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President Obama in Saudi Arabia; Russian Officials Meet in Brussels; Imagine a World. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired April 20, 2016 - 14:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: together they stand but divided, too. President Obama and Saudi King Salman smiles, masks a
tense and changing old alliance. Former Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Turki bin Faisal, joins me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TURKI BIN FAISAL AL SAUD, SAUDI ROYALTY: There's one positive act of President Obama's conduct and his declarations, is that it has woken us up
to the fact that there is a change in America and that we must deal with that change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Also ahead, New York primary winner, Donald Trump, has called NATO obsolete. That's plain wrong, says its military chief, General Philip
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. PHILIP BREEDLOVE, SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER, NATO: I disagree with the notion that the alliance holds no value. I think it holds great value.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London. How the mighty and the oil-rich have
This headline today paints a dramatic picture of just how hard times are for Saudi Arabia. For the first time in 25 years, Riyadh is seeking
foreign loans instead of doling them out.
Into these shifting Saudi sands steps an old and trusted ally, the American president. Only this president, Barack Obama, has radically rewritten the
terms of their engagement.
Behind the smiles and handshakes on his farewell visit lies a once-cozy relationship that is now on the rocks. Obama has called Saudi Arabia "free
riders" and their scorecard on him goes something like this.
Dumped trusted friend and ally, Hosni Mubarak, during Arab Spring; failed to enforce your own red line when Syria uses chemical weapons and strike a
nuclear deal with regional rival, Iran.
So will they kiss and make up?
Or has the whole relationship changed forever?
Few people have better insight than Prince Turki bin Faisal, member of the Saudi royal family, intelligence chief for quarter of a century, ambassador
to London and Washington, D.C. He joined me from the kingdom's capital, Riyadh.
AMANPOUR: Prince Turki bin Faisal, welcome back to the program.
FAISAL: Thank you, Ms. Amanpour. It's nice to be back with you.
AMANPOUR: So let's get right to the heart of it. President Obama comes for his valedictory trip to Saudi Arabia, having said publicly to others
that, when asked to describe Saudi Arabia, calling them "our so-called allies" in response to the prime minister of Australia, who said, well,
aren't the Saudis your friends?
He's saying, "It's complicated."
What do you make of this?
Is it so complicated?
FAISAL: Well, I think it shouldn't be. But since he has taken that position, I'm sure leadership here also finds relations with President
AMANPOUR: What do you find, what does the Saudi Arabian government find most complex and complicated about the Obama administration's policies in
FAISAL: I can't speak for the government here, as you know. I'm not a government official.
But as a Saudi citizen, I think there is a general sense in the citizenry and not just in Saudi Arabia but in the area that issues of commitment to
pursuing policies is debatable.
And, as such, uncertainty becomes the norm rather than the exception. And so whether it is on Syria, for example, with the so-called red lines, or on
other issues in Libya, et cetera, where the president made it very clear that he was not willing to take the role that people may have expected from
AMANPOUR: Everybody's read "The Atlantic" article by Jeffrey Goldberg and many people have parsed a lot of what the president said to him, including
calling many allies, even the Saudi Arabians, "free riders."
FAISAL: My take on this was that perhaps the president did not recognize that the kingdom --
FAISAL: -- has done a great deal of activity to -- not only to promote but to be in the front of meeting these challenges that we face, whether it is
the issue of fahish. You know, I call it fahish instead of daish. This is the terrorist groups, the Al Qaeda, the issues of refugees, the issues of
political engagement with our partners in the area, whether it is Egypt or Yemen or Bahrain or other countries in the area, where the kingdom has been
on the front line.
And yet, in the president's view, in that article, he seemed to suggest that we were rather, as he said, "free riders," that we're not doing
anything but rather waiting for him or for the United States to take the lead there.
AMANPOUR: Did it hurt you?
Did it hurt the people?
Did it hurt the kingdom?
FAISAL: Of course it hurt me. I had the privilege of serving my country for over 30 years, in which time our relationship with the United States
was not only strategic but we did many things together. And nobody was taking anybody for granted.
And I mentioned in my letter to the president the liberation of Kuwait as an example of where the kingdom and the United States stood together to
undertake what I thought was one of the more magnanimous and very successful joint efforts to prevent a forceful takeover of a country by
AMANPOUR: Is it not true, though, that things have really changed?
And perhaps this is a time to re-evaluate the relationship?
And do you not think that it's a little bit all about the money?
Because, as one of the key U.S. senators, Senator Richard Blumenthal, has said, quoted in "The New York Times,", very bluntly, "They" -- that's you -
- "no longer have us in an energy straitjacket."
FAISAL: I never thought that we did. I've always thought that America and Saudi Arabia willingly came together to undertake joint efforts. And, as I
said, nobody took anybody for granted.
So straitjackets and other such terminology is not appropriate, I think, nor is the expression "free riders." I think if you want to change course
and establish new grounds for understanding, you don't have to be insulting.
AMANPOUR: As you know, there is still a very strong, a very severe hangover in the United States since 9/11. It cannot be forgotten that 15
of the 19 hijackers were Saudi citizens.
And right now, the president arrives in the midst of yet another political sort of back-and-forth between the two countries, because some members of
the 9/11 families want to sue the Saudi government, as you very well know.
And many American politicians, a bipartisan group, including the president, want to declassify 28 pages of the 9/11 Commission report that deals
specifically with Saudi Arabia.
A "60 Minutes" story on CBS recently alleged that two of the Saudi hijackers were aided by an employee of the Saudi government when they first
arrived in the U.S. in the months before the attacks. I want to play that little bit and have you react to it.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): During their first days in L.A., witnesses placed the two future hijackers at the King Fahad Mosque in the company of
Fahad al Thumairy (ph), a diplomat at the Saudi consulate, known to hold extremist views.
Later, 9/11 investigators would find him deceptive and suspicious. And in 2003, he would be denied re-entry to the United States for having suspected
ties to terrorist activity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So what is your response to those allegations, that the Saudi government employees, perhaps not the government but employees may have
aided 9/11 hijackers?
FAISAL: Ms. Amanpour, this is all regurgitation of past similitudes and accusations that followed September 11th. All those questions were
answered by the commission report.
And if you look at the commission report, it deals specifically with Saudi Arabia's role. But there was not a Saudi role, nor any official role in
FAISAL: We have nothing to hide, Ms. Amanpour. I think our officials at the highest levels of the foreign ministry and the embassy in Washington
have said these 28 pages were not sequestered by Saudi Arabia. They were done by the United States government.
AMANPOUR: Obviously, that's the mystery to most ordinary citizens, including a lot of officials, who can't get to those 28 pages and can't
talk about them.
You would still say that you would support them being declassified, released, so that they can all be hashed over again?
FAISAL: Well, you know, Ms. Amanpour, it's not for me to say that. It's for the president to say that. The former President Bush, he is the one
who sequestered those pages. I think it's up to Mr. Obama to make that decision. It is not a Saudi decision. It is a U.S. government decision.
AMANPOUR: Let me get back to the relationship in general. It's been suggested and there are many reports of various leaders in the Gulf region,
including in Saudi Arabia, who say that the end of the Obama administration cannot come quickly enough for you all.
Is that true?
And do you hope and believe that you can get the relationship back to where you would like it with a successor to President Obama?
FAISAL: My personal view is that America has changed inasmuch as we have changed here.
And there is one positive aspect of President Obama's conduct and his declarations, is that it has woken us up to the fact that there is a change
in America and that we must deal with that change as it comes. We cannot expect to go back to the good old days of yesteryear.
How far we can go with our dependence on America, how much can we rely on steadfastness from American leadership?
What is it that makes for our joint benefits to come together?
These are things that we have to recalibrate. And I don't think we should expect any new president in America to go back to the, as I said, the
yesteryear days when things were different.
AMANPOUR: On that note, Prince Turki bin Faisal, thank you very much for joining us from Riyadh during this presidential trip.
FAISAL: Thank you, Ms. Amanpour, you're always welcome.
AMANPOUR: And after visiting the Saudi King, President Obama comes here to see the queen of England and helps celebrate her 90th birthday at the end
of this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Talking of which, here's a rare sight. The queen and her three heirs, Princes Charles, William and 3-year-old George, posing
for postage stamps to mark the occasion.
When we come back, tensions in the Middle East, changing the threat facing NATO here in Europe. The alliance top brass, General Philip Breedlove
joins me after a break.
AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.
The increasingly hostile relationship between Russia and NATO means the two sides haven't met face to face for nearly two years --
AMANPOUR: -- until today. But while exchanging views was constructive, there were no major breakthroughs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: NATO and Russia have profound and persistent disagreements. Today's meeting did not change that.
NATO allies remain firm that there can be no return to practical cooperation until Russia returns to the respect of international law. But
we will keep channels of communication open.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So those persistent differences, what do they mean on the ground?
General Philip Breedlove is NATO's military chief and he joined me exclusively from his Belgium headquarters.
AMANPOUR: General Breedlove, welcome back to the program.
BREEDLOVE: It's great to be back on your program, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: General, can you give us a state of play?
What is going on particularly with aggressive moves, as they've been described, by Russia?
We see that, in the last few days, there's been a simulated attack pass as they buzz a U.S. destroyer in the Baltic, followed shortly by a barrel roll
around a U.S. plane, I believe.
How dangerous is this?
How do you account for this?
BREEDLOVE: So you have it right, Christiane. We have seen a series of actions that are a little different, in fact, than we've seen over the past
few months. And these have been actions that we have deemed dangerous in certain ways.
Certainly we've had several interactions with our ships in the Baltic Sea. One series of interactions during helicopter landing training with one of
our NATO allies and we had to suspend that helicopter landing training because the conditions were clearly not safe and conducive to getting good
I believe that these actions were done deliberately. They were not an accident.
AMANPOUR: Do you see Russia stepping up its provocation?
BREEDLOVE: So what I think we should start with is that we see Russia in a more broad sense, engaging nations along its periphery. And it's using all
of the elements of national power.
You and I have talked about this before. We use a very simple model based on the American coin, the dime: diplomatic, informational, military and
economic. And we see Russia using its national power broadly in all of its categories to try to influence those nations on its periphery.
In Ukraine, we could make some very straightforward examples. Intense diplomatic pressure to discredit Kiev and to bring discredit on those
trying to make the changes in Kiev.
An incredible information or, as I call it, a disinformation campaign to misrepresent what is happening.
And as we have talked about in Syria, in the beginning of the Russian campaign in Syria, we saw that almost unilaterally their strikes were
against the moderate opposition, not against daish or ISIL.
Now we must say and we must report accurately that, as of late, the Russian strikes have been more focused on daish and ISIL. So that is a bit of a
change in behavior from the first part.
AMANPOUR: General, I know that you don't like to get into politics and I'm not asking you to talk about politics but I need you to respond to the
notion by the leading Republican candidate that NATO is obsolete. And I would like to play this and have you react to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Many countries are not paying their fair share. That means we are protecting them and they are
getting all sorts of military protection and other things.
And they're ripping off the United States. And they're ripping you off. I don't want to do that. Either they pay up, including for past
deficiencies, or they have to get out. And if it breaks up NATO, it breaks up NATO.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BREEDLOVE: So, Christiane, I think I can speak to what you want me to speak to. But let me be very clear, I'm not going to address any political
candidate's remarks specifically.
What I would like to do is talk about what I think is the value of NATO, obviously as the commander but, as importantly, as a young man who served
here in the early '80s, all the way now to the commander.
I've been in NATO for almost four decades. And what I have seen is NATO bring peace to an area where there was a lot of problems before. What I've
seen is this great alliance serve peace in this area.
I've seen this great alliance serve for the reunification of Germany, a nation I've lived in five times and my two daughters were born in. And all
of this goodness coming from an alliance that is very capable and performs well, 28 nations for 28 --
BREEDLOVE: -- with partners, to bring this very peaceful situation. Now it hasn't been perfect. We've seen the Balkans. We've seen some of the
other challenges but, by and large, the kind of wars that happened before, NATO has done a wonderful job of bringing peace, stability and prosperity
to Europe -- Europe, which was torn apart in two world wars.
So I disagree with the notion that this alliance holds no value. I think it holds great value. And I think that it will perform into the future as
it has performed in the past.
AMANPOUR: One of your big challenges is Afghanistan. And there has been a real spike in fighting there. And we've seen all sorts of attacks just
this week. And you're facing a deadline for a withdrawal of troops and a drawdown of troops.
Do you have enough time to do one of the things you really want to do and that is train the Afghan soldiers properly to be able to take over in the
event that you actually do all pull out?
BREEDLOVE: And what we have talked about in relation to the mission is the need to remain for a certain amount of time, connected to these cores in
the force folks that we have in Afghanistan and to continue to be able to train, advise and assist, TAA, these cores in the disparate parts of
And they are facing a tough challenge. I believe they continue to react well, not perfectly, but well. We still see the challenges that we knew
they were going to have: to build an air force that is able to bring close air support, medevac, et cetera, to a nation doesn't happen quickly.
I often joke when people ask me, how long does it take to build an aviator with 10 years' of experience?
It takes 10 years to build an aviator with 10 years of experience. So we have work to do in some of these key enabling capabilities that we need to
bring to Afghanistan.
AMANPOUR: As things stand right now, the U.S. forces are going to at least due to be nearly halved to just over 5,000 from the current level of nearly
10,000. And this would be by the beginning of the next year, 2017.
Now we understand that U.S. officials say that the training mission, if this happens, would not be able to continue.
BREEDLOVE: It would not continue in the same fashion that it's continuing in now. I think we would have to agree with that. If you take a fairly
sizeable cut, the mission will have to change in some way.
But we're looking at options now to retain that connectivity to the cores, providing enablers and possibly other nations providing more troops, et
cetera, et cetera, all of these still very preliminary.
But what we're looking at are those options to continue the mission which we think is important, which is to train, advise, assist to the core level
AMANPOUR: General Breedlove, thanks for joining us tonight.
BREEDLOVE: Thank you, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: And coming up, imagine a world where Cuba's towering political monument makes an exit while some of its cultural ones make a comeback.
AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine a world where the queen turns a grandmotherly 90 years old while Cuba's revolutionary hero, Fidel Castro,
takes a much more curmudgeonly view of reaching that same age, telling the Communist Party that he'll soon die but his Communist ideals must endure.
So as he exited the political stage far, far left, his farewell speech flew in the face of massive change, with Obama's opening to Havana and a rising
tide of youthful hopes and expectations.
Still Fidel managed to rail at President Obama's groundbreaking visit last month. But Havana's other crumbling monuments are getting a facelift,
thanks to American architects, 150 of them, helping their Cuban colleagues save Havana's glorious heritage, which dates back many centuries and
It's even a UNESCO cultural site. But lack of funds have seen two-thirds of historic Havana buildings fall into disrepair, though foreign help has
already raised many of them from the dead.
Fidel may warn that an American influx will ruin Cuba's identity. For now, though, it seems, it might just be saving it.
And that's it for our program tonight. Remember, you can listen to our podcast, see us online at amanpour.com and follow me on Facebook and
Twitter. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.