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Interview with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi; Biden Faces Challenges on Voting Rights, COVID and Economy; "Reframed: Marilyn Monroe" Premieres Sunday on CNN. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired January 14, 2022 - 10:30   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: The U.S. is confirming its commitment to a strategic partnership with Jordan. This after Secretary of State Antony Blinken met yesterday with Jordanian Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Ayman Safadi. The two discussed implementing economic reforms, coordinating on Syria, as well as Israeli- Palestinian issues, but Safadi has voiced some reservations about the region relying too much today on the U.S.

Foreign Minister Safadi joins us now this morning.

Mr. Foreign Minister, thanks for taking time today.


SCIUTTO: I want to begin on what you said earlier this week. You said that we in Jordan cannot just rely solely on the U.S. to do everything for us. Is the U.S. today a less powerful, less reliable ally for Jordan?

SAFADI: No. The U.S. continues to be a very solid partner of Jordan. A true friend of Jordan. The cooperation that we have with the U.S. have tremendously helped us mitigate many of the challenges that we've been at the receiving end of as a result of regional crisis, so the partnership is solid, it's strong. The U.S. support to Jordan is key not only in enabling us to meet those challenges but also in helping us implement the wide-ranging economic reforms that we are undertaking right now.

What I meant by that statement is that we in the region need to do a lot of the heavy lifting. We cannot just rely on the U.S. to solve our problems. We've got to do our bit and then work with the U.S. as a trusted partner moving forward.

SCIUTTO: Are you concerned, particularly as the U.S. focuses away from the Middle East and more towards its relationship with China, are you concerned about who fills the void? Russia has certainly been more active in the Middle East than in years past.

SAFADI: Look, the U.S. has always played a leading role in the region, and we do need that role. And we do work with the U.S. on ensuring that it does continue to help us grapple with all those challenges and find solutions to them. And the discussions I have had the pleasure of having with the secretary of State yesterday did indicate that we are going to continue to work together, again, from a point of departure where we do our bit in the region as well, whether in terms of peace process, Syria, refugees, terrorism. The U.S. is a key partner for us and we continue to work together.

SCIUTTO: OK. You bring up the peace process. There are many in the region as you know who as a practical matter have given up on a two- state solution to the peace process between the Palestinians and the Israelis. You have not. Why? What gives you hope?

SAFADI: Because we simply do not see any other alternative to the two- state solution to get us to the just and lasting peace that is a need for all of us and that's a necessity for regional and international security. If we undermine the two-state solution, then what's the alternative? It's going to be the one-state reality, and that's going to be an ugly reality. It will not be a solution if we just institutionalize apartheid and to pretty much put the conflict more on a (INAUDIBLE) explosive course.

So we will not throw the white towel for the sake of all the peoples of the region. For the sake of peace we have to continue working towards revitalizing peace talks that would take us toward the two- state solution. And again, that is a --


SAFADI: An effort that we are trying to all work on including with the U.S. and partners in the region and beyond.

SCIUTTO: I wonder if you have seen a change in the diplomatic tone from Israeli officials in terms of the relationship between Israel and Jordan. The settlements continue to be built in the West Bank.

SAFADI: And we continue to say that this should stop. We continue to convince settlements as not only a violation of international law but also an impediment to the peace that we want to achieve. The previous government in Israel did a lot to make sure that nothing really worked, worked well whether in bilateral relations or within the regional concept.

With this new government, we do talk. We have frank and open conversations. They know our position very well. We need to end this stalemate and start meaningful negotiations to achieve the peace that is being undermined day in and day out by --



SAFADI: That are hurting the viability of the two-state solution.

SCIUTTO: Iraq now. Of course Jordan shares a border with Iraq. There are more than 60,000 Iraqi refugees still registered in Jordan. As you know, U.S. forces announced the end of their combat role in Iraq in December, though a small force remains. You saw the chaos in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of the U.S. forces there. Do you fear a similar future for Iraq and a spillover effect for Jordan?


SAFADI: Not in the same way. Iraq is still facing a lot of challenges but it's come a long way in terms of trying to stabilize and rebuild its institutions. A key for the Iraqi success is for all of us to stand behind Iraq and support them, respect their sovereignty, and do whatever we can to make sure that they continue to move towards addressing the security challenges, ensuring the defeat of Daesh, and also improving the living conditions of their people.

And again, we do have very close consultation with the U.S. and we feel that Iraq is on a right track but it does need the support of all of us, and none of us in the region and beyond can afford for Iraq not to succeed in that given the numerous challenges that will come as a result, not least of which is the threat of Daesh and other terrorist groups regrouping.

SCIUTTO: Daesh of course as we know them, ISIS. Syria now, remarkable survival story one can say regarding Bashar al-Assad and his leadership with Syria. Jordan has reopened its border with Syria. There are flights going again between Hamann and Damascus. King Abdullah has spoken with the Syrian leader. Is Jordan preparing a normalized relations with Syria?

SAFADI: What we're doing in Jordan is trying to make sure that there is a serious political process that will result in ending that crisis. And Jordan as you know very well, Jim, would be at the receiving end of that crisis, 1.3 million Syrian refugees in Jordan, the threat of terrorism from the border and other threats of drugs coming across the border. What we're seeing is that 11 years into the crisis we've got to do what it takes to solve it.

We cannot continue to double down on approaches that did not deliver the outcome. And therefore, what we're trying to do is in coordination with the U.S. and other partners, find a path towards a political solution. You have two dimensions to the relations with Syria. One the bilateral and again as a neighboring country with 367 kilometers of border, the impact of that crisis on us has been enormous, not least of which the burden of providing a dignified life for refugees, which unfortunately we see less and less global attention towards them.


SAFADI: The other side of it is we need to work towards a political solution. We all agree there's no military answer, and the crisis has done so much suffering and destruction and we cannot continue with status quo politics. And that's what Jordan is trying to do, open the horizon for a political solution.

SCIUTTO: And Jordan has of course had a front-row seat to so much of that disruption.

Before we go, a number-one topic of conversation between you and Secretary of State Blinken, of course, the U.S. memorandum of understanding as it's known with Jordan. U.S. assisted Jordan with some $1.65 billion last year. That's going to go forward. The U.S. is going to continue that financial commitment to Jordan.

I wonder, though, are you concerned that in the region the U.S. will not provide the same leadership that it has in the past?

SAFADI: Well, I mean, first of all, we're grateful for the support that the U.S. continues to provide to Jordan, the aid that is provided under the MOU has been instrumental in helping us and not only meet challenges but also go ahead with reforms as I said. We and the U.S. are strong partners. We talk and we do appreciate the importance of a leading U.S. role in the region.


SAFADI: And we're going to continue to work with them to make sure that the U.S. continues to play that leading role. And the U.S. can also count on Jordan to always be a partner for the U.S. there and work together towards our common objective of peace, stability, security and prosperity. So excellent talks I've had with all officials here, with the administration, and on the Hill as well, and I think the message or the outcome of that is that we remain solid partners, we remain committed to working together, and that partnership is enduring.

SCIUTTO: Ayman Safadi, we wish you safe travels home to Jordan. Thanks so much for joining us this morning.

SAFADI: Thank you so much, sir. Thank you. Good to see you.

GOLODRYGA: Really interesting conversation there, with an important U.S. partner.

Still ahead, President Biden says he doesn't know if Democrats can get voting rights legislation done. A gigantic blow that his and the Democratic agenda is facing. So what's the next move for White House? We'll talk about that coming up next.



SCIUTTO: A gloomy outlook for Democrats today on Capitol Hill after Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema showed no signs once again of budging on their stance on the filibuster, which would have potentially cleared a path for voting rights legislation to pass. President Biden conceding now it may not happen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I hope we can get this done, but I'm not sure. I don't know that we can get it done, but I know one thing. As long as I have a breath in me, as long as I am in the White House, as long as I'm engaged at all, I'm going to be fighting to change the way these legislatures have been moving.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP) GOLODRYGA: It's the latest setback for the president, who this week saw dwindling approval numbers, an alarming inflation report and a major vaccine mandate blocked by the Supreme Court.

CNN's John Harwood joins us now live with more. And John, what more are we hearing from the White House on efforts to turn this page given that the majority of it is sort of out of the president's hands?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, Bianna, the White House knows that this is a very, very difficult moment for them, and what they're trying to do is keep grinding ahead. You're right. There are some things they don't control. On inflation, for example, that's mostly the Fed's job, but they're going to continue trying to work on supply chain issues, do things incrementally where they can to try to make a difference.


They're going to try on the pandemic to -- now that the mandate has been struck down, they're counting on business, many large businesses themselves are very pro-vaccination. And so maybe those businesses the White House hopes can implement some mandates.

They're scrambling on masks to catch up with the demand of Omicron, and on their legislative agenda they're trying to see if they can revive after this voting rights push, which appears doomed to fail, they're going to try to revive Build Back Better in a form that Joe Manchin can accept. No guarantee, obviously, that that can happen, but there are reasons to think that it's possible with some more negotiation.

GOLODRYGA: John Harwood, thanks so much as always. Great to see you.

Well, there was so much more to Marilyn Monroe than how she looked. Still ahead, how she was ahead of her time when it came to the fight for women's rights.



GOLODRYGA: A new CNN Original Series takes a fresh look at Marilyn Monroe, the movie star, the blond bombshell, the cultural icon. "REFRAMED: MARILYN MONROE" says it's time to look at her through a feminist lens.


MARILYN MONROE, ACTRESS: I went to 20th Century FOX where Ben Lyon was head of casting. And he says, who is this girl?

BEN LYON, HEAD OF CASTING, 20TH CENTURY FOX: In walked the most gorgeous young girl, 20 years old. And I said, what's your ambition? She says to be a film star.

MONROE: And then they laid a technicolor test, which was unusual. I think they had high hopes for me.

CINDY DE LA HOZ-SIPALA, BIOGRAPHER: She was to come in, walk across the room, sit down and light a cigarette and smile.

ALICIA MALONE, AUTHOR AND FILM CRITIC: As soon as that camera started rolling, something magical happened.

CHRISTINA NEWLAND, AUTHOR AND FILM CRITIC: She has this kind of fresh- faced beauty, this kind of luminous prettiness on the screen.

ELLEN BURSTYN, CO-PRESIDENT, ACTORS STUDIO: She could manifest the kind of magic she came into the world with.


SCIUTTO: Joining us now is Sarah Churchwell. She's consulting producer on the series, also author of "The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe."

Sarah, I wonder, what are people missing about Monroe when they look at her purely from a standpoint of her physical beauty?

SARAH CHURCHWELL, AUTHOR, "THE MANY LIVES OF MARILYN MONROE": Well, I mean, they're kind of missing everything, including the totally obvious, that Marilyn was an actress and this woman, this blond bombshell that we think we know was a performance. We make this distinction about most movie stars but when it comes to Marilyn it's like we stop thinking. And it was not only a performance, it was a comically exaggerated performance. She was sending off the idea of the blond bombshell as much as she was representing one.

And one of the kind of facts of Marilyn's life is that she fought her whole career to play a different part, to show that she could in fact play different roles but no one would let her. And in a sense we still don't because we only ever talk about her as a blond bombshell.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. And she was born with a different name. Many people don't even realized that. Norma Jean. Not Marilyn.


GOLODRYGA: When you hear her say, I think they had high hopes for me, what is it that fascinated those studio executives so early on when she first appeared before them?

CHURCHWELL: Well, you know, Marilyn herself made jokes about that. I mean, she had an incredibly beautiful figure and so she once joked about the fact that other actresses might have the foreground and they might have the background, you know, making a joke about her body, but that they didn't have what was in the middle, and by that of course she meant her brains and her talent and her ability.

So I think that, you know, her beauty is undeniable. It clearly, you know, knocked people out in real life and on screen. But on screen as everybody always says she had this magic and it just comes across.

SCIUTTO: How do you think Marilyn would have played in the women's rights movements if she hadn't passed away so soon?

CHURCHWELL: Well, she was absolutely the forerunner of what powerful women in Hollywood today are doing. She blazed all of the trails they're now following. She set up her own production company. She's one of the first women to do so, so that she could develop better roles for herself. She fought for equal pay, she fought for director and script approval. She fought for professional quality. And also she was very much a forerunner of Me Too. She spoke out early and often about sexual violence in Hollywood, about the casting couch, about predatory men, and she would definitely have been speaking out on all of these issues now because she was speaking about them then back in the 1950s.


GOLODRYGA: Yes. When that was clearly taboo. I'm curious, given how much time and research you've invested into this project, what surprised you the most that you took away from it?

CHURCHWELL: I think that the more I looked at Marilyn the more I realized how smart she was and that she was genuinely an interesting person. She has a tremendous sense of humor that comes out in her comedy. But again people kind of credit everybody else for her comedy rather than herself, like the male directors or the script writers. But she was really, really funny. She was very witty.


GOLODRYGA: Listen, she died way too soon at the age of just 36 years old but clearly has had a lasting legacy. Really cannot wait to see this this weekend.

Sarah Churchwell, thank you so much for joining us. Appreciate it.



SCIUTTO: And be sure to tune in, the all-new CNN Original Series "REFRAMED: MARILYN MONROE," premiers with back-to-back episodes Sunday at 9:00 p.m. only on CNN.

And thanks so much to all of you for joining us on yet another busy news day. It is Friday. I'm Jim Sciutto.

GOLODRYGA: That's true. It is Friday. Have a good weekend, Jim. Have a good weekend, everybody. I'm Bianna Golodryga. "AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts after a quick break.