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Deliberate Attempt to Destroy Germanwings Aircraft; Saudi-Led Strikes Target Yemen Rebels; U.S. Responds to Saudi Strikes on Yemen; Imagine a World. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired March 26, 2015 - 15:00:00   ET



[15:00:15] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Tonight: two very different, very big stories, a manslaughter charge possible in the Germanwings crash

as it is revealed the copilot deliberately steered the plane into the Alps, killing all on board


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): It is clear that the copilot took advantage of the flight captain's leaving the cockpit.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): Also today, Yemen, the latest in the Sunni-Shiite war -- Saudi Arabia sends in the bombers. Will the tanks be next?

And what's America's game plan?


BRETT MCGURK, DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: We don't want to take sides in some hegemonic battle. I don't think that's in the interest of

the United States of America to do.

What we will do, we want to eliminate and isolate extremists on both sides of this sectarian divide.


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

And in a moment, we'll explore the stakes in Yemen as Saudi Arabia enters the fray in a very big way.

But first, we get an update on the story that everyone's talking about, the truly awful news today that the plane crash in the French Alps was not an

accident. As families were being brought as close as possible to the crash location, the French prosecutor said the data recorder shows the copilot,

28-year-old Andreas Lubitz, deliberately slammed the aircraft into the mountain, killing all the 149 other people on board as well as himself.

The prosecutor described how the captain left the cockpit for a bathroom break once the plane had reached its cruising altitude, only to find that

his copilot had locked him out. Despite trying to break down the door, the captain was kept out while Lubitz, quite, "used the button" to descend


Germanwings says he was 100 percent fit to fly. But the French are considering a manslaughter charge.

What would drive someone to murder so many in such a horrific manner? Investigators are looking for answers.

And let's get straight to our Diana Magnay, who's in Lubitz's hometown of Montebaur in Germany.

Diana, you've just got there today as this news has been revealed.

I guess what is the town saying?

What have you found there?

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christiane, the news spread extremely quickly through Montebaur. It's quite a small town; it's quite

close near. He lived in a house just around there with his parents, or this is where he spent much of his childhood. We spoke to one neighbor who

said he used to deliver the papers when he was a little boy around here

But people really shot down -- I managed to speak off-camera to a few of his contemporaries, people who are about near the age of 28-30. But none

of them would speak, obviously horrified about what had happened. They said they knew him but they didn't want to talk to the press.

And we're beginning to glean bits of information but the feeling here is of lockdown as they try and digest the information that the Marseilles

prosecutor came out with.

AMANPOUR: Does he -- you said he's -- lives with his parents or at least he spends a lot of time there.

Is he married? Does he have a girlfriend? Does he have a partner? Is there anybody who's said anything about him?

MAGNAY: So there was one person who I did speak to, who was a member at this gliding club, this gliding flight club that he was an active member

of, just on the outskirts of Montebaur. He mentioned a girlfriend. But he'd last seen Lubitz the year before last, so he didn't really have

further details about who this girlfriend was, what nationality, where she lived, anything like that.

We do know that Lubitz spent much of his childhood here, that he was a regular at that gliding club from the age of 14 to 20 and that it was

really his passion and this guy told me that he'd made his passion into his job and that he was extremely proud of being a Germanwings pilot. And

that's what he said the last time he'd seen him.

And one other neighbor said that he was one of two brothers. That's really all that I can tell you about his family situation, except that the family

house right now is shuttered; it's guarded by police.

When we were down there earlier today, two plainclothes men came up to the front door and tried to get in and it seemed as though the police didn't

even know who they were, came up and said, who are you; they obviously exchanged some kind of words to each other and it appeared to me as though

these guys must have been investigators and a whole group went into the house together obviously searching for clues as to what may have made

Lubitz do what he did.

[15:05:07] AMANPOUR: You know, it's -- you probably can't answer this question, but here's the thing. The Lufthansa and Germanwings officials

have said that he was 100 percent fit to fly. And we know from what Lufthansa has said that, yes, their pilots get regular medical check-ups,

that they do not check their mental history or their mental state.

Is there any indication that he had any kind of mental history?

MAGNAY: So we know that he did have a break in his training. He was going through the training at Bremen, which is where Lufthansa trains up its

young pilots. And that for some reason he took an interruption in that training. And the Lufthansa CEO said that in a presser. He couldn't

ascribe any reasons to that. And when we talked to the man at the gliding club, he said, you know, to go through this training, you have to pass so

many enormous hurdles. It's not something you undertake lightly.

And he said, well, if you are asking about psychological issues, whether there was some sort of problem with him, then maybe these tests aren't

sufficient. But that's not really an answer. But as far as he was concerned, this was a fairly -- a normal guy, someone who was extremely

determined, had got where he'd wanted to get.

So there have been hints and reports in the media, citing friends that perhaps it was depression that was the cause of this interruption in the


I haven't been able to verify that from anybody that I've spoken to -- Christiane.

AMANPOUR: All right, Diana. I know you'll be hunting that down and there are so many questions, obviously, about why somebody would have done

something like that.

Diana Magnay, thank you very much from Montebaur there in Germany.

And the other big news story, fears of a new front in the Middle East, Sunni-Shia proxy war, actually no longer proxy but direct as Saudi Arabia

conducts airstrikes in Yemen and considers sending in a massive armored ground force against advancing Houthi rebels. They are a Shia sect

presumed to be backed by Iran, which has today condemned the Saudi-led 10- nation coalition and called for an immediate halt to the airstrikes.


MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: We believe that there is an opening (ph) for dialogue, for understanding among the Yemenis (INAUDIBLE).


AMANPOUR: Now in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, people searched for survivors in the rubble of houses that have been destroyed in these strikes.

Meantime, the Saudi-backed Yemeni president, Hadi, has now escaped and surfaced in Riyadh. He was deposed by the Houthis in January and he fled

the capital to set up an alternate government in the southern port city of Aden.

Joining me now on the phone from Ankara is Jamal Khashoggi. He's head of the Alarab news channel and close to the Saudi ruling family.

Jamal Khashoggi, welcome back to the program.

What is Saudi Arabia's aim as far as you can gather?

Is it to restore President Hadi or just to keep any kind of Houthi rebels coming onto Saudi land?

JAMAL KHASHOGGI, DIRECTOR, ALARAB: It's basically to bring back balance to Yemen. The Houthi were staging (ph) a very painful coup in Yemen

intimidating politicians, including the president himself, who had to flee the capital.

Their message of negotiation is you either agree with me or we cannot put you in out of risk or kidnap you. So that was not a way to negotiate with

really so many parties. A great portion of the Yemenis are refusing the Houthis. They use military force, beside intermediation, they start moving

down to Aden to house Hadi again and eliminating the legitimacy and force their will on the Yemeni people. That would -- that could have led to a

civil war in Yemen because Yemen has refused the domination of the Houthi. And unfortunately Yemeni began to speak about a sectarian Shia-Sunni

conflict, which Yemen does not need.

So Saudi Arabia is basically pushing the Houthi back to being one party among others. I'm sure if the Houthi attempted this reality and have

started dialogue in Doha, the whole operation would stop. That is my opinion. It's not -- no governmental officials said yet, but basically

what Saudi Arabia wants, just wants to -- the Houthi to accept the reality not to be the dominant force in Yemen, to be one among others and sit on a

table somewhere in Doha or Riyadh not in Yemen itself and start negotiating with their fellow Yemenis in how to start a new Yemen.

[15:10:10:] AMANPOUR: Right. They unfortunately, for Saudi Arabia, they are the dominant force right now. And they are powering through. It's

just been reported that a whole another new round of airstrikes is taking place.

Do you think Saudi Arabia will continue this to a ground force? I mean, there apparently are 150,000 or so mass and possibility of sending in the


Is that likely to happen if there are no negotiations, as you laid out?

KHASHOGGI: No, no, I don't think that will happen. A Saudi official whom I talked to, they rule that out for this time. The Yemeni forces in the

ground are able to restore the areas, the bases that were taken by the Houthi. And that's what actually happened this morning when the forces of

the government were able to restore the airport of Aden and other (INAUDIBLE) right now in Paris.

So it is the Yemeni (ph) who will do the ground work. The Saudi is just to support the legitimate government. And the Houthi are the -- yes. They

are the dominant but the (INAUDIBLE). The dominance by force, by intimidating the others and forcing their will on the Yemen people.

AMANPOUR: Jamal, there's more news as we keep speaking; the Houthi leader apparently saying Yemen will become a graveyard for anybody who invades.

So you've just said that Saudi Arabia doesn't plan to do that.

But let me ask you this, the former president, Saleh, a Saudi ally, is in conjunction with the Houthi forces right now. The reports are that he's

using them to try to get back into power.

And now you guys are fighting them.

I mean, does anybody know what's going on?

Does Saudi Arabia really have a handle or does anybody on the politics in that fractious nation?

KHASHOGGI: Saleh is a former ally (INAUDIBLE) relationship we had with him. What's going on in Yemen today is a war between the future and the

past. Saleh is running a Middle Age-style struggle for power. Why are there are Yemeni youths who want to (INAUDIBLE) Yemen. The only way out is

for the Yemeni to sit in a dialogue room where they discuss the future of Yemen, not to use tanks and the conspiracies with (INAUDIBLE) proud of


So my prediction (ph) is for Saudi Arabia with its allies to eventually push the Yemeni, pursue the Yemeni into some form of negotiations table

where they can write a new constitution to the new president by the (INAUDIBLE) by tanks and warfare.

AMANPOUR: Jamal Khashoggi, thanks so much for joining us with that analysis from Ankara.

Now after a break, Saudi Arabia's close ally, the United States, had a lot of skin in this game; Yemen was the center of Washington's regional

counterterrorism effort against Al Qaeda and ISIS.

So now what? I get that perspective from the State Department's point man when we come back.




[15:15:13] AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

What a difference six months make. Back in September, this is what President Obama said about Yemen while detailing the counterterrorism

strategy against ISIS and other terrorist groups.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines,

is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.


AMANPOUR: Now we know what happened to Yemen and Somalia. Now Secretary of State John Kerry is praising the Saudi-led coalition bombing. Yemen and

poised to send in the tanks perhaps. Washington finds itself between a rock and a hard place on the same side as Iranian-backed militias fight

ISIS in Iraq but on opposite sides over Yemen. Earlier I spoke to Brett McGurk, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran and

special envoy on the campaign against ISIS.


AMANPOUR: Brett McGurk, welcome back to the program.

MCGURK: Thanks for having me.

AMANPOUR: The U.S. was in serious consultation with the Saudis over this new level of intervention in Yemen.

Is this in U.S. interest?

MCGURK: Well, Christiane, I think the White House put a statement out last night. They're working very closely with our Saudi partners. We're very

concerned about the military activity from the Houthis in Yemen. This is designed to support a political process for a political solution in Yemen.

But all I would say is, as the White House addressed last night, we're in very close consultation with our partners and supportive of this action.

AMANPOUR: The United States -- and this is your brief -- has started air attacks around Tikrit in support of the militias and the Iraqi army trying

to take the country back.

Is it a harder slog than you imagined?

MCGURK: What Iraqi security forces were finding is that ISIS is in fact a -- that ISIS has set up Tikrit as a fortress. It is full of thousands of

IEDs, of barricaded sniper dens and fighting positions and headquarters. And we bring unique capabilities to that fight.

So Prime Minister Abadi asked us very directly and specifically for assistance. Our military commanders worked with Iraqi military commanders

and we're able to work out with them a very coordinated military campaign to support Iraqi forces operating under an Iraqi chain of command and the

strikes began last night. There are about 17 targets hit. And we're going to continue this until Iraqi forces are able to liberate the city of


AMANPOUR: You know, it's obviously no secret that Iran has been perhaps the most successful backer of militias and the military might in Tikrit.

Are you working in support of the Iran ground forces or the Iran-backed ground forces?

MCGURK: No, I think we've been very clear on this. We've absolutely no coordination with the Iranians. We coordinate directly with Iraqi

commanders through an Iraqi chain of command. It is a very, very difficult endeavor. It's going to be painstaking work; moving through these

neighborhoods is going to be extremely difficult.

We determined that our unique capabilities could actually save lives of Iraqi soldiers as they move into the city, also preserve infrastructure and

most importantly of the few civilians remaining in Tikrit, make sure that civilian casualties were not harmed in these airstrikes.

AMANPOUR: And yet, despite your rules of engagement and what you've just laid out, you and Iran are on the same side in Tikrit but go to Yemen, you

and Iran are on the opposite sides of that battle there.

MCGURK: Well, we're support a request from the sovereign government of Iraq, from Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, working within their chain of

command through a joint operations center which we have with them.

The situation in Yemen is different, but there's also a request there from a sovereign government -- it's important to distinguish, Christiane,

there's about overall about 80,000 of these volunteers that rose up in the wake of the crisis last summer. They rose up in response to Grand

Ayatollah Sistani's fatwa to protect the country.

Most of them are responsive to Grand Ayatollah Sistani and not necessarily to some of the Iranian commanders you hear about on the ground. But some

of them certainly are responsive to those Iranian commanders and actually those groups have made clear that because we are now involved in Tikrit,

they no longer want to have a part of the Tikrit operation. And frankly, that's really up to them.

And we have a very good picture now of where all the units are, including some of the militia units, most of which are east of the river. And the

Iraqi army and Iraqi security forces units, which are to the west and which will begin entering the outskirts of the city over the course of the coming


AMANPOUR: Obviously Al Qaeda has been the big problem in Yemen.

Do you think ISIS is going to get a foothold there, especially in the chaos now?

MCGURK: Well, what we're seeing is when ISIS broke from the Al-Nusra Front and Al Qaeda about a year or so ago, you've now had this competition for

the mantle of the global jihad. So wherever you have Al Qaeda elements, I think you will see ISIS trying to raise its flag and it's a very dangerous

phenomenon, Christiane.

[15:20:06] You know, the situation in Syria and Iraq is something that we really have never seen before in terms of extremism and potential

terrorism. We have about 22,000 foreign fighters now that have flowed into Syria and also into Iraq. They've come from 90 countries from all over the

world. This is a top-order national security priority for countries all around the world, from Canberra to Kuala Lumpur to Singapore, where we were

last month. And we need to build a global alliance, which we've done, to begin to shut down the networks.

But our focus on ISIS does not mean we're not focused on other threats, including threats from Iran. Iran remains a state sponsor of terrorism and

we are very focused on the threats emanating from Tehran.

AMANPOUR: Well, to that end, then, surely there at the State Department you must be kind of freaking out because here we have now four nations,

post-Arab Spring, that are in open warfare between Iran-backed militias or factions and Saudi Sunni-backed factions.

You've got Iraq, you've got Syria, you've got Lebanon and today now we have Yemen.

How concerned are you and who's going to win this hegemonic battle?

MCGURK: Well, one thing that we've been clear on is we don't want to take sides in some hegemonic battle. I don't think that's in the interest of

the United States of America to do. What we will do, we want to eliminate and isolate extremists on both sides of this sectarian divide.

So we have to be very diagnostic about this and nobody's freaking out. We're looking at this very clearly and with -- very analytically and trying

to isolate extremists on both sides of this divide who want to spark that broader sectarian conflict which is in nobody's interest and certainly not

in the interest of the United States.

AMANPOUR: General Petraeus, who was obviously famous for having done the awakening and the surge and turning back the ISIS of the time has

apparently written that he's been receiving messages from General Suleimani, who's practically bragging about winning now.

"I'm winning now, General," says Suleimani, the Iranian.

Are they winning?

MCGURK: Well, no, and I think you have to look at the long-term trends here. Two weeks ago, when this Tikrit operation launched -- and it was a

lot of militias were involved in this operation -- there was a bit of a propaganda campaign coming from the Iranians that were -- they had two

distinct messages. One, that they're the indispensable actor in Iraq and, two, that it's a zero-sum game, that the Iraqis have Iran and don't need

anybody else.

I think as we've seen this unfold, I think there's no question the Iraqis will accept help from the Iranians to a certain degree, no question about

it. But we've seen this unfold, Iran is not an indispensable actor in Iraq and it's, in fact, not a zero-sum game. You look at a map, they're

going to have vast influence in Iraq. There's religious ties, cultural ties, economic ties. That's something that is simply going to be there for

the long term.

But there are huge differences between Iran and Iraq, between Najaf and Qom and their religious debates that have gone on for thousands of years that

are particularly apt now because what Grand Ayatollah Sistani espouses is totally different, frankly, than the basis on which the Khomeini regime was

established in 1979.

AMANPOUR: Deputy Assistant Secretary, thank you so much indeed for joining us tonight.

MCGURK: Thank you again, Christiane.


AMANPOUR: And meantime, the White House has confirmed that President Rouhani of Iran has sent a letter to President Obama. Now we're not

exactly sure and they haven't revealed what's in that letter, but certainly President Rouhani has been tweeting today, talking about the nuclear

negotiations, saying that their program is peaceful and reiterating several times on tweets that so-called "unjust sanctions" must be lifted as part of

a deal.

And there must be mutual respect and equal footing as a basis for any deal.

So while people in Iraq, in Syria and now in Yemen are forced to flee their homes and their lives, after a break, imagine a world where Rome's homeless

are treated like royalty, getting a hand from God and the pope. We'll explain when we come back.




[15:26:22] AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine a world where society's most vulnerable and shunned can get a VIP tour of the world's greatest

wonders. That was the case today as Pope Francis opened the doors of the Vatican to his most humble of followers, the homeless, giving 150 people

who lived rough on the streets of Rome a free tour of St. Peter's Basilica and a 90-minute private viewing of the Sistine Chapel so that they, like

millions of tourists before them, might gaze upon the legendary work of Michelangelo and possibly find inspiration. They got a rare good meal as

well, served by the Vatican Museum's cafeteria.

Now that is compassion.

And that's it for our program tonight. Remember you can always see the whole show online at, and follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.