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Battle Plan to Destroy ISIS; U.K. Leaders United against Scottish Independence; Scotland: Better Together or Apart?; Imagine a World

Aired September 12, 2014 - 14:00:00   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: President Obama get set to take down ISIS as top diplomats warn American and European

jihadis could strike us right here at home.


RYAN CROCKER, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO AFGHANISTAN: If we don't think we're on their target list, we are delusional. They don't need to get a visa.

They just need to get on a plane.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): And Better Together or coming apart? The fevered and fierce debate over Scottish independence, the outcome hangs in

the balance.


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

In a major address to the American people this week that's also a sea change in his foreign policy, President Obama outlined his strategy for

fighting ISIS in Iraq and in Syria.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will conduct a systemic campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists working with the

Iraqi government. We will expand our efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions so that we're hitting ISIL targets as

Iraqi forces go on offense.

Moreover, I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. That means I will not hesitate to

take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq.


AMANPOUR: After rejecting intervention in Syria almost a year ago, the president has now also authorized not just airstrikes but the arming

and training of Syrian rebels who are opposed to President Assad.

It is a dramatic turnaround. But the war-weary American public are solidly on board. A CNN poll finds that three-quarters of Americans

support airstrikes in Iraq and in Syria.

As the president was putting the final touches on his address, I asked two veteran American diplomats with decades of Middle East experience

between them about the chances of success and the challenges ahead.

Ryan Crocker was U.S. ambassador to Syria and to Iraq and Robert Ford was America's last ambassador to Syria.


AMANPOUR: Ambassador Robert Ford, Ambassador Ryan Crocker, welcome to the program and thank you for joining me tonight.

Ambassador Ford, you have said Syria is the president's biggest failure.

Do you think that he gets it now?

Do you think that he is completely and utterly on board for this long strategic patience that Ambassador Crocker is advising?

ROBERT FORD, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO ALGERIA: Seems to me that the administration is more aware now of how the problems in Iraq and the

problems in Syria are linked together, more than, say, a year or two ago. And I think that's very positive.

And I'm impressed that they're looking at it in a very holistic way, involving diplomatic efforts, efforts to cut money flows as well as

military operations, that it's not only a military problem but it's also one that is going to require efforts on multiple tracks.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you both about Assad.

You know, at the beginning of this conflict, it was, "Assad must go." Almost exactly a year ago, it was, "Assad has crossed a red line." The

president was getting prepared to bring the American people on board for an attack against Assad.

Now it's, "Assad is not our priority." That is President Obama's own words.

So what do you both think?

Should Assad be enjoined into the U.S. and coalition fight against ISIS?

Should he be informed?

Ambassador Ford?

FORD: I personally don't see how Assad is going to help us very much against the Islamic State. The Islamic State has defeated Assad's forces

in Eastern Syria largely. There's one air base holding out against the Islamic state. They have totally been defeated in the central part of the

country by the Islamic State.

And Assad's forces are growing tired. They just don't have the bodies. They don't have the manpower to retake Central and Eastern Syria.

So I don't see in an operational sense how he's going to help. And politically, it's very damaging with our regional friends, countries like

Saudi Arabia, Turkey and others.

AMANPOUR: Ambassador Crocker, you had maybe six months or eight months ago suggested that maybe Assad should be part of some kind of

pragmatic deal against ISIS.

You don't agree with that position you had anymore. You've reversed yourself.

CROCKER: Christiane, circumstances change. We have an existential enemy. And what I have argued recently is we need to fight that enemy

wherever we can find him, in Iraq and in Syria. He cannot have a safe haven in Syria.

AMANPOUR: You have called the Islamic State Al Qaeda 6.0. Secretary Hagel has said the Islamic State is the worst thing we've ever confronted.

Is it really that much worse than Al Qaeda, that committed 9/11 13 years ago almost to the day?

CROCKER: Christiane, if you're -- if you're asking me, yes. They are more numerous. They are better armed. They are far better financed. They

are better experienced. And perhaps most critically, there are several thousand of them who hold Western passports, including American passports.

They don't need to get a visa. They just need to get on a plane. And as I have said, if we don't think we're on their target list, we are


AMANPOUR: Can I ask both of you -- Ambassador Crocker is on the record, saying that on no account should we be getting any cooperation from

Iran or anything like that.

On the other hand, it is apparently established wisdom that the Iranian forces have actually been helping the disarrayed Iraqi forces

against ISIS in Iraq. Their pictures of the Quds Force commander on the ground and recent news that Iran's Supreme Leader had given some kind of

approval to, you know, a general "all work together" on this.

Ambassador Crocker, you don't agree that Iran should be in the fight against ISIS.

Do you, Ambassador Ford?

First to you, Ambassador Crocker.

CROCKER: Christiane, no one understands better than you how complex all of this is. Right now our most critical fight, I think, is inside Iraq

and it isn't against ISIS. It is the effort that both Robert and I have referred to of helping the Iraqis form an inclusive government that will

stand together against a common enemy.

The worst thing we could do right now as they still struggle through this is to look as though we are supporting Iran and Iran's surrogates

inside Iraq. That will send the Sunnis completely in the wrong direction. And if we do not have a government of national unity in the true sense

inside Iraq, none of the rest of this is going to work.

When I see Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Quds Force, inside Iraq for prolonged periods, it's clear to me that we are working at cross-

purposes because, I can tell you, whether it's nuclear negotiations, whether it's anything else to do in region with Afghanistan or with Iraq or

bilaterally, Qasem Soleimani is our foe.

FORD: Oh, I totally agree for two reasons, Christiane. The Iranians are promoting the use of Iraqi undisciplined Shia militias, which are

themselves guilty of sectarian killings.

The second reason that I think that we really can't do much with Iran is that their strategic goal in Syria is to maintain Bashar al-Assad. But

it's pretty clear that the continued survival of the Assad regime has both directly and indirectly helped the Islamic State.

AMANPOUR: Can I ask you both about American leadership?

President Obama has been interestingly reflective, recently talking about Libya. He basically said it's one of his biggest foreign policy

regrets, that it wasn't -- that instead of just an Air Force to topple Gadhafi, there wasn't an organized U.S.-led plan, a strategic plan for

post-getting rid of Gadhafi.

CROCKER: You used the critical word: leadership. The president has to decide that he is going to lead and he is going to lead for the long

term, that he is not going it alone but that he is leading a coalition that has to be international and it has to be regional, but that he is leader

and that he is all in.

He was not all in in Libya. He has said that he is ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Well, actually, Christiane -- and you know it better

after what you've been through -- you don't end a war by walking off the battlefield and leaving it to your enemies.

Nothing good is going to happen in Iraq, in Syria and in the region without American leadership and, in our system, that means presidential


AMANPOUR: Ambassador Ryan Crocker, Ambassador Robert Ford, thank you both very much for joining me.


AMANPOUR: From the heat of battle to the heat of debate, from the street corners of Glasgow to the Palace of Westminster, one question is on

everyone's lips: yes or no? The referendum on independence for Scotland is on a knife edge. The issues and the implications next.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

Now Britain's three main party leaders don't agree on much. But this week they do abandoned Westminster for Scotland to try and stop the United

Kingdom from breaking up after 307 years. Polls continue to put the independence vote on a knife edge, swinging daily between yes and no.

The British political establishment seemed to finally wake up to the need for some emergency treatment to save the centuries' old union. This

week, I was joined here in the studio by guests on both sides of the debate.

From "Braveheart" to "Bourne" and of course, Shakespeare, the award- winning Scottish actor Brian Cox is urging his country folk to vote for independence, while British MP Rory Stewart says no, we're better together.

He was born in the far corner of the empire. He's famously walked 6,000 miles across Asia including Afghanistan and Pakistan. And he's

helped to write the Iraqi constitution after the 2003 war.


AMANPOUR: Thank you very much indeed for joining me.

BRIAN COX, ACTOR: You're welcome.

AMANPOUR: So let me ask you first, because the momentum seems to be, Brian Cox, with the Yes campaign right now.

Why is it not better to have devo-max, have all sorts of devolution that's currently being promised, all sorts of control and power in Scotland

and yet keep the benefits of being in the union?

COX: Well, I think we did want devo-max. It was -- we wanted it on the ballot paper. We weren't allowed it. We were told we wouldn't have

it. And as a result, some of us who believed in devo-max -- and I certainly believe in devo-max -- were forced into a position to really

become, to declare ourselves as independent and desiring independence.

And it seemed to me that we were kind of put into a situation where this whole campaign has been run of a kind of very patronizing way, where

you -- where one has thought to one's self, well, hang on a minute. I'm really made to decide something. And I'm happy to decide it because it's

come to the point where when push comes to the shove, it's probably better off.

And also I think it's also on -- in my case, I look back on the failure of British politics over the last 20 years that we've got to this

kind of apathetic position.

AMANPOUR: Well, on that note, you, too, I think, believe that there's been a failure in central government, a failure of politics.

But do you not think that the government -- you're the No campaign, although it was better together, don't break up. You listen to what Brian

Cox has said. They all almost been pushed into this because they never had a third option. It was yes or no and that was it.

RORY STEWART, BRITISH MP: Yes. I've had a lot of sympathy for what Brian feels and I think a lot of people feel very frustrated, particularly

irritated with government now. People feel politics is broken, society's broken.

All I'd say though is that a constitution, a country is a longer-term thing than that. It's the 300-year relationship. And there's a lot of

reasons to be very, very irritated. But these are things which will pass. They're 5-, 10-year things. They change with governments, a lot of things

Alex Salmond's talking about, he can implement immediately.

Or a Labour government could implement in 2015. It's very strange somehow that we've got this massive constitutional tear-up (ph) as a

solution to what I see ultimately as short-term anxieties.

AMANPOUR: You are MP for the border region up there, where it's right below the Scottish border.

What do you feel on the ground when you're there? Is there a sense of inevitability? Obviously the tabloids, the papers are saying the No

campaign is in a state of panic and offering all these things around the -- you know, at the last minute.

What do the people think in your constituency?

STEWART: They think, particularly on the border, it feels very arbitrary. The English-Scottish border is something created by a French

ambassador in 1552, who drew a line on a map, not very far from where the Emperor Hadrian came along and drew a straight colonial line on the map and

divided us.

Our sheep move back and forth across that border. The Longtown Auction Mart (ph), where I'm based, has sheep from both sides of the

border. People are used to moving back and forth across that border, seeing us as a single family, a single unit.

And I think we almost won't actually understand how big a deal this is until it happens. And when it happens, it'll be a terrible sense of loss

and bewilderment.

AMANPOUR: Well, what do you say about that, Brian, because --


COX: Well, I don't think there is going to be a sense of loss. I actually think there's going to be a much greater social union. You see, I

think this whole debate is about social democracy. It's more about social democracy. It's as much about social democracy as about independence.

And what I feel is that the social democracy has been severely lacking and has been -- has been sort of drifting away, the kind of -- I mean, I

suppose the great Labour government of -- or the great government, for me, of the 20th century was the Attlee government, which put into play all

those great social things that we have now.

And these things have become eroded more and more and more and more and more.

And in my case, because I'm a member of the Labour Party, what I've seen is that the involvement and what was in the legal war was the final

sort of nail in the coffin --


AMANPOUR: You're talking about the Iraq War.

COX: -- the Iraq War -- and it sort of destroyed the credibility of Labour and it certainly, even probably, was responsible for the death of a

great man called Robin Cook, great Scotsman.

And I feel that we've reached a point now -- it's a historic inevitably. It's no longer working. I think the 300 years is -- the thing

about the Scots is they've always done things on other people's behalf. You know, we created -- well, you know, we created -- we gave them our

regiments. When we were run after proscription, we weren't allowed to carry our colors.

But William Pitt decided, well, you can carry your colors if you become a militia and you serve Empire.

So there were -- therefore, we had a kind of -- you know, we had a sort of mercenary identity. And I think this has gone on. We also created

the Labour Party. We've created things on other people's behalf. And finally, I think this got to a point where we said, well, we've done all

this. It's time to do it on our own behalf.

AMANPOUR: How very clearly the Scots play a huge and vital role in everything that's Great British.

STEWART: Absolutely. I mean, we're a family. And we're individuals in that family. We're not a -- we're not clones. We're not all the same.

Scots have contributed a huge amount. But the danger of this, the Scots are also forgetting how much England has contributed to Scotland. I

mean, the danger of this is that if we're not careful, we're going to end up being a bit complacent and a bit smug here.

The Labour movement is also an English Labour movement, determinism, the progressive movement, people who are progressive, social democratic in

Scotland shouldn't be patronizing towards that in England. They shouldn't forget the idea of solidarity. They shouldn't forget the fact that Attlee

would be horrified exactly by this kind of proposal.

AMANPOUR: But his successor, Gordon Brown, Labour prime minister, the previous Labour prime minister, was up there, doing his best to explain to

the people of Scotland that if you don't vote for independence, we're going to give you all of this "independence," inverted commas.

Why do you think that will resonate now at this late date?

Do you think it will?

STEWART: I believe we have a genius for the local, nobody likes politicians a long way away. I think Westminster's too far away.

Honestly, I think people will --


COX: I couldn't agree more with that. I think Westminster's time is over. Really, really over. And I think a lot of the problems that we've

got is actually due to Westminster.

AMANPOUR: So what does happen next? What is the logical ramification? It is a federal Great Britain --


AMANPOUR: -- is everything going to spin off?

COX: See, what I feel is once -- if independence is achieved, I think then we come to an idea of a federation of Great Britain, the United

Federation of Great Britain. You know, I look at the problems that Somerset had at the time of the floods. When they couldn't make decisions

about something they knew about that they understood, which was to do with the drainage, to do with retreating -- receding the floods.

And the whole central government was so slow to move on it and I felt -- I felt we've lost touch. Something has lost touch. We've lost -- we've

lost contact. I think -- and I think it about England, because I'm as much about -- concerned about England as I am concerned about Scotland, Scotland

will be OK. Whatever happens, Scotland is going to be OK.

England is the place I --

AMANPOUR: Better together for England, not for Scotland --

STEWART: -- and I think that we're better together in the sense that on our own, our nations are in danger of being a little bit unbearable. We

actually hold our heads up in the world because we compensate for each others' weaknesses. We're about diversity. We're a very -- actually, the

United Kingdom is a very modern idea. It's not about narrow nation states. It's about accepting all that strange diversity, comedy, tension --


COX: Unfortunately, though, the problem has been that -- and in Scotland, that we have not had a say. We've -- we had -- the government of

Margaret Thatcher, which kind of de-industrialized Scotland --

AMANPOUR: But Tony Blair gave you devolution.

COX: -- he gave us devolution but he gave with one hand and took away with another.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you this, I mean, the honest question is when it comes to most people care about not just the heart and the spirit

of nationalism and independence and freedom but about jobs, dollars and cents, pounds and -- not shillings anymore; euros.

It's not at all sure, according to every single financial expert who we talk to that Scotland is going to be better off or as well off --

COX: I think that Scotland -- the -- in the "Financial Times," Scotland has the potential to be one of the -- the 20th richest country in

the world. And I think that's there, that potential is there.

We haven't harnessed it. We've not been allowed to harness it.

STEWART: I'd say a couple of things quickly. One of them is it's the uncertainty that's the problem. Look, Scotland is an entrepreneurial,

energetic country. It's got great resources.

But the problem is the transition. International investors haven't seen this before. They're going to step back for a second; they're going

to be cautious. It's going to be a difficult transition. The biggest (INAUDIBLE) can't in the end be about money. It's about who we are.

COX: Exactly.

STEWART: Do we want -- and I think, you know, Brian's right on top of this.

Do we want to be proud Scottish actors, who study in LAMDA, in London Academy Music and Drama, come back, move to New York, move to Scotland?

That's the kind of world we want to create. So progressive, open world that accepts different --


AMANPOUR: Well, you both agree on that.

COX: Yes, I agree with that.

AMANPOUR: And on that note, Brian Cox, Rory Stewart, thank you so much indeed for joining us.

STEWART: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And after a break, imagine yet another revolution involving the British crown, this one over two centuries ago and just like today, a

prime minister's future hung in the balance. We'll explain when we come back.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine a world where a British prime minister loses a vital corner of the empire along with his job. Some say

Scottish independence could cost David Cameron his address and his job at Number 10 Downing Street. But he wouldn't be the first British PM forced

to resign for losing a precious jewel in the crown.

While King George III sat on the throne, tone-deaf to the demands for taxation with representation by his American colonies, Lord North was his

prime minister and point man in an ill-fated campaign that might have been called better together or else. After the first Tea Party protest, the one

in Boston Harbor in 1773, Lord North refused to compromise.

Sound familiar? And instead tried to put his American cousins in an economic vise to compel their allegiance. It backfired and led to the

Declaration of Independence and a war that lasted seven years until Lord Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington at Yorktown and the British

band played a song called, "The World Turned Upside Down."

Labeled "the man who lost America," Lord North became the first British prime minister to resign after a vote of no confidence. Now 232

years later, if his fellow Tory, David Cameron, loses Scotland, could he face a similar fate?

That's it for our program tonight. Remember you can always contact us at our website,, and follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.