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Can Iraq's Government Stop Insurgency?; Iraq Violence: Assessing America's Role; An Astronaut-Eye View of Life on Earth; Imagine a World

Aired January 6, 2014 - 14:00:00   ET


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

Tonight, is Iraq imploding? Violence and the casualties there are the worst in five years.

Remember Fallujah, Ramadi, the Anbar province? That's where the bloodiest fighting took place after the 2003 U.S. war in Iraq. And the region is at risk of being taken over again by a major surge from Al Qaeda. Latest scenes from Baghdad show government forces getting ready to move into Anbar province to try to put down the insurgency, which is spreading like wildfire there.

Fallujah has already fallen and Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is calling on residents to drive the terrorists out.

But the militants' rise is only part of this unfolding disaster, which has been heavily compounded by a disenfranchised Sunni population that feels sidelined by Maliki's Shiite-led government. Hundreds if not thousands have already fled the violence; and it is all a far cry from seven years ago when a U.S. troop surge quelled the worst of the country's civil war.

That was before President Obama withdrew all U.S. forces two years ago. And since then, the violence has simply surged to record heights.

In the face of Al Qaeda's worrying reemergence, Secretary of State John Kerry now says that the United States will try to help but it won't be sending any troops into Iraq.

So will civil war finally rip the country apart?

Joining me now from Beirut is Mowaffak al-Rubaie, who is a close ally of Prime Minister Maliki and who was Iraq's national security adviser for five years after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Welcome to the program, Mr. Rubaie, and thank you so much for joining me.

You have said that this is a critical moment in your country's history.

How bad is it?

MOWAFFAK AL-RUBAIE, FORMER IRAQI NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, what I meant by critical moment is that this is the biggest fight the Iraqi security forces are going to take on their own without the Americans around.

So it is a big challenge; but I'm pretty sure and there is no shadow of doubt in my mind that Iraqi security forces will prevail. But most important is the Western media. Most of the Western media has got this wrong. They depict it as a Shia versus Sunnis or Shia dominated government, killing the Sunni communities. This is totally wrong.

This is a fight between Iraq and Al Qaeda terrorists. This is a fight between our constitutionally elected government in Baghdad and the outlaws, the terrorists of Al Qaeda in the desert.

AMANPOUR: OK. Well, let's take both of those issues.

First and foremost, what makes you so sure that the Iraqi forces will actually be able to retake Fallujah and quell the Al Qaeda part of the insurgency, elsewhere in the Anbar province? Because so far they're not doing too well. And in fact, in some areas, the Sunni tribespeople are also, you know, joining up with some of the insurgents.

AL-RUBAIE: The reason is multifactorial because, number one is we are much more suited for this fight; number two, the size and the training of the Iraqi security forces, we have the best counterterrorist forces in the region.

Number three is the tribal, local tribal -- tribesmen are siding with the government forces.

And number four is the local government of al-Anbar is also siding with the Iraqi security forces. So the local population as well.

And also the government of Iraq has a whole host of package (ph) for number one is to evacuate Fallujah; number is to go for security measures and number three is the humanitarian aid and number four is the injection of cash in the local economy to create more jobs. And number five is the whole measures of political reconciliation in the region to include the Sunni community and to include the Sunni Arab leaders in the further government of Baghdad.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Rubaie, this does smack of desperation and of last-ditch measures. You will presumably admit that, in fact, the Maliki government has alienated the Sunni population to a large degree. That is not even beyond a shadow of a doubt.

AL-RUBAIE: I beg to differ here because I don't think we should argue what Mr. Maliki has done before or what his economic policy, what is his social policy and so and so forth.

I believe we have a fight; the Iraqi security forces need to win. And all Iraqis should back and -- or should back the Iraqi security forces, all parliamentary blocs, political parties, whether they are inside the political process, outside the political process, inside the parliament, outside the parliament, inside the government, outside the government.

They should unite. They should unite behind the Iraqi security forces to get them to win this fight and then after that we will argue who was right, who was wrong. And the economic policy and the social policies and security policy and so and so forth.

AMANPOUR: You know, when we talk about Fallujah and Ramadi, I mean, it reminds all of us who were there of the bad old days of 2004, '05, '06.

What is the effect and what has been the effect of the U.S. pulling out all its troops two years ago? Because as we've seen it, the violence has simply surged since then.

AL-RUBAIE: This is not going to be an easy fight in Fallujah. Because the Americans in 2004, they lost 140 of their soldiers and thousands of civilians were killed. So this is not going to be easy fight, I can tell you that for sure.

But what -- we don't -- we will not need any boots on the ground and what we need, we need to improve and increase our intelligence capacity, our reconnaissance capacity, our surveillance capacity, our Hellfire capacity as well as we need probably an armed predators; we need the drones. We need the Apache to be delivered quickly. We need technological support from the United States of America. We will not ask and we will not need any of the boots on the ground.

AMANPOUR: Mowaffak al-Rubaie, thank you so much indeed for joining me.

Former Iraqi national security adviser.

And so, you heard what he said; what can America do now? Barack Obama said that he would extricate the country from George Bush's war, and he did, at least he extricated all U.S. troops exactly two years ago. May have been popular at home, but was it wise?

Turning now to Meghan O'Sullivan, who was one of President Bush's chief Iraq advisers, and she joins me from Harvard University where she teaches.

Megan, it's good to see you again. You heard what Mr. Al-Rubaie just said.

What is it going to take to win back Fallujah as a start?

MEGHAN O'SULLIVAN, FORMER U.S. DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER FOR IRAQ: The most immediate thing to watch is where the tribes in Anbar, where their allegiances fall. Do they -- do they back the government of Nouri al- Maliki? Or do they fight alongside the Al Qaeda affiliated militants? Or do they fall somewhere in between, which would effectively be in favor of the Al Qaeda affiliated militants?

This is the primary variable to watch. But beyond that, there needs to be a lot more changes in the policies of the government of Iraq in order for this threat to be neutralized.

Of course, what we're seeing is really the culmination of two things. We're seeing the worsening situation in Syria spilling into Iraq. And we're seeing the product of increasingly authoritarian policies on the part of the Iraqi government that have marginalized Sunnis.

All of these things are in the basket that we now see erupting in Fallujah and to a lesser extent in Ramadi.

AMANPOUR: So there have been many disturbing reports of those very same Sunni tribal leaders who joined with the United States in the so-called awakening back in 2007, which, together with the surge back then, pacified the Anbar area.

And there seem to be troubling indications that they're not actually on that side anymore.

O'SULLIVAN: I think this is very much at play. And as Dr. Mowaffak suggested, the Iraqi government is surging in its efforts to try to convince the Sunni tribals -- leaders that, in fact, he can be a credible partner for them in Baghdad and in the governance of Iraq.

This is going to be a very hard sell for Prime Minister Maliki. Back in 2007 and 2008, when you had the surge and you had the awakening, there you did see that these tribes -- groups actually aligned themselves with the Maliki government. But since that time, there have been really now several years of disappointment. So Maliki is going to have to work a lot harder and it's also conceivable that the Al Qaeda militants have gotten smarter.

One of the things that really alienated the tribes at Anbar back in 2006- 2007 was the very severe policies of Al Qaeda in Iraq, the predecessor organization. They had strict implementation of Islamic law. And this alienated a lot of the tribesmen and led them to move to work with the U.S. government and with the Iraqi forces.

We'll have to see how that balance shakes out. I would hope that the tribesmen would see that as much as they dislike the Maliki government, that their fortunes under Al Qaeda militants would be even worse. And that, I think, is still a question that's outstanding.

AMANPOUR: And very briefly and finally, Meghan, do you see an end to this? Do you feel as Dr. Mowaffak said, that the Iraqi forces will defeat this resurgent Al Qaeda?

O'SULLIVAN: Again, I think it goes back to where the Sunni tribesmen are going to go. But I would rather conclude on a much broader point, which is not necessarily about what happens in Fallujah over the coming days. It really has to do with what is going to happen to the government in Baghdad.

Is it going to be a government that can credibility represent all Iraqis? Because if it's not, Iraq doesn't have any prospect of being stable. And certainly as long as the Syrian conflict continues, that will also be difficult.

AMANPOUR: Meghan O'Sullivan, thank you very much indeed for joining us with your perspective.

O'SULLIVAN: Thank you very much.

AMANPOUR: And solutions to crises on Earth may seem even more clearly from 250 miles up in space is definitely in these days, as the Hollywood blockbuster, "Gravity," starring Sandra Bullock proved, while reminding us of the extreme dangers of space exploration.


AMANPOUR: After a break, the real thing: International Space Station commander Col. Chris Hadfield, who willingly put himself in harm's way to expand humanity's horizons.

And, oh, by the way, was a great zero gravity singer, too.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): That, of course, was courtesy David Bowie; Chris Hadfield when we come back.


AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

And now to outer space and Col. Chris Hadfield, who is an astronaut for our age, tweeting and posting and singing his way across the stratosphere, bringing joy and humor to the deadly serious work of space exploration.

He rocketed to fame with the extraordinary and weightless music video, a cover version of David Bowie's legendary "Space Oddity," that's now been viewed more than 20 million times.


AMANPOUR: Canadian Chris Hadfield has spent a total of six months in space, a long-time NASA specialist, his dream was to be an astronaut, which was a bit tricky since Canada didn't have any when he was born.

When he finally did make it up there, he became the most famous astronaut since Neil Armstrong. And once back here on terra firma, he wrote a memoir called, "An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth," in which he shares the precious lessons of space travel with all of us who are stuck here on Earth.

Welcome to the program, Col. Hadfield. Thank you for joining me from Toronto.

COL. CHRIS HADFIELD, ASTRONAUT: Hello. Oh, it's my pleasure. All of us who are stuck here on Earth, (INAUDIBLE) --



AMANPOUR: Well, you weren't stuck here.

What was it like to be up there? I mean, what were your sensations? What was the experience of just seeing Earth, just doing ordinary things up there?

HADFIELD: It's two primary things, Christiane. One is being weightless. And that is like magic. You can fly, you can tumble, you can effortlessly soar everywhere you go. So that is a wonderful, permanent freedom.

But then the other half, which you asked about, is when you look out the window and you see the entire world every hour and a half. You go around the world. And it turns underneath you. So it's like a gift that is just unwrapping itself perpetually underneath you from the war-torn areas that you were just talking about around the Gulf right to the most beautiful, tranquil, verdant, peaceful parts of the world, all, every 90 minutes. It's a wonderful perspective to have.

AMANPOUR: And you did tweet your way through your mission; you described, for instance, looking at Italy and seeing it as a diamond set in a ring.

But let me ask you why you decided to be such a communicator. Did you do that consciously? Was that just you?

HADFIELD: Well, it's probably some of both; I mean, what would you do if you were there on behalf of everybody else on Earth? You know, with that perspective, with those cameras, with the rare human opportunity to be one of the first to see our world that way, and to see our world as a discrete place in the universe and not as some vast surface area?

It's such a wondrous, personal, rich experience. It's just -- it was an obligation to share it with everybody that entrusted me to go on their behalf. So I did my best to do just that.

AMANPOUR: Well, and you obviously did a great job because you've become so popular and your God's eye view, as you called it, has really resonated down here on Earth.

And then when you did come back here to Earth, you wrote that memoir about the lessons learned and a guide for those of us on Earth.

Give me a bullet point of the most important lesson for those of us here.

HADFIELD: You know, a lot of people live their lives in fear, or at least they allow fear to dictate some important part of their decisions in life or their behavior. I'm not going to do that because I'm afraid; I won't get married; I won't get divorced; I won't get whatever, won't change jobs, you know, little things or big things.

As an astronaut, you have to somehow confront something that should be terrifying, which is to ride a rocket ship or to do a space walk like you showed with George Clooney and Sandra Bullock in the outset there.

And so how is it that an astronaut can confront something that is so inherently terrifying and yet make it normal and prevail and allow that richness to result even though they've -- they have normally their natural reaction would be to turn and run?

And I focused a lot in the book on just that. How you can shape your decisions and your life and your own actions so that you can get around it and fear then does not dictate the limitations on your life and allows you, if you can manage it, to do some things in your life that are -- that are just right on the edge of impossible?

AMANPOUR: And also you obviously have a very tight relationship with the possibility of death, because anything could go wrong up in space.

But I also want to ask you about something that you experienced before being an astronaut, when you were a NASA specialist; you were in Kazakhstan during the Columbia flight back in 2003. And we all know that when it reentered Earth, it burnt up and everybody was killed.

Tell me about what happened there and lessons learned.

HADFIELD: Well, it was a horrific personal tragedy. Of course the astronaut community is very small. I knew everyone on board. I knew Rick Husband (ph), the commander of Columbia, like a brother. We'd been at test pilot school together. And so just at a personal level, it was a horrific loss.

At a professional level, it was also, of course, horrific because I had sat in my apartment in Star City in Russia and replayed on my little laptop that damage that had occurred to Columbia, that piece of foam coming off. I'd watched it and somehow decided that it was OK, that, yes, obviously it hit the wing but we're going to be all right.

And if I had stood up -- I mean, I had enough of a voice. I was NASA's director of ops in Russia. I had enough of a voice to stand up and say, we cannot reenter the atmosphere. We have to do a space walk and at least go look.

But I, like everybody else, just made the wrong assumption. And it led to the death of my friends and a huge learning point and trouble period for the whole space program.

So it really, I think, helped us refocus on what is actually important, what is really necessary to pay attention to, sweat the small stuff and visualize failure. Don't make assumptions about success. And we learned a lot from it.

And as a result, we flew the shuttle for the rest of its life completely successfully, didn't hurt one more person and finished building the space station. So their lives were not in vain. But it was surely a very difficult period to get through.

AMANPOUR: And as we say goodbye, what is your enduring memory, your enduring vision of being up there?

HADFIELD: Floating down deliberately to the huge cupola window with -- the Earth is in the darkness, waiting patiently for a sunrise. And we come around the world like coming around the corner into the light. And the sun bursts into existence because of our speed. And the whole space station glows this deep blood crimson and settles down as the sun comes through the atmosphere and to this scintillating, glistening blue of the solar rays.

And you get to see 16 sunrises like that every single day. And I tried to miss none of them. It's a magical experience.

AMANPOUR: That is -- that is really wow.

Chris Hadfield, thank you so much indeed for joining me. Thank you.

Well, our problems here on Earth must seem so insignificant when viewed from space, just a tiny pea, pretty and blue. That's how Neil Armstrong described it from the moon.

And after a break, we discussed a remarkable leader who had the perspective to stand up for four vital freedoms, so simple, so universal and yet still so elusive.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, with freedoms under attack in Iraq and Egypt, two of the oldest civilizations on Earth, imagine a world where one remarkable leader, confined to a wheelchair, stood up for free speech and the end of armed conflict.

As the Nazi bombs fell every night on London, killing thousands of civilians 73 years ago, on this day, January 6th, back in 1941, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, just elected to an unprecedented third term, went before a joint session of Congress to make this case to help Britain and to prepare Americans for joining the war.

He didn't speak of what or how; instead, he spoke of why. And he called that why the Four Freedoms, not just for Americans but, as he stressed in his speech, for people everywhere in the world.

"The freedom of speech and expression, the freedom of every person to worship in his own way, the freedom from want and the freedom from fear," all these decades later, Roosevelt's dream of a world guided by his Four Freedoms has accomplished a lot. But a lot still remains to be realized.

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 London.