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Interview With Former U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper; Interview With Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani; Interview With Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris; Interview With "Before It's Gone" Author Jonathan Vigliotti. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired April 16, 2024 - 13:00   ET



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

A world on tender hooks as Israel decides how to respond to Iran. Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper joins us as the United States urges restraint.

Then --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The region cannot stand such tension and such events.


AMANPOUR: -- in the midst of this crisis, my conversation with Iraq's prime minister after meeting with President Biden.

And in his first television interview as Ireland's new Taoiseach Simon Harris on the war in Gaza and Ireland plans to recognize Palestinian


Also, ahead --


JONATHAN VIGLIOTTI, AUTHOR, "BEFORE IT'S GONE": Business as usual is no longer sustainable.


AMANPOUR: -- stories from the front lines of climate change. News correspondent and author Jonathan Vigliotti tells Hari Sreenivasan why a

small-town America could be the canary in the coal mine.

Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London. Israel's war cabinet met again today to weigh up a response to Iran's

strike over the weekend. In Tehran, President Ebrahim Raisi warns even the smallest of actions would be met with "a severe, extensive, and painful


The United States is urging caution and calm from both sides along with the E.U. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin telling his Israeli counterpart that

the U.S. goal is regional stability. President Biden is trying to avoid being dragged into another war in the Middle East especially in an election


His chief political rival Donald Trump is trying to use this crisis to his own advantage saying that it wouldn't have happened if he were in office.

Of course, he isn't in office or even on the campaign trail. These days he's in a Manhattan courtroom as jury selection continues for the hush

money trial against him.

Joining me now on all of this is Mark Esper, former Defense Secretary under President Trump. He currently serves on the board or as a strategic adviser

for a handful of aerospace and defense related companies. Secretary Esper welcome back to the program.

MARK ESPER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Thanks Christiane, it's great to be with you.

AMANPOUR: So, as they, you know, continue their deliberations in the war cabinet in Israel, we've heard from the Israeli ambassador here who told a

radio that the idea is not revenge, the idea is deterrence. What do you expect Israel to do and do you expect it to do something big, medium, or


ESPER: Well, look, you know, the culture of the region. You also know, your viewers do too, that Israel said before the Iranian attack that if Iran

attacked Israel proper that Israel would respond and attack got Iran proper as well.

So, look, I think they've drawn a hard line and that means they're going to have to respond. If not, then this unprecedented attack by Iran, and going

back into 45 years since relations broke down between Iran and really the rest of the world, in 1979, this being the first-ever attack, Iran will

change the paradigm forever and Israel will face a new type of threat, not unlike what they've been undergoing with Hamas for the last 10, 20, 30

years where they're under the constant threat of some type of barrage of rocket assault.

So, I think they have to respond. They have to respond forcefully. I suspect it will be a combination of kinetic strike strikes, probably cyber.

And -- but at the same time, they're going to want to hold this loose knit coalition together as best they can, because when it comes to Iran, this is

a long-term play against the Islamic regime which has been, you know, sewing mayhem throughout the region now for 45 years.

AMANPOUR: So, I was speaking to a former U.S. ambassador to Israel also, he'd been ambassador to Egypt, Daniel Kurtzer on the program last night.

And so, I mean, I asked him, he also thought Israel would respond. And I asked him about the -- you know, the -- you know, starting a whole another

cycle of retaliation and where, in fact, that does this stop.

But furthermore, I asked him, the United States, President Biden says, you know, he doesn't want to get involved. He's not going on the offense in --

you know, against Iran. But Kurtzer, the ambassador, suggested the U.S. might be pulled into it? Let me just play this.



DANIEL KURTZER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO ISRAEL: We're not really in control of the situation. And the degree of American influence is limited

by the fact that the administration simply does not want to limit the amount of arms and the kind of arms that we're providing to Israel.

And so, as long as we have those two constraints, we're really in a watching and hopeful mode, but that's not really going to be dispositive in

terms of what happens next.


AMANPOUR: Yes. So, watchful and hopefully, but again, he did say that he couldn't see the U.S. staying out of it, if in fact Israel does go to war

with Iran and it escalates even further. What is your view on that? Do you think the administration would be dragged in?

ESPER: Yes, so a few things. You know, first, nobody wants a wider regional war. But we arguably are on the precipice of that right now. Number two, I

think President Biden made a mistake by taking a military option off the table and made the mistake publicly calling -- telling Iran -- or telling

Israel, I'm sorry, to not act, to take the win. I think it shows lack of resolve. And that plays into how Iran will be thinking about this. So, I

think that's the second item.

Now, the third thing is this. If Israel responds, and I don't think it's a matter of if, really, it's really a matter of how and when, then one should

expect that Iran will respond as well and will move up a few rungs on this escalation matter.

And, yes, indeed, at some point, the United States could get dragged into this as well, supporting Israel. And by the way, so could some of the Arab

states as well, if they get caught in a crossfire. Or if Iran deems that they're supporting Israel to Iran's disadvantage. We've seen some of that

talk already because of Saudi Arabia's and Jordan's shooting down of Iranian missiles.

So, yes, look, I think this could get very big very quickly, but I also think that Israel has to take a long-term view of what it could mean for

them, the security of Israel, and the vulnerability of the Israeli people if Iran is allowed to change the paradigm the way they have?

AMANPOUR: See -- yes. And just to be clear, Jordan has said that what it did was to safeguard the lives of their own people when missiles were

crossing their territory. But, you know, you know yourself that successive American administrations since the Islamic Republic have refused point

blank to get involved in either on behalf of Israel or for themselves in a war in Iran.

You remember -- I don't even know, maybe you were defense secretary, but under the Trump administration, he refused even to come to the aid of Saudi

Arabia when Iran hit the oil installations at Abqaiq. So, it's not something that anybody takes lightly.

ESPER: Yes. Look, there's truth to all of that. You know, but keep in mind in the '80s we had the tanker wars, which were pretty aggressive. And of

course, President Trump's killing of Soleimani in Baghdad was very aggressive. But you're right, nobody has want to kind of strike the

territory of Iran in the past because we all want to avoid a regional war. And again, I would say it's now Iran that is broken that taboo by striking

Israel directly, disproportionately, I might say.

Now, look, we know that -- or we believe that Israel is the one that killed the IRGC generals at the consulate in Syria, lobbing a few missiles, but

that is in stark contrast to what Iran did. So again, I think we want to avoid the wider war.

But clearly, what's happened over the last, not just six days, but really the last six months, going back to October 7th, is a new level in terms of

hostility in the region and Iran's ability to fire up its proxies and really, they try to undermine the Israeli State and push the United States

out of the region, which are their ultimate goals, right, is to destroy Israel and get United States out.

So, I think, you know, we have reached a historic inflection point in the region with regard to relations between at least these three countries. And

it's unclear where this will go. Again, it could erupt into a wider regional war.

I've been saying for some time, you know, the root cause what happened October 7th and everything proceeding it always goes back to Iran. You're

never really going to solve the problem of Hamas, Hezbollah, the militias in Syria and Iraq, and now, the Houthis, which are a new player until you

really deal with the undermining -- underlying problem, which is Iran's support of all this nefarious activity.

AMANPOUR: Can I ask you about Ukraine? Because you're obviously very concerned about the protection of Ukraine's sovereignty as it continues to,

you know, really try to withstand weathering missile and drone attacks from Russia.

And as you can well imagine, President Zelenskyy has been saying in the aftermath of what happened on Saturday night, that it's a massive and

glaring double-standard, if the entire Israeli allies could -- you know, safeguard Israel skies and Israel is not even in NATO, why did -- you know,

not do it for Ukraine? So, here's what he said.



VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Well, after yesterday's attack, I want to ask you a question. Is Israel part of NATO or

not? Here's the answer. Israel is not a NATO country. The NATO allies, including NATO countries, have been defending Israel. They showed the

Iranian forces that Israel was not alone. And this is a lesson. This is a response to anyone on any continent who says you need to assist Ukraine

very carefully so you don't engage NATO countries in the war.


AMANPOUR: So, doesn't he make a fair point? You know, without nitpicking, they wanted a no-fly zone at the beginning. They knew that if they didn't

have their skies protected, this kind of catastrophe and destruction would continue to rain down. And now, you know, even non-air combat power is

being held up by the U.S. Congress.

ESPER: Yes, look, there are similarities and differences in both cases. The similarities being that both countries are democracies who are fighting to

defend themselves against aggressive neighbors who are not democracies. And as a Reagan Republican, I'm somebody that believes we should help those

types of countries.

On the other hand, the relationship between the United States and Ukraine goes back just a few decades. With Israel, it goes back 70-plus years,

right? So, there are big differences between the security relationships, the political relationships, et cetera, between the two.

Look, I think one confounding part of this is it goes back to the Biden administration's policy. I've given President Biden credit in the past for

rallying the NATO allies in defense of Ukraine after Putin's invasion. I've given him credit for the support of Israel. But in both cases, I think he's

been too self-deterred in terms of taking action in both scenarios.

In Ukraine, it's always been too little, too late, too often when it comes to providing Ukraine with the arms and ammunition that needs to defend

itself, let alone when. And when you think about HIMARS, Patriots, F-16s, tanks, you name it, the list goes on and on. I mean, they still don't have

long-range attacking missiles. They've been asking for two-plus years.

Same thing with -- in the Middle East. We suffered. We, the United States, suffered attacks at our -- against our troops throughout the Middle East

over 150 times before President Biden finally decided to respond forcefully. And that happened in early February. It's been pretty solid

since then, surprise.

And so, again, I think he's had it too cold of a hand, too deterred, too concerned about escalation, when actually a stiffer, stronger, more

resilient U.S. response might have helped kind of our side, if you will, in both scenarios. And I think that's the shortcoming of this administration

that I think needs to be remedied really quickly.

In this case, obviously, the latest challenge has been Republicans in Congress, specifically the House. I think they've been neglectful in terms

of providing this aid. Hopefully, it will happen this week. I know a bill is supposed to be going up in the House this week to provide that $95

billion package, that includes $60 billion for Ukraine.

AMANPOUR: And obviously on that, you've got a lot of, you know, infighting going on even within the Republican Party. But I wonder as a Reagan

Republican what you make of, you know, people like Marjorie Taylor Greene who says, it's antisemitic to make Israeli aid contingent on funding

Ukrainian Nazis. These should be separate bills.

I'm just focusing on her language because that is literally an intravenous feed of Russian disinformation directed straight at them to stop them from

sending those weapons. Are you concerned that they're basically doing Putin's bidding?

ESPER: Look, I'm concerned about that language. It's just -- it's so outlandish. And it's so wrong in many ways. But, we, the United States, are

the leader of the free world. If we don't lead, a vacuum will be created and either Russia or China or both, two authoritarian states will step in

and over time, try to break down the international rules, order, and norms and install their own values. And that's not the world we want to live in.

So, now, is a moment for leadership. And I think we have to step up in both cases -- in all cases, actually, Ukraine, the Middle East, and in Taiwan,

support our friends and allies and do the right thing. And stop with this with this type of talk.

It's inconsistent, not just with President Reagan, but with really the history of the GOP and frankly U.S. foreign policy now going back at least

since the end of the World War II.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you, Secretary Esper, because you've been very vocal, and let's not forget it's Donald Trump who's caused this logjam, and

they're doing it at his direction. You've been very vocal about not voting for him again, about calling him a threat to democracy.


In a memo to CNN a few months ago, John Kelly, also a retired marine general, former chief of staff of Trump said, he's a person that has no

idea what America stands for, no idea what America is all about, a person that does nothing but contempt for our democratic institutions, our

constitution, and the rule of law.

What are you all going to do, you, Kelly, others who've come out against Donald Trump if you feel so strongly that he's a threat to democracy?

ESPER: Well, you know, there's only been a few of us that have come out publicly to speak out. I've been very frank about my views. I think he's

unfit for the presidency. What I look for in a candidate is somebody who puts country first. Somebody who has character and integrity, somebody that

can unify the country and somebody that can lead. And in my estimation Donald Trump doesn't check any of those boxes.

So, I'm going to continue to say that when asked and I'm going to continue to let people know that as somebody that worked directly for him, not just

as secretary of defense, but keep in mind, I was secretary of the army for nearly two years, that he's just -- I don't think he's the right person for

our country. And so, I will not be supporting him.

But otherwise, look, I think his record is out there. At this point in time, voters either know who he -- if they don't know who he is, then

they've been, you know, asleep in a cave somewhere.

So, you know, it's six, seven months until the election. And we'll see what happens between now and then, but I will continue to speak out when and how

I can.

AMANPOUR: Mark Esper, former secretary of defense, thank you so much indeed for joining us.

Now, President Biden has met with the Iraqi prime minister as efforts to de-escalate continue. A rare ally of both Washington and Tehran, Prime

Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani had been in town to discuss the withdrawal of U.S. troops from his country.

In his first comments since that meeting, the Iraqi leader talked about whether a wider regional war could now be avoided.

Prime Minister, you've been meeting with President Biden at a moment of extreme tension. Do you believe that Israel will respond? What have you

heard in Washington? And what do you think that will cause in your region? What will happen?

MOHAMMED SHIA AL-SUDANI, IRAQI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): In the name of God, my visit absolutely comes in a sensitive time, a critical time

for the bilateral relations between the two countries and also regarding what's happening in the region. We have an agreement about stopping the

escalation of tension and not to allow us the conflict to spill out or to keep escalating, to maintain the safety and security of the peoples of the

region, which started on October 7th.

Since the events of October 7, we started warning about the possible dangerous consequences, and that's what happened actually. Now, we are

facing a situation in the Red Sea where there is a hindering of navigation in the Red Sea. Also, what's happening in Lebanon and Syria and recently

that escalation between Israel and Iran. The region cannot stand such tension and such events. Everyone has to pressure to -- in the direction of

stopping the escalation.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Prime Minister, you've named a variety of locations where there are threats. Now, all of these are backed by Iran. In other words,

all the militias in those locations are backed by Iran, which has a very significant power base in Iraq, in your country.

What are you doing to pressure the government Iran or the Iran-backed militias in Iraq to stop the escalation, whether it's against American

targets or against other targets?

AL SUDANI (through translator): We do not allow any factions to use force or to commit aggressions against military stations where Americans are

located. We have taken precautions and we are not being lenient in enforcing the law and maintaining safety and security and the rule of law

on Iraq.

We are exerting political efforts internally and externally to keep Iraq away from the battlefield with keeping our principles of condemning the

aggression on the Palestinians and Gaza in particular.


This is the main problem. We cannot reduce the situation and the reaction of this party or that party. There is a genocide, systematic genocide,

which is inflicted on the Palestinians in the plain view of the International Community, which has failed with all its laws, with all its

organizations to maintain the lives of innocent civilians, men, women, children. This is unacceptable. This is the origin of the problem.

As soon as such a negation stops, we will witness a lot of stability coming back to the area, and there will be need for more steps to deal with the

consequences of the last six months.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Prime Minister, you say that. I wonder whether the U.S. president agreed with your characterization. What did you say to the

president? Does he agree that there's a genocide? Did you ask him? How he's going to help stop it?

AL SUDANI (through translator): In my press release, I mentioned that there is a difference between our two positions, us and the Americans, about

what's happening in the area. And the difference is not really minor. We have significant difference. But we both agree that there is an

international law. There is international humanitarian law and war -- law of war, which provides for the protection of civilians and diplomatic


The U.S. president does not disagree with me about such principles, neither does any president. Every country calls for the respect of human life and


AMANPOUR: Now, you say that if this was stopped, then a lot of the tension would be reduced in your region. Now, Iran says it's sticking up for the

Palestinians. Do you therefore think it miscalculated with its attack on Israel over the weekend? Because it certainly shifted the attention off the

Palestinians and off Gaza.

AL SUDANI (through translator): What happened on October 7th and the consequences of that was what led the way to the recent events that we

witnessed, which we had warned about, as I said. And we are afraid of the consequences of such escalation. The aggravation that took place against

the diplomatic -- the consulate in Damascus was a blatant violation to the international law, which pushed Iran to retaliate. And that's what we are

working on controlling now.

Now, we are facing a real problem regarding what's happening in Gaza. This is what is affecting stability in the region and the whole world. And

ignoring such a problem will mean additional escalation in the region in such a sensitive area that can't stand such escalation.

AMANPOUR: Especially your country. Can you explain to us how it's possible that apparently some or one of the missiles against Israel was launched

from inside Iraq? That's according to the Israeli military. And for sure, one of the missiles at least was downed by a U.S. Patriot system based

inside Iraq. How can you control your own airspace if this is going on?

AL SUDANI (through translator): It was not proven to us through the military reports that we received that any missiles were launched or any

drones were launched from within Iraq. Certainly, our position is clear, we do not allow any non-governmental body to use Iraq -- to bring Iraq into

the battle. We have been taking the legal procedures to keep Iraq safe and keep Iraq -- to distance Iraq away from the war.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Prime Minister, as you know, Iran's main call has been the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq. There appears to be 2,000 or 2,500

right now there. What did you and President Biden talk about? Because this is a discussion that's been underway. Will the United States pull those

forces out? And do you want those protective forces pulled out or Iraq?

AL SUDANI (through translator): First of all, we cannot bring Iran into every issue in relation with Iraq. The winding down of the International

Coalition forces is an Iraqi demand, not an Iranian demand.


And therefore, there was a discussion that took place between Iraq and the United States of America. There have been discussions since last year. Iraq

now, in 2024, is different than when it was in 2014, 10 years ago. In September, 10 years will have passed since the International Coalition was

formed. It was formed at the invitation of the Iraqi government.

Now, that is no longer is a threat to the security of Iraq. And naturally, Iraq will ask to take over. There is no reason for 86 countries troops to

remain in Iraq to fight Daesh. When our Security agencies are so efficient and so ready to maintain security and the rule of law in Iraq. Thank God.

We have understandings. We have committees between America and the United States, which hold meetings regularly and are establishing a sustainable

partnership in terms of security and other fields of cooperation based on the strategic framework agreement.

AMANPOUR: And finally, Mr. Prime Minister, on a slightly different issue, as you know, and I'm sure the president brought it up with you, there is a

student, Elizabeth Tsurkov, an Israeli-Russian doctoral student from Princeton University who has been kidnapped while doing research in your

country. This was about a year ago.

She's believed to be held by Kata'ib Hezbollah, which is one of the forces that apparently belong to the Iraqi armed forces and to the establishment,

and her sister believes that you personally, your government holds the key to her release. What are you doing to get her released?

AL SUDANI (through translator): Since the incident of that kidnapping, the Iraqi government formed a team to follow up on that incident and the

details thereof. And we have been investigating all information that comes through the friendly governments and their security agencies to end this


The government is certainly committed to disclose the fate of that hostage. And we reject any kidnapping of any foreign national in our region. We will

hold accountable anyone who engages in such abduction.

AMANPOUR: Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani, thank you very much for joining us.

AL SUDANI (through translator): Thank you.

AMANPOUR: Now, the Iran-Israel conflict has sucked up the world's attention, but the war and suffering in Gaza drags on. Ireland has been

noticeably outspoken about the crisis there, starting with its last prime minister, now its new one. 37-year-old Simon Harris is the country's

youngest ever Taoiseach, on the job merely a week, he is intent on keeping the focus on the horrors in Gaza, and he's announced plans to soon

recognize Palestine as a nation state.

And Simon Harris joins me now from Dublin for his first television interview as Taoiseach. So, thank you and welcome to the program.

SIMON HARRIS, IRISH PRIME MINISTER: Good evening. It's a great honor to be with you.

AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you first about the -- you know, the huge issue on all of your plate. Obviously, we've heard from the U.S., Arab states, and

the E.U. meeting to try to make some kind of restraint take hold. What do you think is going to be the likely next move in this region?

HARRIS: So, tomorrow I'll travel to Brussels for my first European Council meeting. I'll be joining with colleagues there and really calling for

restraints to be shown by all parties. Anything other than that at this stage would result in very significant bloodshed and very significant

catastrophe for so many millions of people in the region. It is really important that we see stability in the region.

And while Ireland has quite rightly condemned the actions of Iran over the weekend, it is now really important that all parties show restraint. We

need to see stability restored to the region. And anything other than the exercise of restraint, at this time, would be so counterproductive, to put

it mildly, in relation to fulfilling that goal.

We'll have an opportunity at the European Council tomorrow evening to discuss this, and I look forward to engaging with other heads of government

on this matter.

AMANPOUR: Do you think, Taoiseach, that the E.U. would have a strong voice, a voice that the, you know, Israelis would listen to? They're don't seem to

be listening to the United States, although they haven't done anything yet. But the general consensus is that they are. Do you think you have any



HARRIS: Well, I think it's always very important that countries still speak up and speak out. It's obviously a matter for the Israeli government, for

the Netanyahu administration as to who they -- who they wish to listen to. They certainly haven't been listening to countries like Ireland and other

European states who've been calling for a ceasefire, for example, in Gaza for many, many months now. But I do hope, at this stage, that common sense


The Iranian attack on Israel deserves absolute condemnation. It has received condemnation in Ireland, right across the European Union, and that

is right and proper. But alongside that condemnation is a call for restraint, and because the region needs stability.

But Ireland will continue as a country to speak truth to power, just like my predecessor did in the Oval Office with President Biden only a few weeks

ago, in terms of calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. We're a country that we believe has a respected voice in the world community, a country that is

known for being an honest broker, a country that knows a lot about peace and peace processes, and one that intends to speak out in favor of

international human rights law and a cessation of violence, any political process to bring about a two-state solution in the Middle East.

AMANPOUR: Yes, you do point out, you know, some of your unique qualifications in this regard. And I just want to point out that the U.N.

today has said, in the last six months in the war in Gaza, 10,000 women have been killed, 19,000 children orphaned.

Now, you mentioned your predecessor, and he, you know, while he was still in office, laid out, in case the rest of the world didn't quite understand,

Ireland's strong affiliation with Palestinians and with that movement. Here's what he said.


LEO VARADKAR, THEN-IRISH PRIME MINISTER: When I travel the world, leaders often ask me why the Irish have such empathy for the Palestinian people.

And the answer is simple. We see our history in their eyes, a story of displacement, of dispossession, and national identity questions are denied,

forced emigration, discrimination, and now hunger.


AMANPOUR: So, that was at the White House during the -- you know, the annual traditional St. Patrick's. He was standing alongside President

Biden. You've only been in office, as I say, about a week, and yet you also are choosing to make this situation, you know, part -- a strong part of

your maiden speeches and really your resolve on the international stage. Why?

HARRIS: Because quite frankly, we have to speak out against what is an incredible humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Gaza. And let me be very

clear, the actions of Hamas in October were despicable acts of terrorism. And there is absolutely no doubt that Hamas is a terrorist organization.

And the attack on Israel should be absolutely condemned and all hostages should be released immediately and without any precondition.

I think it's entirely, though, compatible with saying that to also say the next bits, which I don't think enough people have been saying, that what we

are seeing in Gaza now and has moved well beyond a right to defend -- for a country to defend itself to a situation where there is a disproportionate

impact on women and children and on civilians and civilian infrastructure, and this country that I'm proud to lead in government knows a lot about the

specter of famine.

We are now seeing children in Gaza at risk of starvation. And you don't have to take the word of the Irish government or indeed any government in

relation to that. As you quite rightly said, there are many reputable bodies, including the United Nations, calling this out for what it is.

The only way -- and I can tell you this with absolute certainty, the only way you resolve the issues in the Middle East is to bring about a political

process that results in a two-state solution. And what I intend to do is as the leader of a small European nation, but a nation that I think has always

been seen as an honest voice on the world stage, a member of the European Union, I intend to continue to speak out in favor of peace, calling for the

immediate cessation of violence, of course, calling for the immediate release of all hostages, and ultimately, get to a point where we can have

that political process to bring about a two-state solution.

I know in saying that right now, that sounds like such a remote possibility. I know the Netanyahu government makes that sound and seem

almost absolutely impossible. That is not a reason for countries like Ireland not to speak out. And what I want to do, and what I want to see the

European Union do, what I said to President von der Leyen when I met her last week in the Berlin Marriott (ph) in Brussels, I want to see the

European Union use every lever at its disposable to exert the maximum amount of pressure to bring about a ceasefire.

I think that involves reviewing association agreements with Israel, ensuring they're compatible to human rights laws, because Ireland is a

country that values international human rights law, and I think it involves a number of countries that are like-minded coming together to recognize the

State of Palestine. And I, as you know, have had significant engagement with the Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, on this, including

welcoming to my office here in Dublin on Friday.


AMANPOUR: Taoiseach, I wanted to ask you about that because it caused a lot of waves when you, and he said that you are going to recognize Palestinian

statehood. What does that look like and what actually will it do? Who else is going to follow you? What will it actually mean in the pursuit of a

political solution?

HARRIS: Well, if you believe that a political solution must bring about a two-state solution, I think a very good starting point is recognizing that

there are two states. We recognize, obviously, the State of Israel, we recognize the right of Israel to live in peace and safety and security in

their region. And we also believe alongside a secure and safe Israel should be a secure, peaceful, and safe Palestine.

So, I do think if you fundamentally believe in a two-state solution, there's huge logic and rationale in moving to recognize the fact that the

State of Palestine is indeed a state.

We are engaging with a number of other likeminded countries in the European Union and some outside the European Union. And as I said in recent weeks --

in recent days, in fact, Ireland stands ready to recognize the State of Palestine. We would like to do this with other likeminded countries,

because I think a number of countries moving together increases the impact of the potential positive momentum that can flow from that.

AMANPOUR: Taoiseach --

HARRIS: So, tomorrow, when I go to Brussels, I'll continue to engage with colleagues on that.

AMANPOUR: I don't mean to interrupt, but I need to ask in our last question, because the Israeli government has actually pushed back on this

notion and says, you know, you're on the wrong side of history. That's the ambassador to Ireland. I'm sure you've heard that. Saying, a unilateral

recognition of a Palestinian State at this point sends a dangerous signal to Hamas and its supporters since it would be viewed as rewarding


What do you say to her?

HARRIS: Well, you'd excuse me for finding it a little bit hard to hear the representative of the Netanyahu government talking about being on the wrong

side because I think the actions of the Netanyahu government right now, in terms of allowing this humanitarian catastrophe to unfold in Gaza and the

impact on women, children, civilians and civilian infrastructure is perfect.

Ireland is extraordinarily clear in its condemnation of Hamas, extraordinarily clear in the need for the release, without condition,

immediately of all hostages. We're extraordinarily clear of the right of Israel to be able to live in safety and security. But we also believe that

reason has now been replaced by revenge. We believe there needs to be an immediate cessation of violence.

And quite frankly, I don't have any time or truck for any distractions or diversions being put forward by the Nanyang governments that take away from

that fundamental point.

AMANPOUR: It's a really rough road ahead for everyone. Taoiseach Simon Harris, thank you so much for joining us on this.

And now, we turn to a story closer to home. Hurricanes, storms, and wildfires are forcing Americans to abandon their homes as nature lashes out

against human made climate change. Over 3 million Americans have already moved due to a risk of flooding, and climate experts expect some 13 million

coastal residents to be displaced by the end of this century.

Our next guest, Jonathan Vigliotti, has reported from the front lines of climate change and he's speaking now with Hari Sreenivasan about how

American towns can become more resilient and why it's crucial to listen to the science.


HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, thanks. Jonathan Vigliotti, thanks so much for joining us.

Your new book is based on all the time that you have spent as a network correspondent covering climate disasters, and it's called "Before It's

Gone: Stories from the Frontlines of Climate Change in Small Town America." Why small towns?

VIGLIOTTI: Small towns lack the engineering, the infrastructure, and the budgets to survive the kinds of storms that increasingly more and more of

these small towns are being impacted by. And I call them canaries in the coal mine for what larger cities will experience more and more of as mother

nature outpaces our ability to hold her back as all of our modern tools are no longer good enough.

And we're seeing this unfold in big cities. And I cover big cities in this book as well, most notably following Superstorm Sandy. I was there on the

ground working for WNBC at the time and saw firsthand the impact that storm had in knocking offline New York City, one of the greatest cities in the

world for not just days and weeks, but months. And it's a story that we continue to tell all these years later.

In smaller communities, which are right now on the front lines, in real- time being impacted, these stories are being forgotten. And it's important for people to pay attention to these small towns, to learn from their

lessons, and to take action to build more resiliency.

SREENIVASAN: Let's take our audience through a couple of these towns that you've been to and witnessed firsthand. Paradise, the -- in California, the

fire that ran through there. And what went through your mind as you started covering the story and seeing the absolute devastation?


VIGLIOTTI: You know, the camp fire in 2018 destroyed 95 percent of that community. 85 people were killed. I was in London at the time. I was based

as a foreign correspondent there when the fire hit and then moved to the West Coast a few months later.

And six months later, I visited Paradise. And I had seen the destruction through the lens of the camera remotely and was struck by the disaster zone

that I had arrived to. And most struck by the people, the survivors that I had met who made the decision very early on, instead of leaving town,

moving elsewhere, made an effort to move back in and to rebuild.

And the lessons from these survivors offer survivor guides, if we listen to their stories. How to prevent a disaster, and God forbid, if one happens,

how to navigate through the red tape to rebuild. I was most struck by Kelly -- Kylie and Ellie Warble, a mother and daughter team who moved back

immediately. And while their family and friends thought that they were crazy, they saw an opportunity to rebuild their town in a resilient way.

Power lines today in Paradise are all built underground, and every home that's rebuilding has to create what's known as defensible space by

removing dry grasses, shrubs, trees from around homes, building with more fire-resistant materials. They saw a way to create a more resilient

community, and I think that their story is very powerful to other communities who have time to take action and those communities that have

been impacted how to navigate through all of the bureaucratic red tape to rebuild and to create a new start over for these towns.

SREENIVASAN: So, how many people came back to Paradise after that?

VIGLIOTTI: Yes, only about a quarter so far have returned, and this is now five years in. I spoke with the mayor a few years ago and he said it would

take about 15 years to get half of the population to return. So, this is a community that is struggling. Ad had they taken early action before the

storm hit, they wouldn't be in this situation right now.

Of course, so many people that I speak with imagined nothing like this happening to them until it does. And now, with new eyes, they see the

things that could be done differently, to create a safer place to live.

SREENIVASAN: And you point out in your book that there is kind of a longer- term ripple effect of what happens when essentially there are climate migrants, even inside this country. What are the things that you


VIGLIOTTI: In a most notable way, if we go back to just Hurricane Katrina, you had a million of these climate migrants who dispersed around the

country. Georgetown University, early on in their research, found that some host communities became less receptive and supporting of funding to help

the poor and African-Americans.

Going back to Paradise, we're seeing the same thing in nearby Chico, about 20,000 people from Paradise moved into Chico. And you're seeing this

friction when you have communities that are suddenly starting to mix where voters today are opposing affordable housing measures. And this is a

similar conflict that we see time and time again.

Two and a half million Americans were forced from their homes last year, according to the U.S. Bureau -- Census Bureau, two and a half million

forced from their homes because of extreme weather. And new research out last month show that half of all American homes are threatened by climate


So, as the climate continues to fuel the kinds of weather events that we're seeing, we're going to continue to see more of these migrants and fault

lines, and other communities as they deal with absorbing new people moving in who have lost their homes.

SREENIVASAN: Jonathan, where is the sort of free market in all of this, right? Ideally, we're supposed to have a system where, OK, you can live in

a more dangerous area. It's just going to cost you more. But as you point out, that there are insurance companies who are actually walking away from

entire regions.

VIGLIOTTI: Yes, the insurance industry and the federal government and local government have all played a role historically in where we build. I believe

it's the insurance industry's responsibility to support current homes while, at the same time, discouraging risky building in unsafe places. And

we are seeing that happen in places like California and along the coasts on the East Coast, where you're having certain industry -- certain parts of

the industry pull out from certain markets.

What we're seeing is business as usual is no longer sustainable. And where I live here in Hollywood, I bought my home four years ago. And I had an

issue finding insurance. First, everything that I was finding was about $1,000 a month. Until I found an insurance agency that had an affordable

monthly bill, but what I had to do as a result was meet their regulations, including that defensible space around my home, where we had to remove

bushes and trees so that our home, in the event that there was a wildfire, would not be impacted.

And we're seeing this happen also along the coast and with local governments taking action. In the State of New Jersey, they have Blue

Acres, and it is a program that identifies properties that are at risk of flooding and whether or not it's safe to have those people stay where they

are, build their homes on stilts, which is federally funded, or through federal funding, move those locations, move those homes to safer places.


So, across the country, we're seeing new programs put into place by the federal government, also dictated by the insurance industry on where it is

safe to live.

SREENIVASAN: You know, speaking of defensible homes and thinking about that and planning about that, tell us a little bit about "The House With The Red


VIGLIOTTI: So, this is Lahaina. And before I wrote this book in my journal, I wrote a sentence before every disaster, there is usually a science that

has been ignored. And unfortunately, Lahaina is a perfect example of that. My team and I were one of the first network crews to arrive. And what was

left of Downtown Lahaina, 80 percent of the community was destroyed and more than 100 people were killed.

I equate it to an environmental holocaust when we finally arrived. We chartered a boat to get there to this cindered shoreline where home after

home was destroyed, business after business. In the immediate aftermath, we listened to local leaders as they described this fire as an explosion. It

was like a bomb going off. The implication there being there was no time to take action.

But there was, as we learned, a nearly decade long fuse that could have been put out at any point because scientists on the island 10 years

earlier, in 2014, came out with a report that said the warming climate had increased the vulnerability of wildfires there on Maui and specifically in

Lahaina. They even recommended steps that could be taken to avert disaster, including conserving water, restoring wetlands, removing dry invasive

grasses, and building and updating homes with fire resistant materials.

Unfortunately, that report was filed away and action was not taken in time. But in the miles on path of destruction that we witnessed firsthand, there

was this home with the red roof. The homeowners, prior to this fire, had updated that home, implementing those scientific remedies, including

removing bushes and trees from around the house and putting a metal red roof on top of the house, which qualified for tax credits and reduce the

insurance costs.

Unfortunately, every other home in that neighborhood was destroyed. But across the country, we're seeing examples of other homes with the red roof

that have survived other storms by other names. Really, the message here, people as individuals have the power to protect their properties. And as

individual communities, we all have the power to protect our communities, to build more resilient communities that can withstand the impacts of

climate change.

SREENIVASAN: When you're out there, I'm sure there are people who approach you and they are automatically predisposed to think that, well, you have a

bias, your mainstream media, you're going to talk about this climate stuff, right? I mean, there is still climate denial and climate science denial out

there. How do you deal with it?

VIGLIOTTI: I think that denial stems from a lack of understanding the climate science. Climate change can be overwhelming and the solutions can

be daunting, but people that are impacted by extreme weather, their eyes are immediately opened and they see things and they see trends that

beforehand they may not have been open to receiving, that their imaginations failed to understand imagine a world where they could lose

their homes.

I think more and more as I talk to people on the front lines, especially those impacted by extreme weather, they recognize that the weather is

changing. All of them, and many people I have spoken with never even once really considered climate change as a threat until they saw it visualized

and in action in extreme weather.

So, I try to point out, whenever I'm in the field, I try not to hit home climate change to these people who are oftentimes going through the worst

moments of their life, but they all recognize that something has changed, the weather is no longer what it used to be, and they can't just rebuild

business as usual. Things need to change.

SREENIVASAN: You also make it a point to kind of draw this connection that it's not just here in the United States that there are climate migrants who

turn into, well, climate refugees as they cross borders because conditions became unlivable where they were, then that has a domino effect of its own.

VIGLIOTTI: That's correct. And we saw this and it's a very extreme example. But in Syria, I was there covering the civil war at that point 10 years in,

and that war had its roots in a drought. And back in 2006, you had farmers in the agricultural veins of the country warning local leaders that without

water, there was crop failure and there would be a mass migration.

But action wasn't taken and that mass migration unfolded as more and more people from rural areas moved into urban areas. And there was a conflict

which led to protests, which led to the government responding in violence and -- which initially sparked this -- not just protests, but the uprising

that led to the civil war and gave way to groups like ISIS.


Closer to home, we see situations like that unfolding as well on the border with Mexico. A number of the migrants that are coming through, and we're

talking millions every year, are coming from areas that have been impacted by historic storms, historic droughts, and crop failure.

So, we will start to see more and more of this while Syria is an extreme example. Migration is something that is taking place worldwide. And it is

something that we are starting to see more and more of here in the U.S.

Two and a half million people forced from their homes last year because of extreme weather is a daunting number. And unfortunately, with the way that

our weather is trending, we're going to see more and more people that are being uprooted and moving from their homes voluntarily, but mostly by


SREENIVASAN: What were the kind of hopeful lines that you found in this reporting? Because it would have been easy to just kind of rattle off a

list of disasters and say, oh, look at this one that I covered and that one. But you do have a through line here of solutions that are working. And

we talked a little bit about kind of the house with the red roof. But what else did you find that, you know, gave you some bit of optimism?

VIGLIOTTI: The call to return our land back to a more natural state to me has been very powerful to say, and a perfect example of that is the beaver.

So, here in California, a researcher by the name of Emily Fairfax found after a massive wildfire, there was a stretch of land, a lush land that was

not impacted. And she found at the center of this all was a beaver dam that had been recently built, that was able to contain the water and build a

resilient ecosystem there, a wetland that was able to resist fire.

As a result of this discovery, more and more communities across the west are now welcoming the beaver, which historically has been seen as a

nuisance critter because they created flooding through their dams. I was in Coalville, Utah, where a rancher that had eradicated beavers from his

property, asked for them to be brought back in.

There's a group of people now who are building what are known as analog beaver dams to help reintroduce beavers to create more resilient

ecosystems. And today, that Coalville ranch has a thriving, lush ecosystem because of two beavers that they brought in, and these are animals that are

working free of charge and are helping restore a community and an ecosystem in a way that even engineering and all the money that we have, perhaps

can't do nearly as well.

SREENIVASAN: But where do you see this kind of happening generationally and how people perceive the threat of the disruptions that the climate is going

to bring to us?

VIGLIOTTI: young people are definitely leading the charge and are much more receptive to the information. And I think the message that they sent to all

of us is we all need to be receptive to the information.

I mean, as I travel from community to community, regardless of what their politics are, these are people that after a storm, they all do wake up to

the realities that they face. But I think more and more, it's important that we do listen to the research. We do listen to survivors. We listen to

the next generation who will inherit this earth. And we take steps to build back safer and to update our communities that are in harm's way.

There's the Inflation Reduction Act and the infrastructure deal, which offer billions of dollars in funding to help communities across the United

States. But you don't have the federal government going and knocking on doors of each of these towns saying, take this money. Local leaders need to

listen, and they need to listen to their communities and they need to help get access to that funding. Grants are available, but it's up to each

community to identify the risks and then to apply for those grants.

And I think the first step is listening. And oftentimes, listening to the next generation, which has been much more vocal than most.

SREENIVASAN: Author of the book "Before It's Gone," Jonathan Vigliotti, thanks so much for joining us.

VIGLIOTTI: Thank you for having me.


AMANPOUR: And finally, tonight, the Olympic flame is burning bright as it begins its journey to Paris. The torch has been lit in Olympia, Greece, the

birthplace of the ancient games, symbolizing their eternal spirit.

In the traditional ceremony, actors dressed as ancient priestesses dance and appeal to the god of sun and light, Apolla. And now, the relay begins.

The flame will be carried for the next 11 days across Greece before traveling by boat to France.


COMMANDER AYMERIC GIBEL, BELEM CAPTAIN: We're very proud to -- can carry the flame for the first time by the sea and move the ship by sail. So, it's

going to impact the world about the history of the France, link between Greece and France, and for the ecologic way of transport about such an

event like the Olympic flame.


We have the honor with this very hard ship, because the ship is from 1896, the same age as the Olympic Games.


AMANPOUR: And of course, it all culminates in Paris with the lighting of the Olympic cauldron at the Olympic Opening Ceremony at the end of July.

That's it for now. If you ever miss our show, you can find the latest episode shortly after it airs on our podcast. And remember, you can always

catch us online, on our website, and all-over social media.

Thank you for watching, and goodbye from London.