Return to Transcripts main page
Israel and Gaza: Moment of Truce; Iraq's Political Disarray; Imagine a World
Aired July 15, 2014 - 14:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight Israel ordered heaviest strikes into Gaza after a brief cease-fire collapses.
Is a ground invasion now inevitable? I'll ask the former Israeli intelligence chief.
Also ahead some rare good news from Iraq. But I ask the U.S. official who first discovered Nouri al-Maliki whether it can save the day and the
AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.
In Gaza tonight, a cease-fire backfires and now Israel says it will step up its attacks on a day that saw the first Israeli killed.
And on the other side, 200 Palestinians have been killed since this all erupted a week ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR (voice-over): For six short hours this morning, life could resume in Gaza as a cease-fire proposal from Egypt got Israel to suspend
bombing the besieged territory. But the Hamas rocket fire into Israel never stopped.
And tonight the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, ordered attacked to be intensified.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL (through translator): Hamas have decided to continue and will pay the price on their decision.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Will the lead to an Israel ground -- will this lead to an Israeli ground assault, the first since Operation Cast Lead in
2009? The foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, says the nation should go all the way now.
AVIGDOR LIEBERMAN, ISRAEL FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): There is a need to lead. There is a need to end this operation when the
Israeli army is in control over the whole Gaza Strip.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: But is that a reasonable option?
Efraim Halevy had to wrestle with Israel's security and its politics as former head of Mossad. And he has a different take.
Could Hamas control of Gaza be the least bad option?
A real question being posed by one of the most respected pillars of Israeli society, who joins me now live from Tel Aviv.
Mr. Halevy, thank you for joining me.
So this will sound incredibly counterintuitive to the masses of people in your country and around the world, who see Hamas as a very bad option
What do you mean by it may be the least bad option right now?
EFRAIM HALEVY, FORMER CHIEF OF MOSSAD: Hamas is a very bad option, undoubtedly. But there are worse options than the Hamas. And we already
know what some of them might be, especially one of them. The ISIS, which is operating now in Northern Iraq and Central Iraq has its tentacles in the
Gaza Strip, too.
Only five years ago there was a major incident in the Gaza Strip, when a group of Palestinians got out one day, went to a mosque and declared the
caliphate, just as the leader of the ISIS in Iraq has done five years later. And it was the Hamas who took them in their stride, who attacked
the mosque, killed 23 of them, injured 130 of them and this is something which has left an indelible impression in Gaza.
But this is not the whole story, because as probably you know, ISIS is recruiting people from all over the world, in Europe and elsewhere. And it
has also recruited people from the Gaza Strip. And a few months ago, they showed a part of a film on their Net, showing a company of recruits who had
come from Gaza. And they were in a company which was named after one of the leaders of the people who rose up in 2009 and were being killed in that
AMANPOUR: So, Mr. Halevy, given that the world --
HALEVY: I think that --
AMANPOUR: -- is so -- just hold on one second.
Given that the world, following up on what you're saying, is so focused on this extreme threat from ISIS, what then does the Israeli prime
minister do about Hamas? He's now ordered an intensified IDF attack and what then do you think he's doing?
Is he trying to annihilate Hamas or not?
HALEVY: I believe the prime minister is intensifying the attacks against Hamas because Hamas has not agreed to a cease-fire. And I think
that the prime minister wants to lead Hamas into a position where they will accept the cease-fire.
I do not detect for the moment any great appetite on the part of the prime minister to go, at least in the immediate future, into anything
beyond air attacks and maybe here or there a ground skirmish.
I think the prime minister has said that Israel does not want to govern the Palestinians and doesn't want to take the population of Gaza
under its helm again.
And in that particular situation, the only address which can exists at this moment in the Gaza Strip, which could be a viable address, is the
Hamas, a cowed Hamas, a weakened Hamas, a Hamas which has to lick its wounds and to give itself an account as to why and how it reached the point
it had reached, why it made those terrible mistakes it has made over the last few weeks, in terms of what it has done to its own people.
AMANPOUR: Yes. So --
HALEVY: And I think that the prime minister, among other things, is leaving -- wait just one second. He is leaving space along the way for the
Hamas to change its ways and to accept the cease-fire.
AMANPOUR: -- well, the first question, obviously, is do you think Hamas will change its ways and eventually accept the cease-fire?
But the other question is then what does the prime minister say to the foreign minister, who, as you heard, Avigdor Lieberman (ph), says we've got
to go the whole way. Let's reoccupy; let's control Gaza. And relatedly, the prime minister fired Danny Danone (ph), his deputy, for apparently
excessive hardline talk on this whole issue.
Is that right?
HALEVY: That's true. I think the firing of Danny Danone was long in the works. I think what he did today was intolerable, to stand up and to
criticize the prime minister in time of war the way he did is something which cannot be accepted in any way and possibility and therefore I think
that the fact that he is now gone is a sign that the prime minister is showing leadership in these particular times.
He has problems inside his party. He has problems of people who do not follow his policy, his current policy. And I think that what he did to
-- with Danny Danone is probably an example which should resonate throughout his party.
But you asked me what it is the prime minister wants to do. I think the prime minister wants to exhaust all the possibilities of enabling
ultimately a cowed Hamas, a weakened Hamas to stay in place as an address and as a regime, if you like to call it, responsible for the population of
Gaza. Israel has no appetite to take over responsibility for the population in Gaza.
AMANPOUR: So then is that the end game, Mr. Halevy?
Because many believe that, in fact, the prime minister's inability to reach any kind of peace deal with the Palestinian Authority, with Abu Mazen
-- and Abu Mazen's inability to do the same -- is what's led to these -- this cycle and the previous cycles before them. It is just this endless,
inevitable flare-up of war each time a peace process collapses or each time there is enough impetus to get -- to get Israel or the -- or Hamas to stop
firing at each other again.
HALEVY: I believe that putting the blame on the prime minister on Israel for the failure of the peace process is, I think, misplaced. I
think what has been happening in the last couple of years is a steady weakening of the leadership amongst the Palestinians, inside the
I think the fact that Hamas rose up in 2006-2007 and became independent of the Palestinian Authority was a show of weakness of Abu
Mazen at the time. And basically I don't think he has recovered since then.
And recently he has created this unity government, which is a government which I would use the expression coined by Henry Kissinger, is
something which is constructive ambiguity, because this is a government which has no representative of Hamas inside the government, but is
supported from without by Hamas.
And I believe that this special kind of arrangement which they have reached should have been a possibility that Israel should have researched
in a more basic way in terms of finding a viable partner who'd represent the entire population of the Palestinians.
AMANPOUR: Let me --
HALEVY: And I believe that when tension dies down, and when calm is restored, maybe this kind of a setup can be revisited.
AMANPOUR: So let me just go back to what you said a moment ago. You said that there needs to be an address in Gaza to take care of that
territory, because Israel does not want to be faced with governing that territory again.
You've also said that Israel should admit that it has actually in one way or another been negotiating with the Hamas for a long time.
Explain what you mean.
HALEVY: Look, we've had several rounds with the Hamas in recent years. And the previous rounds ended up in agreement. Agreement between
whom? Ultimately it was an agreement between us and the Palestinian negotiators, who negotiated previous arrangements, as it was called,
arrangements, it was called, not even agreements.
But in effect it was a negotiation between us and the Hamas. When you had the deal on the -- on the kidnapped soldier Shalit, we negotiated with
Hamas. We have a -- coined a new method of diplomacy in the 21st century. We don't meet with them; we don't talk to them. But we listen to them.
Each one listens to the other side and somehow in the end an understanding is crafted.
So I believe that it's inconvenient politically for both sides, by the way, both for Hamas and for the government in Israel, to admit that they
are negotiating. But in effect, they have been negotiating and talking to each other for quite a long time.
AMANPOUR: On that note, Efraim Halevy, thank you very much for joining me. And let's hope negotiations will lead to an end to this
current spasm of violence and conflict. Thank you very much indeed.
And last night, while the promise of a cease-fire in Gaza still existed, at the White House, President Obama hosted the annual Iftar dinner
to celebrate Ramadan and to honor the contributions of Muslim Americans.
However, some Arab American groups have urged a boycott, accusing the Obama administration of siding with Israel against the Palestinians. They
also pointed to recent revelations from the NSA leaker Edward Snowden that the U.S. has conducted surveillance on five American Muslim leaders.
After a break, something else on the president's plate. The unappetizing prospect of a disintegrating Iraq. We'll talk to a former
U.S. official, Ali Khedery, who was there when the Maliki reign began. In fact, he was the one who discovered him.
AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.
After weeks of political disarray, Iraqi politicians took a step forward today and made a little positive news for a change. The
parliamentary chamber was full and a successful vote was taken to elect this man, Salim al-Jabouri, a Sunni politician. He's been named the new
For weeks before even as Iraq stared disaster in the face, politicians simply couldn't get their act together. The last two parliamentary
sessions ended with them storming out and no agreement. And it's still unclear when a new president and new prime minister will be chosen.
Meantime on the battlefield, ISIS continues its offensive and earlier today government forces tried again to retake the city of Tikrit.
So now can Iraq be held together? Joining me live from Abu Dhabi, the former U.S. official who discovered the beleaguered prime minister, Nouri
al-Maliki, Ali Khedery was based in Baghdad for nearly a decade, advising successive U.S. ambassadors and military chiefs there.
Welcome to the program, Mr. Khedery.
ALI KHEDERY, FORMER U.S. SPECIAL ASSISTANT IN BAGHDAD: Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: Let me first and foremost ask you, are you as optimistic as I sound, now that they've at least elected a speaker?
KHEDERY: Frankly, I'm not. It's a very good and important first step that they elected a speaker and deputies today. But it is the first of
literally dozens that have to be taken to hold Iraq together as a single country because, in fact, Iraq has been disintegrating since Prime Minister
Maliki returned to power in 2010, when one of Iraq's grand ayatollahs told us that Prime Minister Maliki is not the prime minister of Iraq but he's
the prime minister of the Dawa Party.
Indeed, today, a senior Iraqi official told me that Maliki is not the prime minister of Iraq; he is the prime minister of the green zone since he
clearly does not control the northern Kurdish third of Iraq; he does not control the central Sunni Arab center of Iraq and he does not even control
the Shia southern third of Iraq because Kasim Suleimani, Iran's paramilitary spymaster controls that --
AMANPOUR: All right.
KHEDERY: -- through the Shia militias.
AMANPOUR: So let me ask you, then, because you've written extensively about this issue for the last week or more.
Do you take a share of the blame, then? As I said, you were the man who discovered the head of -- or Nouri al-Maliki, of the Dawa Party. You
introduced him to the top American leaders and you said this could be a good candidate for prime minister.
Now you say that by backing Maliki America faces strategic defeat in Iraq and perhaps the broader Middle East.
What went wrong?
KHEDERY: What went right first, Christiane, in 2006 is we believed we needed a Shia Islamist prime minister to crush the Shia Islamist militias
along with Al Qaeda. And that is exactly what Nouri al-Maliki did from 2006 until 2008 when, you remember, he crushed Muqtada al-Sadr's Jaysh al
Mahdi, both in Basra and then in Amarah and then in Sadr City.
By 2010, after violence had been reduced 90 percent since pre-surge highs, I lobbied the White House, including Vice President Biden and senior
administration officials that they needed to withdraw their support from Prime Minister Maliki because we had very clear indications at that time
that Maliki was trying to build a Shia theocratic state around his political party and around himself, very much as Saddam Hussein had done in
Iraq a couple of decades earlier.
AMANPOUR: Did anybody listen? I mean, clearly not, because Maliki stayed in power in 2010 and as you say things really did start to get -- to
go really wrong after that, particularly after the U.S. left.
And now in Iraq, people don't really want him to have a third term nor, apparently, in the West. First and foremost, is there an alternative
to Maliki as the prime minister right now?
KHEDERY: There are. There are alternatives. In a country of 30 million people, which was one of the most educated and one of the region's
cultural centers, of course there are always going to be alternatives, even from among the Shia Islamist community, which represents about half -- a
half of Iraq for the elections results.
There are more moderate, more reasonable and more uniting leaders. Frankly, though, the problem is that the -- a great part of the solution to
Iraq's troubles is now in Tehran and in the hands of the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei and Qasem Soleimani, again, the head of the Quds Force, his
paramilitary unit, which exercises extreme significant amount of influence in Iraq and in Baghdad today, not only over the Shia Islamists but also
over some of the Sunnis and even some of the Kurdish groups in the north.
AMANPOUR: Well, do you think they're still backing Maliki? I mean, there is a meeting apparently there are Iranian representatives in Iraq
today, talking precisely about this.
What do you think they're thinking? I mean, do they want to see Iraq fragmented just because of Maliki?
KHEDERY: I don't believe they want to see Iraq fragmented nor do they want to see Syria fragmented because as you know, Iran has regional
hegemonic ambitions that stretch from the Mediterranean and Lebanon to Syria, through Iraq and then all the way to the Chinese border in
I spoke to two senior officials today, one in Baghdad from Prime Minister Maliki's coalition and another very senior Kurdish official. And
both of them told me that the Iranians to this moment are continuing to back Prime Minister Maliki because they view him as the strongest and most
capable of the sympathetic Shia Islamists who -- those who are sympathetic to Iran.
They are considering pivoting away from him but they only want to do so after the -- some of their proxies, the Iraqi military and the militias
score some points on the board and are able to achieve some tactical victories on the ground.
That's why the push is into Samarra to create and other bastions in the Sunni heartland.
AMANPOUR: When you started to identify the devices -- divisiveness of Maliki as of 2010 and you said you told everybody or and anybody who would
listen, I asked you, did anybody listen? And what is your analysis of the relative interventions of the Bush and Obama administrations in this
KHEDERY: Well, we need to be very honest with ourselves. In a very polarized partisan Washington these days, we have to be very honest that
under President George W. Bush the Iraq War was poorly conceived and poorly conducted. And then under President Obama it was poorly concluded.
So this is an issue that transcends both parties and both presidents and has now become a grave issue of strategic significance to American
national security, one which we cannot ignore, despite the fact that Americans are war-weary.
With regards to 2010, I did indeed lobby everyone from the Vice President of the United States on down, including the American ambassador
and other commanding generals that I worked for to try to pivot away from Maliki. And I tried to explain to them that he was very divisive; he was
very sectarian, that we had very clear indications that he was increasingly beholden to Iran. And then, in fact, one of the things the Iranians
demanded from Maliki was that he not renew the security agreement to allow the United States to maintain its troop presence past 2011.
We knew all of these things in advance. None of these things are a surprise. Some senators fault the Obama administration for not negotiating
a renewed security agreement in 2011. But it was a foregone conclusion that the U.S. would not remain past 2011. That was one of Qasem
Suleimani's conditions on Prime Minister Maliki in return for forming his government in Iran in 2010.
Many individuals have asked me why the United States and why the administration continued to back Prime Minister Maliki. Frankly, I can't
explain it; just as some senior Bush administration officials backed Ahmad Shaabi and thought he was a great leader for Iraq in 2003. Frankly, so did
some senior Obama administration officials. They had that much belief in Prime Minister Maliki. I think, frankly, who was a combination of delusion
and denial. And we are going to pay a very heavy price for those mistakes for a very long time.
And so will the Iraqis.
AMANPOUR: I have very little time, but I want to ask you, is there any way the U.S. can exploit any differences right now between ISIS and the
other Sunnis, who formed an alliance with them?
Is there any ability to restart the Sunni Awakening?
KHEDERY: First thing we have to do is we have to understand that of the roughly 5 million or 6 million Sunni Arabs that are in revolt against
Baghdad right now, roughly 5 percent is ISIS; probably another 20 percent are Ba'athist, former regime elements from Saddam's time.
And the other 60 percent or 70 percent or 80 percent are Sunni tribal elements who haven't had jobs, who haven't had electricity or water for the
past decade. So they've had no stake in Iraq's success. They've had a stake in its failure. I believe the United States along with our regional
allies, Turkey, Jordan, the GCC countries, can play an integral role in defusing the Sunni rebellion.
However, it all goes back to the need for a government led by a uniting figure, a non-section figure, the core of Iraq's -- the solution to
Iraq's crisis is a national unity government that unites all Iraqis and doesn't continue to divide them and be beholden to Iran as is the status
AMANPOUR: Ali Khedery, thank you so much for joining me from Abu Dhabi.
KHEDERY: Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: Over 10 years ago, U.S. fighter jets and cruise missiles brought shock and awe to Iraq when they invaded in 2003. Today's fight for
the heart and soul of that shattered country is being waged in part by unmanned drones in the sky.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR (voice-over): It's hard to imagine that anything beautiful can come from those sterile, soulless flying machines. But we will show
you another perspective when we come back.
AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, the conflict in Gaza and Iraq are borne from ancient grudges. But waging their wars is becoming the work of
ultramodern machines. Both Hamas and Israel have launched unmanned drones in recent days, with Israel saying it shot down a Hamas drone on Monday
near the southern city of Astarte.
And the United States confirms that it is using armed drones for surveillance and potential counterstrikes against ISIS in Iraq.
Now imagine a world where much smaller drones owned by ordinary members of the public can also provide a bird's eye view of unexpected
beauty. One owner in Florida flew his drone into a fireworks display over West Palm Beach, capturing these stunning images of explosions and
glittering bursts of light. Indeed, aerial photography has become so popular that "National Geographic" has just sponsored its first-ever photo
And this soaring image of an eagle in the sky above Indonesia is the winning photo of that Dronestagram competition. And here's the runner-up
with its small, lightweight camera, a drone can also swoop down low with amazing intimacy to capture the upturned smiling faces of young people in a
park in Manila.
And then with equal grace, it can glide high above a waterfall in Mexico to show the power and the glory of Mother Nature and to remind us
that the human race at its finest is a creator and innovator not a destroyer.
And that's it for our program tonight. Remember you can always contact us at our website, amanpour.com, and follow me on Twitter and
Facebook. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.