Return to Transcripts main page
Syrian Rebels Suspend Peace Talks; Trump Continues to Question Russian Hacking; Will 2016's Populist Wave Roll On?; Myanmar's Rohingya Refugees. Aired 11-11:30p ET
Aired January 3, 2017 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[23:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Tonight, the Syrian opposition pulls out of the Russia/Turkey peace plan and the United States has been
left out in the cold. In the reigning days of the Obama administration, I go around the world with U.S. State Department Spokesman John Kirby.
Plus, will 2016's populous wave roll on? With three big elections at stake for Europe in 2017, I speak to one of the rare politicians speaking up for
liberal economic world order. The rising Dutch star MEP Marietje Schaake.
Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christian Amanpour in London.
It is the final countdown for the Obama administration as a new world order looms on the horizon. In less than 20 days, Donald Trump moves into the
Oval Office amid unfinished business at home and around the world and growing global uncertainty.
In Syria, for instance, the opposition has suspended its part in planned peace negotiations telling us that both the Syrian regime and its Iran-
backed allies are violating the truce. The United States wasn't even invited to those talks which had been planned by Russia and Turkey.
Setting up a solution that could look far, far different than one the West and even Turkey touted when the Syria war began nearly six years ago.
So what does this all mean for the Obama legacy? Especially for the indefatigable negotiator Secretary of State, John Kerry. His spokesman,
John Kirby, joins me from the State Department in Washington.
And welcome to the program.
JOHN KIRBY, SPOKESMAN, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT: Thank you, Christiane. Good to be with you.
AMANPOUR: I did say a new world order is looming on the horizon, and certainly if you listen to the president-elect, he wants to create a new
world order. Is that the feeling you're all getting at the State Department?
KIRBY: Well, I think I'd leave it to the president-elect to determine sort of how he wants to approach foreign policy. It is clear, and you mentioned
this in your introduction that there is growing global uncertainty out there.
Certainly, we're seeing a very dynamic security environment all over the world, whether it's the Middle East or the Asia Pacific region. There's a
lot of change going on and there is a rise in nationalism and populism that is driving some foreign policy decisions by what will soon be President-
elect Trump's counterparts in other countries.
But, I mean, these are, these are heady times and these are certainly times to be focussed on the foreign policy agenda very, very strongly. And, of
course, those are his decisions, but we stand by and ready to provide them any context that he might need as he gets ready to take office.
AMANPOUR: Well, what do you think he's going to take from the fact that right now the Syria end game seems to be being organized by Russia and
Turkey with Assad playing a very key role and as we can see, it's not even sure it's going to happen. The rebels have pulled out. The truce doesn't
look to be holding.
AMANPOUR: But if it does, the U.S. isn't even at the table. How did things get to this point?
KIRBY: Well, I think it's very simple. They got to this point because russia was not able or certainly not willing, and in many cases both, to
meet their own commitments. Commitments that they signed up to at the U.N. Commitments they signed up to in Geneva, not once, but twice. Commitments
they signed up to in Vienna, Christiane.
We had many opportunities to try to get a better outcome in Syria, a political solution, a cease fire that could hold, but Russia wasn't able to
use their influence on the Assad regime to get that end achieved. So now we are where we are. And you're right.
United States was not involved in brokering this latest cessation of hostilities. You're also right that it's not holding in every place around
Syria and we are seeing the same sort of thing unfold as what unfolded earlier, which is that Assad and its backers including Iran are simply
taking advantage of whatever temporary cease fire there is to continue pounding the opposition. And the opposition is doing what it has done in
the past, which is, say, well, look, if you're going to keep bombing us and hitting us, then obviously this cease fire is meaningless and we're going
to go on and keep fighting.
AMANPOUR: But let me ask you again about Russia. Because, obviously, the great big situation right now is about the Russian hacking. Did it affect
the elections in the United States? And the blowback from the Obama administration sanctions.
Are you absolutely sure about this? And why does the president-elect keep saying he's not sure and how could the intelligence agencies be sure? Are
you absolutely sure?
KIRBY: President Obama and this administration is 100 percent certain in the role that Russia played in trying to sow doubt and confusion and
getting involved through the cyber domain into our electoral process. There's no question about that. And that's not just an assessment by the
president or by Secretary Kerry or other candidates. It's an assessment by the entire intelligence community.
[23:05:14] The information is there and is rock solid. And we obviously would not have pursued the measures that we pursued without that level of
certainty. So, yes, we are 100 percent certain.
AMANPOUR: So that's pretty definite. 100 percent certain. And some are saying that the Obama sanctions were sort of a name and shame and to just
show to the Russians and the Russian people that you do have 100 percent certainty.
But what do you make and what does the State Department make of President- elect Trump calling Vladimir Putin's decision not to retaliate very smart?
Do you -- what kind of a relationship do you see right now in the offing between America and Russia?
KIRBY: Difficult to say. Look, I mean, our relationship with russia is complicated as it is right now, Christiane. And it's not like there
haven't been times over the last eight years when we've been able to cooperate with Russia on a number of things.
The Iran deal, climate change, the Paris agreement. And what we had hope for a long time was on Syria, because Russia was a founding member of the
International Syria Support Group. But we also have major differences with Russia and we're not afraid to state it when we do and we're not afraid to
call it like we see it. Just as the president did last week with respect to their intrusions over cyber into our electoral process.
I would also tell you that part of the reason why the president made the decisions he made last week was because of what has become increasing
harassment of U.S. diplomats in Moscow, following them, publishing personal information online, intimidating them, false police stops. I mean, all
this stuff has been building over a year.
So the relationship with them is very, very complicated. Is it where we wanted it to be or want it to be? Of course not. And I'll leave it to the
next team to come in to determine how they want to go ahead with Russia and if they can forge a better, more constructive relationship, well, then, you
know, certainly that is in their purview. And I think, obviously, a better, more productive bilateral relationship with Russia is good for the
United States and for Russia. As a matter of fact, it's good for the world.
AMANPOUR: Many have said that North Korea is going to provide the most serious threat. And indeed Kim Jong-un, the leader, has said that they can
quite soon have a U.S.-reaching intercontinental ballistic missile, and we know that they are working on tipping that with a nuke.
Now, Donald Trump has tweeted that it won't happen. Also following up, he says, China has been taking out massive amounts of money and wealth from
the U.S. in totally one-sided trade, but won't help with North Korea.
KIRBY: Yes. So let's back up a little bit here. Obviously, we're watching closely what North Korea is trying to develop in terms of
ballistic missile technology as well as nuclear capabilities. Both of which, as you know, prohibited by the U.N. Security Council in numerous
In fact, the most recent one laid the most stringent set of sanctions on them in the past 20 years. I would also add that China voted for those
resolutions. China voted for those sanctions, the most recent ones and China has said publicly that they are going to implement those sanctions.
And that's our expectations of them. That's our expectation of every member that signed on to that Security Council resolutions.
Certainly, we're going to do our part. China has unique influence and leadership in the region, particularly when it comes to Pyongyang. And we
look as we have look to China to exert that leadership going forward.
Now, obviously, it is imperative that North Korea not gain these capabilities, because of the danger posed to the region, the peninsula and
certainly to our own west coast. And that's why we've worked so hard inside the international community to put the pressure on Pyongyang to
make the right decisions.
We also have and you notice, Christiane, we have the Asia Pacific rebound also has a military component. So, you know, better than half of the
United States Navy is position in the Pacific region now over the last several years. With tremendous capabilities at the ready to prevent,
deter, certainly to try to stop any potential attack by Pyongyang on any of their neighbors, including us.
And we've also got other forces now in the region that we didn't have just a few years ago. So there's a lot that we have done to try to push
Pyongyang into a better place than they are right now. I'll leave it to the next administration again to determine how they're going to do this,
but this is something important remember that the whole international community is galvanize now like it never was before.
This isn't just a U.S. concern, it's a concern by all our allies and partners, the entire international community, including I would add China.
AMANPOUR: And let me just go quickly back to the Middle East, because a brewing controversy, crisis potentially between Israel, Palestine and the
We have the president-elect saying that he wants to move the embassy to Jerusalem. Like many presidents have, but none has actually done it.
[23:10:10] Apparently, according to Kellyanne Conway, his chief strategist and senior aide, there are moves afoot for this to happen.
Can you see that happening? I mean, obviously, it must be going through the transition process at the State Department. What's going on?
KIRBY: We've not seen any -- we're not privy to any moves, any decisions or efforts, active efforts to go ahead and move the embassy. If that's
happening, and I'm certainly in no position to judge here. We're not aware of specific moves that are being made to that end.
Our position has been and remains that moving the embassy is not constructive to the peace process. It's not the right thing to do, and we
maintain, you know, that that is the policy not just that we've had, but previous administrations have had before us, and we think is wise.
AMANPOUR: On that note, Spokesman John Kirby, thank you so much for joining us from the State Department.
KIRBY: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.
AMANPOUR: Thank you.
And when we come back, after a year of political upheaval, the tumultuous elections still to come.
Three major European elections will have to deal with the populist surge, and what will the results look like?
First up, the Netherlands, and I speak to the Dutch politician fighting the assault on liberal values at home and around Europe. That's next.
AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.
2016 was a year of stunning political upsets from Brexit to Trump. Will 2017 bring more of the same? Or will the pendulum settle?
Germany, France and the Netherlands all hold important elections this year and far right populists are strong challengers in all three of them. But
one rising Dutch star is doing something rare these days, making a passionate and public case for liberalism and globalization.
Marietje Schaake is a member of the European parliament and she is part of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. And she tells me that
she is not taking these assaults lying down.
AMANPOUR: Marietje Schaake, welcome to the program.
Liberalism under threat, all these surveys showing that it's losing ground all over Europe and that impatience and frustration with the EU is rising.
So why are you going for broke? I mean, coming out there and defending liberalism, free trade, globalization?
MARIETJE SCHAAKE, DUTCH MEMBER OF EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT: Well, I actually believe that although there are a lot of issues we need to improve, that we
also have reason to be self-confident. That what we have established, the quality of life that people in Europe enjoy since the Second World War is
also a reason to cherish the values that we've been able to secure, the freedoms that people enjoy.
And so while I think we have to solve the challenges in terms of economic growth, greater security, sustainability, we also have a lot to be proud
of, and we must stand before them and not allow others to only fight against.
AMANPOUR: The European Commission of Frans Timmermans has said "For 2017, if we do not want to experience the political equivalent of that movie "The
Hangover," waking up one morning on the floor with a giant tattoo on your face and a tiger in the bathroom wondering what happened. We need to act."
So very colorful, very visual sort of call to arms.
[23:15:15] How specifically do you act? Because just criticizing for instance populism or the far right that espouses this populism and
nationalism hasn't worked.
SCHAAKE: Well, I agree. It's too simple to only look at what the populists are doing wrong in terms of not offering solutions. And these
are not the sexy one liners, not the emotional terms that we do hear from, you know, President-elect Trump or other newcomers on the stage.
They paint the world in very simple terms, while I think it is the only truthful thing to say is that it's complex and that easy solutions sound
attractive but are very difficult to realize.
AMANPOUR: But it's not just Donald Trump and the obvious Brexiters and the others who have now won elections based on these kinds of campaigns.
It is even center righters like Angela Merkel, like Francois Fillon in France who is challenging for this next election. Even your own prime
minister, Mr. Rutte, have all sort of started tacking at least vocally and sometimes legislatively to the far right.
In the Netherlands, your country, there's a sort of a partial Burka ban that's been proposed by the prime minister. Angela Merkel talked about,
you know, banning the full veil. I mean, this signs like they are attacking to that side. Is that what we're going to see?
SCHAAKE: Well, I do think we see a hallowing out of the center of European societies. Indeed, the conservatives moving to the right, labor-minded
parties moving to the left in order to challenge these more nationalistic, populistic, isolationist parties, but I don't think that's the answer.
Instead I believe the center of open societies have to be strengthened and come together and cooperate in order to cooperate on solutions that work
We still have so much work to do when it comes to providing actual security for people by managing the whole migration question, allowing people that
have the right to asylum in, but ensuring that terrorists do not have the free movement in Europe and to take away people's fears that way. It
doesn't help to just blame massive groups of people, but we need real security solutions that requires cooperation in Europe that does not exist
AMANPOUR: And, again, of course, in your country, the Burka ban was passed by parliament.
AMANPOUR: But let's go and stay in your country. Right now, a poll says that the Wilders party, the party for freedom would get the biggest amount
if there was an election, 21 percent, 16 percent for the ruling party right now, 10 percent for your party, and on and on it goes.
This is what Geert Wilders told me at the Republican National Convention in July.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEERT WILDERS, DUTCH POLITICIAN: First, get out of the European Union. Second, make sure that when it comes to the immigration of Islamic
countries that there will be a full stop.
Second, if people with double nationality and most of the Muslims in Holland have a double nationality, if they commit a crime and they are
unfortunately overrepresented in the crime statistics, we should denaturalize them and send them out of our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So that's what he would do if he was prime minister. And particularly he said get out of the EU. Is this going to be the year that
populism breaks up the EU?
SCHAAKE: Well, we will fight, and I will fight with my heart and soul and all the energy I have to avoid that. To avoid the hangover after the Dutch
elections, to make sure that young people come out to vote.
First-time voters are a generation that haven't experienced war, and it's actually a luxury that a lot of them I don't think appreciate. We should
get women out to vote. In Austria, they made a decisive difference in the presidential vote. So we will focus on avoiding this kind of outcome and
avoiding huge results for Geert Wilders who designs the proposal he just mentioned has put forward program points that would go directly against our
AMANPOUR: What about the Russian threat? It's been said that if Vladimir Putin sees a friend in the White House, he will have to turn his attention
to another bogeyman, and perhaps that's Europe, perhaps that's Angela Merkel.
What is this threat that you see from Russia to Europe?
SCHAAKE: Well, I do see that Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin are seeking to gain more and more influence in Europe. And, unfortunately, this has been
successful if we look at the prime minister of Hungary with his agenda of supporting illiberal democracy and let's think about what that means.
Not liberal democracy which I believe we must cherish and strengthen in Europe, but really a different streak of which we can wonder if it's actual
democracy at all. But one that Vladimir Putin actually embraces.
And on a number of issues such as EU foreign policy with one veto. The common position is blocked. So if the Kremlin only has one ally, it means
there would be no sanctions adopted to hold Russia to account for the bombardments of people in Syria. It would mean that a lot of decisions
that we can only make together in Europe would be hindered and I think we must avoid that and not be naive about what the impact of Russian
influencing in Europe can be.
[23:20:20] AMANPOUR: You have tweeted quite stringently about Russia. You know, somebody wrote breaking news, Russia vetoes whatever it is, and you
said, well, it would be breaking news if Russia didn't veto a peace plan.
AMANPOUR: Right now, the future of Syria looks to be being decided by Russia and Turkey. I mean, that's a major setback for the west. It's a
vision that doesn't look anything like what the west had proposed five and a half years ago when this war started.
SCHAAKE: No, I agree. And I think what has happened in Syria is the stain on our generation. I think it is extraordinary that the EU has not stepped
up more while it is clear that the flows of refugees and the tensions coming from the way in which we should shelter them and the fears that some
people have have disrupted Europe.
They have helped nationalist parties share their story of fear, and at the same time there is, until today, not a common position on Syria between EU
member states. Recently, Matteo Renzi in Italy stopped a common position to have sanctions imposed on Russia for its role of bombarding civilians in
I think it is a disgrace we have not even managed to be organized more firmly and to stand for principles and to prevent this war from escalating
So if nothing else, we must now focus on ensuring mechanisms for accountability and not allowing Iran, Russia, Turkey to be the key players
of how this terrible and bloody conflict gets resolved because it would not be in our interest, and we should be at the table not allow a vacuum for
others to be filled.
AMANPOUR: So interesting.
Marietje Schaake, thank you so much for joining us this evening.
SCHAAKE: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: So refugees and immigration rocking politics in Europe and in Asia, too, when Myanmar continues to earn black marks for its treatment of
the Rohingya, its Muslim minority.
Imagine the devastating human cost. That's next.
AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, we imagine the world of the Rohingyas, Myanmar's Muslim minority.
Just this week, new video allegedly showing police brutally beating a group of Rohingyas has triggered a government investigation. This in a country
whose leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner has long been criticized for ignoring their plight.
But just as these haunting pictures of toddler refugee Aylan Kurdi washed up on a beach in Turkey triggered widespread outrage back in 2016. In
Bangladesh, our Saima Mohsin found the death of another little boy just like Aylan. It tells the tragic story of Myanmar's Rohingyas desperately
searching for a safe port in the storm. And some of the images are upsetting.
[23:25:13] SAIMA MOHSIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's an image no father wants to receive. A child just a year of life
lived before attended.
ZAFOR ALAM, ROHINGYA REFUGEE (through translator): When I think about it, I feel like I'm suffocating, I can't breathe properly. When I see these
photos, I feel like I would rather die. There's no point in me living in this world.
MOHSIN: His name was Mohammed Shahayet (ph), a Rohingya boy who drowned along with his 3-year-old brother, Shafayet (ph) and their mother, too
young to understand the persecution they were escaping, or why their desperate parents risked such a treacherous journey.
ALAM (through translator): My son was very affectionate. In our village, everyone loved him. It's very difficult for me to talk about my son.
MOHSIN: Now all he has is photos of their corpses, staring at them speechless. A family life that was torn apart, he says, when the Myanmar
military rampaged through his village.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): My house was burnt. My grandfather and my grandmother was burnt to death. The whole village was
burnt by the military.
MOHSIN: He said he fled his home and walked for six days and nights, going without food for four days. His priority, he says, was to keep his family
alive. Zafor made it to the Bangladesh border and arranged for a boat to bring his family across the Naaf River to safety. Instead it brought them
to their death.
ALAM (through translator): When police got a sense that people were preparing to cross the river, they opened fire. People rushed on board to
escape. The boat was overloaded. The military kept shooting at the boat, then it sank.
MOHSIN: In response, Myanmar's government tells CNN Zafor's testimony is propaganda and false. The government's repeatedly denied reports of human
rights abuses saying they were only carrying out clearance operations to target violent attackers who killed nine border guards on October 9th.
ALAM (through translator): When we are getting killed, Aung San Suu Kyi is turning a blind eye. She is denying the atrocities committed by the
military. The Burmese government should not be given any more time.
MOHSIN: Twenty-seven-year-old Zafor says he's alone in this world after his family were wiped out. This is where he calls home now, surrounded by the
children that did survive.
Saima Mohsin, CNN.
AMANPOUR: And that's how we end our program tonight, with the plight of the world's neediest.
Remember, you can always listen to our podcast. You can see us online anytime at Amanpour.com and follow me on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you
for watching and good-bye from London.