemen, sanctions are squeezing Iran, Israel suffers election whiplash, now facing its third vote in a year.

Turkey's incursion into Syria bolstered Russia's rise in this region. The U.S. seemingly marches in circles.

On the streets, people are uniting against power, protests paralyzing governments from Baghdad to Beirut. You want to understand geopolitics

today, there is no better window to our world than right here in this region of the Middle East.

So folks, buckle in; all this hour, we will be connecting you to what is going on around this region.

One crisis taking center stage here at the Doha Forum is the Gulf Cooperation Council or the GCC dispute, a priority not only for the region

but for the world. Hear what U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham told me about why he sees this as a critical issue.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): My goal for 2020 is not only to find a substitute for the JCPOA but to end the conflict that has been swapped

between Saudi Arabia, Qatar and our Gulf Arab allies. This needs to end.

Foundationally, there is legitimacy to everybody's concerns. But the time has come to get this over with, to unite and focus on the way forward.


ANDERSON: So what is the way forward?

I spoke to Qatar's foreign minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al Thani after Saudi Arabia and its allies cut diplomatic ties with Doha. He told me then

he was willing to talk to resolve the issues between the two sides.

Today 2.5 years on, I sat down with him again here at the Doha Forum, asking him how close he believes we are to a resolution. Have a listen.


MOHAMMED BIN ABDULRAHMAN AL THANI, QATARI FOREIGN MINISTER: There are some progress. Why we call it some progress. We have a stalemate of non-

communications to starting communications with the Saudis.

Honestly, from our perspective in Qatar, we want to understand the grievances. We want to study them and to assist them and look at solutions

that can safeguard us in the future from any other potential crisis.

ANDERSON: So let's take a look at some of the original claims. The Qatari royal family had licensed the funding of terrorism across the Middle East

for decades, one of the claims.

One of the demands to close down Al Jazeera, to downgrade ties with Iran and close the Turkish military base in Qatar and to end contact with groups

such as the Muslim Brotherhood. "The Wall Street Journal" reporting recently as part of an impending thaw, Doha was quote, "willing to severe

ties" with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Is that true?

THANI: First of all, we are a country of multiple parties so severing ties with political party. I don't understand what is the background of it.

But Qatar has never supported Muslim Brotherhood and has never had a direct relationship with Muslim Brotherhood as a political party as long as they

are participating in governments that enacted by their own people. We have to deal with those governments.

We have to deal with the people who are working in those governments. The people of those countries like in Egypt are also the ones that should be

asked why they choose them and they choose another option.


THANI: We believe in Qatar we cannot dictate for other peoples what to choose and what to not if we want to really help the countries and help the


Second, regarding the funding of terrorism, this has been proven by all our allies, by international community, that this premise has no basis at all.

ANDERSON: Can you share whether you are prepared to concede in any way and, if so, how?

And what are Qatar's demands going forward?

THANI: Well, I think it's very clear for us. This situation has nowhere. Everybody lose in that crisis. What we want to see, we want to see a

solution, a settlement that serving the dignity of all countries. Declaring all countries as owner of this unity back and, therefore, looking

to safeguard this GCC bloc from any future disruption by what happened the last two years.

ANDERSON: You are avoiding my question.

What are you prepared to concede and what are Qatar's demands?

THANI: As I told you, there are no concessions. We want to be forward looking and our demands that such a situation not be repeated again. And

we say it before, we are willing to discuss anything except things that affecting the sovereignty or interference in our domestic or foreign

policy. These are the main things.

ANDERSON: Are we days, weeks, months away from the end of this?

THANI: Well, we believe that we are still at very early stage and what happened in the last 2.5 years was a lot. And there is -- I think there is

a need for some time to rebuild that trust.

ANDERSON: And the minister of the state for foreign affairs in the UAE tweeted the following, "The recent Qatari leaks regarding the resolution of

the Doha crisis with sister Saudi Arabia, without the three countries, are a repetition of Doha's endeavor to split ranks and evade obligations."

He went on to say, "Riyadh leads a broad front of its brothers in this and other regional files and is committed to the demands of its allies and

those are essential and solid."

Your response, are you trying to split the ranks by opening channels of communications with Saudi Arabia?

THANI: We are not the ones who united them or are splitting them. With respect for the minister who said that, Qatari leaks, it's not Qatari

leaks, we are talking visibly with official statements that there are some progress with Saudis. So it cannot be called leaked in the first place.

In our conversation with Saudi, we want to address the issue that hurt the relationship between Qatar and Saudi. And I think this is a legitimate

right for both countries. What we are talking at right now is talking, as talks, that should lead to a resolution for GCC crisis. We are not

ignoring others. But this is the channel that started.

ANDERSON: Has there been pressure on both you and Riyadh to end this dispute?

Is that where the sort of fulcrum for this progress is coming from?

THANI: Well, we have seen that our allies are not happy with the situation in the Gulf and we are not happy with the situation in the Gulf. We don't

want to say that this is a result of pressure. But we hope this is a result of goodwill of both parties to engage in a constructive solution.

ANDERSON: Qatar, of course, home to America's largest base in the region, airbase. This weekend, you are hosting President Trump's daughter and

adviser, Ivanka Trump, as well as the Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif.

How effective has Qatar's role been in mediating Washington and Tehran?

THANI: Well, first of all, both -- we are talking about the United States, our relation with the United States is very important to U.S., will remain

a very important ally for the state of Qatar.

We have the largest airbase. We have a very strong economic cooperation. A cooperation of several American universities which are operating here in

Qatar. And Iran from the other side, Iran is our neighbor, agreeing with all of this, agreeing with them is something.

But we cannot change the fact that they are our neighbor and we are sharing with them our knowledge -- we disagree with the Iran policies in the

region. But we talk to them because we believe this agreement can be only result of -- and we always encourage both parties to talk to each other.


AL THANI: Because we believe that this situation, if it will evolve will be harmful for everyone in the Gulf, not only for -- not only for us in

Qatar. We are not mediating between them. But we are talking to our allies all the time. We are trying to talk to our neighbor all the time

and deescalate and engage and start in a dialogue.

ANDERSON: Before this, secretary of state Rex Tillerson was very clear in trying to mediate an end to the GCC rift. He, not least, says because the

U.S. has a lot of skin in the game with the huge military base here.

That was counter to the Trump administration, at least those close to Donald Trump, including Jared Kushner, who had taken the side of the


Do you see that cohort of advisers around Donald Trump now pivoting back to Qatar at this point?

THANI: Well, we see that President Trump and his staff are working and trying very hard to resolve this issue. And we have seen this attempts

ourselves several times. And we hope that will lead to a solution. The role of the U.S. and the U.S. leadership will remain very important. The

U.S. is an ally and the rest of the --


ANDERSON: How important for the region is it that Riyadh and Tehran start talking to each other?

THANI: We believe it's very, very important that we have a region led solution because if we are looking at the shoe (ph) that's happening,

escalation with Iran, the direct effect is on the region.

It's not the West and the United States or the others. And we believe that we need to sit together around the table and to address the concerns in

that relation between Iran and the entire of other countries.

And I think this was a part of the criticism of the period of the JCPOA that included the GCC region. We see now there is an opportunity that

everybody comes on the table and have a candid discussion, what kind of relationship we want to have between Iran and the Gulf countries.

And we say that we need to agree on security principles such that everybody should adhere to and identify which areas of cooperation we can cooperate

together to co-exist together because we cannot change the geography. Where we have developed but we have to make sure that we know how to live

with it and never to fail to follow activity.

ANDERSON: Are we seeing a revamp of Saudi's foreign policy for example the war in Yemen, trying to clearly get involved in ending this rift with Qatar

as well?

THANI: Well, Saudi Arabia is very important country in the Gulf and very important in the Arab region and the Saudi also should be a leadership role

ending conflicts and really looking for a solution. We commend them for the acts they are taking to end the war in Yemen and even to put an end for

the GCC rift, which is now taking more time than it should.

It shouldn't happen in the first place, but even it's taking a longer time. We hope this is also creating a new opening that the GCC as a bloc led by

the Saudis to have a direct discussion and dialogue with Iran. We want to see a peaceful region. This region is very important for the peace and

stability of the world.

ANDERSON: Are we back from the brink?

Certainly there is talk of de-escalation.

Are you still concerned there could be more than a military conflict?

THANI: We hope that no military conflict will happen in that region, because it will be very disruptive. We see that in response to a lot of

activities that happened here, the U.S. shows a restraint and this is something we encourage because we don't want to have any confrontation

between the U.S. and Iran.

The Iran has expressed their willingness to engage with the region several times. So I think we need to take this expression of interest more

seriously in our region.

ANDERSON: You have good relations with Ankara and which goes against the kind of grain of how other Arab countries feel, particularly those of the

Quartet at present.

Would you be willing to reengineer that relationship, take it away from Turkey, in order to ensure a solution to this Gulf dispute?

THANI: We are not willing to compromise our relationship with countries because of a relation with another country. And this is something we are

being very clear with.


THANI: Even adding to this morally, ethically, you cannot turn your back on a people who stood with you on your difficult time. And we are a small

country and we understand this very well and we value this very much.

So any country that opened up for us and helped us during our crisis, we would remain grateful for them. Our people will remain grateful for them

and we will never turn our back to them.


ANDERSON: The foreign minister of Qatar speaking to me here at the Doha Forum earlier.

Well, coming up from here, the Iranian foreign minister speaks as tensions with the West are as high as ever. What he had to say just an hour or so

ago is up next.

Plus, as the people of Lebanon face an economic crisis and continue anti- government protests, we talk with Lebanon's foreign minister Gebran Bassil about what he believes comes next. That after this.




ANDERSON: Day two of the Doha Forum, an international foreign policy conference, tackling some of the region and world's biggest issues.

Moments ago the foreign minister of Iran spoke here, suggesting certain global players are taking advantage of conflicts and rivalries in the

region. Have a listen.


JAVAD ZARIF, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: The disparities in power, geographic size, natural and human resources and the like among countries

in our region have led to disastrous conclusions.

Some global actors look at these disparities and the unending rivalries in the region as an opportunity; indeed, as providing a fertile ground to

expand their military presence and to sell more weapons to nearly all sides. But this outside presence has neither enhanced the security of the

outside actors nor the security of our region.


ANDERSON: Well, it's a familiar refrain from the foreign minister and tensions with Washington are as high as ever.


ANDERSON: Last week the U.S. slapped new sanctions on Iran and warned it against harming U.S. interests in Iraq. With me now is Vali Nasr, a

professor of international studies at Johns Hopkins University, a good friend of this show.

We thank you very much, indeed, for joining us here in Doha.

What did you make of what you heard from the foreign minister of Iran?


expected, blaming the U.S. for regional tensions, perhaps was to be expected.

But I thought it was a very clever way by him of not putting blame for regional tensions on Iran's archrivals in the region, Saudi Arabia, UAE, by

putting blame on the United States, essentially he was creating space for himself in order to be arguing for regional engagement and diplomacy.

ANDERSON: What chance of that at this stage?

NASR: Chances are slim but more real than they have been in the past four, five years because the United States is clearly not interested in the

region. It is feared it might be withdrawing. On the other hand you have tensions with Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Qatar, between Iran, Saudi

Arabia and UAE and you have so much going on and I think there is a sense in the region that they need to find a way to reduce tension.

ANDERSON: And a clear appetite for that coming from the foreign minister of Qatar here where we are today in the interview that I conducted with him

earlier. I spoke with the U.S. special representative Brian Hook as Washington leveled those new sanctions. It was a couple of days ago.

He says, despite what sources tell CNN, the maximum pressure campaign on Iran is weakening its government. Have a listen to what he said.


BRIAN HOOK, U.S. SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR IRAN: If you're in the Iranian government, you are a hardliner. So what we have been trying to do is sort

of accept Iran's expansionist foreign policy for what it is and do everything we can to reverse the gains that were made under the Iran

nuclear deal.

And we are very pleased with what we are seeing across the region. The regime is weaker. So are its proxies. We expect that to continue.


ANDERSON: He is telling me that he believes that the Iranian government is weaker for this campaign of maximum pressure. And this is not a narrative

that you hear around this region.

He challenged me when I said sources in this region and many people I speak to telling me that all the campaign of maximum pressure is doing is

actually emboldening hardliners in Iran. We play a really delicate dance in this region, aren't we?

What is going on with the U.S. with regard to Iran?

Obviously, they've taken their foot off the pedal as far as military action is concerned. And what the regional players now realize is the solution

going forward, which is to get around the table, whatever that table may look like.

NASR: Contrary to what Brian Hook said, nobody believes the policy is working or has been good for the region. Of course, he is trying to defend

the policy by saying it's a great policy. It's working. Its greatest accomplishment has been to decimate and weaken the moderates in Iran and

strengthen those --


ANDERSON: People like Zarif.

NASR: -- and Rouhani. And people who said you should never talk to the United States and you should be much more aggressive and assert yourself.

So it behooves asking, why are you weakening the very people you want to talk to?

If your aim is to talk and President Trump constantly says I want to talk to Iran. He should be strengthening people who actually want to talk. So

it's self-defeating.

Secondly, the Iranian regime is still standing. It's shown it is aggressive and bold and has the technology to really challenge the United

States and its allies. I think all that the maximum pressure has really managed to do is to make the Middle East much more dangerous.

In the middle of this, the U.S. is also not willing to actually push back against Iran. So the region is worried that all the U.S. is doing is

marching either towards war or towards talking.

ANDERSON: And that's, for that reason we are seeing the, at least, idea of this dispute with the GCC possibly coming to an end and this talk of a

regional order rather than one run by the U.S. leader.

Thank you very much, indeed, for joining us.

One of President Trump's biggest defenders weighed in on the maximum pressure campaign on Iran. Have a listen to what Lindsey Graham had to



GRAHAM: I like the president a lot but the one thing that I don't want him to misjudge is that what you call restraint may be seen as weakness.


ANDERSON: Well, we're bringing you more of that interview just ahead.





ANDERSON: Welcome back to Doha at this hour. Key figures are meeting at the Doha Forum trying to tackle issues, including almost two decades long

war in Afghanistan.

But are we now seeing a significant wind-down of that war?

A senior Trump administration official tells CNN around 4,000 U.S. troops are expected to be pulled from Afghanistan. That is around a third of U.S.

troops there right now. There are between 12,000 and 13,000 U.S. troops on the ground.

But remember Mr. Trump previously said he wants to lead 8,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan for now at least. Well, back in 2011, there were over

100,000 Americans serving in the country. Senior international correspondent Sam Kiley, who spent many months in Afghanistan over the

years, joins me now from Abu Dhabi.

What do you make of what we are hearing?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first is the Taliban reaction to that. It tells CNN this was a step in the right

direction. They felt their position is that U.S. troops have to withdraw entirely before they will sign up to any peace deal in Afghanistan.

Now they could see this as a sign of goodwill or they could interpret it as the U.S. president simply saying -- making good on his commitments made

during his election campaign to get out of Afghanistan, what he believes to be largely a waste of the American blood and treasure.

Now the Taliban have not responded any more than that. But they are in talks in that city where you are right now, in Doha over this weekend, with

the U.S. envoy visiting briefly Pakistan on Friday, a very important player, indeed, in any future peace deal could be likely to emerge without

Pakistani backing, it wouldn't fly.

So the ingredients were there but they were there at the beginning of September, Becky, with the Taliban was blamed by the U.S. president quite

literally for blowing up all hopes of a peace deal. He unilaterally withdrew from any kind of peace talks.

But talks are back on track and there will be a great deal of hope for there to be successful. But on the other hand, of course, Taliban are very

powerful politically and militarily in Afghanistan. It's really their choice as to which direction they want to go in if there is a dial down in

U.S. troops there, Becky.

ANDERSON: Yes, fascinating. Thank you, Sam.

Well, the U.S. releasing $115 million of aid to Lebanon. Senator Lindsey Graham told me why this should have never been blocked in the first place.



GRAHAM: The Lebanese military with all their problems is still a good bet for the United States.


ANDERSON: My conversation with the senator is up next.




ANDERSON: Hi, welcome back. We are just days now from a historic moment when the U.S. House of Representatives votes on impeaching President Trump.

That vote is supposed to pass the Democrat-led House and the process moves to the Republican controlled upper house, the Senate, where the president's

allies say they'll ensure it fails and fails fast. I spoke to one of the most prominent Republicans in the Senate, Lindsey Graham, here in Doha.


GRAHAM: This thing will come to the Senate and it will die quickly and I will do everything I can to make it die quickly.

I don't want to call anybody. I don't need to hear from Hunter Biden. I don't need to hear from Joe Biden. We can deal with that outside of

impeachment. I don't want to talk to Pompeo. I don't want to talk to Pence. I want to hear the House make their case based on the record they

established in the House and I want to vote.


ANDERSON: Senior senator Lindsey Graham, of course. He wasn't necessarily here at the Doha Forum to talk about impeachment. Instead, U.S. foreign

policy in the region. He is a veteran of America's policy here in the Middle East. In a wide ranging conversation. We discussed everything from

Saudi Arabia to Syria. Beginning with a stern warning from the senator for Turkey, about the purchase of s-400 missiles from Russia.


GRAHAM: We'll kick you out of the F-35 program. To anybody who's looking at buying the S-400 and getting American airplanes, you can't have both.


GRAHAM: The consequences to activating the S-400 will destroy the relationship between Turkey and the Congress. Turkey is an important

strategic ally. They're a member of NATO.

If there were a vote tomorrow in the Senate to sanction Turkey for their incursion into Syria and for deactivation of the S-400, it would get over

90 votes. It would be veto proof.

To my friends from Turkey, I have gone to Turkey three different times in the last year to try to find a win-win. The YPG elements inside of Syria,

Kurdish YPG elements, are seen by the government of Turkey to be terrorist organizations aligned with the PKK.

I get that. I've always understood the friction. The goal was to demilitarize the YPG elements along the Syrian-Turkey border, to move them

back to give Turkey the security they need by having some monitoring force but not to require the United States to pull the rug on allies who were

there in the ISIS fight.

I thought we could have gotten there through negotiation. But when Erdogan decided to intervene militarily in Syria, the Congress has come down on him

hard. The House, the one thing that President Erdogan did that nobody else could do was unite Democrats and Republicans.

To my friends in Turkey, let's find a way to resolve the S-400 issue. Let's stop the military incursion, create a demilitarized zone we can all

live with. And Turkey is a key player in solving the problems in Syria.

ANDERSON: You prepared to say to Erdogan's face after you were in the room and --

GRAHAM: I said it to his face.

ANDERSON: Let's do Saudi. Because this is important. The White House, once again, pushing to remove provisions, cracking down on Saudi Arabia

from the Defense Authorization Act.

Are you comfortable with President Trump's refusal to criticize Saudi Arabia in any way?

GRAHAM: I think he did criticize initially. The president of the United States has a different job than I do. He's the commander in chief. I

cannot tell you how many times I have been to Saudi Arabia with Senator McCain.

MBS, about two, three years ago, he came to Washington, honoring the end of the first Gulf War. I introduced MBS. Senator McCain was very close.

After Khashoggi, everything is different.

ANDERSON: You said at the time, and I quote, the crown prince should be dealt with. That was a year ago.

A year on, do you still believe that?

And if so, how?

GRAHAM: Saudi Arabia is a strategic ally. But what happened with Mr. Khashoggi shows a complete lack of respect for the U.S.-Saudi relationship.

What happened there violates every norm of civilized society. And if it's ignored, we will live to regret it.

ANDERSON: You do have different views on the use of U.S. power. You are more an interventionist. The U.S. president more or less inclined to use

military force.

Are you saying here now that you had advocate a military conflict and that you are or will try and persuade him of such?

GRAHAM: At the end of the day, President Trump, I think, has done a good job of rebuilding our military. He's trying to find a way to end the war

in Afghanistan, count me in. We are down to 8,600 people probably in Afghanistan. I think that works.

The Trump doctrine seems to be to have a light footprint, get other people to do more. America first is not isolationism. America first, I think, is

becoming burden sharing. It's for others to do more than we do less, for us to reassess these alliances and make sure that it is beneficial to us.

We are going to leave some forces in Syria, had a big debate with the president about that. Right?

Here's the one thing I want world leaders to know. Donald Trump will change his mind if you can convince him.

That to me is a great quality. And the one thing you need to know, you underestimate this guy at your own peril.

ANDERSON: So you no longer believe as you did during the 2016 campaign that Donald Trump is a shallow, race-baiting, xenophobic and complete idiot

when it comes to Middle East policy?

GRAHAM: Great question. I said all those things, clearly I wouldn't say it in his campaign, right?


GRAHAM: So here's what you can expect from me. If I think he's wrong, I'll say so. I didn't hold back when it came to Syria and I didn't hold

back when it came to Afghanistan because I believe passionately that the best way I can help President Trump is to tell him what I think.

Syria is not sand. Syria is an important country in a troubled region. I want to, like every American, get our troops home. But they can't come

home unless we're safe.


ANDERSON: Our interview with senior senator Lindsey Graham here at the Doha Forum in Qatar.

Well, this comes as a controversial choice to hold the World Cup. In two years' time, more than that, just under three, Qatar will host football's

biggest tournament. I talked to the man behind those preparations coming up.




ANDERSON: Nearly two months. That is how long protesters in Lebanon have been trying to reclaim their country from what they see as widespread

corruption and an economic crisis. And they haven't given up yet.

Most of the demonstrations of these last couple of months have been peaceful. But Saturday night, dozens were injured in clashes with security

forces in central Beirut. Security forces used tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets to push back on protesters, who ended up pelting them with

rocks and firecrackers.

While many were chanting outside government buildings against caretaker prime minister Saad Hariri, who is widely expected to be named the head of

the next government on Monday, other chants, however, were at Gebran Bassil.

I sat down with him at the Doha Forum here in Qatar, where he explained to me why his party will not be participating in the next government.


GEBRAN BASSIL, CARETAKER LEBANESE FOREIGN MINISTER: The problem is that we did our understanding with Hariri, many good things to the country. Mainly

preserving the stability. But we failed an economy and are fighting corruption. We are paying a price on that favor.

So we should pay it correctly as I think that we should change the policies of co-existing with corruption and of preserving the same wrong policies

and economy and finance.


ANDERSON: You are prepared to step away from any technocratic government in order that Saad Hariri might be successful in putting together a budget

which satisfies the international community and Lebanon's allies, who may then help Lebanon to get out of the mess that it is in.

BASSIL: In all cases, what we will do, whether we are participating in a government that suits our criteria of success and efficiency or they will

be outside in the government and the opposition against a government that we don't believe has the requirements for success. In both cases, we will

be helping Lebanon, it's our duty.

ANDERSON: You say you understand the opposition to Saad Hariri, is that what are you telling me?

BASSIL: If he will keep the same policy, of course, we will be in opposition.

ANDERSON: You are an ally of Hezbollah, that presence in Lebanese politics alienates your traditional allies.

Do you accept that Hezbollah's influence in Lebanese politics is a problem?

BASSIL: You know, Hezbollah internally is a part of the Lebanese population.

ANDERSON: I understand.

BASSIL: And they have their part, which is limited in politics. So in that sense, no, I don't accept. It's their right. They took it through

their popular legitimacy. They were elected by the people. Now Hezbollah --

ANDERSON: You said military activity?

BASSIL: Exactly. Now Hezbollah for outside is a problem. Yes, I know. They are paying the price.

ANDERSON: What are you going to do about it?

You say you are paying the price. Lebanese are paying the price for an awful lot of things at present.

What will you do to ensure that the Lebanese people and the international community is satisfied that Hezbollah's military activities are not

detrimental not only to the country but to the region?

BASSIL: If the international will is to get rid of Hezbollah from internal politics, I cannot do anything about it. Because I am sympathizing with

them as long as they are elected by the people.

Now if they are against that military part, you know, it is justified by, you know, the aggression of Israel against Lebanon. What I would do is to

try to keep Lebanon away, disassociate Lebanon from the problems of the outside and keep the foreign interventions and the foreign forces distant

from our internal issues.

ANDERSON: How does it feel to be, to listen to the chants against you by these Lebanese demonstrators and protesters?

What does it feel like to be derided by so much of the Lebanese society?

BASSIL: I am sure you are used to politician assassination. I am sure you know well about the fourth generation war, which is a massive media

campaign, you know, making the perception prevail over the truth and playing it psychologically in the way that is coupled with an economic

world that put people in a state of need that have make them frustrated.

I can understand this. On the other side, I see how many people are sympathizing with us being unfairly treated. And for me, this is very

simple. Truth, at the end, will prevail.


ANDERSON: He says truth in the end will prevail. We'll see how that works out for Bassil.

Ever since protesters took to the streets two months ago, CNN has been on the ground, speaking as the ones calling for change and those holding

people in power to account. See all of CONNECT THE WORLD's special Lebanon coverage. Do go to We'd love to hear your views.

We are coming to you live in Doha as well as the World Cup in 2022, Qatar has been hosting two club World Cups. I speak to the man behind the

preparations up next.





ANDERSON: Like a glistening pearl on a sandy ocean floor, you are looking at the new stadium standing out from the desert landscape in Qatar. While

this country prepares to host football's mega event in 2022, yes, it is the next World Cup, earlier, I spoke to the man responsible for delivering the

infrastructure for that highly anticipated event here in Qatar.

Hassan Al-Thawadi is the secretary general of the supreme committee for delivery and legacy. I begin by asking him how preparations were going.


HASSAN AL-THAWADI, 2022 WORLD CUP QATAR: In terms of preparation construction wise, infrastructure wise, everything is going according to

plan. Now we are moving onto the operational side. So the Gulf Cup you mentioned. The Club World Cup we are hosting as we speak, hosting the next

edition next year as well.

We will have another tournament in 2021, all are in place to test our plans, our strategies that we put in place and to help us improve and be

ready for 2022.

But also I'd like to add this one last element. For example, the Club World Cup and the Gulf Cup are a chance to listen to the fans, the

supporters that have followed their teams, to see the prize we put in place, do they meet expectations?

Are they satisfactory to the fans themselves?

We need these fans and our partners in preparing to host a very successful and I'd like to think a very transformational tournament in 2022, both in

terms of event and beyond.

ANDERSON: It's transformational off the pitch as well. I want to talk about the changes the World Cup has effected or at least the promises for

changes the World Cup effected. This country has been constantly under the spotlight ever since you won the right to host this competition.

The cabinet has now announced changes to worker welfare. And these are in response on the whole to the criticisms sort of been weighed on this

country. I want very specific answers, too.

When will the kafala system end and beyond that when will we see the introduction of minimum wage and mechanisms in place to ensure that

employers and sponsors do not abuse their workers?

AL-THAWADI: The specific answers to these. As you know, the announcement was made by the minister of labor the kafala system is ending. The minimum

wage announcement, there is a minimum wage in place. Albeit we can argue, it's 750 reals a month.

There is a commitment to reviewing that minimum wage and increasing it but in addition for it to be applied and it is being applied in a non-

discriminatory way, host nations are subject to extreme criticism. We've seen it in Russia and Brazil and in South Africa.

But I think there was a specific viciousness in certain areas when it came to us in certain elements.


AL-THAWADI: Now for those of you who might not be aware if you look back in history, and certain people come out and said it, there was a targeted

campaign against us that spread misinformation, spread falsehoods; that did happen.

There were other campaigns that provided constructive and merited criticism and these are the ones we embraced and engaged with. But I think in the

overall, regardless whether we were treated fairly or not, I think everything, us as a nation -- and you know if the blockade told us

anything, that we are a resilient nation.

And the fact is we believe the benefits of this tournament far outweigh any, any, let's say, unrequited criticism or anything else or any pains we

might have gone through or go through because I think the benefits truly will come towards the people of the region. And we're hoping to do also

and hoping this tournament can achieve is a platform that truly serves as one of the beacons in a very divisive world, bringing people together.

ANDERSON: Have you imagined the moment when that opening game of 2022 FIFA World Cup is drawing to a finish?

Your job of delivery will then effectively be over. You will probably be able relax for the first time in years.

What do you hope will be running through your mind at that point?

AL-THAWADI: I hope that my daughters will still recognize me.


ANDERSON: Well, folks, that was the head of the supreme committee for the delivery of 2022 World Cup.

Well, this is my last show for the year. It's been a super charged time for CONNECT THE WORLD and for region as the Middle East undergoes tectonic

shifts. We have expanded to two hours connecting you, the viewers, to the stories that matter.

But that's it for now. I'm Becky Anderson. That was a special edition of CONNECT THE WORLD live from Doha. I will see you in the new year.