Return to Transcripts main page


Iraq: "The Problem Is More than ISIS"; Beaten and Shot in Syria; Imagine a World

Aired July 1, 2014 - 14:00   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight ISIS in Iraq: Saudi Arabia's former intelligence chief tells me that it comes from

Syria's festering wounds and the journalist who caused the infection, kidnapped, beaten and even worse.



AMANPOUR (voice-over): Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

There's not a political leader or a battlefield commander who'll tell you that Iraq's crisis can be resolved without a political solution.

But look at this picture: an empty parliament in Baghdad again as Iraq fights for its very existence infighting paralyzes Iraq's politicians

and yet again they've failed to unite around a new prime minister.

Sunni and Kurd leaders want to see Nouri al-Maliki gone as does the influential Shiite leader, Grand Ayatollah Sistani. And the ISIS

insurgents meantime are having a field day. One day after declaring a caliphate, the group's leader is now calling on all Muslims to unite around

its self-declared Islamic state.

But Iraq's neighbor and regional Sunni power, Saudi Arabia, believes that will never happen. Nonetheless, there is alarm in the kingdom as ISIS

grows and recruits from Saudi Arabia as well as Western nations rush to join its cause.

My guest tonight, Prince Turki al-Faisal, has been a key player in the region for more than four decades. As head of Saudi Arabia's foreign

intelligence service and as ambassador to the United States, he joined me earlier from Jeddah to discuss the ISIS threat and how they grew amid

global inaction in Syria.


AMANPOUR: Prince Turki al-Faisal, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: I want to first ask you about this rising ISIS threat. First and foremost, how big a threat do you see ISIS, not just to the

region, but to your country, too?

AL-FAISAL: Well, there is a worldwide view that ISIS is dangerous to everybody. It's a terrorist organization that has specialized in brutal

killings and the innocents are the main victims of these brutal killings.

So it is a danger to the whole area and I think to the rest of the world.

AMANPOUR: There have been videos posted online, showing, amongst others, Saudi youth going to join ISIS.

How worried are you about it, about the blowback?

And are you trying to stop these young people doing that?

AL-FAISAL: The government has issued decrees forbidding the going to so-called fight the jihad in other areas of the world and also has imposed

prison terms on people who have done that.

The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia has issued a fatwa, declaring that this is a sin and all the government officials have come out against such

engagement, either from Saudi youth or from other youth.

AMANPOUR: Prince Turki, you used to be head of Saudi intelligence and there is a lot of finger-pointing and blame gaming going on right now with

governments, for instance, in the United States, here in Europe, saying, oh, we didn't know about this.

Who knew that ISIS would be so powerful, so quickly and overrun so much territory in Iraq?

Did Saudi Arabia, to the best of your knowledge, ever warn the U.S. or Europe or other allies about this risk?

AL-FAISAL: I'm sure there was exchange of information between our two governments on all these issues. My personal view is that the conflict in

Syria particularly has been a main source of this growth in these terrorist activities.

I've described Syria as a festering wound that collects the worst bacteria in the world. And we see that on the ground.

But the issue is not an invasion or a happening that occurred yesterday or the day before. It's been building since the American

invasion of Iraq. If you remember, the Islamic state of Iraq that was established to fight the American occupation in the early years of the

century, when American forces were present in Iraq, that was the progenitor of the -- of the ISIS.

And now it has expanded and found room to grow.

AMANPOUR: Do you believe this border that they have frankly erased between Syria and Iraq can ever be reestablished?

Can ISIS be pushed back?

AL-FAISAL: I believe it can because the terrorism and the nihilism that it practices has been the -- if you like, the downfall of all

terrorist activity, not just in our area but throughout the world. And people don't stand for that.

The problem in Iraq is more than ISIS. It is a popular uprising by the people stretching from the borders in Syria across to Mosul against the

government of al-Maliki. And so ISIS, among other parties, are playing a role there.

And we've seen statements by leaders of those parties, whether they be the tribes or the citizens of these areas, who condemn ISIS and consider it

to be a terrorist group.

So it's not simply ISIS that is operating in that area.

AMANPOUR: Does Saudi Arabia find itself in a very tricky situation?

On the one hand, you obviously abhor ISIS; on the other hand, you seem to also have great distaste for the government of Prime Minister Maliki.

Is there a lesser of these two evils in Saudis' view?

Or what does Saudi Arabia do to counter what you clearly consider these two competing threats?

AL-FAISAL: Well, you know, there is an ongoing process now in Baghdad to choose a government that would represent all Iraqis. By all accounts,

the president, al-Maliki, does not represent all Iraqis.

And therefore finding one that can unify the various social and political structure of Iraq is the most important priority now, to meet all

these threats that come, not just from Syria but also from Iran.

And therefore having a unified and territorially integrated Iraq has been the main aim of Saudi Arabia since the establishment of the -- of the

present regime, after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

And the kingdom, I know, has been warning its allies in the area that leaving the situation as it is is going to lead to more trouble.

And I think this is something that has come about and everybody agrees that had certain measures been taken a few years back, we would not be in

this situation today.

AMANPOUR: What measures are you talking about specifically?

AL-FAISAL: Well, I go back to the previous election, five years ago in Iraq, when one of the parties that won the plurality in that election

was superseded and through the pressure of both, at that time, the United States and Iran, the coalition that chose Maliki became the government.

And so it goes back to those days. It's not just a creation of a few months back.

AMANPOUR: The declaration of a caliphate to represent all Muslims by ISIS, the declaration of what it now calls itself as the Islamic State,

what exactly does that mean?

And will the world's Muslims buy into that?

AL-FAISAL: You know, since the fall of the caliphate in the 1920s, there were others who tried to assume that mantle and have gone nowhere.

And basically the people in the Muslim world want to live a peaceful life. And they look upon themselves as I would say victims of ISIS and others of

that inclination to use brutality and murder and terrorism to force themselves on people.

And therefore I don't think that that ideological step by ISIS is going to get ISIS anywhere to their aims.

AMANPOUR: You remember, though, of course, back to 2001, when Al Qaeda committed the attacks of 9/11 and then of course committed more

attacks, including in your own country, people around the Islamic world, some people, did find themselves drawn to that.

Do you worry that this is a resurgence of that kind of, you know, disenfranchisement that will lead certainly some to be dangerously drawn to

this ideology again?

AL-FAISAL: Well, indeed. And as long as there are injustices in the world, there will always be those who will be drawn to such factions and

such inclinations as terrorism and causing mayhem. And it is worrisome.

In the kingdom, we've had our long struggle with terrorism before even Al Qaeda was established. If you remember in the '50s and '60s and '70s,

we suffered from what was then the left-leaning terrorism of some Palestinian factions.

But nonetheless, the kingdom's view is that to deal with these issues, you have to deal with them globally. You have to, not just by security

measures, but also by political, economic, social and educational areas.

And therefore, the whole world has to come together to deal with this issue, because it not only affects Saudi Arabia, but it affects you in the

United States. Look at how many Americans are there in ISIS or how many British or how many French or how many Germans or Belgians. It's an

international conglomeration of disaffected and very misguided youth.

AMANPOUR: You were very public and other officials from Saudi Arabia have been very public, criticizing the United States for Syria, frankly,

for not doing more to prop up the so-called moderate opposition in Syria.

What has the world done wrong in Syria to allow this state of affairs with ISIS growing so rapidly?

AL-FAISAL: You know, Ms. Amanpour, from the beginning, the kingdom took the position that you have to support the moderate opposition in Syria

in order to give it the prestige and the standing among the Syrian people so that it can meet not only the challenge of the Assad brutality, but also

these groups that have come into Syria that I describe as bacteria.

And we've seen in many cases where this moderate opposition actually fighting on both fronts against the Assad regime and these extremist

groups, finally, I think the United States has come around, I hope, to the view that supporting the moderate opposition by giving it defensive

weapons. You're not going to ask the United States to give tanks and aircraft, no.

You want to give them means to defend themselves against the tanks and the aircraft of Bashar al-Assad. If you do that, then the moderate

opposition can meet these challenges.

AMANPOUR: Prince Turki al-Faisal, thank you very much indeed for joining me from Jeddah.

AL-FAISAL: Thank you, Ms. Amanpour. It's always a pleasure to talk to you.


AMANPOUR: And as we in the 21st century try to grapple with the idea of a medieval caliphate, one intrepid journalist has felt the wrath of

Islamic jihadists firsthand. My colleague, Anthony Loyd, lived to tell about it by the skin of his teeth. His harrowing story and his surprise

epiphany when we come back.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

What is ISIS? The Sunni militants seeking to establish their global caliphate were raised in the anarchic post-invasion Iraq and revived in the

badlands of Syria's festering civil war. Now few people fall victim to extremist forces and live to tell the story.

Anthony Loyd, special correspondent for "The Times" of London has. After more than a dozen trips to cover the Syrian war, on his last venture

into the country to Aleppo in May, he was double-crossed by a rebel he considered his fixer and friend.

It's a harrowing story which he told me here in the studio as well as what may seem, considering the circumstances, a surprising conclusion about

how to defeat these extremist jihadis.


AMANPOUR: Anthony Loyd, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: We've just been talking in the big picture with Prince Turki about this phenomenon of ISIS. But you have the unfortunate

distinction of knowing these various different groups. You've been taken by many of them, both in Iraq and in Syria.

What do you know about them from the inside?

LOYD: ISIS are the face and representation of a more general Sunni discontent across the region, particularly in Iraq and Syria. So they

represent different things to different Sunni groups. There are Sunni still disenfranchised in some areas. They've been ostracized, persecuted,

oppressed. There are tribal grievances. There are political grievances.

And ISIS have transcended on the back of all these different grievances.

AMANPOUR: So a few weeks ago you returned from Syria, reporting again there, having been terribly wounded, held captive for a while. And you

were shot by somebody who you thought was a reliable friend.

How did that happen? What happened?

LOYD: This was a guy and his gang who I've known for over two years and stayed with on several occasions, more than half a dozen of occasions

across those two years, sometimes for periods of up to a week.

And always been treated particularly by this guy, Hakim (ph), who was the midlevel commander in a small town, very well, with great decency and

hospitality as befitting a Muslim host in the Middle East.

I stopped by his house on the way out of Syria. I've been working for a week in Aleppo, primarily to pay my respects to the birth of his last

child, his daughter. We stayed at his house. I was (INAUDIBLE) and we had supper. We stayed overnight. The next morning, we left, having had

breakfast and said goodbye. And he set us up to be abducted.

We didn't know it was him immediately. We were abducted by an armed gang outside the town of Tal Rifat. Subsequently as we escaped in quite a

violent escape and some of us we captured, too, then we worked out it was Hakim and his guys, all so-called friends who had betrayed us.

AMANPOUR: And I just want to put up these pictures again, because they are really horrendous. It's horrible for me to see you in that state,

having known you for such a long time, all brutalized and bloodied.

And he shot you.

LOYD: He shot me. There were four of us, two Syrian in our team and two Brits. That was a disorganized but quite good escape. We were going

off in different directions. Two of us got caught in separate places. I was caught. And so I was beaten and I was dragged into the street. I was

tied up throughout this. My hands were bound. And there in the middle of the street was Hakim, it was quite a crowd of Syrians who'd gathered. And

he was denouncing me first as a CIA spy, then a spy for the regime. Then he was trying to say I was a volunteer to join ISIS. And I was marched up

to him and I said to him, because I didn't have anything else to say, I thought we were friends. And he pulled his pistol and shot me. It was a

moment he couldn't really bear. There were a lot of people who were looking at him quite questioningly, like they weren't completely believing

what he said. And then this, you know, beaten and bloodied Englishman, with his hands tied, gets marched up and says I thought we were friends.

It was not the words of an ISIS volunteer or a CIA spy or whatever. And he sort of almost had to shut me up. So he pulled his gun and he shot me

twice in the ankle.

AMANPOUR: I mean, in that moment, what did you think, that this was criminal? That this was an ideological thing? What did you think had


LOYD: Well, I didn't think a whole lot at that moment because the event horizon was so fast, things were happening so quickly and I was so

adrenalized by the escape and the recapture that is was sort of like rolling in surf. You're just struggling to get your next gulp. You're not

thinking a whole lot. Nor at the best as having much of a criminal event. And its passage erodes people's integrity.

I think that's what had happened. I think also it's very fair to say that as time has gone by, most Syrians or many Syrians regard Western

journalists as embodying the cynicism of the West's inaction in Syria. We come, the few of us who still go there; we report. We take photographs.

We film their suffering. And nothing changes.

AMANPOUR: Even after all of that, you have written today in "The Times" a piece, a column that says arm the opposition; it's our least worst


Prince Turki al-Faisal, former intelligence minister of Saudi Arabia, said that all of this ISIS stuff, a lot of what's happening in Iraq, is

because of this festering wound that was allowed to continue getting worse and worse in Syria and that has now bred what he said a pool of bacteria.

LOYD: First of all, I think the prince in this case is very right. This is ISIS are inevitable consequences, no magic or mystery to their

ascent. It's like an algebraic equation. That amount of savagery over that amount of time in that place left unchecked will inevitably produce

something like ISIS.

We are what we are. Arming the opposition is not an ideal scenario, but I think it's very important to block and contain the spread of ISIS, to

look at recent lessons in recent history where ISIS or their forerunner, the Islamic State of Iraq, have been checked and overturned.

And one of those recent examples is 2005-2009 in Iraq, the Awakening movement. This was a Sunni tribal movement backed by American money and

coordinated admittedly with American troops, which almost annihilated ISIS.

Now we have a similar template in Syria amongst the many Syrian rebel groups who turned on ISIS earlier this year and drove them out from large

areas of the north. And these are people who now it is time to help contain, to get alongside, to help contain ISIS. But not all of them; some

of those groups are completely unacceptable. But there are some, one can best and understand in general terms to be moderate.

AMANPOUR: What's next for you after you've fully recovered and you've fully healed that ankle that was shot?

Where are you going next?

LOYD: Well, in principle, I go back -- I would go back to Syria. In practice, there's a few reasons maybe to leave Syria alone for a while for


I'm not sure. We'll see what is happening in Iraq in a couple of months' time or Iran. But I'll go back to my job as before. The worst

I'll end up with is to be lame in one leg, which is totally manageable and I'm hoping for a full recovery.

AMANPOUR: Anthony Loyd, thank you very much.

LOYD: Christiane, thank you.


AMANPOUR: And there you heard it, dedication to continuing to seek the truth, despite the incredible risks, as you heard Anthony Loyd


And after a break, we'll return to Saudi Arabia, a desert kingdom whose folk tales and fables date back to Islam's golden age.

But perhaps the most incredible story isn't legend. It tells of a king and a desert and a treasure beyond imagining. We'll explore when we

come back.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, Saudi Arabia and oil, the two seem inseparable but it wasn't always so. Imagine a world where Saudi Arabia

was an empty desert and an afterthought on the global stage. When the Middle East was being divvied up after World War I into new nations like

Iraq and Syria, Saudi Arabia was largely forgotten, presumed to be a wasteland.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): This promotional film, though, made nearly seven decades ago by the Standard Oil Company of California, shows most

Saudis scratching out a subsistence living and even depending on the wind to separate wheat from the chaff. That would soon change.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): -- small for a townspeople and Bedouin alike. Life was an endless struggle.

None of them knew that this desert, barren of natural resources to the outward eye, had been blessed by nature beyond the wildest dreams of those

who raided and struggled for life across its sandy, windswept wastes.


AMANPOUR: King Ibn Saud was convinced that treasure lay beneath the sands of Arabia. And when oil was discovered in neighboring Bahrain, he

invited engineers from Standard Oil to begin exploring.

In 1938, after four frustrating years, they finally struck oil and began to produce 1,500 barrels a day. That number would quickly multiple,

fueled by an insatiable global thirst for petroleum. And the rest is history.

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 London.