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Iraq War: All for Nothing?; Imagine a World

Aired January 10, 2014 - 14:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to our special weekend edition of our program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

And this week was a critical one for Iraq. It saw some of the most savage fighting since the height of its civil war in 2006, and that is posing a new threat to the entire region.

Fighters from the Al Qaeda group ISIS, which is the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, overran the city of Fallujah, while in Syria, ISIS is facing a deadly assault from other anti-Assad opposition groups.

It's news that now poses the question: was it all for nothing?

The U.S. war in Iraq, the bloody battle for Fallujah back in 2004, which was the toughest fight America had faced since the Vietnam War. And then the successful surge of U.S. forces that put down the Al Qaeda insurgents there a few years later.

When Barack Obama pulled the U.S. out of Iraq two years ago, he did so saying that the country was on its way to being a stable democracy. Well, it hasn't turned out that way.

After thousands of American lives, tens of thousands of Iraqi lives and hundreds of billions of dollars, America has been humiliated by the fall of Fallujah again.

But so is Iraq's Shia-dominated government of Prime Minister Nouri al- Maliki; he takes the lion's share of the blame for this bloody state of affairs. The Sunnis of Iraq's Anbar province are so alienated that they say they prefer Al Qaeda to their own government forces. And Maliki's plea this week for them to turf out the militants is likely to fall on deaf ears.


NOURI AL-MALIKI, IRAQI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): I call upon the people of Fallujah and the tribal leaders to unite and reject the presence of those evil people because Fallujah has witnessed fighting and destruction many times before.


AMANPOUR: This week I spoke to a close ally of the prime minister, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, 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: Mr. Rubaie, 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 is his economic policy, what is his social policies 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 unarmed 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.


AMANPOUR: So while Mr. Rubaie says that the fight has to be on the Al Qaeda terrorists, many others are saying the blame lies squarely with Prime Minister Maliki and that he needs to make changes.

Sir Jeremy Greenstock is the former U.K. envoy to Iraq and a and a diplomat long steeped in the Middle East. I spoke to him this week about the dramatic turn of events in Iraq and what the government there needs to do.


AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: You were the special envoy of your government to Iraq at the beginning, after the war there. We started by saying, was it all for nothing? I mean, it's incredible to hear the names, Fallujah, Ramadi, Anbar province again, as if we were back in 2004, '05 and '06, the bad old days.

Has -- is this a real threat to the stability of Iraq right now?

GREENSTOCK: Yes. And the nature of Iraq is a threat to its own stability and evolution because it's so vociferously a divided country. And remember that the intervention, which we're all so focused on, you know, was it worth it?

Should we have done it? Did we do it in the right way? All intervention achieves -- and sometimes it's worth it -- is to freeze the state of a country, maybe get rid of somebody, but freeze the state of it while we're there and then when we go, it all starts going again. That's what will happen (INAUDIBLE).


AMANPOUR: Is that inevitable?

GREENSTOCK: It's pretty inevitable because we don't have the power to change all the historical roots of what creates that country.

AMANPOUR: But do you think that the way that the U.S. forces all left suddenly with no what they call SOFA, with no residual forces, has that actually been shown to have been the wrong strategy?

GREENSTOCK: No, I think it's the right strategy, because from what I've just said, the longer we stay, the longer it stays in the fridge, but whenever you leave, it all starts warming up, heating up again. And whether it's 2010 or 2014 or 2020, that's what will happen.

So to me, the president has a case in saying we've done enough here; they've got to take over at some point. Perhaps it's time for America to leave and let them get on with it and then leave time for these things to evolve. And then they will evolve.

AMANPOUR: So what should the U.S. do or Britain or whoever? What should they do? I mean, I started by saying the lion's share of the blame, everybody seems to be saying, is at the feet of the prime minister, who's alienated the Sunnis, who has suppressed a rebellion and who -- these guys are saying, hang on a second; no, don't come into Fallujah and Ramadi. We'd rather have the Al Qaeda.

I mean, it's amazing to hear that.

GREENSTOCK: Well, people are very short-term and very local. The enemy of my enemy is my friend for this month or for a few weeks. Look what's happened in Syria, where there was a united opposition, gradually broke down into different units and different localities. And they forgot that they were fighting Assad because the closer enemy to you is the person in the next locality or the person who's trying to take over your locality.

The different parts of Iraq are thinking about their own locality. And it's only when that matures into a different situation that you get a hope of recreating a democracy.

AMANPOUR: What should the U.S. do? Secretary Kerry says that they're desperate to try to help the Iraqi government; they're not going to put boots on the ground, obviously, but they're probably going to rush weapons in, although that is going to take several months.

But beyond that politically, do you see the necessity to try to convince Maliki that there has to be an inclusive government?

GREENSTOCK: Yes, and I think he's been rather unresponsive. I'm sure the American embassy and the British embassy in Baghdad have been doing that since the forces left and before.

I was doing it in 2003, trying to convince them that they shouldn't be all a lot of little streams, but trying to forge big rivers of political opinion that cross local borders and tribal borders.

AMANPOUR: Isn't that the only way it's going to survive (INAUDIBLE)?


GREENSTOCK: Yes, and it takes time. And so we need -- it's not all about weapons. It's actually about politics and local politics much more than it's about weaponry. You've got to train people to administrate in certain ways.

AMANPOUR: But who has the influence to be able to do that if the U.S. is out and everybody's out militarily? Where's the influence and where's the ability to have (INAUDIBLE)?


GREENSTOCK: (INAUDIBLE), the decision-making is with the people of the country. If they don't want us, there's nothing we can do. But actually they do want us, because they're in trouble.

And so long as we don't brag about it, so long as we don't impose anything, there are some very intelligent diplomats in the U.N. as well as in our countries who can help them with administrative detail, with training, with funding for certain programs, with examples of how to do this.

And Maliki hasn't wanted to listen up to now. But he's in trouble. He's got an election coming up. He should be looking for advice.

AMANPOUR: Let's talk quickly about Iran. There's all sorts of talk that both Iran and the United States face a similar enemy in the rise of these Sunni militants, these jihadis, and that there's a possibility that they could see a common future towards battling them, one way or the other.

Jack Straw, the former British foreign secretary, is in Iran. What kind of role do you see, if at all, for Iran to play in this unfolding debacle?

GREENSTOCK: I think quite a big one, actually. And I think the potential consonance of interest between Iran and Western countries is greater than just over the jihadis.

The jihadis are a lethal nuisance, but they're not an existential threat. But there are bigger things. There's Gulf security --

AMANPOUR: So Al Qaeda's not an existential threat?

GREENSTOCK: No. It's a lethal nuisance. It's not going to change our way of life. It's not going to defeat us on the battlefield.

AMANPOUR: But it could defeat them.

GREENSTOCK: Not -- no, Iran's too big for that.

AMANPOUR: OK, Iraq, Syria.

GREENSTOCK: No, they're just a bloodthirsty nuisance. The people of Iraq don't want them in the long term. People of Iran don't want this. People of Iran don't want a clerical regime by a majority. They laugh at their rulers more than they cry about them. And they're nasty, they're brutal.

Jack Straw is trying to start a new conversation now that President Rouhani is there, and I applaud him for going to communicate with the Iranians, because the Iranians want to reconnect. And I hope that Americans will follow that example, actually.

AMANPOUR: Sir Jeremy Greenstock, thank you very much indeed for joining me.


AMANPOUR: And while here on Earth, so many people are in harm's way, after a break, we meet a man who deliberately put himself in harm's way thousands of miles above us. The International Space Station commander, Col. Chris Hadfield, who risked his life to expand humanity's horizons. That's 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. 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.

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, 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 discuss 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 the 6th of January, back in 1941, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, just elected to an unprecedented third term, went before a joint session of Congress to make the 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 his reason 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, the freedom from fear," all these decades later, Roosevelt's dream of a world guided by those Four Freedoms remains to be realized, although so much has also been accomplished.

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.

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 New York.