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Syria Violence Continues Despite Cease-Fire; Saudi Foreign Minister on Relations with Iran; Imagine a World. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired February 19, 2016 - 14:00   ET




CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: a cease-fire in name only?

If anything, fighting in and around Syria has intensified since a deal to de-escalate was reached in Munich last week. My exclusive interview with a

key player, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir.


ADEL AL-JUBEIR, SAUDI FOREIGN MINISTER: Bashar al-Assad will leave. I have no doubt about it. He will either leave by a physical process or he

will be removed by force.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): Plus, on another war front: he denies reports that his nation uses cluster bombs in Yemen. That and other human rights



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

It is exactly a week since world powers seemed to have taken a step back from the brink, all sides agreeing to de-escalate the war in Syria and to

try to give peace talks a chance.

But was it a case of one step forward and two steps back?

The fighting has continued unabated, as has Russia's relentless bombing campaign that's aiding the Assad regime to advance, accused of hitting

hospitals and schools and worsening the massive humanitarian crisis.

Meanwhile, Turkey, which was struck by a terrorist bomb late this week, threatens to send in ground troops and has already started airstrikes to

stop territorial gains by Kurds.

Saudi Arabia, which backs the opposition to the Assad regime and is a key player, says it will put boots on the ground in Syria in the unlikely event

that the U.S. decides to lead an intervention.

It's been a busy week for Saudi Arabia in general. On opposite sides in Syria, they are on the same side as Russia over oil policy; Riyadh and

Moscow agreed this week to cut oil production to try to halt the freefall in oil prices.

As for their intervention in Yemen's civil war, Saudi Arabia has come under sharp criticism for human rights abuses there and, indeed, also at home.

When I sat down with foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir at the Munich security conference, we talked about all these crucial issues, beginning with the

unstoppable war in Syria.


AMANPOUR: Foreign minister, welcome to the program.

AL-JUBEIR: Thank you. Good to be here.

AMANPOUR: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates has said that they want to or are prepared to introduce ground troops into Syria.

Is that so?

Are you on the brink of or prepared to or planning to send ground troops to Syria?

AL-JUBEIR: Yes. What we said is that if the international coalition against daish, which we are a part of and have been since the very

beginning, decides that it will introduce ground troops to Syria in addition to the current air campaign, we have said that the kingdom of

Saudi Arabia is prepared to contribute special forces to this effort.

AMANPOUR: I wonder of what you make of what the Russian prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, said and I don't know whether Sergey Lavrov, the foreign

minister, repeated it, but if Saudi Arabia --


AMANPOUR: -- or other Gulf nations introduce troops into Syria, there will be a new world war in Syria.

AL-JUBEIR: I believe that's an exaggeration. The international coalition was operating in Syria since September of 2014. The Russians entered in

order to fight daish, ISIS; the Russia entered into Syria this fall in order to support Bashar al-Assad.

AMANPOUR: What is your assessment of the strength of Bashar al-Assad now, given the 3.5 months of Russian airstrikes that have supported him?

AL-JUBEIR: I believe Bashar al-Assad is weak and I believe Bashar al-Assad is finished and I believe Bashar al-Assad has no future in Syria.

Bashar al-Assad butchered, massacred and killed his people, men, women and children. And his military couldn't save him, so he prevailed upon the

Iranians to come and support him, who sent their Quds Forces and the Revolutionary Guards and they, in turn, couldn't save him.

So Iran and Bashar al-Assad mobilized Hezbollah, Shia militias from Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan. And they, in turn, couldn't save him. And now we

have Russia going into Syria in support of Bashar al-Assad. And they will not be able to save him.

The man who is responsible for the murder of 300,000-plus people, the displacement of 12 million people, the destruction of a country, is a man

with absolutely no future in this country.

AMANPOUR: And yet, you've all been sitting around a table for hours and the word that has come out is that there is a potential de-escalation

underway; there's a potential for humanitarian aid and a lifting of the sieges.

Do you think that's serious?

Do you think that that is likely to happen?

And do you think, in that case, the political talks, the Geneva process, will get underway again, as the U.N. wants later this month?

AL-JUBEIR: We have always said there are two ways to resolve Syria. And they both involve the removal of Bashar al-Assad.

One way is by way of a political process, through the Vienna process, based on the Geneva 1 principles, where we have established an interim governing

council that takes power away from Bashar al-Assad and then manages the affairs of the country, writes a constitution, holds elections and moves

Syria towards a new future, without any room for Bashar al-Assad.

That would be the preferable way because it would spare lives and it could be done more efficiently. This is what we're trying to do in the talks we

had yesterday.

The other alternative, should this first alternative fail, is by force. Bashar al-Assad would leave, have no doubt about it. He will either leave

by a physical process or he will be removed by force. The Syrian people will not accept him being in power.

AMANPOUR: The conflict or the adversarial relationship between Iran and Saudi Arabia has, many people said, really poisoned the atmosphere around

the region, that it makes everything that much more difficult. I wonder if you could respond to an interview or at least part of an interview I did

with your Iranian counterpart, Javad Zarif. Take a listen.


JAVAD ZARIF, FOREIGN MINISTER, IRAN: We do not have a fight to pick with Saudi Arabia. We don't expect or we are not interested even in pushing

Saudi Arabia out of this region, because Saudi Arabia is an important player in this region.

Unfortunately, the Saudis have had the illusion that, backed by their Western ally, they could Iran out of the equation in the region.


AL-JUBEIR: I find it comic that the foreign minister of the country that is single-handedly responsible for the mischief in the region for the past

35 years would say this.

We have had no hostile intentions towards Iran. We have not tried to exploit Iran's sectarianism. We have not tried to exploit Iran's

minorities. We have not assassinated Iranian diplomats or blown up Iranian embassies.

We have not smuggled explosives in Iran. We have not planted terrorist cells inside Iran.

It's Iran that has established Hezbollah in Lebanon, the world's number one terrorist organization. It's Iran that is fighting to keep a brutal

dictator, responsible for the death of 300,000 Syrians and the displacement of 12 million, in power.

And it is Iran that has mobilized sectarian militias from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, to support this dictator, not Saudi Arabia.

AMANPOUR: And yet, you are, around the table, in the support group, as the principals around the table, can you compartmentalize that and move this

process forward?

Or how does that, what you've just said, play out around the table?

AL-JUBEIR: We have always said that we would like to have good relations with Iran. Iran is our neighbor. They have been our neighbor for the past

5,000 years and will remain our neighbor for the next 5,000 years. It's a fact of geography.

But neighbors have to live with each other based on the principle of good neighborliness --


AL-JUBEIR: -- and the principle of noninterference in the affairs of others. We have no ill will towards Iran. We have committed no aggression

against Iran. We have been on the receiving end of it.

So if Iran changes its behavior, acts like a normal country, stops interfering in the affairs of other countries, then, yes, it will be able

to come in of the neighborhood and the international community.

AMANPOUR: Do you think America is leading enough in the solution to the end of the war in Syria?

AL-JUBEIR: America is playing a role, a big role, in the International Syrian Support Group. The U.S. has been supportive of the Syrian

opposition and has been -- has worked with a number of countries in order to enhance their capabilities. And the U.S. has played a big role in terms

of trying to arrive at the political process.

AMANPOUR: Big enough?

AL-JUBEIR: That is for the Americans to decide. But from my perspective, no country, including Saudi Arabia, can play a big enough role.


AMANPOUR: When we come back, more of my exclusive interview with Adel al- Jubeir as he hits back against international criticism of Saudi Arabia's human rights record.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

Saudi Arabia has long been criticized for its human rights record, whether imprisoning and executing dissidents and terrorists, torturing bloggers

like the now-famous Raif Badawi, or indeed discriminating against women and religious minorities.

And just this week, Human Rights Watch released a report accusing Saudi Arabia of using cluster bombs in Yemen. Foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir

strongly denies all these accusations and hits back in the second part of our exclusive interview.


AMANPOUR: Saudi Arabia is involved in Yemen. Hundreds if not thousands, in fact, of civilians have been killed as well as militias. The U.N. and

other groups have basically said that there's indiscriminate airstrikes on a lot of civilians -- and you know MSF blames Saudi Arabia for the bombing

of one of its hospitals.

What do you have to say about the charges about indiscriminate bombing and civilian casualties?

AL-JUBEIR: There are two parts to this. One is, it is going very well. We had a situation where a militia that is allied with Iran and Hezbollah

took over a country; the militia that is in possession of heavy weapons, ballistic missiles and an air force. Even Hezbollah doesn't have an air

force. So that presented a clear and present danger to Saudi Arabia and our neighbors.

We had a legitimate government of Yemen that was about to be destroyed, asked for help and we went in. This was not a war of choice. This was a

war of necessity.

So we went in, defended the legitimate government, removed, to a large extent, the threat from the missiles and the air force that would have

presented itself to Saudi Arabia.

And we have worked over time in order to capture more territory and hand it over to the legitimate government. And the government is now in control of

roughly 75 percent of the territory.


AMANPOUR: When do you think this will be done?

AL-JUBEIR: Nobody can predict when wars end.

AMANPOUR: And what about the civilians?

AL-JUBEIR: I will get to this in a moment.

It's been proceeding, according to plan, a little longer but such is the nature of war.

With regard to civilian casualties, a lot of this is overblown. We have been very careful in how we use our military. We record our aircraft, the

operations, both audio and video. We ensure that we minimize civilian casualties.


AL-JUBEIR: There have been mistakes. When there have been mistakes, we investigate. We acknowledge wrongdoing and we put in place procedures to

ensure that it doesn't happen again.

Many of the charges, Christiane, that people have leveled at Saudi Arabia, especially rights organizations, have been unfounded, if not outright lies.

They accuse us of bombing the old city of Yemen, of Sanaa; turned out to be not the case.

They accused us of bombing a U.N. building; turned out to be not the case. They accused us of bombing a wedding party, in which more than 100 people

died; turned out not to be the case.

And when the Houthis attack Saudi cities with missiles and mortar and kill Saudis, I haven't seen one of these organizations criticize them for it.

There's a report by Human Rights Watch about Saudi Arabia using cluster bombs. This is not correct.

AMANPOUR: Obviously, you've had a lot of criticism over the treatment of women. You know the Swedish foreign minister has been persona non grata

because of her criticism of some of the actions domestically.

But what about the blogger, Raif Badawi, and what about people like that, who have done nothing but writing and blogging and have been lashed and

have been put in prison and have created a lot of sympathy overseas?

What is his fate?

AL-JUBEIR: His fate is in the courts and the courts will make a decision and, in Saudi Arabia, our courts are independent and whatever the decisions

of the courts are, that will be respected.

We're a sovereign country. We have our legal system. We expect people to respect it, just like we respect their legal systems.

AMANPOUR: But you understand why it creates so much criticism, and in a way, antipathy?

AL-JUBEIR: A lot of the cases that creates criticism tend to be misunderstood in terms of what the actual legal issues are. A lot of the

cases, a lot of times, people, when it comes to Saudi Arabia, come to conclusions before they go through the facts. A lot of times it's based on

incomplete information.

But whatever the story is, nobody, nobody has a right to criticize the legal system of Saudi Arabia, except the Saudi people.

AMANPOUR: Part of the recent outrage against Saudi Arabian judiciary is the unprecedented number of executions. I believe 47, including the Shiite

cleric, which caused so much hullabaloo in Iran and around the world.

It just looks bad, 47 people being executed. The world can't understand it. Your allies don't understand it and your adversaries don't understand


AL-JUBEIR: They were terrorists.

AMANPOUR: All of them?

AL-JUBEIR: They were put on trial. The trials were available to the public, including the media. They went through three levels of trials.

They went through the appeals process, to the Supreme Court. They were reviewed. The evidence was overwhelmingly against them.

One of the people, for example, who was put to death was the man responsible for attacking the U.S. consulate in Jeddah that resulted in the

death of a number of people.

Others who were put to death were the ones responsible for the bombings in Riyadh in 2003, in three housing compounds, that resulted in the deaths of

a number of people. All of them were terrorists.

We have the death penalty. We make no bones about it. America has the death penalty. I don't see people complaining about the United States

having a death penalty.

With regards to the cleric, he is as much a cleric as Osama bin Laden was a cleric. He was a terrorist. He recruited, he financed, he plotted, he

executed. His actions led to the deaths of a number of police officers in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

AMANPOUR: The world looks at the very hardline version of Sunni Islam that is in Saudi Arabia and they ask whether you accept and understand that,

that it's my way or the highway, I'm the only one who knows the truth and everybody else is a heretic worthy of being killed, these are the people

from who ISIS recruits.

These are the people who are the footsoldiers and the brigades of the worst kinds of terrorists around the world.

AL-JUBEIR: That's not correct, Christiane. Nobody in Saudi Arabia says this. This is absolutely not correct. The people --


AMANPOUR: People around the world are asking about the inspiration that this kind of hardline Islam gives to the terrorists.

AL-JUBEIR: The people that ISIS recruits are from all over the world. We have been attacked by ISIS, by daish, five times in the past year.

Baghdadi wants to take over Saudi Arabia, like in Medina. They are our sworn enemy. Nothing in the Islamic faith condones the killing of the


AMANPOUR: I didn't say the Islamic faith. I said these particular people, who form the foot soldiers of this terrorist group.

AL-JUBEIR: They're not Saudi. It's outrageous to say that these people or their ideology comes from Saudi Arabia, absolutely outrageous.

We have a large number of foreigners living in Saudi Arabia, many of them non-Muslims. We have a country that's open to people: conservative, yes;

violent, no. We've had no terrorism until recently in Saudi Arabia.


AL-JUBEIR: We are a victim of this. Our religious scholars have condemned this, they reject this; our people have rejected. We have suffered attacks

by ISIS and, before that, Al Qaeda.

For people to say that Saudi Arabia is the one that's promoting this --

AMANPOUR: Not the Saudi government, I'm talking about the foot soldiers, I'm talking about the ideology and the philosophy that are very hardline --

AL-JUBEIR: What ideology and what philosophy?

AMANPOUR: Wahhabi, Salafism...

AL-JUBEIR: We have a country. We have 250,000 of young men and women studying all over the world on government scholarships.

Is this intolerance?

Fifty-five percent of our college students are women.

Is this intolerance?

I think this is misplaced.

AMANPOUR: Foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir, thank you very much indeed for joining me.

AL-JUBEIR: You're welcome. Always a pleasure.


AMANPOUR: And with human rights in focus, coming up next, the heart- warming story of a child refugee who escaped Nazi persecution and turned herself into a billionaire tech entrepreneur. Dame Stephanie Shirley, all-

around inspiration: next.




country. I love England with a passion that perhaps only someone who had lost their human rights can feel.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, for a unique perspective on the refugee crisis ripping into Europe, we spoke this week to a World War II

Kindertransport survivor.

Stephanie Shirley escaped Nazi persecution aboard a special train that brought children here the to the U.K. on the eve of that war. She went

from 5-year-old refugee to multibillion-dollar tech entrepreneur.

Now a dame and in her 80s, Shirley is a philanthropist. And her autobiography, "Let It Go," is to be made into a film.

And if anyone can dispel the notion that refugees are just a drain on society, it's Dame Stephanie Shirley. In part two of our conversation, she

told me that, having received so much from this, her adopted country, she had no wish but to give back.


AMANPOUR: You are a prime example of somebody who came over here and gave back in spades. And you went on to be a phenomenal business woman. And

now you're a philanthropist.

How did you get to the business from being a refugee child?

SHIRLEY: I think when you go through some trauma in childhood like that, it drives your life for a long time, forever really.

And as far as I'm concerned, my Kindertransport experience left me with -- having dealt with that change and the trauma of that, I can deal with any

change that life throws at me.

And in my high-tech career, that was quite useful. I've learned to actually love change.

And so I studied, worked hard, studied at evening classes to get my degree, worked in the early computer industry and then set up my own software house

as a sort of crusade.

And it wasn't a crusade to make money, which Americans, I know, will expect me to say. But it was a crusade for women and for women who were then

second class citizens really. And I've had enough of being patronized, as a Jew, patronized as a woman and I really wanted to provide opportunities,

first --


SHIRLEY: -- for myself and for the many educated women.

AMANPOUR: You've already spent tens of millions of your own pounds on philanthropy, on special causes.

Why did you think you had to do that?

SHIRLEY: I feel that I was given so much.

What else can I do but give back?

I mean, people give different reasons, for religion or for insurance. But I feel that there's nothing else I can do. And so I support -- I try to be

very businesslike about my philanthropy.

So I support things that I know and care about. And there are only two, really, information technology, which is -- was my professional discipline

-- and autism, which was my late son's disorder.

And I started before he died. He died about 20 years ago now.

AMANPOUR: And we do actually have a picture of him right behind you there, you and your husband and your son.

SHIRLEY: He was a lovely baby. I mean, he was absolutely perfect and I know every mother says that.

But then at 2.5, he turned almost like a changeling, from a lovely, placid, somewhat too quiet -- being wise after the event -- baby into a wild,

unmanageable toddler.

He lost his speech and he never spoke again and things got -- it's a very perplexing disorder. Some people with autism are bright and they're

studying at Yale.

But my Gilesy was learning disabled, epileptic, without speech. His quality of life was not good. So we had quite a struggle to bring him up.

AMANPOUR: And he died in his sleep but because of the epilepsy.

SHIRLEY: He died from an epileptic fit when he was -- a seizure when he was asleep.

AMANPOUR: So you have put so much money into the foundation to try to figure it out. And in fact, you did say, I believe -- I think it was in

2014 of before -- that by 2014 you would discover the cause of autism and obviously you haven't.

SHIRLEY: Well, we now understand about 5 percent of the cases of autism, what causes it. We now know quite clearly that it is a genetic disorder,

that's very clear, but not entirely genetic. Something like 80-90 percent is genetic.

So we're still struggling with that and we've, in a sense, learned also that there's no cure for autism.


AMANPOUR: And that's it for our program tonight. Remember, you can now also listen to our podcast, always see us online at and follow

me on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.