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Iraq Violence Leaves Children Parentless; Tackling Threat of ISIS; Extremist Violence Raises Middle East Heat; Imagine a World

Aired July 7, 2014 - 14:00:00   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight, staring defeat in the face, Iraq's politicians still cannot form a government as the

British ambassador tells me that he warned Baghdad months ago about the ISIS threat.

SIMON COLLIS, BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: We were aware of the threat and we gave clear advice at the time and throughout about the best way to

tackle it, the only effective way to tackle it.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Also ahead, a special report on Iraq's next generation: how the children of both victim and murderer are learning to

live side by side.


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

Iraq's politicians have failed yet again to unite in the face of terror as a crucial parliamentary session aimed at kickstarting the

formation of a new government is once again postponed, this time for a month.

The United Nations has urged all parties to find consensus and not delay the next session. As the politicians flounder, ISIS is taking

advantage of the power vacuum. The group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, made what may be his public debut, stepping out of the shadows to rally his

followers in Mosul this weekend.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): This video comes days after a report that the militant leader was killed or wounded in airstrikes and Iraqi authorities

are trying to work out whether it is indeed al-Baghdadi.

In a moment I'll talk to Britain's ambassador to Iraq, who tells me the U.K. warned Baghdad about the ISIS threat repeatedly over the past

several months.

But first, in the face of this sectarian onslaught, can the nation hold together?

Our Nima Elbagir recently returned from Baghdad with a striking example of the fierce desire for unity in the unlikeliest of places.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Yuah (ph) is 7. He's never been told how his father died. His mother thinks it's better that


Wella (ph), 6, has no memories of her father, only that there was a loud noise the night he died.

Hajer's father was a police man. She remembers him a little. He was gunned down on the street by their home seven years ago. At the Al Noor

Children's Center in Baghdad, a roll call of loss and fractured lives.

Leba and Hira (ph), their other brother and their sister, were found playing around the bodies of their parents after both their mother and

father were killed in a terrorist attack here in Sadr City. Hira (ph) has just turned 1 year old and she's been looked after here at the orphanage.

As the violence in Iraq begins to spiral again, more and more children are being brought to Al Noor. But it's not just for the children of the

victims that Al Noor opened its doors. Some, like 11-year-old Baneen have parents suspended of perpetrating attacks.

The center director, Liqaa Al Aboudi believes the only way Iraqis can build a future together is if the children of both murderer and victim

learn to coexist.

Most of the staff here are unpaid. They, like Al Aboudi, give their time for free. They want the world to see, they say, that the children of

monsters are still children. And there is hope for them and for the country.

Al Aboudi's husband was killed in a terror attack. She says it made her want to do something with her life.

LIQAA AL ABOUDI, DIRECTOR, AL NOOR CHILDREN'S CENTER (from captions) I took in 10 orphans in the beginning. I started the center for them and

brought in teachers. And now, by the will of God, we have 300 orphans, from 2009 until now.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): Al Aboudi hopes Al Noor will always be a refuge from the horror that lies outside its doors. But nothing in Iraq is for

certain. Even if one day she herself falls victim to the violence, she says she believes "her children," as she calls them, will carry on her


"They know how important it is," she says, "to build unity, whatever the cost" -- Nima Elbagir, CNN, Baghdad.


AMANPOUR: That desire for unity reinforced from the people that you just heard in that report, despite their leadership. And as we heard, my

next guest warned the Maliki government about the ISIS threat months ago.

Simon Collis is the British ambassador to Iraq. And before that, he was ambassador to Syria.

With Iraq's politicians failing again to meet and form a unity government, he joined me from Baghdad, which ISIS is threatening to seize



AMANPOUR: Ambassador, welcome to the program. Let me begin by asking you whether you still believe, as you said a few weeks ago, that Baghdad

will not fall to ISIS.

COLLIS: Yes, I do. I think the defenses of Baghdad have been strengthened.

The battle lines between ISIL and Iraqi forces have been broadly static for some time now. That's not to say that things can't change, but

the situation on the ground has not changed much in recent days.

AMANPOUR: Well, given that last week's parliamentary session collapsed in disarray and given that Prime Minister al-Maliki has been

saying anything but that he would go for a unity government, do you believe that that will happen?

COLLIS: What I'm suggesting is that Iraq needs a broad-based government that can show national unity formed within the parliament under

the constitution. And it's clear that this security situation will not be solved without a political movement.

The idea that you can tackle the security part first and come back to the politics in due time is part of the reason why Iraq's in the situation

it is today.

AMANPOUR: The Kurdish leadership, President Massoud Barzani, told me about a week ago that he and the Kurdish intelligence had, in fact, briefed

Baghdad -- and now we learn had also briefed Washington and London -- about the rising threat of ISIS.

Did that just simply fall on deaf ears?

Did London pay any attention?

Did the West? Certainly, obviously, the Baghdad government didn't.

COLLIS: The fact that Mosul was vulnerable was known. The fact that ISIL were already holding territory from last year in parts of Western

Iraq, in Anbar and elsewhere, was well known.

And our consistent strong message to the government of Iraq throughout that period was that any comprehensive counterterrorism strategy would need

a political line of operation, an economic and development line of operation, as well as of course security operations.

And without that kind of comprehensive approach, it will be impossible to defeat an organization like ISIL.

So we were aware of the threat and we gave clear advice at the time and throughout about the best way to tackle it, the only effective way to

tackle it.

AMANPOUR: The other thing that President Barzani told me was that it was time now for self-determination for the Kurds and he subsequently has

said that they are planning a referendum on precisely that.

Are they going to be persuaded not to go for this vote for independence?

COLLIS: I think Kurdish political leaders are not talking about this as an imminent matter.

It's not my impression that they are intent on taking this forward in the immediate future. They're looking to prepare the ground, perhaps; to

socialize the idea.

But my sense is that they do understand the urgency of tackling the ISIL threat. Mosul is a city that, you know, may be 40, 50 miles from


AMANPOUR: I wonder, given your incredible amount of experience, whether you believe that everything the West has done and is doing is

leading to strategic defeat in Iraq and in the broader Middle East.

You've got Syria in the state it is. You have all sorts of potentially Iraq partitioning along ethnic lines.

What does that look like for the future?

COLLIS: Well, it looks very serious and the message is a consistent one, that defeating extremist terror requires moderate democratic political

leaders to come together.

Autocratic governments are not the answer in Syria or anywhere else. The only thing that can defeat extremist groups is national cohesion.

AMANPOUR: Do you believe that that can happen without also dealing with the Syria piece, if you like, where ISIS has been allowed to fester

and grow and now cross and eliminate that border between Syria and Iraq?

COLLIS: As far as tackling the threat that ISIL pose to the region, the secret's in the name. It operates in both Iraq and in the Levant, in

Syria. And tackling it will require coordinated action in both countries.

The only people taking on ISIL inside Syria, incidentally, are the Syrian moderate opposition.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you to put your Syrian ambassador hat back on.

Is it not time to say enough already?

We've tried this hands-off thing; it is time now to really be serious about mounting an effective defense inside Syria by supporting the moderate


COLLIS: Well, I think there's no doubt about the seriousness of the situation in both Iraq and Syria and therefore beyond the borders of those

two countries. It's been a disaster for millions of people in both countries, who've been so badly affected. It's a humanitarian disaster.

I think the impulse to solve such complex problems through a straightforward military intervention is one that is -- I mean, people can

debate it, but it's not obvious at all that that would solve the problem.

It is about working with moderate people; it's clear that the Assad regime, for example, cannot be part of the solution. ISIL's rise is a

direct result of that regime's behavior in many ways.

But supporting people who are in the middle, people who are moderate, people who simply want security in their lives and personal freedom and the

right to choose their leaders, this must be our goal in the West, it seems to me.

AMANPOUR: And finally, Ambassador, you called it a humanitarian failure and a humanitarian disaster. Many would also say that it is a

massive strategic failure and a strategic disaster.

So could I ask you, finally, do you not find it ironic that, with the rise of ISIS in Iraq, some are seriously suggesting that President Assad

may be, you know, the least worst option when it comes to trying to confront these Sunni extremist terrorists?

Do you see that gaining any traction?

Are we going to nod and a wink and, you know, say, OK, Bashar, you continue what you're doing; at least you're going to be bashing the hell

out of ISIS?

COLLIS: Yes, I've heard that thought expressed. I think it's complete -- completely naive, wishful thinking.

The Assad regime from the outset, faced with a very large and peaceful popular uprising, was determined to turn that uprising into a violent

confrontation with people that it wished to define as terrorists, precisely so that it could turn around to its own people and to the wider world and

say, "You've got a choice between us or the terrorists."

We reject that as a false choice. We rejected it at the time and we continue to do so now.

AMANPOUR: Ambassador Simon Collis, thank you very much for joining me from Baghdad.

COLLIS: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: So huge challenges ahead. And as we saw just earlier in that report on the Iraqi orphanage, and we're also seeing in Syria and

other conflicts, children are too often the casualties of war. And that's also true for true grief-stricken families on either side of the divide

between Israelis and Palestinians.

And yet the family of Palestinian teenager Muhammad Abu Khdeir, who was killed in an apparent reprisal for the murder of three Israeli teens,

reached out by telephone to the family of one of those murdered Israeli boys, Naftali Fraenkel, and that spirit of reconciliation was echoed in a

visit by Palestinians to the Fraenkel home and by young Jewish boys, paying their respects in the mourners' tent for Muhammad.

Where will these good intentions lead? It has been said, after all, that the road to hell is paved with them. We'll go to Jerusalem when we

come back and explore.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

The U.S. State Department has expressed horror at this image, a Palestinian American teenager beaten up this weekend by Israeli security

forces. The Obama administration says that it is profoundly troubled by the attack.

And the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas are both speaking out against

this tit-for-tat violence that has claimed lives on both sides. Netanyahu condemning the cruel murder of a Palestinian teenager, likely by Israeli

extremists as, quote, "a horrific crime," and Abbas, speaking out forcefully against the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli teens

which sparked the current disturbance in the first place.

But with no peace agreement or even peace process anywhere on the horizon, there is little to restrain violence on either side. And U.S.

negotiators who failed to reach an agreement now pin the blame on the bitter relationship between Netanyahu and Abbas.

Now Ari Shavit is a prominent and highly influential Israeli writer. He's columnist for "Ha'aretz," which is one of Israel's leading newspapers

and he's the author of "My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel," which is required reading on the state of Israel today.

Ari, welcome back to the program.

ARI SHAVIT, WRITER AND AUTHOR: Pleasure to be with you.

AMANPOUR: Ari, let me first start by asking you, is this going to escalate into a real spasm or war?

SHAVIT: Or are the leaders on both sides successfully restraining it?

Christiane, this is a very dramatic evening. I do not want to over- dramatize, but the last few hours may have been, God forbid, the tipping point. For the last few days we've seen extraordinary attempts to stop the

escalation. We've seen remarkable restraint on the behalf of the Israeli government by surprisingly for many a right-wing conservative government

led by Netanyahu did everything possible not to get into another war or cycle of violence.

The same applies to President Abbas. But Hamas that kept on saying it wants to stop escalation fired dozens of rockets into Israel in the last

few hours and Israel will not be able to be restrained anymore. The danger, the great danger tonight is that after the Israeli action that must

come now, we will have more rockets shooting into Israel and a real escalation.

So this evening, I must say, reminds me of the dynamics of, I would say, the rockets of July, like the guns of August again. God forbid, I

hope we will not have major escalation. But what we see is different sides who do not want escalation, definitely not Abbas and Netanyahu; probably

not Hamas as well. But they are dragged into something that is becoming very violent, very dangerous.

AMANPOUR: Well, I know you well enough, Ari, to fully read the seriousness of what you're saying and the tone of your voice. And you must

be very, very worried that this is about to happen. And we have seen and covered several of these over the past many years.

Can I ask you from your vantage point, given that you're in Israel, has the Netanyahu government not just in the wake of this latest tit-for-

tat violence, but done enough to control extremists in his own right flank?

SHAVIT: Let's put it this way: I am today worried that we wasted five precious years. For five years, we had relative calm in this land, in

this troubled land.

Why? Because both Netanyahu and Abbas, who found -- did not find the courage in them to reach peace did have the ability to prevent

deterioration to war or large-scale violence. There's a difference between reaching peace and preventing war.

Both have failed in a very embarrassing way in reaching peace. But both were adamant not to have major violence. What we see in recent months

is that the extremists on both sides are taking the agenda and are actually cornering these two leaders and actually dragging us into conflict. I

would say that some questions have to be asked in Washington, too. Some of us here warned a few months ago -- I said it myself, but many others did --

that the moment you try to have peace in this land, the way Secretary Kerry did in a courageous way, you cannot step back.

And from the moment that negotiations collapsed in late March, this illusion that you can go back to Washington, deal with China and Ukraine

and ignore the Middle East, was a dangerous illusion.

So we didn't have an organizing principle; we didn't have the peace horizon. We didn't have American leadership. We didn't have the Israeli

courage. We didn't have moderate Palestinian strength. And the result is that all of the above are responsible for this escalation with the

extremists on both sides are leading the way and might create major, major violence in the coming days.

Talking of Netanyahu specifically, Netanyahu should get credit for his restraint on preventing violence. But he should be criticized very much so

for not controlling the extremists in his government and for not acting in time against really extreme Jewish nationalists who've been acting in a

very violent way for years and months.

The fact that the Israeli government failed to be very tough with these extremists is now making that very government a victim to that

extremism. So we are confronted with a troubling situation where the extremists have taken the lead and might dictate their will and their way

to the moderate. And I still believe that both sides still have moderate majorities on them. But both sides, the moderates have failed to act on

their modernization and actually open the doors to extremists' action and leadership.

AMANPOUR: Ari, let me ask you this: what you're saying and the accusations you're making about your current government, why is it that

they are not listening to the people who they seem to respect the most, and those are the security chiefs?

And yet again, former and current security chiefs are weighing in; one of the farmers of Shin Bet has just posted today on his Facebook.

This is the policy he sees as conducted by the current government, quote, "Let's frighten the public over everything that's happening around

us in the Middle East. Let's prove that there's no Palestinian partner. Let's build more and more settlements and create a reality that can't be

changed. Let's continue not dealing with the severe problems of the Arab sector in Israel. And let's continue not solving the severe social gaps in

Israeli society."

So this is not a new plea by the security chiefs, who know more than anybody what's at stake. They're saying that their internal problems and

the problems with the Palestinians are much bigger existential threat than Iran or anything else.

Why is it that the politicians don't get it?

SHAVIT: Well, I -- Christiane, you know the region. And we are both democrats. I'm not into idealizing generals' spies and heads of secret

services. They are professionals. They should be listened to. But it's not that their word is always holy and sacred.

But I think I agree with the basic criticism. I think that the fact that we went on with settlement activity, the fact that we were not

generous enough in offering a big, huge concession and actually coming up with a brave Israeli initiative, I think that was a major mistake.

And yet one has to remember that some mistakes were made on the other side as well. Mahmoud Abbas, at the critical moment, walked away from the

negotiations in two different ways. And he's the one who created a government supported by Hamas, who's now shooting rockets into Israel.

So no one is holy here. There are no angels here. I have my criticism of this government; I think it should be criticized. But this

criticism should be put in context. The moderate Palestinians have failed; the moderate Israelis failed. American leadership was not there. And the

Middle East around us is getting dangerous from one month to another.

We see today that this illusion, that you can walk away from the Middle East, and hope for any sort of stability was a very dangerous one.

And we do not throughout the region, we have -- we see chaos and chaos in the Middle East is not pleasant chaos. It turns ugly and violent. We saw

it in Syria. We see it in Iraq. We see it in other countries as well.

And the fear is that this extremism and this chaotic state of affairs is now penetrating the Promised Land.

So I really pray and plead that any responsible player will take action now, because it's time to stop this escalation. If we do not stop

it in the coming hours or days, no one knows how bad it will be. But it will be bad.

AMANPOUR: Ari Shavit, thank you for that incredibly dramatic and very real intervention. Thank you very much indeed for joining me.

And we'll be right back after a short break with our final thoughts.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, in recent months, this has been the face of Russia, as President Vladimir Putin annexes Crimea and threatens

Ukraine. Now imagine a world where the diplomatic face of Russia was a white-haired man with a contagious smile, who helped end the Cold War.

Eduard Shevardnadze was born in Georgia, joined the Communist Party there at an early age and became head of the police force in the 1970s,

charged with rooting out corruption.

According to legend, one of his first acts was to ask top officials for a show of hands, most of whom were sporting expensive black market

Western watches on their wrists. He ordered them confiscated and replaced with Soviet watches.

That same reformer would become foreign minister under the last Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev, in the 1980s. And with humor and personal

charm, he worked with Western leaders, like U.S. presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush to implement Gorbachev's policies of new openness.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Shevardnadze returned to Georgia and was elected president in 1995. Ironically, the lifelong reformer was

hounded out of office for failing to tackle corruption. In 2003, during the so-called "Rose Revolution," while he was addressing parliament,

protesters broke in and drove him from the building, eventually forcing him to resign. Eduard Shevardnadze died today at the age of 86.

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

Facebook. Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.