Return to Transcripts main page


Iraqi Government Readies for ISIS Fight; No Unity in Iraq; Iraq's Islamist Insurgents; A Social Media Insurrection; Imagine a World

Aired June 18, 2014 - 14:00:00   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight as Iraq asks for airstrikes, my exclusive interview with the Sunni deputy prime minister who

tells me that won't be enough.


SALEH AL-MUTLAQ, DEPUTY PM OF IRAQ: A military solution alone cannot solve the problem. We have to reach those whom they have differences with us and

talk to them, have a dialogue with them.



AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): A desperate plea to the United States from Baghdad to bomb ISIS militants and stop the country falling apart. At the White

House, President Obama games out a response at an emergency meeting with congressional leaders.

While in London, the British Prime Minister David Cameron has delivered a stark warning to Parliament, saying that Britain cannot sit on the

sidelines as terrorists take over.

DAVID CAMERON, PRIME MINISTER, GREAT BRITAIN: -- it will be legislating in this session. That also disagree with those people who think this is

nothing to do with us and if they want to have some sort of extreme Islamist regime in the middle of Iraq, that won't affect us. It will. The

people in that regime as well as trying to take territory are also planning to attack us here at home in the United Kingdom.


AMANPOUR: And just last week here in New York the city's police commissioner said that terrorist blowback from ISIS in Syria could even

reach these shores.

And at a town hall meeting last night, the former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, agreed and made a clear break with President Obama's Syria



HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: And I recommended that we do more in the very beginning to support the moderate opposition because I

believed at the time that they would be overwhelmed by Assad's military force and that they would open up the door to extremists coming in.

AMANPOUR: Should you have pushed harder?

CLINTON: We pushed very hard. But as I say in my book, I believe that Harry Truman was right. The buck stops with the president.


AMANPOUR: Well, as we have seen, the buck has rolled from Syria right into Iraq, threatening the collapse of that country.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): And Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani, says that if Iraq can't manage, Tehran will intervene.

HASSAN ROUHANI, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We announce to all superpowers and their subjects, murderers and terrorists, that the great

nation of Iran will stop at nothing to protect the glory of the holy sites and shrines.


AMANPOUR: At this critical moment, I'm joined from Baghdad by Saleh al- Mutlaq. He's Iraqis' deputy prime minister and one of the highest ranking Sunni leaders.


AMANPOUR: Deputy Prime Minister al-Mutlaq, thank you for joining me.

Can I first ask you, where is the fight now?

Is the government in charge of the Baiji power plant, for instance?

Where is the front line right now?

What is the point of maximum danger?

SALEH AL-MUTLAQ, DEPUTY PM OF IRAQ: I don't have enough information about the security issue because we are not part of that file (ph). But my

information that they are -- that the army will try and to control Baiji and they are trying to make an attack on Tikrit, where they are preparing

themselves for days. I don't know whether -- where -- when they will start.

It's not going to be easy for everybody. It's going to be hard. But I do have the responsibility to fight Daish and to protect the Iraqis from

bombing here and there.

AMANPOUR: Has the ISIS march been stopped?

Or are they still battling towards Baghdad?

AL-MUTLAQ: Well, ISIS started from first al-Anbar. Then it moved to Mosul. And from Mosul, they moved forward toward Salah ad-Din and Kirkuk

and other areas.

But let me say it clear: now it's not only ISIS. Yes, ISIS is existing there.

People in Iraq all, Sunnis and Shiites, they feel that there is a real danger from ISIS but there are other groups. The previous army, the

previous administrators who administered for one year; they get nothing. The -- some of the tribes, those who did not get their rights, they are

also uprising, too.

Those people, if we can isolate them from ISIS, I think we can do a good job. But if we consider all those who are uprising now are ISIS or linked

with ISIS, then we are complicating the situation.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you, Mr. Deputy Prime Minister, you were in a meeting last night with Prime Minister Maliki, with representatives of the various

ethnic groups.

Is there, do you believe, a real possibility of now taking people's rights, embracing the Sunnis? Will Mr. Maliki really embrace unity now?

AL-MUTLAQ: Well, the -- if you ask me if there's a real unity in Iraq, no, because things we've being discussing for a long -- for a long time in

order to unite the whole political groups by delivering the rights to the people by a real power sharing. But we did not achieve that.

Yes, now we are in a danger and we have to unite ourselves toward the real enemy, Daish. But at the same time, we have to think of a political

solution, not only a military solution.

A military solution alone cannot solve the problem.

AMANPOUR: The meeting with Mr. Maliki, the prime minister, are they taking power sharing and a political solution seriously now or not?

AL-MUTLAQ: Now we're in the meeting, yes, we have, you know, discussions, equivalent (ph) to each other. We are trying to be all one side to solve

the problem.

But if you ask me, did I detect a real power-sharing during my presence in the government, I say definitely no. We were almost isolated from the

decisions, especially regarding the security issue.

The security issue, including the minister of defense, minister of interior, intelligence office and all the other -- all the other officers

and departments were run by Mr. Maliki alone or by his party.

We are -- we are in a -- far away from participating in the decisions regarding those issues.

AMANPOUR: What do you make of Iran, the president of Iran, saying that if Iraq cannot cope, then Iran will help defend the Shiite shrines in Samarra,

in Karbala, in Najaf?

AL-MUTLAQ: We tell them thank you very much. Iraq is capable of defending these shrines. And I am sure that the Sunnis will fight in order to

protect the shrines, the same as the Shiites will fight. If you talk about Samarra, the shrine there was protected by the Sunnis for centuries. So we

don't need any foreign military to come to Iraq and to protect these shrines.

AMANPOUR: And what do you say if America decides on any military action to stop ISIS, airstrikes or anything like that?

What is -- what is your reaction to that?

Do you want that help?

AL-MUTLAQ: Well, I think America has a responsibility now. We have to be clear. The occupation of Iraq were they responsible. And their withdrawal

from Iraq was not a responsible way.

Now if America wants to enter Iraq, it has to be in a responsible way, in a way to fight Daish and also amend the political process, change the

political process towards a stabilized Iraq.

This political process, the way it's being run, the government, we've been saying that for a long time; it will not protect Iraq and it will only lead

to what we are in now.

So if America wants to come to Iraq, it has to do a radical change to correct the mistakes they have done in Iraq and work on a political process

which will stabilize Iraq and let feel -- all the Iraqis feel that they are Iraqis. There are fair standards of citizens, not being told that they are

being isolated and their rights is not being given to them.

AMANPOUR: Mr. al-Mutlaq, why did the Iraqi forces just melt away in Mosul?

Why did they turn and run?

Why did they not fight?

AL-MUTLAQ: Many reasons; first, the corruption among the leadership of the army. The second is the oppression of the army there among people. The

insult they make always against the people. So there was a very huge distance between them and the people.

Then several of them, they thought they are not fighting only ISIS. They are fighting people who have rights. So they did not fight. But the major

thing is the corruption and the abuse of power in among them, against the people inside Mosul, and they did not start to make any good relation

between them and the people in Mosul.

AMANPOUR: Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, thank you very much for joining me at this very dangerous time.

AL-MUTLAQ: Thank you very much. Thank you indeed.


AMANPOUR: And as the Obama administration considers its next move, flash back to the words of the previous administration, "My belief is that we

will in fact be greeted as liberators." So said the U.S. vice president, Dick Cheney, back in 2003, just days before the United States invaded Iraq.

And this is how it was supposed to look in the wake of that invasion. Nation building, brick by brick, with boots on the ground, in towns like

Fallujah on the outskirts of Baghdad.

And this is the view of Fallujah today, at a smoke-filled distance, where ISIS has been in control since January.

Was the idea of carving out a democratic Iraq a worthy dream or merely a delusion? I'll ask the man who was charged with solving that riddle when

we come back.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): America's top military commander says he's received an SOS from Iraq for air power. And he's told a Senate panel that

confronting this menace is a must.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), S.C.: We think it's in our national security interests to honor that request?

GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: It's in our national security interests to counter ISIL wherever we find them.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): So ISIL, ISIS, no matter how they're called, President Obama is mulling his next move. And I spoke to General Jay

Garner, who was in charge of America's post-war reconstruction efforts after the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

He joined me from Colorado -- rather, from Orlando in Florida.


AMANPOUR: General Garner, thank you for joining me. Welcome to the program.

Let me ask you first, is this an existential threat to Iraq?

And is the disintegration of Iraq in America's vital national security interest to prevent it?

LT. GEN. JAY GARNER (RET.): This has been a long road getting here. We've made numerous mistakes from 2003 to where we are right now. We can go over

those if you want to.

But where we are right now, I believe, is when a situation there that is a far greater threat to Iran than it is to us in the United States -- and I

for one do not support putting any air power in there or putting anymore troops on the ground than necessary to evacuate our embassy or to protect

those people in the embassy -- I think what we're seeing right now is an Arab-on-Arab war.

We're seeing a religious war and I don't think we need to get in the middle of that.

AMANPOUR: General, basically you're saying it's not our problem. It's Iran's problem and let Iran take care of it.

GARNER: I'm saying right now they have a bigger problem than we do and that they have an air force, Maliki has an air force, the Syrians have an

air force. They all have a common enemy -- that's ISIS. Let them use their air power against that common enemy.

And I think the other thing, Christiane, I think that ISIS is going to run out of gas. And when they do, I believe the Iranians and the Shia

militants will cut them up and they will retreat back to the gains they've made this past week, which are mostly Sunni villages.

And once they get back there and they instill the harsh sharia law on those villages, I think the Sunni tribal leaders will rise up and they'll throw

them out of there, just like they threw out Aedile (ph) in 2007 and 2008.

AMANPOUR: I mean nobody wants to see the violent breakup of a country. It's one thing to have it managed; it's another thing to have it violently

broken up like this.

GARNER: But it's never been well managed. So that's -- and I'm not sure you can put it together again.

Once Sistani issued his fatwa for all Shia to rise up, arm, defend their country, and once the Iranians put the Quds Force in there, put military

force in there, I think that blew away any myth that we have a multi- sectarian, a multi-ethnic country, which we don't.

I think the important option right now is, one, let's ensure the survival of the Kurdish region, because they're very pro-U.S.; they sit in a

strategic area. They're oil-rich and they have been our friends all along.

And, two, I think we should be doing everything we can in the future to preserve Abdullah in Jordan, because he's going to have -- he's going to

have this problem next.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you this, clearly world leaders, like David Cameron today in Parliament, basically has told Parliament that we can't

just sit here and let this happen because it will blow back.

The New York City police commissioner has said that. Many, many people have said that. So people are very worried about terrorism blowing back

into Western capitals, Western nations.

Can I ask you, though, you've said many, many -- you were there at the beginning; we met at the beginning. You said many mistakes were made.

A top commander told me that we were as irresponsible getting out of that war as we were getting in.

Do you agree?

GARNER: Oh, we did a good job getting in and we did a lousy job getting out.

Yes, I'm -- I agree with that. Yes, when we first went there, Christiane, we should have put them in a federal system like the Kurds are now and then

they would have been ethnically and tribally and religiously comfortable.

Then had a government in Saigon (ph) but the people in the -- in the federal regions, they'd have felt their government came from the federal

region and not from Baghdad. And no one over there wants to be ruled by Baghdad.

And then we turned our backs on the Kurds, who had -- who had fought with us. And then we turned our backs on the Sunnis, who helped us in 2007-

2008. Then we backed Maliki in 2010 with full knowledge that he's going to disenfranchise the Kurds, persecute the Sunnis and was really a puppet of

the Iranians.

Then we left in 2011 without leaving a proper force to consolidate the gains and the good work we had done. Then in 2013, we drew the red line in

the sand in Syria and then cowardly backed away from it, which told all the militants that we're not going to do anything.

And then in 2014, we again backed Maliki with full knowledge of who he was, what he was and the persecution that he was doing. And then in the past

December, January, February, we didn't pay any attention to the black flags that were being raised in Mosul, Ramadi, Fallujah and those places.

So this is a bed we've been making for the last 11 years.

AMANPOUR: It really does just sound, especially as you say it, as we've been reporting this mounting catalog of errors.

And one of those errors, certainly former secretary of state Hillary Clinton last night told me was in not confronting this in Syria much

earlier, in other words, of trying to support a moderate opposition and isolating these ISIS extremists or any other extremists who were there at

the time. And she was proposing this even a couple of years ago.

That would have worked, right?

GARNER: Oh, I agree with that wholeheartedly. If we had done that, I don't think you would see ISIS where they are right now. They'd still be

in Syria and they wouldn't be -- have the command and control structure and the power that they have right now.

AMANPOUR: General Jay Garner, thank you very much for joining me.

GARNER: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: So we just heard from General Garner, ISIS are also apparently heavily funded. But they are in as well very active on social media. They

use the most sophisticated tools to spread their message of terror.

Samuel Burke is CNN's correspondent covering technology and indeed an alumnus of this very program.

Welcome, Samuel.

And first, I want to ask you, what about the Twitter account that we've seen gaining a lot of attention today @wikibaghdady, appears to be posting

inside information about ISIS.

SAMUEL BURKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, all signs point to ISIS gaining a major social media presence in the Middle East and this account

had left many people wondering -- that you're seeing right on your screen - - that this is part of that social media campaign with all this inside information.

But researchers in the Middle East and here in the United States tell me that they actually believe that this account is now being run by somebody

who defected from ISIS or is disenchanted by ISIS, is maybe even now a member of or at least sympathetic to Al-Nusra.

So you see these groups battling not just on land but even on social media.

But Christiane, that's not to underestimate the social media footprint of ISIS.

For months, for example, there's been an Android app for Android phones that have given the latest news updates about ISIS but many people didn't

realize that this app was also getting into people's Twitter accounts, once they access this app and posting news stories about ISIS and the pictures

of ISIS flags being flown across Iraq without users knowing that this app was even doing this.

Now Google has taken down this app; Twitter isn't commenting about these messages being posted. But what this has had the effect of doing,

Christiane, is magnifying their message, ISIS' message, across Twitter in the Middle East and one expert even told me this is a social media

marketing campaign that ISIS has that even a major Western corporation would be envious of.

AMANPOUR: So they are incredibly smart at branding and they, like so many other entities, have basically grabbed this social media.

So at times, Twitter and Facebook have been blocked inside Iraq. Teenagers are turning to a mobile app called Whisper.

Why, what are they doing with it?

BURKE: Whisper is very popular here in the West with young people. It's a very simple app, which allows you to share an image and a few words of text

on top of it. And I want to show you just some of the images and messages that we're seeing from probably teens inside Iraq, likely Baghdad.

One, for example, saying, "All social media were stopped in Iraq, my only escape is Whisper," this application. Another image saying, "We r fine in

Baghdad but we r ready for the worse (sic)." And another message coming from Whisper, "Help us. We need help. From Iraq." Simple words on social

media from inside Iraq, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Samuel, thank you very much indeed.

And after a break, another nation in crisis, Egypt, where a free press hasn't just been muzzled, it's been murdered repeatedly. Imagine if that

could be changing. We'll explore when we come back.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, the Egyptian president, Abdul Fattah al- Sisi, presiding over a deeply divided nation, is signaling that some things might be changing in that troubled and teeming land of 86 million. Imagine

a world where democracy's fundamental freedom, the freedom of the press, could one day come to Cairo. For now, that seems to be wishful thinking.

But there's cause for some hope and celebration because Abdullah Elshamy, an Al Jazeera journalist, who had been held without charge for over 300

days, has actually been freed for medical reasons.

Elshamy had been on a hunger strike that lasted over 20 grueling weeks. As he walked out of a Cairo police station, he was met by his family and a

cheering crowd and he claimed victory.


ABDULLAH ELSHAMY, AL JAZEERA JOURNALIST: I have won and everybody who is a freedom fighter, either a journalist or anyone doing his work credibly and

honestly has won.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): But as Al Jazeera colleagues remain in jail, Baher Mohamed, Peter Greste and Mohammed Fahmy, that they ,too, now have a court

date next Monday. And after 172 days, they'll finally hear a verdict in what many have called a politically trumped-up case against them.

Meantime, though, journalist advocacy groups maintain their tally of those reporters who've been killed or disappeared in Egypt.

And President al-Sisi has symbolically weighed in on another matter of crime and punishment. As we know, he brought flowers to the woman who was

hospitalized after she was brutally sexually assaulted in Tahrir Square during his inauguration.

The president apologized for this longstanding crime against Egyptian women and he took to national television to vow to make combating this crime a

new national priority. And he has also sent a message to his new cabinet, ordering them to be at their desks by 7:00 am every morning and to work

around the clock to tackle decades of corruption and bureaucracy that have crippled Egypt's economy.

Symbolism or substance? For Egypt, the jury is still out.

And that's it for our program tonight. Remember you can always contact us at our website,, and follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

Thanks for watching and goodbye from New York.