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October 2nd, 2012
08:19 AM ET

Former White House videographer Arun Chaudhary on Iranian delegation cameraman's defection from regime

While Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was making his final appearance and address as the president of Iran at the U.N. General Assembly last week, a member of his delegation was quietly contacting American authorities to seek asylum. Hassan Gol Khanban was a cameraman travelling with the Iranian delegation and identified as a part of Ahmadinejad’s inner circle. His defection could serve as a major loss of intelligence for the highly tight-lipped government. Someone who may be able to describe what Gol Khanban might have learned through his role is the first White House videographer Arun Chaudhary. Chaudhary served from 2009 to 2011 and chronicled the experience in “First Cameraman: Documenting the Obama Presidency in Real Time.” He joins Brianna Keilar on “Early Start” this morning to provide a glimpse into what knowledge Gol Khanban may have gained through documenting the Iranian president’s administration.

Keilar and Chaudhary both point out that the job Gol Khanban was entrusted with likely required a level of discretion. The fact that he would come on a trip with the Iranian president shows his close access to the regime. “He was enough of the team,” Chaudhary says. “When it comes to something, you know, a regime like the Iranian regime, obviously they have enormous security control and security concerns.”

Keilar asks what someone could learn from being that close to a leader. “I think the most valuable thing you learn is the body language of someone. You know their tells, so to speak,” Chaudhary says. So he believes Gol Khanban would be able to offer a lot of information in terms of intelligence gathering. “When you look through someone through a lens constantly, you learn an enormous amount about how they move and how they think.”

October 1st, 2012
09:49 AM ET

CNN Foreign Reporter Elise Labott on Syrian Foreign Minister's address at U.N. General Assembly

Syria’s Foreign Minister is slated to address the U.N. General Assembly this morning. The annual meeting wraps up today with Syria on the agenda while the crisis there has been the focal issue for world leaders throughout the session. CNN’s Foreign Reporter Elise Labott joins Zoraida Sambolin on “Early Start” this morning with details on what to expect from the speech.

Labott expects the minister “is going to make a vigorous defense of the regime’s activities.” Labott says throughout the session Syria’s foreign minister has been “lumping all the opposition, even the peaceful protestors, in with these rebels and insurgents that have been bombing a lot of regime facilities.” She expects him to say, “‘Listen, We need to crack down on terrorism. And you need to crack down on states like Qatar and Saudi Arabia who are funding these guys.'”

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Filed under: SCOTUS • Syria • U.N. General Assembly
September 27th, 2012
10:28 AM ET

CNN Foreign Affairs Reporter Elise Labott on Israel and Iran at the U.N. General Assembly

World leaders have gathered at the U.N. in New York City to discuss global issues all week for the U.N. General Assembly.

President Obama addressed the General Assembly earlier this week and issued a strict warning against a nuclear Iran. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had his turn at the podium yesterday. Today, Palestinians are expected to ask for expanded status in the U.N., followed by a speech from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. CNN Foreign Affairs Reporter Elise Labott joins Zoraida Sambolin and Alina Cho on “Early Start” with a preview of today’s U.N. General Assembly proceedings. 

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas made a dramatic stand for full statehood at the U.N. when he addressed the General Assembly last year. This year, he is expected to campaign for observer status, Labott says. Many are viewing Prime Minister Netanyahu’s address as his “final warning on Iran.” “I think he’s going to warn the world about Iran’s nuclear program,” Labott says.

Surprisingly enough, President Ahmadinejad’s speech yesterday was far more muted than Labott had predicted. “Instead, he talked about that new world order that he sees, when the world powers would have less influence,” Labott. The irony also lies in the fact that “Iran is a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Israel is not.” There is now a fear of a possible nuclear race in the Middle East if Iran becomes nuclear, since Israel is already nuclear. Labott says that many countries are saying they must “address this double standard and have a nuclear free Middle East, and Israel doesn’t even want to talk about it.”

Filed under: U.N. General Assembly
September 25th, 2012
10:24 AM ET

CNN Political Reporter Peter Hamby on foreign policy in the Romney campaign: 'taken over the economy'

Foreign policy is the focal issue in New York City and the election now with the opening of the U.N. General Assembly underway today. President Obama will be under scrutiny while delivering two speeches today, one at the U.N. General Assembly and the other following a speech by Mitt Romney at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting. CNN Political Reporter Peter Hamby reports live from Washington with details.

Romney is taking the opportunity to distance himself from his recent gaffes and target Obama on his foreign policy. “This has really taken over the economy as the main thrust of the Romney campaign message,” Hamby says. “The goal here is to paint President Obama as weak, as projecting weakness overseas.”

Hamby also touches on the president’s address to the U. N. General Assembly today. He has an advantage and a burden as president today. “The president has to sooth anxieties both here and overseas about the Middle East. But, you know, politically, he gets to look presidential,” Hamby says. “Mitt Romney doesn’t get to step in front of the U.N. General Assembly, the president does.”

September 25th, 2012
10:18 AM ET

CNN Foreign Affairs Reporter Elise Labott on Obama's appearance on 'The View': 'A little foolish'

Tuesday marks the opening of the U.N. General Assembly and the world’s spotlight will be on President Obama. The President is expected to speak to the U.N. General Assembly about the recent unrest in the Middle East, the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya and issue a new warning to Iran over its nuclear program. Even with all this international bedlam, however, the president is not slated to meet with any international leaders, yet he made an appearance with the First Lady on “The View.” CNN Foreign Affairs Reporter Elise Labott joins John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin on “Early Start” this morning with more on the president’s address.

Labott says that the President will touch on the anti-American protests raging across the Middle East in recent weeks. "Secretary Clinton was speaking to the Clinton Global Initiative yesterday, and she kind of previewed what the president was going to say about the need to not have extremists hijack the Arab Spring,” Labott says. “[Obama] has to voice U.S. outrage in this video decrying the prophet Mohammed, but at the same time say violence is not the answer and we need to really think about how the Arab Spring should go forward," adds Labott.
Berman points out that Secretary Clinton has been meeting with global leaders to do her part while President Obama is campaigning on "The View.” “It looked a little foolish for the president to be talking about some of the issues on “The View” with the girls on the couch, while Secretary was meeting with all of these leaders about all of these important issues yesterday,” Labott says.

While it is campaign season, Labott says the president is banking on his foreign policy credentials of ending the war in Iraq or killing Osama bin Laden, which could be better applied on meeting with world leaders. “It just seemed a little weird that here had this world stage to show how important he was as a world statesman and here he is talking on ‘The View’.” Labott says, “It might have been a little bit error in judgment, or his aides might have advised him a little badly on this one, because it does make a difference.”

September 24th, 2012
11:59 AM ET

Jim Walsh on Ahmadinejad's interview with Piers Morgan and his upcoming speech at the U.N. General Assembly

Over 100 heads of state and world leaders are descending to New York City for the 67th annual U.N. General Assembly. President Obama and Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai are scheduled to speak tomorrow, while Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is scheduled to take the podium Wednesday morning.

On Sunday, Ahmadinejad spoke to CNN's Piers Morgan where the Iranian President slammed an anti-Islam film and the deadly protests it triggered in the Muslim world. This morning on “Early Start” International Security Analyst Jim Walsh weighs in on Ahmadinejad’s interview and who the Iranian president will meet with while he is in New York City.

Walsh says he is used to Ahmadinejad granting “softer” interviews and then delivering a “fiery speech” at the U.N. assembly. “I think you can expect the full gamut, the full range of remarks. Some will be conciliatory, some will be inflammatory,” Walsh adds.

Walsh also weighs in on Israel’s statement that Iran is six months away from a nuclear bomb. “The International Atomic Energy Agency is in [Iran’s] nuclear facilities almost on a weekly basis issuing reports every three months.” “Iran is the most watched nuclear country in the world. Its not just the U.S. its not just Israel… we’re all focused watching every move that Iran makes. So, do we know everything? No. But we have a pretty good idea” Walsh adds.

Filed under: U.N. General Assembly
September 24th, 2012
11:36 AM ET

CNN's Elise Labott on the U.N. General Assembly and Obama's decision not to hold private meetings with world leaders

The world is headed to New York City this week for the 67th annual United Nations General Assembly. The session is scheduled to begin tomorrow where President Obama will speak exactly six weeks before the U.S. election. Obama will however skip traditional private meetings with foreign counterparts but will be appearing on the TV talk-show "The View" on Monday with his wife. Instead Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be holding meetings with some of the visiting world leaders. CNN’s Elise Labott joins “Early Start” this morning to discuss the latest.

Clinton “is going to be meeting with the president of Libya today to talk about how they would protect U.S. diplomats in Tripoli in the wake of that consulate attack,” says Labott. “She’s going to be meeting with the presidents of Yemen, Tunisia – no one is going to be meeting with President Morsi,” adds Labott.

Labott further explains that while past presidents running for re-election have held Bilateral Meetings at UNGA, President Obama is “not really inclined to.” Labott says, “I think what’s happening right now is you see a lot of criticism from Prime Minister Netanyahu of President Obama about doing what he said …these red lines on Iran – how far would Iran go before the U.S. would get involved? President Obama not really inclined to give… Prime Minister Netanyahu a meeting and so [Obama’s] not meeting anybody.”

– CNN’s Elise Labott reports