Return to Transcripts main page

CNN'S AMANPOUR

Key Coalition Partner Qatar on ISIS War; Imagine a World

Aired September 25, 2014 - 14:00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(MUSIC PLAYING)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TAMIM BIN HAMAD AL THANI, EMIR OF THE STATE OF QATAR: We have to counter terrorism, yes. But I believe that the main cause of all this is the

regime in Syria and this regime should be punished.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): In his exclusive interview, the emir of Qatar tells me the battle against ISIS must go further. A key

member of the coalition against the terrorists, I ask the emir will he cut off funding to other extremists? What is Qatar's role on the world stage?

And about hosting the controversial 2022 football World Cup.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

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

The United States and its Arab coalition partners take the fight to ISIS for a third straight day, striking targets in Iraq and Syria. And the

Pentagon has just released before and after images of a small-scale ISIS oil refinery that it says was destroyed overnight.

Qatar, the tiny but rich Gulf nation is key to this fight, but it also wants to expand the mission to topple the Syrian president, Bashar al-

Assad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL THANI (through translator): No red lines were drawn to limit the action of the Syrian regime. The world remained unfazed even when Syrian children

and women were being killed with chemical weapons and when its populated neighborhoods were bombed with air-dropped barrels. Eventually, the Syrian

people were stuck between terrorism of the regime and terrorism of extremist forces that thrived in the swamp of violence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: That is Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, speaking at the U.N. General Assembly. And tonight, I sit down with the emir in his very first

interview since taking the reins of power after his father abdicated last year.

Despite his enthusiastic support for the war against ISIS, the Qatari government itself has long been criticized for hosting and financing

Islamic extremists in Syria and elsewhere. At the same time, hosting one of the largest American military bases in the Middle East.

For more than a decade, this tiny emirate has been seizing its moment in the sun which it hopes to cement by hosting the 2022 World Cup. But that,

too, has been mired in controversy from the start.

Long described as punching above its weight, Qatar's new emir says that the buck now stops with him. And he sat down with me for a frank conversation

about all of these questions and about his vision for the future.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR: Your Highness, welcome to the program. Thank you for joining me.

AL THANI: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: We are here at a remarkably historic time. Qatar is one of five Arab nations taking part in these strikes against ISIS.

Why are you doing this and are you in it for the long haul?

AL THANI: Well, we're in it because we believe that this is a dangerous -- that dangerous movements happening in our own -- our region. And we're

going to stay in it as, as you said, for -- unfortunately looks like we're going to stay for a while. Everybody, not only Qatar.

So we are, yes, we are in it. We believe that we have to counter terrorism and that was why we are -- we are in it. We've been asked by our American

friends if we can join and we did.

AMANPOUR: Secretary of State Kerry, President Obama himself have said that this is not about President Assad at the moment. Yes, there's been a

three-year war. Yes, everybody said Assad must go. But this is only about ISIS.

Do you agree with that?

AL THANI: Honestly, no. I don't agree. I agree that we have to counter terrorism, yes. But I believe that the main cause of all this is the

regime in Syria and this regime should be punished.

As you said, it's more than three years now war and the environment that the Syrian people have been living in, it will create this violence.

And we've been saying that from day one, that if we don't stop the bloodshed in Syria and we don't stop Bashar committing genocide on his own

people, this is where we -- unfortunately, we are in a situation now that the Syrian people, who demanded for their freedom, are between a regime, a

brutal regime, and terrorist acts.

So I think that it's a whole thing that has to be solved. If we think that we're going to get through the terrorist movements and leave those regimes

doing what they -- this regime especially, doing what he is doing -- then terrorist movements will come back again.

AMANPOUR: So how far can you just agree to be striking ISIS?

Will Qatar do something else?

Strike Assad targets, regime targets?

AL THANI: Well, what we -- Qatar cannot do that by itself, of course.

There is a coalition that will help us protect the Syrian people; we will be part of it. As you know that we were -- we were part of a coalition

that helped to free the Libyan people. So we will be part of it because we believe that the main -- what caused all this chaos is the Syrian regime.

AMANPOUR: But it won't derail you?

AL THANI: No, it won't. It won't. Terrorism is something that was not acceptable in our culture and our religion.

So it will not stop us.

AMANPOUR: You mentioned you're also in this to stop the funding of the terrorist groups. As you know, this is something that President Obama, in

fact, all the world leaders are saying, the only thing that's really going to stop it is the funding.

Qatar has been blamed, criticized over the years, for either funding or allowing to sympathetic sheikhs, mullahs, sympathetic rich people, to fund

these movements.

AL THANI: Well, we have to see the difference between movements. I know that in America and some countries they look at some movements as terrorist

movements.

In our part of the region, we don't. But if you're talking about certain movements, especially in Syria and in Iraq, we all consider them terrorist

movement. And we don't accept any fund for those and we don't accept anybody funding those groups.

AMANPOUR: Will you stop them?

The people who go to the mosques and whip people up and say we've got to, you know, help jihad?

AL THANI: We have a strong law against funding terrorist groups. But as I said, there is differences between some countries, of who are the

terrorists and who are the maybe Islamist groups, but we don't consider them as terrorists.

AMANPOUR: Such as.?

AL THANI: Such as groups in Syria, groups in Libya, groups in Egypt --

(CROSSTALK)

AMANPOUR: But isn't that a problem then? Because you then have a fundamental difference with some of your coalition partners. And you have

been criticized. Qatar has over the years been criticized of sort of throwing money at a lot of these groups.

And some of them are troublemakers in Syria. Some of them are extremists.

So you're saying that you don't buy that. You don't recognize them as --

(CROSSTALK)

AL THANI: No, no, we do recognize extremists. We believe that their actions -- we believe that they're extremists. And we stop -- we don't

fund extremists.

But there are differences. There are differences that some countries and some people that any group which is -- which comes from an Islamist

background are terrorists. And we don't accept that. And all this is because of political difference. We don't -- we don't accept that.

But people, especially in Syria and Iraq and other Arab countries, who don't believe in the freedom of speech, we don't believe that they have to

live with others and accept others, and also accept the choice of the people, their own people. Those are the people that we don't fund.

Other than that, I believe that we'll make a big mistake for any Islamic movement. But we have differences, ideological differences with them. I'm

talking about some countries, to consider them extremist, I think this is a big mistake and it's a danger.

Other than that, extremists are well-known. Terrorist groups are well- known and we know them. Everybody knows them.

AMANPOUR: So let me ask you specifically then, because this is obviously key to all of this.

Some of the Arab coalition partners taking part with you have had differences with you over, for instance, the Muslim Brotherhood. You

supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Now they're out. You house them, a lot of them, once they were flushed out.

And also Hamas. Obviously the United States believes -- and Israel and many other nations -- that that is a terrorist organization. You don't.

So does that mean you keep funding them?

AL THANI: Going back to the first point that you mentioned, that we had differences with our -- with some of our brother neighboring countries, it

is true, yes, we had differences. There was a confusion in the beginning of the Arab Spring and for everybody, especially in our region, because it

happens in our neighbors, in our neighbor countries.

Everybody took a different step, foreign policy. We took our foreign policy, which we believe was right at that moment, that we helped and we

stood the Arab people who demanded for their dignity and for freedom.

What happened after that election, the Egyptian people elected a government -- or elected the Muslim Brotherhood. We gave aid to the Egyptian

government before the Muslim Brotherhood during the military government after the step-down of Hosni Mubarak.

People were saying that we support the Muslim Brotherhood. We don't support. we support the Egyptian government. We supported them during Mr.

Tantawi. We support them also during the prime minister, Essam Sharaf. We supported them during Mr. Morsi and we support them also during the former

president, Adly Mansour, and we still support them.

So it's nothing to do with Muslim Brotherhood. We know that Muslim Brotherhood, after what happened in Egypt a year ago, after the coup that

happened in Egypt, many of them left and some of them came to Qatar because they were threatened and they were afraid.

So, yes, we are -- they were in Qatar and we are safe -- they were safe in Qatar as long as they didn't practice any politicking or any ideas.

They're always -- they're always welcome in Qatar.

AMANPOUR: Are they still there?

AL THANI: Some of them are still there. Some of them are leaving because they believe that this is the moment for them to practice politics and they

know the rules of the country, that as long as you're here, you can't practice politic against any other army, other Arab country.

(CROSSTALK)

AMANPOUR: As long as they're in Qatar?

AL THANI: As long as they're there in Qatar.

AMANPOUR: Hamas: Will you continue to support Hamas?

AL THANI: We support all Palestinian people.

We believe Hamas is a very important part of the Palestinian people. As I said, we have differences with friends that -- for example, the United

States consider them as terrorist groups. We don't for simply because they're a very important component of the Palestinian people.

Going back for history nearly 10 years ago, we were asked by the Americans if we could talk to Hamas to make them participate in the election which

happened in Palestine.

And we spoke to them very honestly -- it was my father who spoke to them -- that, you know, we were asked from our American friends that you

participate in the next election.

And so their answer was we will, but do you think -- will the international community accept us?

So my father said yes, because I had a -- I was asked by the Americans for you to join.

So it happened. So the thing is what is the difference between Hamas 10 years ago and Hamas now?

I believe the difference is that Hamas are more realistic now. They believe in peace and they want peace. But that's the -- for the other

party to believe in peace as well and to be more realistic.

AMANPOUR: Under your father, there was a certain reach-out between yourself and Israel, Qatar and Israel. That seems to have gone by the

wayside; in fact, an Israeli top diplomat calls Qatar "Club Med for terrorists."

What happened and how do you react to that?

AL THANI: Well, we believe in peace. And we -- since 1991 and '93 at the Oslo and after Oslo, we believed in peace and we helped a lot in trying to

make a bridge between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

I think the war in Gaza a few years ago -- of course after we cut our relation, our official relation with Israel, the amount of dead people and

innocent people, this is -- and that is why, as I said, we've stopped. We cut our relation with Israel.

But at the same time we believe that the only way to get out of it is to have easy peace between the Israelis and the -- and the Palestinians,

because we believe in peace. And this is the only way that we should all work together, to put pressure on both sides to reach the peace solution.

AMANPOUR: Could you imagine restarting such a relationship?

I mean, it was an important relationship with an Arab nation. It was an important relationship.

AL THANI: We can't start the relation. It's not -- it's not where we are work -- I think -- I don't think we have a problem in starting the relation

with the -- with the Israelis as long as they are serious in making peace and providing and protecting the Palestinian people.

AMANPOUR: Your Highness, stand by.

AL THANI: OK.

AMANPOUR: We're going to take a break and come back with much more of this conversation.

AL THANI: OK.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR: And just before we do go to a break, remember that this is the first such coalition of Arab nations and the West since the first Gulf War

back in 1990-91, when a massive alliance gathered in Saudi Arabia to launch air and ground attacks to liberate tiny Kuwait from Saddam Hussein.

Qatar was one of those 39 countries and, yes, so was Syria back then. I was aboard an aircraft carrier in the Red Sea as that war began.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: The commander says the Red Sea battle force is close to neutralizing all its targets, which include not only air fields,

communications and command and control centers, but also chemical and other weapons production plans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: Now as this alliance goes after ISIS in Syria, I'll have much more with Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, including Qatar as the

controversial World Cup host 2022.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR: Welcome back. We continue our conversation.

Qatar, over the last decade plus, has gone from being the little emirate that could, that everybody wants to be friends with, that people have been

so impressed that you've been breaking out of what was perhaps the conventional wisdom kind of mentality in the Middle East to neither friend

nor foe.

People are wondering what is your vision, what is your strategic vision of foreign policy?

Some have suggested that, yes, you have a relationship with the United States but you're neither an ally nor are you really an enemy, because you

sometimes back different sides of the coin. And for Qatar, money is the instrument of your foreign policy.

What is it?

What is it that Qatar stands for?

AL THANI: Well, let me, first of all, money, we're not the only the only country that has money. I mean, thanks to God, yes, we are a wealthy

country and we have -- we have money.

Our foreign policy is very simple. As I said, before I answer the question, since four years now, with all the Arab Spring, things going on,

there was a confusion.

But if you go back to our real foreign policy, we believe in dialogue. We provide dialogue. We believe in peace. We are a mediator and, as you

know, we're very successful in many, many parts.

I believe this is the thing that I am concentrating in and I will continue concentrating. I'm not in a camp against another camp. I am -- I have my

own way. Our country has own way of foreign policy, own way of thinking.

And I think people should respect that. And it's not about a matter of being a friend or not a friend. I have my own way of thinking. I believe

in our relation with the United States and other countries as well.

But as I said, we are a mediator. We believe in dialogue between nations and countries to solve problems.

AMANPOUR: I'm going to do a hard turn now into sports. The World Cup, again, a testimony to the heavyweight or maybe punching above its weight,

of Qatar, many people were very surprised that you got the bid. You're the first Muslim country to have won a bid to host the World Cup.

There has been a lot of scrutiny now, of course, as you know. Human rights groups, for instance, have been very, very upset by the death of many

migrant workers, 1,000-plus to this date and maybe many more by the time the stadiums are finished.

Is this what Qatar wants to be known for?

Is there something that you can do right now to enforce the rights and the laws that you've enacted to enforce the application of these laws so that

migrant workers have safety and dignity?

AL THANI: First of all, about the World Cup, you know, as you know, I think that we have the right as Muslim countries and Arab countries to host

such a big event like that. And people should understand that Qatar had the best bid and Qatar will provide and will do one of the best World Cups

in history. And I'm sure about that.

And I hope that this will happen. But going back -- and I -- and people don't want to accept, don't want to realize that a small country, Arab

Muslim country, can host a big event like that.

As you know, that we have big competitors in this bid, and they don't accept. But I'm confident and I am sure that's we're going to make an

excellent World Cup.

Talking about the labor that there is the problems that we have in Qatar, yes, it's true. We have problems. We're solving the problems. We're

enforcing the laws. It's not acceptable. I don't accept personally to see laborers, poor people coming from other countries to come and help us

develop our country and the atmosphere and the environment isn't helpful for them.

As you know, the economy has been growing a lot in Qatar. And the amount of people coming to Qatar has been hundreds of thousands.

So it is -- it is difficult. But in the same light, it's not acceptable. I don't accept it --

(CROSSTALK)

AMANPOUR: You will insist that the laws -- ?

AL THANI: -- definitely. There are --

AMANPOUR: -- that they get paid their wages, that --

AL THANI: -- definitely.

AMANPOUR: -- they work only certain hours, that they -- you know, they're tied right now to their employers. They can't even leave if they -- if

they don't get permission to leave. It's like slave labor.

AL THANI: No, we changed those laws. We changed those laws. (INAUDIBLE) --

AMANPOUR: But will they be enforced?

AL THANI: -- yes, yes, they are enforced now. We changed the laws. They are enforced and there are many laws that have been changed.

And I'm telling you because I'm personally hurt about the situation. I don't accept that. And not even -- no part of that I accept that. So we

are enforcing the laws and we don't accept things to be happening like that.

And things have been changing now on the ground. But as you said, that all the media is concentrating Qatar, due to the World Cup and due to the world

-- and many things. And we accept that. But I wanted to say the -- to show what is Qatar as well.

If we have problems, I don't mind them talking about problems. Also they need to talk other -- about other things, about those laws that we did.

AMANPOUR: And just one last question on the World Cup, because everybody's fascinated by it, sports fans all over the world. There has been a

controversy because Qatar is so hot in the summer.

If it does stay in Qatar, would you accept that it be in the winter?

AL THANI: Our bid was for it to be in the -- in summer. And we had -- we have done what they need ecology, is we've done a stadium that is air

conditioned stadiums. Actually we have this technology for 10 years now and it's working now in our -- in one of our stadiums.

AMANPOUR: People are a little bit dubious about that. They say it's unproven.

AL THANI: No, it is. We tried it now for 10 years and it's working. And it will work. And you're talking about for not 2022. So at 200 percent it

will be working.

So the atmosphere for athletes or for the football players and for the fans and for the training ground will be excellent.

And we've tried this. And fan zones as well will be excellent. We tried in the last World Cup; there were fan zones around Qatar. There were

thousands attending. It was in open air, but it was air conditioned. So for the heat, there won't be any problem.

AMANPOUR: So would you accept that it be in the winter? I just say because FIFA, the medical community, others.

(CROSSTALK)

AL THANI: I agree with you. For me, the -- I will accept if they choose the best time for the atmosphere. But I think we've -- our bid was for the

winter.

(CROSSTALK)

AMANPOUR: For the summer.

AL THANI: For the -- sorry, for the summer.

At the end, it's up to the FIFA to decide when is the best time. But for us we're ready for both because we need this technology as you know. Our

summer is quite long. So we will need this technology to play more matches and to -- for our league and for also for international games. So we will

need this technology, whether it's going to be the winter or the summer.

AMANPOUR: On that note, Sheikh Tamim, thank you so much for joining me.

AL THANI: Thank you very much. And I'm happy to be with you. Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR: And so that was the first interview by Qatar's new emir to explain to the world his country's policy.

And in this fight against ISIS resolve, that is the name of the game from American and Arab leaders. Look at the cover of "The Economist," after

President Obama reasserted bold American leadership in his U.N. speech yesterday.

When we come back, more displays of resolve, unprecedented PR, pilots from the Arab strike force, extraordinary in more ways than one. That's next.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, as we've watched this extraordinary coalition of Western and Arab nations take flight, imagine a world where

the campaign against Islamic extremists has changed the very face of battle. Major Mariam Al Mansouri is a fighter pilot, the first female air

force pilot of the United Arab Emirates, commanding a squadron of F-16s, her unit joined attacks on ISIS strongholds in Syria this week, flying side

by side with her male counterparts from Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

And we've reported that ISIS terrorists fear being killed by female warriors. Imagine their terror when Major Al Mansouri gets them in her

sights. But it is more than just a mission to her or a chance to break the glass ceiling; it's a patriotic duty.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAJOR MARIAM AL MANSOURI, UAE FIGHTER PILOT: We have to prepare every citizen in this country to be ready to defend UAE. Of course, everybody is

their responsible of defending their country, male or female, when the time will come. Everybody will jump in. Nobody will hesitate to defend their

country.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Saudi Arabia also released pictures of their top guns as well. Prince Khaled bin Salman, Saudi Arabia, also took part in

attacks on ISIS targets in Syria. He's the son of the heir to the Saudi throne. And he's shown here as just another albeit royal Saudi fighter

pilot.

And unprecedented images aimed to get the message out loud and clear, Muslims will reclaim their land and their faith from ISIS.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: And that's it for our program tonight. Remember you can always contact us at our website, amanpour.com, and follow me on Facebook and

Twitter. Thank you for watching and goodbye from New York.

END