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Libya: The Birth Pains of a New State; Egypt's Rocky Road to Democracy; Defending the Arab Spring; Imagine a World

Aired December 26, 2013 - 14:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour. And this is a special edition, looking at the Arab Spring from the perspective of the leaders at the very heart of the story.

The outcome of the many revolutions in the region is by no means clear yet, as we see from recent events in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, where the whole movement began.

Tunisia, one of the world's youngest democracies, has emerged as a model of compromise and coalition-building at a time of dysfunctional government in Europe and in the United States, whereas in Egypt, compromise has become a dirty word and political divisions are hardening as the backlash against the democratically elected government of Mohammed Morsy continues a violent crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and the court trial of Morsy himself, opening new wounds in that troubled country.

Later in the program, my conversations with the Tunisian president, Moncef Marzouki, and Ziad Bahaa el-Din, Egypt's deputy prime minister.

But first to Libya, where Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was kidnapped by an armed militia with ties to his own government. Just weeks after I spoke to him here in New York, at the time I had asked Zeidan whether his government, whether his country was, in fact, a failed state.


AMANPOUR: Prime Minister, welcome. Thank you for joining me.

ALI ZEIDAN, LIBYAN PRIME MINSTER (through translator): Thank you so much, ma'am.

AMANPOUR: You know, everybody looks at Libya as a template, an example, for the post-Arab Spring world. And it doesn't look good. It looks like it's on the way to becoming a failed state awash in weapons, awash in militias. We don't know whether the militias are working for the government or the government is working for the militias.

Your oil industry, which is your lifeline, is shut down.

Is Libya a failing state?

ZEIDAN (through translator): Libya is not a failing state. The state of Libya doesn't exist yet. We are trying to create a state. And we are not ashamed of that.

The outside world believes that Libya is failing, but Libya was destroyed by Gadhafi for 42 years and was destroyed by a full year of civil war. And that's why we are trying to rebuild it.

AMANPOUR: You recently went to visit General al-Sisi in Egypt and there was a lot of controversy in Tripoli after that visit.


AMANPOUR: Are you glad that the Muslim Brotherhood there was defeated, that the Egyptian military stopped that experiment?

ZEIDAN: I am not happy and I'm not sad. This is an Egyptian internal matter. I cannot have a say in that. All I can say is to bless the choice of the Egyptian people.

AMANPOUR: People look at Libya. And they say, oh, my goodness, look at what's happened. We cannot intervene in Syria. It will just become the same kind of mess.

What's your answer to that?

ZEIDAN: Democracy is a process, an accumulation. Accumulation takes years and months. It doesn't happen overnight. If the world believes that after 42 years of this -- of dictatorship and despotism and after two years of civil war that democracy can come within a month, that's an illusion.

As for Egypt, I can practice democracy in my country, but I cannot interfere with others' affairs. If, in Egypt, all sides try to keep cooperation with one another, Egypt wouldn't have been in this situation. AMANPOUR: Let's just move on to the issue of Benghazi and what happened there September 11th, 2012.

The attackers have been indicted and yet they remain at large in Libya.

Don't you think the U.S. is within its rights to snatch them, grab them and take them?

ZEIDAN: We are in close cooperation with the United States. We arrested some suspects and they are under investigation. And they named some other suspects.

Now, there have been indictments issued against them and they are a small number. We are in cooperation in that regard with the United States and we will continue to cooperate to reach those people and present them to justice.

What needs to be done is those people who killed Mr. Christopher be prosecuted and will be punished duly.

AMANPOUR: The United States and Russia have come up with a deal to disarm Syria of its chemical weapons. Now, Libya went through this, starting in 2003. And nearly, you know, more than 10 years later, there are still stockpiles being discovered and only about 40 percent of the stockpiles have been destroyed.

Give me an idea of how difficult it is and it will be to disarm Syria, from your experience, from the Libyan experience.

ZEIDAN: Of course, it is not an easy thing. And it is costly. It's about financial costs. It requires a high level of technology. This is why it's difficult.

In Libya, we are working in concrete steps to destroy all the chemical weapons in cooperation with some countries like the United States and Germany. And we have taken reasonable steps in that regard.

AMANPOUR: Are you confident that the government has control of the chemical weapons in your country?

ZEIDAN: Yes. We are doing every effort to control the chemical weapons. They're -- they are under surveillance since June 2011. We started the cooperation with the United States while Gadhafi was still occupying some parts of the country.

Some technical missions came and went behind the fighting lines to maintain surveillance on the chemical weapons. There is hefty security measures around those storehouses.

The whole world must cooperate to destroy chemical weapons and to disarm countries from illegal weapons because they constitute a danger to the international peace. All countries have to cooperate in that regard.

AMANPOUR: Prime Minister Zeidan, thank you very much for joining me.

ZEIDAN: I thank you so much, ma'am, for this interview. A wonderful interview. And I wish you a nice day.


AMANPOUR: And if Libya is a state in the making, Egypt, its neighbor to the east, still the regional heavyweight, has ricocheted from dictatorship to democracy to military rule in a few dizzying years.

And while its first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsy, may be on trial, the future of Egypt is also on trial. No one knows that better than Egypt's deputy prime minister, Ziad Bahaa el-Din. My conversation with him after a break.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program and our special status report on the Arab Spring.

The promise and the progress of the 2011 revolution in Egypt is still very much in question. In two short years, that country has gone from a triumph of people power and passion to a fledgling Islamic democracy to a state of emergency, where the military again calls the shots.

The interim government, together with the army and the police, is cracking down on Islamists as well as on liberals, journalists, human rights activists and dissent in general, all the while claiming that their so-called road map for restoring democracy is on track. And the deposed democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsy, is on trial for what many believe are politically motivated charges of murder. The United States is under fire as well for having no clear policy for Egypt or the region. And a visit to Cairo by the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has been criticized for being too soft on the generals and further muddying United States policy there.

Shortly after Morsy's first appearance in court, the first glimpse of him since he was detained and held incommunicado last July, I spoke with Egypt's deputy prime minister, Ziad Bahaa el-Din.


AMANPOUR: Mr. Prime Minister, Mr. Deputy Prime Minister, where are we now in the ever-evolving politics of Egypt?

ZIAD BAHAA EL-DIN, EGYPT'S DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, we are literally in the middle of a transitional period and during a transitional period, a lot of things happen.

As long as we keep the directions straight, as long as we keep progressing towards a democratic system, then I think we should expect some things to happen in the right way, some things to take more time, some things to be bumpy, but at the end what matters is whether we are progressing in the right direction. And I think we are.

AMANPOUR: Let me play something that Mohammed Morsy said while being held incommunicado after he was detained and before his trial. We're not sure exactly when it was, but this is what he said in what looks to be some surreptitious taping.


MOHAMMED MORSI, FORMER PRESIDENT OF EGYPT (through translator): What does coup d'etat mean? It means a setback for the institutions and it will flip the institution balances upside down. All of Egypt is now suffering from what's happening.


AMANPOUR: So do you agree that some of Egypt is suffering? He says all of Egypt; you know, many people are still pretty concerned about the -- essentially the heavy-handedness of the current interim government, the military-backed government, which is rolling back even certain freedoms that have been gained after the revolution; even journalists, all sorts of liberals, are very concerned about what's going on.

Do you at least accept that what's happened is flipping institutions on their head?

EL-DIN: No, I think it's a time of a lot of change; it's a time of flux and of dynamism, and things are going in every direction you can imagine. But what matters is the outcome.

Egyptians are suffering; but let's make no mistake about this. Egyptians are suffering as a result of the policies that were adopted, particularly during the year of the reign of ex-president Morsy.

It is during that time that our experiment with democracy, that we all believed we could achieve, collapsed and really began to show very serious signs of deviating from a democratic path.

It is during that time that freedoms began to be taken very seriously. It is during that time that the constitution was no longer upheld and respected by the elected president.

The fact is that Egyptians did accept an elected president as long as he and his government were willing to follow a democratic path. But that deviated a long time ago; and this is fundamentally the cause for our suffering right now.

Having said this, we need to keep our eyes fixed on not continuing in that road and as quickly as possible, as strongly as possible going back to a proper path of democracy.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you a little bit about the struggle that you seem to be waging, a bit of a lonely voice, if we're reading the signals right, coming from Egypt.

You have been trying to urge restraint; I hope I'm correct in expressing it that way. It's certainly what people have been saying, restraint by the interim government, just like then-minister Mohamed ElBaradei, who has since resigned, and you worked for him.

You didn't want, nor did ElBaradei want the military to basically crash the Mohammed -- the Muslim Brotherhood protests. They did in the end.

Tell me about that. You know, what were you trying to urge them at that time? What kind of restraint were you trying to urge? And why did those protests get broken up violently?

EL-DIN: No, what I have been urging is simply to ensure that as we progress towards the end of the interim government's period that we do not lose sight of what is essential to the Egyptian people. And that is economic recovery as well as the preservation of the democratic path.

Once violence breaks out in society -- and this, I have to again remind you, is violence that was primarily caused by the positions taken by the Brotherhood in the early stages.

Once violence breaks down a society, once there are killings, once there are churches being burned down, once there are confrontations in the streets, then you have to ensure that we do not, as a society, pay the price by foregoing freedoms and rights that Egyptians and the youth in particular have fought for for such a long time.

So my campaign is not about a deal between two sides of an equation, but rather about an overall environment, where we ensure that we do not lose sight of preserving the democratic values at the end of the road.

AMANPOUR: But here you are, part of the interim government, and we'll get back to those protests in a second.

But here you are, you know, giving interviews in Egypt, talking about the future. You try to talk about compromise, but that is a dirty word. You try to talk about reconciliation or at least that's how one of your interviews was framed.

And a ton of bricks came down on you. People who backed the interim government, the military said that basically you're being a traitor.

It's a dirty word now, isn't it, in Egypt, to talk about reconciliation, to talk about compromise? How difficult is this struggle for you?

EL-DIN: It is difficult and you're right to describe it as a dirty word, unfortunately. It's a time of polarization at a very high level. And it is precisely during those times that one has to try and look at what is ultimately better for Egypt and better for the Egyptians.

I do believe that at some point we will have to reconsider and look at how to, you know, bring back into the political fold various political parties, how to ensure, not necessarily that those who committed crimes are back in the fold, because this is a criminal process, but how to ensure that the youth who have entered politics perhaps on good faith, who have lost their way along the path, are not left out.

We have to ensure that at some point we bring back the whole society into the political process again, at least those who are willing to play politics on the basis of peaceful politics, non-violent politics.

Right now it's a polarized time and it is difficult but it is necessary for the future of Egypt and for the future of our kids to ensure that that voice does not get lost in the middle of this polarization.

AMANPOUR: And finally, again, how do you try to temper that polarization when even somebody like Essam el-Erian, a very well-known member of the Brotherhood, who's viewed as a moderate, was arrested just last week?

How do you try to get all elements of Egyptian society back into the daily political life?

And are you afraid that if you don't, it could end up like Syria, with the deep polarization pitted against each other in a much more violent way?

EL-DIN: No, I think it's polarization in the sense happening among the political elites. But I have no doubt that the vast majority -- and this is where we differ fundamentally from the Syrian case.

I have no doubt that the vast majority of Egyptians are actually willing and hoping that we draw the line, progress for the future, not spend too much time discussing what happened in the past, but rather look forward for the continuation and conclusion of this interim period and moving on to restoring democratic values in Egypt.

I think we're on the way to doing this, but it will take effort and it will take a lot of participation by all Egyptian actors.


AMANPOUR: And when it comes to peaceful political compromise, what if I told you the more established democracies should look to a new one in a North African nation where the Arab Spring began? Tunisia's president, Moncef Marzouki, tells us how his country beat the odds. That's when we come back.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program and our continuing special status report on the Arab Spring, which began just a few years ago in Tunisia and then swept through the Arab world. Despite the odds and the violence rocking much of the region, Tunisia continues to inspire as a voice for moderation and for democratic compromise in an often all-too- uncompromising part of the world.

Among those voices is its president, Moncef Marzouki, who's a doctor and a human rights activist. I spoke with him this fall and I asked him how Tunisia has managed to avoid splitting apart along ideological lines.


MONCEF MARZOUKI, TUNISIAN PRESIDENT: The situation in Tunisia is much easier because, first of all, we have a homogenous society; this is extremely important. We have a strong civil society; even under the dictatorship we used to have very strong civil society.

I am confident. I am confident because Tunisia has a lot of resilience. But I think that we are really targeted because -- well, I can tell you that inside the country and outside the country there are a lot of forces that don't want the Arab Spring to succeed in Tunisia. They don't want a success story in Tunisia.

AMANPOUR: How does the situation in Libya, for instance, affect you? I spoke to the prime minister and he said to me, it's not that we're a failing state; we're not a state yet. We're fragmented; we have militias all over. We have weapons all over.

How does that affect you?

MARZOUKI: Of course, there is a huge impact. But let me remind you that under Gadhafi -- remember Gadhafi was not just a dictator. I think he was a crazy guy. And he forbid everything; society had to organize itself.

So after the revolution, I can understand how difficult it is now to have a state and to have a civil society and so forth. They had really to begin from nothing.

AMANPOUR: The situation in Egypt, the -- now the expulsion of the Muslim Brotherhood, the expulsion of their first democratically elected president, the fact that the army has entered the political arena again, what is your reaction to that?

And how does that affect Tunisia?

You have managed to escape without having the army in politics.

MARZOUKI: As I told you, we have a professional army, never involved with politics since the independence. But I'm very worried by what's happening in Egypt as a democrat before being as a head of state, also as a democrat, because what's happening is extremely dangerous.

I'm very surprised; and even I can say I'm very shocked by the fact that you have so-called liberals, so-called human rights activists and so forth, backing the ouster (ph) of an elected president, direct down on political parties, accepting this level of violence against civil population. That's extremely shocking for me as a Democrat.

But the important part of the liberals, I think they betrayed democracy.

But on the other hand, very, very afraid that, you know, Muslim Brotherhood is the central part of a wide spectrum of the Islamists. And there, on the other hand, you have the Islamists, the new Islamists, who will fill this vacuum. There's a guy would say never again with democracy.

So we're going to have this confrontation between secularists, extreme secularists and extremist Islamists. And this will be extremely dangerous, not only for Egypt but for the whole region.

This is what we're trying to avoid in Tunisia.

AMANPOUR: You're obviously going to cause a lot of controversy with those statements.

Do you buy what the Egyptian liberals say, which is that the Muslim Brotherhood pushed the envelope, was actually not moderate enough, was too extremist, called its opponents infidels and was not willing to have a political dialogue? It was sort of my way or the highway.

MARZOUKI: I'm not defending Muslim Brotherhood. I do believe that, you know, their policy was not a good one. They should have done the same thing in Tunisia, keeping the dialogue with opponents and so forth.

But once again, my problem is not the Brotherhood. My problem is democracy. And as I told you, what happened is extremely dangerous for democracy. I hope that democracy will resume in Tunisia, but I'm afraid that it will take a long, long time.

AMANPOUR: President Marzouki, thank you so much indeed for joining me.

MARZOUKI: It's my pleasure. Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And while America is currently challenged to find its diplomatic footing in the Middle East, 50 years ago a musical journey through the region did what conventional diplomacy couldn't do, open doors and minds in both directions.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): It's a tradition that goes back half a century, to the remarkable journey of one of the world's great jazz composers and diplomats.

Imagine a world where you can "Take the A Train" all the way to Kabul. Fifty years ago this month, the legendary Duke Ellington and his orchestra began a magical musical tour from Syria to Afghanistan and it was sponsored by the U.S. State Department.

Even as the fight for civil rights was raging here in America, the Duke and his quintessentially American sound criss-crossed the region, bringing jazz and goodwill to countries which even then were torn by war and revolutionary change.

As this remarkable newsreel shows, the Duke and his band played Baghdad, a tough house even then, because it was in the throes of a military coup.

The Duke also wowed them in India and Pakistan, two bitter rivals who'd be at war only two years later.

And in Iran, just five months after massive protests against the arrest of a then-obscure cleric known as Ayatollah Khomeini, he played to thousands in a packed stadium in the city of Abadan.

The Duke didn't hesitate to use his microphone to speak out against racial injustice back home, but for two months on his diplomatic caravan, he not only brought his own music, but he was deeply influenced by the sounds of the lands he visited.