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CNN'S AMANPOUR

Can Iran Nuclear Deal Be Saved?; Afghan Peace Talks; Interview with Rob Malley; Four Iranian Nationals Arrested; Challenges at the Tokyo Olympics; Struggles in Lebanon Happening Around the World. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired July 14, 2021 - 13:00:00   ET

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


[13:00:23]

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.

Here's what's coming up.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GOLODRYGA (voice-over): Taliban forces are sweeping across Afghanistan after the U.S. withdrawal. So, what happens now?

I will discuss this with one of the Afghan women negotiating with the Taliban and a former U.S. ambassador to the country.

Then:

ROBERT MALLEY, U.S. SPECIAL ENVOY TO IRAN: Right now, we believe that there still is time to negotiate a reentry, a mutual re entry into the

deal.

GOLODRYGA: Can the Iran nuclear deal be saved? I ask the former lead negotiator and U.S. special representative to Iran Robert Malley.

Plus, with just nine days to go until the Tokyo Olympics, U.S. rower Brooke Mooney talks about the excitement and anxiety of competing during COVID.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GOLODRYGA: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga, in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour, who will be back next week.

Well, Afghanistan is in dire straits, as the Taliban takes over swathes of the country after the U.S. withdrawal. In a desperate attempt to restart

the peace process, Afghan and Taliban delegations are set to meet again in Doha. The stakes could not be higher.

According to "The Long War Journal, " more than half of Afghan districts are now under Taliban control. Already, there seems to be a tacit

acknowledgement that they could take power. The British defense minister telling "The Telegraph" newspaper that the U.K. would work with the

Taliban, this as France calls on its citizens to leave the country.

Joining me now from Kabul is one of the women at the negotiating table with the Taliban, Afghan negotiator Fatima Gailani. Also with us is a former

U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker.

Welcome, both of you, to the program.

Fatima, let me begin with you, because when we're talking about the long- term consequences of a U.S. withdrawal, few would argue that those who stand to risk the most are half the population of Afghanistan, and that is

its women.

Former President Karzai said that he hopes one day to see a female president of the country. I think it's ambitious to say that we hope that

girls will still be able to go to school in just a matter of a few years.

I want you to listen to what former President George W. Bush said in a rare interview with the German broadcaster about this, and how he disagrees with

President Biden's decision to withdraw troops. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sadly, I'm afraid Afghan women and girls are going to suffer unspeakable harm.

QUESTION: Is it a mistake to withdraw?

BUSH: I -- I think it is, yes, I think -- because I think the consequences are going to be unbelievably bad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GOLODRYGA: Fatima, what is your take on this situation, particularly as it applies to women and girls?

FATIMA GAILANI, AFGHAN PEACE TALKS NEGOTIATOR: Well, thank you. This is a very important question.

No one believed that, when the NATO soldiers, including the U.S. soldiers, came to Afghanistan, that they will stay until good. And today also, we are

not telling them to stay for good. But what we are worried about is this negotiation which has started here in Doha.

It hasn't come to a state that would help the country not to go into a chaos. All we wanted was that these negotiations come either to a

conclusion or a good progress, that it would give heart to the people of Afghanistan not to panic and then give a hope that the institution will be

saved, the country will be saved, what we have built for the last 20 years should be -- could be saved.

And then, yes, Taliban are the reality of the country. Yes, it was a mistake that they were not part of the Bonn conference. And, yes, we will

have to live together, but not like that, not push the country into a civil war.

I think, if we don't come to political understanding at the negotiation table, it is very difficult to avoid a very, very bitter civil war.

GOLODRYGA: And, Ambassador, General Austin Miller, who just stepped down from his post there on Monday, seemed to suggest exactly what Fatima is

saying, that he fears a civil war is on the brink there as the Taliban encroaches.

[13:05:02]

We have reported they have taken over, if not half, maybe a third of the region there. When you look at the response from local authorities, who are

now calling on various local tribes, because the Afghan military, for whatever reason, cannot step up as they were trained to, are you also

worried about a civil war?

RYAN CROCKER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO AFGHANISTAN: I'm very worried about a civil war. In fact, I think it's already started.

We are seeing the images of the Taliban on the move, as you have noted, in various parts of the country, burning girls schools as they go. So the war

is on. The only thing that's changed here is that we have opted out.

Our decision no longer to be a major player in Afghanistan doesn't end the war. It intensifies it. And it does so to the advantage of the Taliban and

to the disadvantage not only of the Afghan government, but of all those Afghans. And, certainly, Ms. Gailani would be a -- just a wonderful

example.

Women have stepped forward, at our request and our assurance that we would have their backs. Well, now we have to go. Goodbye and good luck. This is

not going to end well.

GOLODRYGA: And you have said recently that the U.S. would bear responsibility if the Afghan government is taken down by the Taliban within

a matter of weeks, month, whatever it may be.

President Biden seems to have a differing view. I want you to listen to what he said when asked this question about who bears the responsibility

last week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We did not go to Afghanistan to nation-build. And it is the right and the responsibility of Afghan people

alone to decide their future and how they want to run their country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GOLODRYGA: So, Ambassador, the majority of Americans, at least as of today, agree with President Biden's decision.

You could make the argument that 20 years, thousands of deaths there, scores more on the Afghan side, billions of dollars spent, what more could

even a few thousand troops do at this point?

CROCKER: Look, President Biden is right that we did not go to Afghanistan to nation-build. I opened the embassy there after the fall of the Taliban

beginning in 2002.

We went to Afghanistan to ensure that there was never again an attack on the U.S. homeland emanating from Afghan soil. That is why we went in and

that is why we remained. Now, beyond that, you could have a discussion, and we had many of them, what's the best way to ensure that Afghanistan or

elements in Afghanistan don't threaten us directly again?

We saw an educated, liberally educated population as a key way to that. We saw inclusion of all minorities and females as key to that. What we're

doing now, we're not backing away from a nation-building role. We're endangering our own national security.

The Taliban will be back, in whole or in part, and they will be bringing al Qaeda with them. I don't think there is any doubt about that. So it wasn't

about nation-building. It was about America's security. And, sadly, President Biden has threatened our own security by this ill-considered

moved.

GOLODRYGA: Fatima, you're taking part in the negotiations there.

This is real-time impact on the people of Afghanistan before. And God forbid we ever see attack on the U.S. homeland. It is the Afghan region and

homeland there that is of greatest risk of now. Can the Taliban be trusted?

GAILANI: It is not a question of Taliban being trusted or not.

It is a -- the real story is that, if there is a civil war, when there is a chaos, the bad doers will take refuge and they will have their homes in

different parts of mountainous Afghanistan. And they will have a right -- their own hand to do whatever they like.

They could harm not only the region. They could harm anywhere they want. We saw the example one -- before. Why do we want to repeat history? We saw

that the civil war caused the al Qaeda or whatever bad terrorists existed in Afghanistan. They took haven in Afghanistan, and they were harming

everybody from there.

So, why do we want to have this opportunity to them again? And for Taliban, that they are parts of Afghanistan, I do want to live with them in the same

country. I do want them to have a peace and prosperity in Afghanistan.

[13:10:02]

And they should know better than anyone else that political settlement is the only way. Look, we were mujahideen. We took the same way, places, this

-- exactly the same scenario when we approached all the communist army, because they were not really communist and they didn't care about the

communist government.

They were defeating and -- defecting to us left and right. And that is why the big players decided that we should not have a political settlement and

it should be a military settlement.

Did we reach peace? Until now, we are running after that peace, when we haven't reached it. That was a wrong decision. The Soviets, the army and

the communist regime destroyed all the villages, and we, the mujahideen, with our civil war, we destroyed the cities.

Should we do it again? Again, we will play the same game? Is it right thing to do? So I still have hope. I still have hope that now, here in Doha, we

are sitting from the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and Taliban are sitting. No one said no to the peace talks. Let's go forward.

Let's make a proper progress in this. Even if we do enough progress to give hope to the people of Afghanistan, things will change. And I strongly

believe that, if we have -- during the Eid festivities, which is very close, if we have a proper cease-fire, that will also show us whether the

Taliban have enough control over their people to have a proper cease-fire or not. Let's see it.

GOLODRYGA: And, Ambassador, on that point, I guess that begs the question. The United States, or any country, for that matter, can't want peace and

resolution more than locals on the ground there.

And you can't deny that, after 20 years and billions of dollars in equipment and training, that the Afghan army was left for wanting more. The

U.S. equipped them well and trained them well. I think everyone can agree there.

And yet when you see reports that the Taliban has already taken over large swathes of the country before even the U.S. technically fully withdraws,

and sometimes without even a gunfire exchange at all, that some Afghan army members are just turning over their guns and surrendering, how does that

leave you feeling, as somebody who spent and invested so much time there?

CROCKER: When I was ambassador to Afghanistan, 2011, 2012, that was the -- during the troop surge ordered by President Obama.

We got up to 100,000 troops. That number has been reducing literally for a decade since then. And we and our Afghan partners were still able to keep

the Taliban from holding a single provincial capital. With 3,000 troops or 4,000 troops, we and they were managing. It was a pretty cheap insurance

policy, let's face it, against another 9/11, a relatively small number of troops, very low casualties.

For whatever reason, President Biden has decided that any troops are too many, and now we have pulled out. The psychologically shock of that is

huge. And in the case of the readiness of the Afghan National Security Forces, it is important to remember they are deployed to many areas because

of air support, not from us, but from the Afghan air force.

Well, we're taking our contractors with us as we go. They are not going to be able alone to maintain those air frames. And we have already seen a

diminution of air support from the Afghan air force to Afghan ground troops.

So we are woven in, I think, to the -- this process of defeat, which I certainly hope does not culminate the way the last civil war did, with the

Taliban taking power. But we set this up from failure -- for failure from the beginning by sitting down with the Taliban and without the Afghan

government in Doha.

The Afghan government joined later. Their negotiators have been nothing less than heroic. But we stacked the deck against them. We conferred

legitimacy on the Taliban. We took it away from the government.

GOLODRYGA: And, Fatima, we're now at a place where thousands of Afghans are applying to leave for special immigrant visas, those that have helped

and been allies along the way over the course of these two decades to the U.S. forces there, whether it's translators, whether it's contractors,

security members.

[13:15:00]

The U.S. government, the Biden administration today announced that it's launching Operation Allies Refuge, and it's an effort to relocate many of

them to third-party countries to help them leave the country.

I a few weeks ago spoke with Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, who understandably would like for many of them to stay for the future of the country. What is

your take? Is the U.S. doing the right thing by helping them? Is it too little too late? You would like for them to stay? Are any security

assurances available for them to stay?

GAILANI: I want everyone to stay in Afghanistan. I want all the millions of refugees coming back from Iran and Pakistan. I want all of us to be

together.

But it is not happening. So, these people that they are going, at least have some assurances and they have a future that they want to. If they want

to do that, I don't think I'm in a place to tell them what to do.

My fear is about those people that they are displaced inside Afghanistan. There are women and young people and children that they are leaving their

areas and they are going to take refuge in other places.

The panic of young women not to be forcefully married to people they don't know and who they are, by their family, they are taking to another

province. This is my fear. I was the president of the Afghan Red Crescent Society and I saw how disastrous internal refugees are, because internal

refugees, they have to rely only on the good will of the province or the places that they go to.

Sometimes, they can afford it. Most of the time, they can't afford it. Today, Afghanistan is facing a huge drought, extreme poverty. What do you

expect these people to go?

So, quite frankly, I'm not so much worried about those people that are living the country. I'm worried about those people that are leaving their

areas for one side of the country and go to the other side of the country. This is my worry number one, quite frankly.

GOLODRYGA: Uprooting.

GAILANI: And one more thing -- one more thing. I have to say it, because we are not in this war for 20 years.

We came to a war. During the Cold War, it was 43 years ago. And because of us, Soviet Union, a rival to the U.S., was no more there. And this is what

you are getting.

GOLODRYGA: So many generations, and so important for you to note. We spend so much time focusing on obviously the U.S. involvement there on the

ground. But for Afghani families there, this has gone much, much longer.

I want to end with you, Ambassador, and ask for your prediction. Given what appears to be a dire situation right now on the ground, where do you see

things six months or a year from now?

CROCKER: I am unable to tell you what I think is going to happen a month from now.

But what I do think is critical is that we step up our support across the board. We need to get contractors back in, particularly for the Afghan air

force. We need to be getting the right kind of assistance to the people of Afghanistan.

We need to do this in coordination with other friends of Afghanistan, primarily in NATO. We need to show that we are not in fact leaving the

Afghan people to another horrific civil war.

But, unfortunately, the decisions that President Biden has made on Afghanistan have out-Trumped Trump. He has brought to an end our military

presence during a time when we have not had a military fatality for over a year. He is by his actions so far giving away a positive U.S. role in

Afghanistan to the benefit of the Taliban.

It will stain the rest of his presidency. And I do hope that even at this late date that our assistance efforts and our focus will be renewed and

reinvigorated.

GOLODRYGA: Well, another major potential player in this is neighboring Pakistan, which, unfortunately, at this point said that they will not be

picking sides. They have a huge influence with the Taliban.

Fatima Gailani, I know you have important meetings to go back to.

Ambassador Crocker, thank you for your time and your service. Really appreciate it.

CROCKER: Thank you, Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: Well, as we discussed, a lot is on the line for everyday Afghans.

Just yesterday, new video reiterated the brutality the Taliban is capable of. A warning, it is quite graphic. It shows Afghan commandos surrendering

before being gunned down. Amnesty International has labeled that execution a war crime. The Taliban deny any such event took place.

Such violence is spurring on fears for other groups, especially Afghan women and journalists, as we have just described and spoke of.

Our Anna Coren shows just how real that danger is in this report from Kabul.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Among the wild flowers and thistles, a sacred place in the heart of Kabul, the distant

sounds of the city blocked out by the high-walled compound.

[13:20:07]

Mohammed Kalyiri (ph) and his son walk through the gates, waiting for them, three mounds of earth only a month-old. They pick up rocks and tap on the

gravestones, telling the souls, I am here and praying for you.

Mohammed's was shattered last month when his wife and two daughters were killed in a car bomb attack. As Hazaras, an ethnic minority persecuted by

the Taliban and other insurgence groups, they have always been the target of terror.

"When I heard that, I didn't know the sky and I didn't know the land, " he said. "Everything went dark on me."

However, his 23-year-old daughter, Mina (ph), a news anchor at a local TV station, had been receiving death threats for months, her blossoming career

and appearance on radio and television a repudiation to the Taliban.

"Since it happened, I really hate this country, but what can I do? I see the future of this country is finished. There is no future."

Over the last 20 years, the one industry where Afghan women have thrived is the media. Female anchors present the news alongside their male colleagues,

an enormous step forward in this culturally conservative country.

But it hasn't been without sacrifice. The Committee to Protect Journalists says at least 53 journalists have been murdered in Afghanistan since 1992.

Local groups say the true number is more than double.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We earned our press freedom at a very, very significant cost. I don't think any other country has sacrificed as many journalists as

Afghanistan has.

COREN: But the rise of an emboldened Taliban is now an existential threat to many Afghans, including local journalists, who know, if the militants

come to power, they will not be spared.

(on camera): While the targeted killings and death threats have become common place here in Afghanistan, it is a deteriorating security situation

that is unnerving many in the media industry.

But despite these fears, there is a defiance, particularly among female journalists, who say they will not be silenced.

(voice-over): Among them is Mina's best friend and colleague, 23-year-old Zahara Siddiqui (ph). She too has received threats. And while she can't

remember life under Taliban rule, this young woman refused to be terrorized into the submission.

"We're Afghans, and we will continue to do our job, " she tells me. "The goals that Mina had in raising our people's voice, I want to continue that

for Mina."

A voice pleading to the world to never abandon the freedoms this country has fought too hard to achieve.

Anna Coren, CNN, Kabul.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GOLODRYGA: Our thanks to Anna.

And coming up after the break: six rounds of talks in Vienna and no end in sight.

U.S. Special Envoy to Iran Rob Malley tells us what stands in the way of reviving the Iran nuclear deal. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:25:30]

GOLODRYGA: Welcome back.

Today marks six years since the Iran nuclear deal was inked in Vienna. The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany agreed to

ditch some sanctions on Iran in order to limit the country's nuclear program.

Well, it's fair to say that things haven't gone quite as its architects envisioned. The election of Donald Trump saw the U.S. pull out of the deal,

leaving Europe scrambling to save it.

Now, under President Joe Biden, the U.S. is returning to the negotiating table.

I spoke about what's ahead with Rob Malley, a lead negotiator at the 2016 talks and the current U.S. special envoy for Iran.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GOLODRYGA: Hey, Rob, thank you so much for joining us.

There have now been six rounds of nuclear negotiations in Vienna over the course of three months, with no deal. What are some of the big sticking

points.

MALLEY: So, it is hard to answer that question, because nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.

So, to say that there's a sticking point would make it sound like things have been settled that have not been settled. But the truth of the matter

is, we have made clear to Iran what sanctions, the kinds of sanctions we would be prepared to lift that are consistent with the agreement that was

signed in 2016.

And we have also made clear through our partners what we expect from Iran in order for it to come back into compliance with the deal. So I think it's

pretty clear both what we would do and what we expect from Iran.

We know that Iran has some decisions to make. They're in the middle of their own transition, their presidential transition. But I think those

decisions need to be made and need to be made relatively soon if we are to reach a mutual deal of rejoining the JCPOA, the nuclear deal.

GOLODRYGA: And since President Trump left that nuclear deal, Iran has enriched more uranium at higher levels, and it has more advanced

centrifuges with less oversight, by the way, by the IAEA.

There are doubts now, because of this, that even renewing the nuclear deal that was initially reached in 2015 would keep Iran from getting to a bomb

at this point, given their advancements. Given all of that, is it even worth continuing this negotiation if they may possibly be able to put

together a bomb and build a bomb within weeks or months?

MALLEY: Well, several things in your question.

First, I mean, you make the point to -- you demonstrate why it's important to come back into the deal, because, in the absence of the deal after the

U.S. withdrew in 2018, what we have seen is, Iran has accelerated its nuclear program. It's also intensified its regional activities against our

partners.

So every trend has gone in the wrong direction since we withdrew from the deal. Coming back into the deal would put Iran's nuclear program back in

the box that was built in 2016. And that's our objective.

There will come a point -- but we're not there yet -- but there will come a point where if Iran continues to advance its program and there's no deal,

then it will be very hard, if not impossible, to recapture the nonproliferation benefits that were negotiated in 2016.

That's not the case now. Iran still has a ways to go. If it intends to build a bomb, it still has a ways to go to do that. We could still get all

of the benefits that were negotiated in 2016 if we get back into the deal in the foreseeable future. That's our objective.

But, again, the premise of your question, which is absolutely correct, is that, in the absence of a deal, Iran has been moving progressively along

the -- along a path that is increasingly dangerous in terms of our nonproliferation interests.

GOLODRYGA: And while you say there's still time to get Iran into that -- quote, unquote -- "box, " another Iran expert I want to quote, Ray Takeyh,

thinks otherwise.

And he has said: "Anybody who thinks that getting back to the JCPOA puts Iran's nuclear program back in a box has no precise understanding of the

box."

So I guess, for our viewers, can we explain why you tend to disagree with other experts?

MALLEY: I don't think this is a matter of disagreement -- disagreement among experts.

I mean, there's a reality, which is, as I said, since the United States left the deal in 2018, what we have seen is, as you have just said, Iran

enriching more uranium at higher levels with more advanced centrifuges and less oversight. That's sort of -- that's exhibit A, B and C as to why we're

better off in the deal than outside the deal.

I think the point that some experts make is, if you -- at some point, if you're back into the -- if you are back into the deal, then, over time,

over -- in five years, six years, 10 years, Iran will be able to increase its -- or develop its nuclear program further. And that's -- that's a

concern that we have.

[13:30:00]

But if you're talking about what we're aiming to achieve to today, to get Iran's nuclear program back under control, I don't know any expert who

would argue that we're not better off if Iran is that under control today, then the advanced program that they've developed since 2018.

So, our goal is to get back, President Biden said this clearly, get back into the deal and then use it as a platform to negotiate with Iran other

issues that divide us of which there are many and of which there are many that are very serious. But at least get the nuclear program under control

so that we could focus on those other issues rather than have to spend time worrying about their nuclear program and worrying about other aspects of

Iran's policies.

GOLODRYGA: So, in your opinion, their nuclear achievements can still be reversed as of today?

MALLEY: Yes. That's -- and that's not my opinion speaking as a nuclear expert because I'm not one, it's our nuclear experts in government who say

that as of now, Iran has not made irreversible progress. I want to emphasize that down the road, if we don't reach a deal in the foreseeable

future, our experts will reach the conclusion that their advancement are irreversible, that they have acquired the kind of knowledge that you cannot

put back and push back in the box.

And there, at that point, we will have to consider negotiation for a different kind of deal. We want to avoid that. And we would hope that Iran

would want to avoid that too because that would be much more complicated negotiation. Right now, we're negotiating over a deal that is very familiar

to us because we negotiated once before. And if Iran comes back into compliance with that deal, as I said, our experts say we will have

recovered the non-proliferation benefits that we bargained for in 2016.

And that's our objective now. That's why we are intent on getting back into the deal. Again, if Iran can't make up its mind and can't make its

decisions in the coming period, we'll have to take a hard look and decide at what point the benefits of the deal that we negotiated of 2016 can no

longer be enjoyed by a simple return to the deal as it was negotiated.

GOLODRYGA: Is Iran going back to the pre-Trump uranium levels a must for the Biden administration?

MELVIN: What is a must for the Biden administration is Iran comes back into compliance with the deal as it was negotiated, whether it's enrichment

levels, whether it's a kind of centrifuge that they use, whether it's kind of inspections, the most intrusive inspections which was ever negotiated in

peace time, those are the kinds of things that we want to see. But that's black letter JCPOA, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. That is what is

required. It shouldn't -- there is not much debate about it.

The steps that Iran needs to take to come back into compliance. Just as there are steps that the United States needs to take to come back into

compliance with the sanction steps that we took in 2016. Again, it is not rocket science in that sense. We know what we need to do. And we believe we

know what Iran needs do and the sooner we get there the better.

GOLODRYGA: Can you trust President-Elect Raisi and his incoming government? He's a hardliner, as you know.

MALLEY: Right. And this is a deal that was never negotiated on basis of trust. President Obama said that many times at the time and President Biden

certainly believes that, this is not a deal that is premised on the fact that we trust Iran any more, I suspect Iran trusts it.

That's why it is based on various interest (ph) of inspections, on monitoring, the kinds that we negotiated in 2016 and will give us the eyes

and ears -- or give the international atomic energy agency the eyes and ears that they need to know what Iran is doing. And that's what we need. It

is not a matter of trusting their government. It is a matter of trusting the deal that was negotiated.

GOLODRYGA: Secretary of State Blinken said that the Biden administration is "getting closer to walking away from talks if this continues, if they

continue to spin more sophisticated centrifuges at higher and higher levels, we will get to a point where it will be very difficult as a

practical matter to restore the framework of the original nuclear deal."

You recently said, however, that you still think a deal is doable. Are you and the secretary of state sending mixed messages or are you on the same

page here?

MELVIN: Absolutely. I think what Secretary Blinken said is exactly what I say and I say it because he -- I talk to him all the time and I know

exactly how he's thinking, I know how the president is thinking and their view is and our view as an administration is there still is time to

negotiate a mutual reentry in compliance with the deal. Otherwise, we wouldn't be going back to Vienna. So, we will go back whenever Iran is

ready to go back.

We believe that we still have time do that. At some point, I said that myself earlier, just a few minutes ago and its exactly what Secretary

Blinken said, at some point, when Iran's nuclear progress will be such that it returns to the JCPOA because of the knowledge that they will have

acquired will mean that a return to the JCPOA will not give us the non- proliferation benefits for which we bargained in 2016.

At that point, it is not a matter of necessarily of walking away from the table, but is that the deal that we've negotiating is no longer the deal

that we negotiated in 2016. We would need to see something else in order to feel like we get the same benefits that we've bargained for in 2016.

[13:35:00]

So, that's the question. It is not a matter of walking away from the table. Is that right now, we believe that there still is time to negotiate a

reentry, a mutual reentry into the deal. That time is not infinite. And neither Secretary Blinken nor I put a timetable on because really there is

a matter for experts, our experts to tell us at what point they assess that Iran's nuclear progress has crossed the threshold where we can no longer go

back to the old deal.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. And to your point to say department just said this week in terms of a seventh round of talks that will be held at an "appropriate

time." So, we don't have a date scheduled for the next round of talks just yet.

You focus so much on whether Iran is willing to comply here and come to the table if they are serious about getting back to a deal. And I'm wondering

your thoughts on President-Elect Raisi's demand, at least public demand, that if any deal is to come to fruition now, that the U. S. president must

guarantee that another administration, a future president cannot unravel at all, obviously, saying what transpired with President Trump, given that I

am sure he is aware that this is something a president himself in this country cannot do unilaterally without Congress. Do you think that they are

taking this seriously then?

MELVIN: Yes. And I think what they're saying is they want to guarantee that they won't be a repeat of what happened in 2018. And our response has

been consistent since we started these indirect talks early April, the best guarantee, the best assurance that the deal will be sustained and

sustainable is for both to come back into compliance, to implement it faithfully and then to build on it, as President Biden said throughout as

the presidential campaign and since he's been in the White House, to build on it, to address other issues of concern, which will make the deal ever

even more solid than it is -- than it would be if we simply return to it tomorrow.

So, get back into the deal, implement it over the coming years and negotiate, follow on or have additional diplomacy to address the other

issues that divide our two countries. That's the pathway that President Biden made out and it's the one that we are suggesting to run.

And by the way, back in 2015 and '16 when we negotiated the deal, Iranian leaders themselves were saying they don't want to see this deal as the end

of diplomacy but as the beginning of diplomacy between our two nations so that we could address the many, many issues that have dividers for now for

decades.

GOLODRYGA: And since then, we have seen a more hardline administration come in and be elected. I do want to ask you two final questions. One in

terms of Americans being held hostage. We know that there are at least four currently imprisoned in Iran. Is their release a must with regard to this

deal?

MALLEY: Their release is a must. I'm not going to make any relationship on a length to the deal, but I would say their release is a must, their

release and closure in the case of Bob Levinson, who has been -- who has disappeared many years ago. Those are the cases that we've raised

consistently with Iran. We're going to pursue them until they're home, until they're reunited with their loved ones. But again, this is a must

simply because it's a matter of basic decency and basic humanity.

They are imprisoned as hostages, as pawns, political pawns. They shouldn't stay an extra day in an Iranian prison. They should be home soon as

possible. And this is a matter of upmost party for the president on down (ph), all of us have dedicated to getting them home and to getting them

home as soon as possible.

GOLODRYGA: And final question, quickly, Rob, in terms of Afghanistan and U.S. troops returning home there, we know that Iran hosted high level

negotiations and peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan government officials this week. In a joint statement, both sides said the war is not

the solution to the Afghanistan problem. How dangerous is it in your view that Iran appears to be wanting to or is filling the vacuum that's left by

the Americans?

MALLEY: I don't know if it's the matter of filling the vacuum. I think that all of Afghanistan's neighbors should have an interest in a peaceful

settlement and peaceful negotiations between Afghan parties. And so, whether it's Iran or other neighbors, we would hope that they would play a

constructive role because their stability also would be affected by what happens in Afghanistan. And so, we would urge all of Afghanistan's

neighbors to do what they can to ensure a stable future and prosperous future for after Afghanistan.

GOLODRYGA: Peaceful and constructive are the key words there. Rob Malley, thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it.

MALLEY: Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: Well, just hours after that interview, we learned that four Iranian nationals were charged in an alleged plot to kidnap an Iranian

journalist living in New York. Masih Alinejad confirmed that she was the alleged target and told CNN that the details were shocking. Iran has called

the allegations baseless and ridiculous.

And still to come, piles of paperwork, pre-fly COVID tests and mandatory tracking apps. CNN's Will Ripley takes a look at the endless challenges

facing athletes and journalists at the Tokyo Olympics.

Welcome back to the program. Tokyo's Olympic Village is officially open and the games are kicking off in just nine days. That's despite a COVID state

of emergency declared in the capitol, which on Wednesday recorded its highest number of cases since May. There will be no spectators and the

president of the International Olympic Committee praised Tokyo for being the best ever prepared city for the Olympic games.

CNN's Will Ripley captured the odyssey of traveling to the world's largest event in the middle of a pandemic. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): The first thing people ask when I say I'm going to the Summer Olympics, is that still happening? The

second thing they ask, is it safe? My team and I are traveling to Tokyo to find out. Our journey begins four days before we fly, two tests for COVID-

19, 96 and 72 hours before departure.

RIPLEY (on camera): Already there has been tons of paperwork to fill out lines, lines to wait in just to get to this point.

RIPLEY (voiceover): We can only go to testing centers approved by the Japanese government.

This is by far the most documentation I've needed just to get on a flight.

Processing my pile of paperwork takes nearly an hour at the airport.

RIPLEY (on camera): This is the moment of truth. They're checking my documents. I think I prepared them correctly. They have now brought in a

man in a yukata.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello.

RIPLEY (voiceover): He tells me I need to download an app, fill out an online health questionnaire.

I have never been more grateful to get a boarding pass. Only a few dozen passengers on my trip from Taipei to Tokyo. Many airlines are canceling

empty flights or suspending service altogether. Athletes from Fiji have to fly in a cargo plane that usually hauls frozen fish. I'm just grateful to

have a window seat.

This is my first trip back to Japan since the start of the pandemic. Tokyo's Haneda Airport eerily quiet.

RIPLEY (on camera): As you can, I don't have much company.

RIPLEY (voiceover): A handful of passengers, a small army of health workers pouring over my paperwork, scanning my QR code, ordering me to spit

in a cup. The first of many daily COVID. Social distancing, not a problem, as I wait for my results.

RIPLEY (on camera): Negative.

RIPLEY (voiceover): Being here for the Olympics feels surreal and sad. Japan invested billions to host the games, banking on a tourism boom. This

is not what anyone had in mind.

[13:45:00]

The pandemic makes you appreciate life's little victories. Like the moment I get my Olympic credentials.

RIPLEY (on camera): Wow. There it is. It's official. O'Connell-san.

RIPLEY (voiceover): I clear customs and see an old friend. Our long time Tokyo bureau driver. Mr. O'Connell.

RIPLEY (on camera): Mr. O'Connell was the very first face I met in Tokyo.

RIPLEY (voiceover): As we leave the airport and head to the hotel, it finally feels real. We made it to Japan. The process, surprisingly smooth

overall, even as the Japanese capital fights a fresh surge in COVID cases.

Will Ripley, CNN, Tokyo.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GOLODRYGA: An Olympics like no other. We're glad he finally made it there.

And when we come back Olympic debutant, Brooke Mooney joins us just before she heads to the Olympic Village. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GOLODRYGA: Welcome back. Well, the struggles in Lebanon happening with increasing frequency around the world. Poverty, government corruption, and

mismanagement all compounded by COVID-19, are fomenting the frustration and sparking waves of violence, like what we've seen this week in Cuba, South

Africa, and where we started our show, in Haiti. This was obviously what we've been covering all week.

Growing outrage and uncertainty there after the assassination of its president. When South Africa, more than 70 people have been killed in

protest and looting. At least one person in Cuba is dead and street protest not seen there in years.

Our international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson, has more on the growing unrest in how already existing problems are buckling under the weight of

COVID-19.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): From Cuba to Haiti, South Africa to Lebanon tender dry tensions are igniting.

Crippled economy is burdened by COVID-19 are partly to blame.

[13:50:00]

In Cuba. angry citizens incensed by lack of food, medicine and freedom, as well as spiraling coronavirus infections are getting beaten back by police

for demanding the ouster of President Miguel Diaz-Canel.

In a national broadcast, he blames Cuba's economic woes on U.S. sanctions imposed under Former President Donald Trump.

MIGUEL DIAZ-CANEL, CUBAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We explained to the Cuban people very clearly that we were about to enter a very rough

period of time.

ROBERTSON (voiceover): Reality is, Cuba's week economy and health care system is being brought to its knees by COVID-19, infections soaring, only

a little more than 16 percent of Cubans fully vaccinated. The United States is watching with concern.

ANTHONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: People deeply, deeply, deeply tired of the repression that has gone on for far too long. Tired of the

mismanagement of the Cuban economy, tired of the lack of adequate food and, of course, an adequate response to the colored pandemic.

ROBERTSON (voiceover): Haiti also a concern for the US. The audacious assassination of President Jovenel Moise last week topped weeks of deadly

street protests and fighting, fueled by poverty and factional infighting.

The impoverished Caribbean nation, which has been an economic basket case for decades saw street violence ramp up in recent weeks concurrent with a

spike in COVID-19 cases in late June.

In South Africa where COVID-19 infections have been spiking and vaccination rates are low, the economic inequalities are high. The army has been

brought in to quell deadly rioting, triggered by the jailing of Former President Jacob Zuma on contempt of court charges.

And Lebanon, too, is having a crisis, exacerbating pre-existing tensions of poor COVID readiness. Protests and anger ever present as rocketing

inflation. rolling power outages, royal passions. The nation reeling from the economic impact of decades of Syrian civil war next door compounded by

years of political infighting. I'm to cap it all, a port last, last summer shredding much of Central Beirut.

And Iraq this week became the latest country where tender dry frustrations combusted as they touch the nations war and COVID weary population. Oxygen

tanks for treating COVID-19 patients at a hospital exploded, killing more than 90 people. Within hours, nearby residents took to the streets,

demanding better from their government.

Living with COVID-19 has become not just a way of life, but a salutary warning for leaders everywhere.

Nic Robertson, CNN, London.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GOLODRYGA: And our thanks to Nic for that important report.

And finally, tonight, we saw, Corresponded Will Ripley really earlier walk us through the complexities of traveling to the Tokyo Olympics. Well, now,

we want to turn to the athletes and what it's like to compete in these games. These games in particular during a pandemic.

Brooke Mooney is heading to Japan and just a few hours as a member of the U.S. Rowing Team. And she's joining me now from Hawaii.

Brooke, thank you so much for joining us.

First of all, congratulations, you are part of a very elite exclusive club going to the Olympics. How are you feeling right now?

BROOKE MOONEY, U.S. WOMEN'S OLYMPIC ROWING TEAM 2020: I'm feeling good. I can't believe that we're finally within a few hours of our flight. I have

been waiting years for this and (INAUDIBLE) like weeks and months just so much leading up to this time to actually get loaded, get on a plane. I -- a

thrill (ph) is actually here.

Well, Team USA Women's Rowing have one gold in the last three Olympics. I don't want to jinx you, but did the expectations and the bar are very high

for you. But this Olympics, as you know, I don't have to tell you, are unlike any other. You are going to have to be in a bubble of sorts there.

MOONEY: Yes.

GOLODRYGA: That no spectators are going to be allowed. You can't even bring your mom, your family, all of that. I don't know how you typically go

through competitions, whether it's the family and friends that are there cheering you on. How is this all going to impact you, knowing that this

Olympics is going to look so different from what you've worked so hard to do?

[13:55:00]

MOONEY: In some ways it's frustrating that it's going to be just the athletes and nothing else. But in going along with that, it's actually

amazing that it is just the athletes and it's just going to be about competing, and we've been waiting so long for this time to get on this

Olympic stage and just race. So, I think it could actually be an amazing Olympic, just focus on the athletes and just focusing on the performance

and not have any of the distractions of the fanfare, the spectators.

GOLODRYGA: I love that perspective and I love your personal story because, again, you're in this elite club where even the best of the best athletes

never make it. You switch to sports. You spent a majority of your youth and childhood skiing as one does, I guess, growing up in Vermont. All the

sudden, senior year in high school, you decide to try rowing. And lo and behold, you're an Olympian. How did you make --

MOONEY: Here I am.

GOLODRYGA: It's so easy. How did you make that transition and what's the difference between a solo sport and a team sport?

MOONEY: I think the team sport is what I was missing and seeing. And I -- like I like skiing. I enjoyed it. All my friends did it. And I got really

good training and based fitness with it. So, then when I did transition to rowing, I was able to see what I knew about fitness and my body and

building strength and building fitness -- or endurance and translate it to throwing and then just have to learn how to row, keeping all of what I

learned from skiing.

GOLODRYGA: Are there any prerace rituals? You know, psychology play such a huge role in this too. It's not just your physical fitness, it's mental as

well.

MOONEY: Yes. A biggest prerace ritual that I do is I try to sit in a quiet base, put my headphones in and and just be in the moment with myself, where

approximately the amount of time our race would be. This is something that I started doing more recently with the world record as well. I really like

how I just sat there, kind of kept my composure and was just present for the amount of time that I was expecting to be racing for.

GOLODRYGA: And I would imagine it help say, going back to what you said about the team aspect of this sport in particular, it helps to have your

teammates there with you, especially when you can't have your closest friends and family

MOONEY: Exactly. This is -- like my teammate are my family well not with my family, like the bond that we have is amazing. And every single day it

just gets stronger. And especially through this past year, like we've really been pushed to the breaking point and we've come out stronger than

ever.

GOLODRYGA: Well, Brooke, just so you know, as I'm sure you already do, just because there can't be fans there cheering you along in the stands and

bleachers and what have you, you've got fans around the world, particularly in the United States that are going to be cheering you on and needing this

reprieve now more than ever to watch the U.S. Olympians like yourself shine. So, we are cheering you on. Best of luck to you and your teammates.

MOONEY: Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: Thank you so much for joining us.

MOONEY: Thank you for having me.

GOLODRYGA: And that is it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media. Thanks so much for watching and good-bye

from New York.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

END