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Interview With U.S. National Security Council Coordinator For Strategic Communications John Kirby; Interview With Attorney For Siamak Namazi Jared Genser; Interview With United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres; Interview With HIV/AIDS Scholar And Northwestern University Assistant Professor Steven Thrasher. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired September 18, 2023 - 13:00   ET




CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone. And welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.

Free at last. The nightmare is ending for five Americans detained in Iran. I speak with U.S. National Security Spokesman John Kirby about the deal to

bring them home. And to lawyer Jared Genser who represents the longest held, Siamak Namazi.

Then --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The secretary of the United Nations has no power and there's no money. What we have is a voice, and that voice can be loud.


AMANPOUR: -- as world leaders gather in New York for their annual U.N. summit. I speak to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres about breaking the

logjam on climate, peace and equality.

Plus --


We first became aware of HIV for more than 40 years now and it's a pandemic, it's still killing the better part of a million people for a



AMANPOUR: -- as Republicans in Congress target Georgia W. Bush's PEPFAR, one of the most successful of all time, Hari Sreenivasan speaks to the

scholar, Steven Thrasher, thrasher about the global fall-out.

Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in New York.

Five Americans detained in Iran are free and on their way to the United States. This morning, Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi, Morad Tahbaz and two who

were not named bordered a Qatari jet in Tehran landing in Doha before then traveling to Washington, D.C. It's all part U.S.-Iran agreement which also

includes the release of 6 billion in Iranian funds for humanitarian use.

This marks the end of a year's long nightmare for these detainees. I spoke with Siamak Namazi in March. He was so desperate that he called his program

from Iran's notorious Evin Prison.


SIAMAK NAMAZI, RELEASED PRISONER: I think the very fact that I've chosen to take this risk and appear on CNN from Evin Prison, it should just tell you

how dire my situation has become by this point. I've been a hostage for seven and a half years now. That's six times the duration of the hostage

crisis. I keep getting told I'm going to be rescued, and deals fall apart or I get left abandoned.

Honestly, the other hostages and I desperately need President Biden to finally hear us out, to finally hear our cry for help and bring us home.

AMANPOUR: How is everyday life for you there? How do you get through the days in Evin?

NAMAZI: Right. Look, there's only so much I'm comfortable saying on CNN about this.


NAMAZI: But I think the short answer is that I've always been made to feel that my very humanity has been taken away from me, not just my freedom.

Today, I'm in a general ward now. The situation in the general ward is far better than the corner of hell that I used to be in, in the detention

center. It's far from a pleasant place to be in, but everything becomes relative.

It's still extremely difficult to bear the very basic fact that I'm denied many of the rights of a prisoner because I'm a hostage. I don't know how to

convey that. I see hardened criminals. I see members of Daesh. I see people who -- human traffickers have more rights than I do. And I don't know, you



AMANPOUR: He endured eight years of that. And upon lands in Qatar, Siamak released a statement that says in part, as a hostage, 2,898 days of what

should have been the best days of my life were stolen from me and supplanted with torment. While in Evin Prison, I experienced the worst of

humanity every day. But outside those walls, there were countless people who reminded me of the best of humanity. They learned of our family's

suffering and, in innumerable small and big ways, contributed to the freedom.

Now, the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken commented on the release earlier today in an emotional statement.

ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: It's very good to be able to say that our fellow citizens are free after enduring something that I think it

would be difficult for any of us to imagine, that their families will soon have them back among them. And that in this moment, at least, I have

something very joyful to report.


AMANPOUR: But predictably, the deal has drawn some Republican pushback. For context, Republican administrations have also engaged in these prisoner

deals as well.

Joining us now is U.S. National Security Council Spokesman John Kirby. And just as we start our conversation, a source familiar with the matter tells

us that the Americans have departed Doha on a U.S. government plane. So, John Kirby, that is good news.

Amplify a little for us what was going on, do you think, behind the scenes in your administration when you knew that finally this deal was happening?

We heard from Secretary Blinken there.


months and months of work, Christiane, as you might imagine. And it really -- it just kind of came together over some recent weeks.

Now, the parameters of these negotiations always sort of morph and change as you get closer to the end, but as it came out, we think that this --

this was a tough decision by President Biden. It's never an easy decision to make these kinds of negotiations and to have to sit across the table

from some folks, but in order to get these Americans home, we're very, very glad to be able to get that done.

AMANPOUR: Do you know -- I know they underwent at least a cursory quick medical check over, they were given phones, they were able to talk. We

understand that the families also -- and the prisoners released talked to President Biden. So, there's been a lot going on in that hour that they

have spent or several hours on the tarmac in Doha. Do you know their condition at all?

KIRBY: The president did have a chance to speak to the families. And from what we understand, they're in relatively good health. I mean, but look,

they were kept in some abhorrent conditions. And so, we're not going to just take anything for granted. We'll make sure that they get access to

whatever medical and mental health care they need before they, you know, reintegrate back into society. But appear to be in relatively good health

and obviously very, very happy to be released. And we're looking forward to getting them back on U.S. soil.

AMANPOUR: And do you know anything -- I know they want to be private, but can you tell us anything about the two who are not named, how long they

have been held and what is their professions?

KIRBY: No. I'm afraid out of privacy concerns for those two individuals, we're going to try to keep as much detail out of the public eye as we can.

But they both were like the others, wrongfully detained by Iran. And again, we're really happy that we're able to get them too.

And I would add that it isn't just the five Americans that were wrongly detained, Christiane, two family members, the wife of one and the mother of

another, are also on that plane. So, in essence really seven Americans are coming home today.

AMANPOUR: They, of course, were not in jail, but apparently, they were not free to leave and they were, obviously, visiting --

KIRBY: That is right.

AMANPOUR: -- loved ones in jail. Now, we talked little bit about the politics of this. What do you say about the politics of this when certain

Republicans push back? Let me read you what Senator Lindsey Graham, the Republican said, I'm always glad when Americans are released from

captivity. However, this agreement will entice rogue regimes, like Iran, to take even more Americans hostage. The ayatollah and his henchmen are

terrorists and truly represent a terrorist state.

Well, we know that Republican administrations have engaged in these swaps as well. But what do you say to critics?

KIRBY: Well, we would say is, number one, let's focus on what really matters here today, and that's five Americans are going to be reunited.

Number two, it is not as if the taking of hostages or the detention wrongfully of Americans or foreigners is a new tactic by the regime, and

it's not just Iran that does this, there's other countries around the world that do this as well, including Russia.

So, it's difficult to say that this particular deal, this particular negotiation is somehow going to change the calculous in that regard. And

that is why the State Department has made it very, very clear that Americans, dual nationals in particular, should not be in Iran, should not

travel to Iran, should not be there. And if they can make their way out, they certainly should because it is a particularly dangerous place to go.

And then, number three, Christiane, it is also not like we're turning a blind eye to Iran's destabilizing behavior. The support for Russia and

their war in Ukraine, the attacks on maritime shipping, the support for terrorists' networks. I can go on and on and on. We sanctioned some

additional entities last week in Iran. We sanctioned some more today as a result of wrongful detention, and we will absolutely continue to hold Iran

accountable for their behavior and their conduct in the region.

AMANPOUR: So, I want to know how you will hold Iran accountable for the expenditure of the 6 billion? Now, let's be frank, it is not American

money, it was Iranian money that was prevented from being transferred for oil purchase by South Korea.


Now, those funds have been, you know, released to Qatar to be carefully used for humanitarian. But you know that President Raisi, who is in New

York right now, told NBC something different in Tehran. This is what he said.


EBRAHIM RAISI, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): This money belongs to the Islamic Republic of Iran. And naturally, we will decide -- the

Islamic Republic of Iran will decide to spend it wherever we need it.

LESTER HOLT, NBC NIGHTLY NEWS ANCHOR: So, if I hear you clearly, that it will be used for more than humanitarian purposes in your view?

RAISI (through translator): Humanitarian means whatever the Iranian people needs. So, this money will be budgeted for those needs. And the needs of

the Iranian people will be decided and determined by Iranian government.


AMANPOUR: So, is he threading a needle? Is he blustering? How do you guard against that?

KIRBY: I can't speak for how he came to couch it that way. But if he was trying to say that the regime will get access to this money directly, A, or

B, that they will be able to spend it on whatever they want, he's wrong both counts. The money will not go to the regime. They will not get their

hands on any of this. It will be managed in the Qatari National Bank system. They can ask for a withdraw for humanitarian goods or agricultural


The system is set up that we will, in concert, with the Qataris, we will apply it to vendors who will go purchase the material, medicine, food,

agricultural products, and then, we'll get it delivered into Iran. The regime will not be able to get their actual hands on this money.

And the other thing is, we can stop a transaction if we think that there's something awry with it and we can refreeze those funds if we think that

Iran is, over the long-term, going to try to cheat or divert the funds in any way that's inappropriate.

AMANPOUR: That's because the U.S. Treasury Department has eyes on all of this, right?

KIRBY: That is right. The Treasury Department. This money will be handled in accordance with the requirements that the Treasury Department had laid

on. So, we'll have visibility. The Qataris will have visibility. We'll be able to monitor how this money is being withdrawn and for what purpose, and

we will have ultimate approval authority over that purpose.

AMANPOUR: OK. So, obviously, everybody would like to hope that this means a bigger better relationship on crucial issues like nuclear, for instance.

Where does that stand right now? What is the Iranian understanding or your understanding of where enrichment is going to stay at? Do you have hope for

formal Iranian nuclear deal?

KIRBY: It's important to remember that this deal to get these Americans home is a separate issue done in a completely separate environment, through

a separate set of diplomatic initiatives. Not tied at all to the JCPOA or Iran's nuclear ambitions or quite frankly, their other destabilizing

activities. We are not -- this is not about trying to build some sort of rapprochement with Iran or to get us back into the Iran deal.

That said, the president has been consistent on two things. One, we're not going to allow Iran to ever acquire a nuclear weapon. And two, we'd love to

be able to solve that problem diplomatically. But short of diplomacy. And right now, the diplomatic efforts are more abundant. There's no effort to

get -- there's not effort at diplomatic negotiations over this.

So, in absent of that, we got to make sure that the president has all the options available to him. We have boosted our military capabilities in the

region. We'll make sure that we've got the kinds of capabilities and the options available to the president should we have to use them. Nobody wants

to go that route. Nobody is looking for conflict, of course. But right now, there's no diplomatic effort to get back into the Iran deal.

AMANPOUR: Can I just swerve onto another important issue for the administration and the world, and that is supporting Ukraine's defense.

We've seen polls that suggest, you know, more Americans now question U.S. aid to Ukraine. We know that the president and President Zelenskyy will

meet tomorrow at the U.N., both are speaking.

From your perspective, what do you expect to hear from Zelenskyy and what will the response be?

KIRBY: I think -- and again, I don't want to speak for President Zelenskyy, but I don't think it's a stretch to imagine that he's going to update the

International Community. And certainly, when he gets a chance to sit with President Biden on Thursday, update the president personally about how

their counteroffensive is going.

It is important to remember that they are making progress. It's not as fast or as far in some places as they would like, but they are making some

steady progress. And then number two, I think you'll hear from President Zelenskyy how much he continues to need international support. U.S.

leadership, obviously, has been key to getting them the arms and equipment that they need on the battlefield, but it's not just the United States.


In fact, just this week, Christiane, Secretary Austin at the Defense Department and chairman of the Joint Chiefs are meeting again in Ramstein,

Germany, more than 50 nations in this contact to develop options for additional support for Ukraine, whether that's in mine clearance, air

defense, also armorer and ammunition, including artillery. All of those things they still need. And I think you'll hear President Zelenskyy make a

very passionate case for why it's important for the International Community to stay behind him.

Now, you talked about the fact that some people are starting to worry about whether or not we can continue to do this. The support that we've been

getting on Capitol Hill, both bicameral and bipartisan way remains solid and strong. And the president expects that that support from Congress will


And we also know that the American people know that this isn't just about Ukraine. Certainly, first and foremost, it is without question, the

Ukrainian people matter first and foremost. But it's also about the greater security environment on the European continent. And what happens if Putin

just gets to do what he wants, if he just gets to take Ukraine? Where does it stop then? And the cost in blood and treasure to not just the United

States and the American people but to our allies and partners on Europe will be exorbitantly higher if we just walk away from supporting Ukraine

and their fight.

AMANPOUR: A powerful case, indeed. John Kirby, thank you very much indeed.

Now, Attorney Jared Genser represents detainee -- well, former detainee Siamak Namazi, and advocated tireless for his release. He's joining me now

from Geneva. Jared, welcome back to the program.


AMANPOUR: We have spoken several times about this. Just your feelings right now.

GENSER: I'm just filled with a lot of gratitude, candidly. It's been a long hard slog for the Namazi family, not just Siamak Namazi who was just

released today, but Bagher Namazi, detained as a 79-year-old grandfather who spent years as a hostage himself and almost died in Iran also.

And for the family to finally be able to come together for the first time since early 2015, it is just such an extraordinary miracle, candidly, given

that we had no idea if Bagher Namazi, who is now 86 years old would even live to see this day.

AMANPOUR: And of course, actually, all the formal hostages have -- and their families have released statements, all thanked the president, all are

delighted to have their loved ones back. What did -- if you've spoken to Siamak Namazi, I don't know whether you have --

GENSER: I have.

AMANPOUR: -- what did he say?

GENSER: Well, he and I have been spending a lot of time talking together over many, many years.


GENSER: And most especially in the last number of weeks in the run-up to this day. And he called me from, you know, the tarmac before they took off.

And when, you know, they landed, I saw him, of course, on CNN, walking down the stairs and were just kind of overwhelmed by the enormity of it.

I'm in a hotel in Geneva to see this on a massive screen and I just can't believe what I'm seeing. And just two minutes later, he picks up the phone

calls me and just said, Jared, I want to tell you I'm free now.


GENSER: And I was just totally overwhelmed.

AMANPOUR: It really is amazing. Tell me about the -- you know, because it's taken so long. You've been lobbying on behalf of the family pro bono

counsel for so long. Many people want to know why it's taken so long. The parameters of a deal, as far as I know, were, you know, evident, you know,

for a long, long time. Why do you think this has taken so long? What were the political, legal and all the other, you know, restrictions, if you'd

like or challenges?

GENSER: Well, I think one of the most painful lessons I have learned as an advocate is that it's just as hard to get the United States to the table as

it is to get Iran to the table when you talk about a situation like this. And unfortunately, the experience that the Namazi family has had is like

the worst nightmare of an American who becomes a hostage in a country.

You know, Siamak Namazi, it's is worth remembering, was left behind by President Obama in 2016 when the nuclear deal was entered into. He's was

the only American left behind. Secretary Kerry promised the family he's be out within a few weeks, that's what he was told. And instead, Bagher Namazi

went back to finally see Siamak in prison where he had been held incommunicado for a couple of months. And he gets grabbed and taken hostage


And so, by the end of Obama administration, you have two Namazis in jail. President Trump came to office and had this maximum pressure policy in

Iran. And the Namazis hoped, as I did, that that might mean they would do something to help get our hostages out. And it turned out that the maximum

pressure policy on Iran was a zero-pressure policy on hostages.

I can't recall a single thing that the Trump administration did that put any pressure of any meaningful kind on Iran to release the Namazis.

President Trump then left the Namazis behind two more times. They got -- he got out two other Americans that had been detained after the Namazis. And

at the end of Trump administration, both Namazis were still in jail.

So, if you ask the Namazi family, you know, is there a profound difference between the policy of engagement of President Obama and the policy of

maximum pressure of President Trump, you know, there's no difference to them at all. These are the same policies. The bottom line is, is that once

a hostage has taken, it's game over for the United States and other countries around the world.


And by that, what I mean is that there are no easy answers, there are no simple ways to resolve these cases. And at the end of the day, the reason

why hostages keep getting taken is because rogue states have been repeatedly shown every single time that when they grab a hostage, there's

no consequence for it. And eventually, although we may come kicking and screaming to the table, we eventually make a deal. And we have to do this

in a dramatically different way if we want to end this vicious cycle.

AMANPOUR: And certainly, Siamak spoke to that in his statement as well. What do you think, you know, through his statement, he paid tribute to the

remaining prisoners, the dozens and hundreds of them who were left in Evin, Iranians who just want, you know, their own freedoms? You know, and he talk

about wanting to lie on the grass, have the sun hit his face, breathe fresh air. What will the immediate situation be when they -- you know, when they

get to the United States? Apparently, they have access to mental health facilities, you know, sort of a reintroduction program.

GENSER: Yes, yes. Well, I mean, Siamak and the other hostages will be in three days of treatment at a military hospital in Northern Virginia. And

this is an extended stay, but really an evaluation of all the issues that, for example, Siamak may have and how do they need to initially be treated

and so forth.

You know, the Namazis will be staying in the D.C. area some period of time. I mean, Effie Namazi came out today, the mom and the wife of Bagher Namazi.

And, you know, she's been the hidden hero of this family going on for so many years because she's the one who stayed in Iran when, first, her son

and then her husband were taken hostage.

And when her husband came out, she had to take care of him because he had a lot of serious health challenges. And then, he finally was able to get out

several years later and she refused to leave because she wanted to be there for Siamak, to keep visiting him in prison, to give him hope and so forth.

And so, this entire time she has been, you know, repeatedly visited by the IRGC, the Revolutionary Guard Corps, and terrorized over years and years

and years and has suffered in silence simply for the sake of her family. And so, I think, that for her, more than anyone else today, I'm also just

relieved that this nightmare is over for her too.

AMANPOUR: And Vida Tabaz, the wife of Morad Tahbaz was there as well and came out with her husband. Were those two women forbidden from leaving?

GENSER: I can't speak for Morad Tahbaz's wife. But no, Effie Namazi was not forbidden from leaving. But we are always concerned that that could happen

at any moment in time. And so, we never talk about her in public over the entire time that the Namazis were detained. And we ask journalists to do

that same.

So, you know, I think -- you know, obviously, the Namazis are going to have to restart their lives. Siamak, obviously, most specially. But frankly, you

know, the elderly Namazis had retired to Iran. They, you know, were dual nationals and when to retire to Iran. And, you know, the best years of

their retirement, of their time with their grandchildren while they were still at -- you know, in high school, all lost, right?

And so, while this is a joyous day, in certain ways, it's entirely bittersweet and there's a long road ahead.

AMANPOUR: There is indeed. So much more to talk about and we will keep talking about this story. Jared Genser, thank you so much indeed.


AMANPOUR: And now, we turn to the United Nations General Assembly here in New York. As world leaders gather for their annual summit, they face

cascading challenges from the war in Ukraine to the critical climate crisis.

I sat down with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in the Security Council itself to hear about these challenges and issues and his

frustration at the geopolitical paralysis, which is palpable as you'll hear in this interview.


AMANPOUR: Secretary-General, welcome back to our program.

ANTONIO GUTERRES: UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY-GENERAL: And it's a great pleasure to be with you in this --

AMANPOUR: And we're going to talk about that in a minute. But what is your biggest priority for this global gathering, this annual UNGA?

GUTERRES: Well, this year, it is to rescue the sustainable development goals. There was, as you know, a few years ago, an agreement of all

countries in the world to define what is a blueprint in relation to economics, social development, the solution of problems of anger, the

solution of problems of poverty, climate, oceans, governance.

And this is something with clear objectives, clear goals, clear targets to 2030. And the truth is that we are lagging behind. The truth is that the

situation, especially developing countries at the present moment is dramatic. Their financial situation is dramatic. Their depth situation is

dramatic. They have no access to resources that are needed to solve the problem of their own people. Africa pays more in interest rates about debt

than in education for their children.

AMANPOUR: That's a tragic statistic.


GUTERRES: And we need to rescue the STGs (ph). And this means reform the international financial architecture. This means the number of important

measures, to make multilateral development banks do much more for developing countries. This means finding new resources and multiplying the

resources that exist, and at the same time asking countries to have good governance, to fight corruption, to moralize (ph) more resources and to

align those resources with those developed sustainable development goals, in education, in health, in full security and in all other aspects in which

we need to make sure that people in the world suffer much less than what's unfortunately happening today.

AMANPOUR: Well, you have just outlined a massive task. But as you rightly say, the world did promise to actually meet those goals. So, I want to ask

you, because here, we are sitting in the U.N. Security Council. This is where the decisions get made on a lot of this.

GUTERRES: Or don't.

AMANPOUR: Or don't. And I'm going to ask you about that because I can see you're agitated sitting in this room and it's causing a little bit of, you

know, palpitations. Because at the G20 this month, you called out global financial institutions, like World Bank, outdated, dysfunctional and

unfair. And then you said, the same can be said of the United Nations Security Council, where these members sit around, your Secretary-General

seat is there. How much executive power do you actually have in this room and what would you want -- why does it make you angry?

GUTERRES: No power at all. The secretary-general of the United Nations has no power and there's no money. What we have is a voice, and that voice can

be loud and I have the obligation to make it be loud. And at the same time, we have some convening powers. Sometimes we are able to bring together

different actors, not only countries but the private sector, civil society, women and news organizations, scientific experts, the academia.

So -- but the power is in the member states. And the problem is that the exercise of that power is today blocked. We have a level of division among

super powers that has no precedence since the Second World War. Even in the Cold War, things were more predictable than they are today.

AMANPOUR: Is that right?

GUTERRES: And these divisions --

AMANPOUR: Between the USSR and USA, for instance, during the Cold War?

GUTERRES: At that time, there was these two blocks. But everything was predictable between them. And they would make sure that when crisis would

become very difficult, some solution would have to be found to avoid a confrontation between the two. Today, there is a much bigger level of


AMANPOUR: But there's also open confrontation. I mean, there's a proxy war --


AMANPOUR: -- between the United States and Russia over Ukraine.

GUTERRES: As I said, today is much more serious and much more unpredictable, in my opinion. And the drama is that the geopolitical

divides -- and I agree that the war in Ukraine has dramatized the geopolitical divides. The geopolitical divides are paralyzing decisions

that would be essential for us to face the big challenges of all time.

Climate action is lacking in relation to what would be needed because there is no sufficient solidarity and no sufficient agreement among key member

states. Artificial intelligence. How to bring together countries in order to find some mechanism of governance to guarantee that artificial

intelligence will be good for human kind and not a threat for human kind.

So, we would need countries united more than ever. And the geopolitical divides that we have today are paralyzing the capacity to respond to these

dramatic challenges, not to mention inequality, not to mention poverty, not to mention anger and all the other dramatic situations that many people


AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you, first and foremost then. At least top of mind this week has been the meeting between President Putin and the leader of

North Korea in Russia talking about weapons, showing them around, you know, weapons, production facilities and all the rest of it. Are you concerned

that President Putin might violate U.N. sanctions and transfer any kind of military to North Korea? He has said he won't, but what do you think?

GUTERRES: I think it's absolutely essential that the sanctions are respected. As you said, he said he would respect the sanctions. And I

strongly hope that that will be the case. Because if not, we will have another very serious problem in the work of the Security Council. Because

the guardian of those sanctions is this Security Council.

AMANPOUR: Yes. Can I ask you? You talked about how it's very difficult for the secretary-general, for the -- into today's world. But that you do have

a power, has a voice as a moral authority, as a convening power. Do you think you've used the bully pulpit enough in your tenure? Do you think

you've been out there pounding your chest loud enough and convening? Like where are the U.N. convening tables for peace in Ukraine, for instance,

hasn't happened?

GUTERRES: First of all, that is an area where we simply can't. I mean, we cannot convene those that do not want to be convened. And it is clear that

the Russian federation was -- since the Minsk agreement. Since the Minsk Agreement --


AMANPOUR: That was about the 2014 war.

GUTERRES: There is -- there has been a very clear position that when is not, I would say, desired, as a mediator in the war of Ukraine. And because

we are not desired as a mediator relation to peace, that is why we have developed a number of other forms of action. So, we were very engaged, as

you remember, in the release of civilians in Azovstal. We were very engaged with the Black Sea initiative. The IAEA is very engaged in Zaporizhzhia.

So, the U.N. is doing its best in all its areas where the U.N. is allowed to work.

AMANPOUR: OK. So, what do you say about the suspension of Black Sea agreement? The lack of real ability to control what's happening at

Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant?

GUTERRES: No, that suspension is something that, of course, is undermining global security, global food security. We are working hard to try to

reutilize it, but this is not going to be easy, and we are seeing an escalation that is very dangerous. Because not only the Black Sea

initiative was suspended, but we have witnessed a number of bombardments in relation to terminals, food terminals. In relation to warehouses. And these

is, of course, a very serious threat.

And it is even undermining our efforts. We have a memorandum of understanding to facilitate the exports of Russian food and fertilizers

with key actors, the European Union, the United States and others within the framework of the sanctions. But removing some obstacles and

difficulties that exist. But as you can imagine, our partners in that, with what has happened and with this kind of bombardments start to be doubtful

about the will of the Russian Federation to come back to the Black Sea agreement. And this undermines our efforts even to support the Russian

exports, food and fertilizers that the world also needs

So, the present situation is a situation where, unfortunately, all the efforts that were made to put in place a mechanism that would allow

meaningful improvement in global market of food, to the benefit of everybody, all those efforts are now severely undermined.

AMANPOUR: And when you talk about humanitarian and all the efforts of that kind, you see what's happening in Libya with the busting of these dams just

after the massive earthquake in Morocco. And before that, several months ago, it was a massive earthquake in Turkey, Syria.

In Libya, what can the U.N. do? What are you doing right now because it is so dysfunctional there. We understand the leadership didn't take the right

decisions. They didn't warn people about this dam. And it's just terrible we see from our correspondents. What are you able to do on the ground?

GUTERRES: Well, we have our agencies at work. If there is something that works well in the U.N. is the humanitarian sector. I mean, If you look at

UNICEF. If you look at World Food Programme. The -- our Commissioner for Refugees --

AMANPOUR: Which you used to be.

GUTERRES: Which -- these are things that are doing around the world fantastic work. I mean, people sometimes look at the U.N. and think U.N. is

really ghastly (ph). No, the U.N. is lots of things. The U.N. is the International Agency of Atomic Energy that is in Zaporizhzhia, or that is

dealing now with Iran. The U.N. is providing food to people hungry all over the world. The U.N. is supporting refugees and migrants in difficult

circumstances. The U.N. is looking at the rights of women and children very strongly in many parts of the world.

So, there is all that aspect of the U.N. that sometimes people do not talk about. But to be honest, it's the part I'm more proud of. And I think that

more than half of humanitarian -- international humanitarian aid in the world is channeled through the U.N. This gives you an idea of its


The problem with U.N. is the paralysis of political decision. And that problem can only be solved if member states and especially those that have

more power are able to overcome the division.

AMANPOUR: So, the idea of paralysis and the consensus that's required, how much has that hindered meaningful progress on the climate? You said not so

long ago, the emergency is code red. You've said, our hair should be on fire about this. And still we're falling short. Why?

GUTERRES: We need to have a solid agreement between developed countries and the emerging economies to make sure that we are able to reduce emissions,

45 percent until 2030. And if we don't reduce emissions now, we are going to face dramatic challenges. You see temperatures rising and accelerating.

The hottest summer ever. The hottest months ever. You see the sea level rise accelerating. What's happening in Greenland? What's happening in

Antarctica is extremely worrying.


So, all the forecast that were made are being bitten because things are getting worse than that. And emissions are still rising. We absolutely need

the G20 where you have 80 percent of the emissions to have a solid agreement among them on how to join their efforts in technology, in finance

to make sure that those developed countries and the emerging economies will be able to reduce emissions.

AMANPOUR: And do you --

GUTERRES: And the present situation is a situation in which there is a certain kind of -- developed countries will say, we are already making a

huge effort. It's time for emerging economies like China, India to do the same. And the emerging economies will say, look, buy you have polluted for

decades, now it's our time also to have some margin for our people. The problem is there is no room. All must accelerate those -- their efforts.

And these requires a level of dialogue and trust that unfortunately does not exist at the present moment.

AMANPOUR: And finally, given everybody is talking about age and, you know, Biden and this and that. Are you comfortable telling me how old you are.

GUTERRES: Yes, I am. 74.

AMANPOUR: OK. Do you believe in or agree with, have any comment on what I call the Mitt Romney reason. He's just declared that he's standing. He

won't seek another term as senator because he wants to give way to a new generation of leaders. And everybody is complaining that Biden is too old

to seek reelection. What is your view on this?

GUTERRES: I think it depends on each person. I know people with 40 years old that are very old mentally. And I know people with 80 and 90 years old

that are absolutely sharp and remarkable. This is -- I think you cannot have a law. Having said so, I can guarantee that I will not be running for

is second time (ph).

AMANPOUR: Secretary-General, thank you very much indeed.

GUTERRES: It was a -- indeed a pleasure.


AMANPOUR: We had to go there.

Turning now to the international effort to fight AIDS. 20 years ago, President Bush introduced one of the United States most successful foreign

aid programs. It was called PEPFAR. The Plan for AIDS Relief has saved 25 million lives. But it is now under threat. House Republicans are opposing

funding which expires at the end of the month over abortion politics.

Steven Thrasher is an HIV and AIDS scholar and he joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss the global impact of this relief and its removal.



Steven Thrasher, thanks so much for joining us. Something that is interesting that has had bipartisan support has been PEPFAR funding. And

for those who don't know what PEPFAR stands for, it is the resident's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. It was set up back in 2003 from President

George W. Bush. It has been approved and reapproved over and over again, authorized, and it's coming up for a reauthorization soon. Yet this time,

it's facing a little bit more partisan obstruction. Why?

STEVEN THRASHER, HIV/AIDS SCHOLAR: PEPFAR, the -- as you said, was a bipartisan effort that has been pass many times and House Republicans are

holding it hostage right now. They're threatening to not renew the funding. They're trying to use it as a way to shake down the federal government and

make them put abortion restrictions on countries that are receiving this aid, which would be a disaster on many fronts.

But it's also important to remember that even though some very powerful people have weighed into this conversation, including George W. Bush

himself writing in "The Washington Post" this week, they're not only trying to get rid of PEPFAR funding which deals with U.S. funding for AIDS abroad.

They're also trying to get rid of several hundred million dollars-worth of AIDS funding domestically within the United States as well. And I think

that's part of the larger attack that they're waging on LGBTQ rights and on bodily rights.

SREENIVASAN: All right. I want you to get to the domestic funding in a little bit. But one of the key concerns here from Representative Chris

Smith of New Jersey who's a Republican. He is the chair of a house panel that oversees PEPFAR and he has supported its reauthorization before. But

he said the Biden administration has now injected abortion rights into the program. Tell me about this.

THRASHER: It pains me to agree with George W. Bush but he is correct in this instance. And there are many countries that get funding from PEPFAR,

they're across the world. Ukraine gets funding. Many countries in Africa, and some countries in Southeast Asia including Vietnam. So, they are wide

variety of countries and they have many different approaches to abortion.

I teach a class called "Sex and the American Empire", and one of the things we look at is how the U.S. is trying to influence policy abroad.


So, House Republicans are trying to having a really disastrous electoral effects for them for taking the stance they have on abortion. They're now

trying to force abortion right, sort of, the dial back of abortion rights in many different countries.

And these countries, as I said, they have very, very different approaches in different places. But if they were successful, it would have a really

disastrous impact because the same kinds of organizations and the same kinds of people who do work around abortion are also doing the most

important work around STI prevention and HIV/AIDS prevention.

And I thought it was interesting in George W. Bush's op-ed that he really sides (ph) that. We have that quote about his program being pro-life, but

he did not weighed in on abortion in other ways. He just said that that's not worth discussing in this conversation, and that's true.

SREENIVASAN: The head of PEPFAR recently told the "Associated Press" that he knew of no instance in which money was going to directly or indirectly

fund abortion services. So, what is the work of this program look like on the ground?

THRASHER: In different parts of the world, the most important thing that it has in common is that it gets drugs into bodies. We've had medications that

have successfully dealt with HIV since 1995. And in 1996, the United States rate of death went down dramatically, and we started saving tens of

thousands, hundreds of thousands of lives inside the United States because we had access to that medication. But nobody else had access to it in much

of the world outside of Europe for another seven years.

And so, even as AIDS deaths went down starting in '96 in the United States, they kept going up until 2003, 2004, up to about 2.5 million deaths a year.

And that was because the drugs were simply too expensive for very poor countries and many modern income countries to afford.

And so, PEPFAR both made the drugs available in -- for free in some places, for much less money in some places. Worked with the drug companies to bring

the cost down. But at a very -- and there are all kinds of structural issues around AIDS that need to still be addressed, but at a very cellar

level it got drugs into bodies, and that saved tens of millions of lives. So, nobody should be against that in any way.

The only, sort of, bad thing about it was that as the U.S. was looking abroad during those years, they really neglected HIV and AIDS here in the

United States, and that could happen again if a deal is cut around PEPFAR and not cut around the reinstating the domestic funding they're trying to


SREENIVASAN: Where is the, sort of, abortion fear come in, or abortion funding fear come in?

THRASHER: I think that with so much with the House Republicans, this is just a bone that they won't let go of. So that they've seen that -- they

got, you know, after many decades of organizing, they've gotten Dobbs passed. They've gotten Roe largely repealed here in the United States. It's

been an electoral disaster for them. And it's no longer working for them. They have nothing to really get their -- the people that were coming out to

vote for them to do so anymore. They kind of won that fight. But it's not working for them.

And so, they're looking for other places to do it. And they also, I think, this has to be read in the context of their general anti-LGBTQ hatred that

they're waging upon the world. They're doing as much of it as they can here in the United States. There are 400 anti-trans bills and anti-LGBTQ bills

here in the United States. And they're looking ways -- for ways to punish LGBTQ people around the world, and this is one way.

Of course, HIV and AIDS does not only affect gay and trans people. There are many countries in the world, including some of those who receive money

from PEPFAR where the majority of cases either happen through injection drug use or through vertical transmission from parent to child during

pregnancy. But it is a virus and a disease that affects LGBTQ people disproportionately. And the United States has been successful,

unfortunately, in exporting many anti-LGBTQ laws and attitudes in terms of anti-gay laws through U.S. missionary work, through various different


And so, I think that this is another part of it that that's part of what's happening around the AIDS component of it.

SREENIVASAN: Some of the most recent round of critique of PEPFAR seems to be coming from a report that was authored by a conservative think tank

called "The Heritage Foundation." In that report, they say that HIV/AIDS is primarily, "A lifestyle disease." So, what is the problem in framing it

that way?

THRASHER: Lifestyle is a dog whistle on a couple of levels. It's first saying that being gay or being trans is a lifestyle. And saying it's

something people just choose like the color of the shirt they wear or something like that. So, that's one level that it's at. And it's also

trying to say that people get AIDS because of their, you know, their lifestyle and the things that they choose to do.


And that's a really unfair thing to say on multiple levels. Certainly, looking abroad, people get HIV and AIDS because of structural issues. One

of the reasons why we've continued to have so many cases here in the United States is because incarceration and homelessness are major drivers of why

people get HIV and why HIV progresses on to AIDS.

And so many countries in the world, especially those who are receiving money from PEPFAR, they're not getting the support that they need to be

able to stop this terrible virus from moving on between people. When somebody gets HIV medication, they become what's called virally

undetectable. They cannot transmit the virus on to other people.

So, for those seven, eight years when the medication was available but people could not afford it and so much of the world, the virus was just

moving and moving and moving through extremely normative human activities, the most normative being sex and reproductive sex. As I was saying earlier,

there are countries that receive money from PEPFAR were the major way that people become HIV positive is through vertical transmission. They're

getting it through their parent while they're pregnant and then they are born with HIV/AIDS.

And so, it's -- of course, there's nothing in the lifestyle of an unborn infant, of a newborn baby for these people who are so obsessed, they say,

with the unborn. There's nothing about their lifestyle that makes them become HIV positive. And even the adults who are becoming HIV positive it's

through completely normative human activities.

So, writing it off to something that can just be changed by lifestyle is unfair. It's stigmatizing. And it is side stepping the responsibility we

have to bring this epidemic to a close if there's the political well to do so because the medication there.

SREENIVASAN: You know, there are some Republicans that are calling for this authorization not to be once every five years, but to be every year. Is

there a problem with that?

THRASHER: It's a similar dynamic to things happening with the -- here in the United States with the debt ceiling. You know, every time that these

kinds of things can be held hostage, they will be. And AIDS and HIV are things that take long-term thinking, you know, we're still in the COVID-19

pandemic. There are people who want to think about this pandemic being over even though we're only about four years into it, but we first became aware

of HIV for more than 40 years now and it's still a pandemic. It's still killing the better part of a million people for a year.

And so, you cannot think about plans to mitigate that or end that year to year to year and have this be something that can be held over voters' head,

that can be held over Congress' head every year. There should be reauthorization for an indefinite period of time until this, you know,

until this epidemic is ended and brought under control.

SREENIVASAN: A lot of people might be familiar with how PEPFAR has impacted HIV and AIDS overseas. But what are the funding sources? What are the

programs here in the United States that would be affected if PEPFAR funding was discontinued?

THRASHER: Well, here in the United States, PEPFAR is entirely a foreign program. But there's multiple domestic programs here in the U.S. that the

House Republicans are also trying to get rid of at the same time. The Ryan White CARE Act is a version of basically universal healthcare for people

who are living with HIV. It's had success for people who can get it.

But the people who most need, the people who are most at risk, including those who are unhoused, the population that's growing every year in this

country, very rarely connect with the program. People who are incarcerated very rarely, you know, connect with the program and get the care that they

need. So, it continues to move on.

And then one of the most popular and really successful things that we've done here in the United States is program called PrEP for All. People who

become positive with HIV take a form of medication, anti-viral medication PrEP which stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis is a drug that you can take

every day, I take it myself, and it gives you the similar medication. But if you encounter HIV, it keeps it from taking hold in your body.

And so, cities and states, particularly cities around the country, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, where I live, New York have had real

success in getting PrEP out broadly to populations that are highly at risk. That includes young people of color who are LGBTIQ. People who don't have

insurance by other means.

PrEP -- targeted PrEP campaigns have also been really, really helpful in places where HIV has broken out in the -- via the opioid epidemic. And

people who might not think that they need to take an HIV prevention medication that becomes a factor in -- when they go into a place where HIV

is breaking out and really helps transmissions from happening.


I don't like to think in such crude economic ways. But this is actually a very money saving -- it's a very money saving expenditure because if you

spend money keeping people from becoming HIV positive, it saves a lot of money downstream. But there are lots of conservatives who don't like the

idea of PrEP. They think that it's a drug that makes people promiscuous. They think that it is allowing people to get away with something by not

being punished for having sex.

And so, taking away any of these tools would actually allow the virus to flow much more. Some of it would flow to people who are in high-risk

populations. Some of it would just move on to people outside of high-risk populations. But the bottom line is that it would increase the number of

people getting HIV and the number of people who would die of AIDS.

And it's really terrible seeing the enormous success some cities have had in bringing down to almost zero levels in populations that used to have

really high levels of HIV. It would be terrible to roll that back now and to let HIV flourish in the United States more than medication could allow

it to stop.

SREENIVASAN: We're talking about the effects that policies have on lives. I'm reminded that in 2015, there was a needle exchange program that was

opposed by Then-Governor Mike Pence of Indiana. And -- because he thought that it condoned drug use. And we saw very rapidly an HIV outbreak of

something close to 200 people in Scott County. And I'm wondering whether there are ripple effects that are measurable when funding decreases

overseas or domestically and what we see epidemiologically in communities.

THRASHER: Certainly. And here's where the importance of thinking about abortion and HIV becomes really, really clear. So, in Scott County, Indiana

in 2014, 2015, as you said when Mike Pence was then the governor of Indiana had the fastest HIV outbreak that's ever been recorded in the United

States. Cases -- they found the first case and then they went very, very quickly up.

And scholars, including my friend, the Yale epidemiologist Gregg Gonsalves, initially looked at something that sort of darkly humorous. The question

of, did those cases move quickly because Pence famously said he needed a few days to pray about whether or not to do a sterile syringe exchange. And

what they found was that the cases didn't increase that much in that moment. The major transmissions had already happened quite quickly.

But why those cases moved so quickly was because there was no surveillance in the southern half of Indiana. And the reason there wasn't surveillance

is because Pence had been successful in running out of his state everybody who provided abortion. And it's the people who provide abortion, the

Planned Parenthood clinics, the private, the public clinics that help people get abortion that are also doing sexually transmitted infection

prevention. They're doing STI education. They're doing LGBTQ sexual education. And they're doing HIV prevention and HIV treatment.

And so, when -- if PEPFAR were to be repealed and to stop abortions from happening in other countries, and here in the United States, as Dobbs came

in and Roe was repealed, we've seen 70, 80 clinics that provided abortions closed around in the United States, those places are also prime to be out -

- places where HIV will break out because the people who dealt with compassionately, professionally, and medically sound ways.

People needing stigmatized healthcare, including abortion and HIV prevention, they're no longer there. And if they're not there, nobody is

seeing the cases. And by the time you find out there's an HIV case, it could have actually moved into many, many cases when it didn't need to if

people were regularly being tested and treated.

SREENIVASAN: Author and HIV scholar Steven Thrasher, thanks so much for joining us.

THRASHER: Thank you so much, Hari.


AMANPOUR: And it has, indeed, brought so much relief around the world.

And finally, tonight, climate week has begun here in New York. The annual summit of the UNGA takes place during this assembly time as world leaders

converge on the city, tens of thousands marched through Manhattan yesterday demanding action and an end to fossil fuel. At night a thousand drones were

launched over the east river next to the United Nations. The drones shapeshifted from Amazonian wildlife to a warning, the world burns. And

we'll be asking world leaders about this all-week reporting from the U.N.

But that's it for now. Remember, you can always catch us online, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and of course, on our podcast. Thanks for watching and

goodbye from New York.