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CNN'S AMANPOUR

Iran Nuclear Talks in Geneva; Is Somalia a Safe Haven for Terrorists?

Aired October 4, 2009 - 14:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, HOST: I'm Christiane Amanpour.

This week, there have been major developments on Iran, advances around the negotiating table that could usher in a new era of cooperation instead of confrontation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR (voice-over): We'll go inside the Geneva talks. We have the global exclusive with Iran's nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili.

We'll show you what President Obama said and the new U.S. tone on Iran's nuclear. For perspective, we go to Tehran and one of the foremost experts on Iran's internal politics. And here in our studio, a former top adviser to the Obama administration.

Then...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can hear the gunfire behind me, and even by the standards of Mogadishu, it's been incredibly intense.

AMANPOUR: ... we take you inside the terror that is Somalia with a rare glimpse of the newest breeding ground for al-Qaeda. Could it bring back the days of "Black Hawk Down"?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR: Welcome to our program.

At the end of this week, talks between the United States, other major powers and Iran over the Islamic republic's nuclear program led to a groundbreaking agreement. Strikingly, Iran has agreed in principle to export most of its uranium for further enrichment in Russia and France, and that potentially reduces its stockpile, as well as the tensions that come with it.

Iran also says that it will allow inspections of its newly disclosed underground nuclear facility at Qom. President Obama welcomed the new agreement and called for "unfettered access" soon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK H. OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today's meeting was a constructive beginning, but it must be followed with constructive action by the Iranian government.

First, Iran must demonstrate its commitment to transparency. Earlier this month, we presented clear evidence that Iran has been building a covert nuclear facility in Qom. Since Iran has now agreed to cooperate fully and immediately with the International Atomic Energy Agency, it must grant unfettered access to IAEA inspectors within two weeks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: And moments after Obama's statement, we talked about that to Iran's top official at the table.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR: Joining me now from Geneva, our awaited exclusive interview with Saeed Jalili, Iran's chief nuclear negotiation and the head of Iran's National Security Council.

Thank you for joining us from Geneva, Mr. Jalili.

SAEED JALILI, IRAN'S NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL (through translator): Thank you very much.

AMANPOUR: How was the atmosphere? Was it a constructive atmosphere at the talks today?

JALILI: Well, today, in our talks, we entered with a bright and clear idea and logics which comes from and resulted from the regional and international powers of Iran, and with clear and specific ideas and suggestions regarding the concerns we have. We entered into the negotiation in talks with this idea, with good will.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Jalili, did you agree with the discussion there to have immediate inspections of your Qom facility?

JALILI: We believe that the IAEA and the NPT have to be strengthened, but we believe that there should be a balance between the commitments, the obligations and the rights. We are seriously following our rights as we oblige to our safeguards.

Therefore, as in the new site of Fordu in Iran, we are following legal actions which is based and according to the IAEA regulations. No covert activities happen there. We even declared this site even earlier than the due time. Therefore, whatever was going on regarding to our arrangements with the IAEA, regarding to that activities as a member state we're supposed to do, we're going to follow those regulations.

AMANPOUR: So, I know you just heard what President Obama said. He called today's meeting constructive and a good first step, and he also called for access to that site. As you say, you're planning to meet the IAEA in your obligations for that. He talked about two weeks, inspections in two weeks.

JALILI: In our talks today, our discussion went way beyond this talk. What we have today is that we have to talk regarding the common concerns of the international communities.

One of these concerns is the mass destruction weapons. We have a clear and a specific idea and suggestion regarding the fact that the world has to move toward the world free of mass destruction. We have to move toward the disarmaments, as the countries are going to insist on their rights to have nuclear -- peaceful nuclear energy.

One of the serious ideas we raised is that for disarmament, we have to have a common move, an international move. The fact that after 40 years of NPT, we are still witnessing that Article 6 of that NPT, obliging the countries to move toward disarmament, and it has not happened yet, well, it's a big concern.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Jalili, three times in his statement, Mr. Obama, the president, said that he and the United States supports Iran's peaceful nuclear program. Three times he said that. And then again he said, but the burden of proof must be on Iran to allow full inspections.

So, again, I just wanted to clarify. You said you are going to meet your obligations under IAEA. So, does that mean inspectors will be coming soon to the Fardu, the Qom facility?

JALILI: As you know, Iran has the most cooperation with IAEA. No such countries have got this kind of cooperation with the IAEA and allowed the inspection to come to countries. The transparency of Iran caused Mr. ElBaradei to repeat once again that there is no single diversion of Iran's activities.

They have no evidence regarding a diversion. Iran, under the light of these transparency which is not something new. We had it in the past in its interactions with the agency, and also in following its obligations and meeting its obligations.

Iran is very serious. Iran has committed itself to follow all the obligations and otherwise.

What I want to emphasize is that our cooperation with the agency and the way we look specifically regarding to nuclear energy is that we believe that nuclear warheads are illegal and illegitimate, and no country should have these kind of weapons. As the nuclear energy, a peaceful one is the right of every sovereign state and country, and they should have access to peaceful nuclear energy.

And if we are having any kind of cooperation with the agencies not for the pleasant or the forsake of the pleasant of any individual countries or any countries, this is our belief, that there should be a cooperation and contribution in international community so we that could see reduction in these.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Jalili, there was an announcement by Mr. Solana, your counterpart, the negotiator for the P plus five, that there's an agreement in principle that would allow Iran to export low-enriched uranium to a third country for further enrichment for peaceful purposes, as you say, into your own country.

How much low-enriched uranium are you going to be sending out?

JALILI: As you know, this is the sovereign right of each country who use low-enriched uranium for peaceful purposes and have this uranium. In our research, in Tehran research reactor which has solely dedicated itself to the medical purpose, we need low-enriched uranium in 20 percent. Therefore, we wrote a letter to the IAEA, and in order to have 20 percent enriched uranium access, we asked their help so that the agency, as its duty which they are obliged to facilitate access to peaceful nuclear energy, we asked them to do their job and duty.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Jalili, we have to go. We're out of time. I just want to ask you again, when do you think the IAEA inspectors will come to your facility in Qom?

JALILI: Whatever exists is that we have positive interactions with the agency, and in our interaction with the agency. We are working within the framework of the cooperation between Iran and the agency, and certainly we are taking this issue into account.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Later, Iranian officials told me that this first round of talks shows they can work on this and other issues with the United States and the other major powers.

Ahead, a little noticed but important point that President Obama made not once, but three times.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: The Iranian government has invited hundreds of journalists, as well as six ambassadors from the so-called Non-Aligned Movement. There are no western countries represented here. Nonetheless, the Iranian government is saying that this is a transparency visit designed to show the world what it claims to be its peaceful nuclear program.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: That was early 2007, at another of Iran's nuclear facilities near the city of Esfahan. So, nearly three years later, will the Geneva talks between Iran and the U.S. lead to a new era of dialogue?

We turn to Mohammad Marandi, a professor at Tehran University, and to Ray Takeyh, a former adviser to the Obama administration on Iran.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR: Mr. Marandi, if I could go to you first, what is the mood in Iran around these talks? What are people hoping for?

MOHAMMAD MARANDI, PROFESSOR, TEHRAN UNIVERSITY: Well, I think people are mostly hoping that the United States and its allies will change their attitude towards the country. The tone, of course, did change a bit after Obama came to power, but there hasn't been any substantial change in the eyes of the Iranian people with regards to policy towards the country. And this is an appropriate time for the United States to make that change if they're really serious about dialogue, meaningful dialogue with Iran.

AMANPOUR: OK. Stand by for one second.

And Mr. Takeyh, what does the United States expect to get out of this meeting?

RAY TAKEYH, FMR. ADVISER TO OBAMA ADMINISTRATION ON IRAN: More focus on Iran's nuclear program, particularly the second site that has been -- the clandestine site that was revealed this week, having access to it and having it safeguarded by international inspectors; having Iran essentially accept confidence-building measures in this overall nuclear program; getting some of Iran's accumulated low-enriched uranium out of the country for reprocessing; and establishing a mechanism whereby the dialogue between the two countries can be more systematic, as opposed to episodic that it's been in the past.

AMANPOUR: So, therefore, it should be good news after today, because there has at least, according to all sides, been a development on the inspectors, the IAEA inspectors going, they say.

TAKEYH: Right. That's going to be worked out. And to be fair, the inspectors were going to go in there. After Iran itself declared this facility to the IAEA, it did so with a purpose of actually inviting them to inspect the facilities. So, that might have been the easier part. Getting the overall Iranian nuclear program into some degree of regulation and restraint, that might be tougher.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Marandi, in Tehran, do you think and do you believe the government wants broader relations or a different relationship with the United States beyond just these specific talks?

MARANDI: Yes. I think that if the Iranians feel that the Americans are truly serious, then there is indeed a possibility for rapprochement.

Both countries have serious issues in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as in Pakistan, that need to be resolved. And in some ways, they do have similar interests.

The problem is that the Iranians, in the past, on a number of occasions, did step forward for rapprochement, and the Americans gave a very negative response. For example, in the past, during the Clinton years, the Iranians allowed Conoco to come and develop oilfields in Iran, and then sanctions were imposed on Iran. And then, when Iran helped in Afghanistan, it was called a part of the access of evil.

So, this time around, I think the Iranians are going to wait to see what the Americans will be doing. They will probably not take the first step forward themselves.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Takeyh, in terms of what Mr. Marandi just raced, the issue of sanctions, what can the United States or should the United States do, or the international community, in terms of how to go forward? Incentives, would there be? And if they impose sanctions, if they chose to, do you think that would make any bit of difference?

TAKEYH: Well, I think for the next couple of months, everyone is going to wait to see how these negotiations evolve, and if you're going to make some sort of a progress, I think, by January. At that time, I think there are going to be serious discussions about a multilateral sanctions regime that may encompass China and Russia, particularly because at that time, you'd be making an assessment about how these talks work, whether Iran is genuine about coming to terms with the international community, with using these talks to stall and delay. That's when the sanctions issue is going to be revisited.

AMANPOUR: But Iran has said clearly that it hasn't worked in the past, it doesn't bow to those kinds of threats.

Another thing that the president of Iran has said -- he was quoted before these talks -- is that it was a way for them to gauge whether they would be treated with respect at these talks, whether there would be a different atmosphere in terms of interpersonal atmosphere across the table as a way forward.

Do you think that the atmospherics were also important today?

TAKEYH: Atmospherics is always important when you're talking about Iran, because as a country, (INAUDIBLE) international respectability, even though its conduct doesn't always merit it. But these particular sessions seem to have been conducted in a civil, respectful tone by both parties.

There was a sidebar discussion between an American representative and an Iranian representative. I don't know what transpired there, but, essentially, there seemed to have been a better atmosphere than perhaps in the previous talks, and certainly in reference to the rhetoric coming out of both capitals during the past week.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Marandi, given the political dilemma in Iran today and the continued protests, the continued issues there, what is actually going on in terms of various different factions in Iran today?

MARANDI: Well, one interesting thing is that, with regards to the nuclear program, MPs from all the different factions and political parties in parliament, both the different reformists, as well as the different principalists or conservative factions, they all signed a joint statement supporting Iran's position in the negotiations, which is quite significant. But I think it's also important to note that Iran is quite stable, and unlike what one often hears in the western media, I don't think that the country is in any serious problem.

I think that it's important for the American government to recognize that and to deal with the reality on the ground in Iran. If you'll recall, Terror Free Tomorrow, they had a poll before the elections that showed that Mr. Ahmadinejad was well ahead. And then the more recent University of Maryland poll also showed that he won the elections, or he was far more popular than Mr. Mousavi.

This doesn't go down well in the United States, I know. But I think that the United States, in order to be able to move towards rapprochement, and to be able to deal with Iran, they have to finally come to understand that Iran is not going to go away and the Islamic Republic of Iran is not going to collapse. If they do come to that recognition and they do come to respect the country, then I think that rapprochement would become much more easy, and I think that the Iranians are quite willing to move in that direction.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me put that to Mr. Takeyh.

You were in the State Department, you were on the sort of Iran file. You're no longer there.

What is the possibility of rapprochement beyond just this issue?

TAKEYH: Well, it reflects Iran's conduct on a broad ranges of issues -- its entanglements in terrorism, and obviously the nuclear file being probably the most important issue. But it's contingent on Iran's behavior...

(CROSSTALK)

AMANPOUR: When President Obama came in, he came in with a different language towards Iran.

TAKEYH: That's right.

AMANPOUR: Does that still hold? Does he still want to have reset relations?

TAKEYH: I think so. I think that throughout the discussions that have taken place during the past week regarding some of Iran's conduct, the president and others have always insisted that the diplomatic path is still open and Iran has a possibility of walking through the door if it chooses to. But the door is not going to stay open forever.

AMANPOUR: Does the United States agree with several proposals such as that Iran does not ever react well under threat, that Iran wants to be treated as the power of the region, which it is, by all accounts, a major power in the region?

TAKEYH: I think there's a recognition that Iran is a major power in the region and can exercise its influence. But it's important for that influence to be exercised in a constructive manner.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR: Next on our program, how President Obama seems to be repositioning the United States on this issue.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AMANPOUR: Watching President Obama's statement after the nuclear agreement was announced, I was struck by one point he made, a point he made three times.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: All nations have the right to peaceful nuclear power provided that they live up to their international agreements.

This is about the global nonproliferation regime and Iran's right to peaceful nuclear energy, just as all nations have it. But with that right comes responsibilities.

As I've said before, we support Iran's right to peaceful nuclear power.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: So, the right to a peaceful nuclear program and the proposal for such confidence-building steps seems to inch the United States closer to accepting an Iran that will continue to enrich uranium at some level.

Iran's nuclear ambitions are just one of the challenges facing President Obama. Another is failed states and their consequences.

So we turn next to Somalia and terrorism.

Two weeks ago U.S. commandos killed a senior al-Qaeda militant there in a helicopter attack. And some U.S. military advisers are calling for more strikes against terrorist training camps in Somalia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): As we cross to the insurgent side, we're ordered to switch off the camera. We're allowed to start filming again only in the darkened corridor that leads into the meeting room.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: We'll bring you an extraordinary look inside this new terror breeding ground.

Somalia, that's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in Atlanta, at the CNN world headquarters.

Here's a look at the top stories this hour.

Earlier on AMANPOUR, when Christiane spoke with Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, no date for the inspection of Iran's recently disclosed uranium enrichment facility had been set. But now it has. The chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency arrived in Tehran yesterday. And at a news conference this morning, Mohamed ElBaradei announced the inspections will take place October 25th.

Eight U.S. troops and two Afghan forces have been killed in eastern Afghanistan. Authorities say militants attacked two security outposts in Nuristan Province near the Pakistani border. Our records show this is the largest number of Americans killed by hostile action in a single day in Afghanistan in more than a year.

The Indian government has launched a massive relief effort for flood- ravaged regions of southern India. Five days of torrential rain have caused widespread flooding. At least 205 people are dead. Reporters of a million people are displaced. A local official says it's the worst flooding the area has seen in more than 150 years. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Join me at 4:00 Eastern Time today in the "CNN Newsroom." For now let's go back to "AMANPOUR."

AMANPOUR: Welcome back. Somalia now. We know it as a failed state where pirates patrol the high seas and where the U.S. first intervened to end a terrible famine back in 1992. We covered that and the terrible fiasco that followed when the humanitarian mission turned into a hunt for war lords and ended in disaster. A U.S. Blackhawk helicopter was shot down. Eighteen servicemen were killed in the battle that followed and America turned away from foreign interventions for the better part of a decade.

So why does all this matter now? Because this nation of about nine million in East Africa has been turning into a safe haven for al-Qaeda. Constant warfare makes it dangerous for anyone to travel there including journalists.

But we've got this exclusive report from Sudanese journalist Nima Elbagir on the most powerful, radical Islamic groups in Somalia.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIMA ELBAGIR, JOURNALIST (voice-over): Late morning in Mogadishu, a Hezbollah Islam militia men crouches at one of the dozens of makeshift barricade that carve up the city. It's the last Friday in Ramadan, that the Islamic holy month has brought no respite from the daily fighting in the Somali capital.

Hezbollah Islam and their allies Al-Shabaab, whose name in Arabic means the youth, are radical Somali Islamist groups. They say they're fighting to establish the true application of Islamic law in Somalia. Western intelligence agencies say they have links with al-Qaeda. Between them, Hezbollah Islam and Al-Shabaab control two-thirds of Mogadishu. And they're tightening the noose on the government.

(on camera): There's been continuing fighting for the last 24 hours. You can hear the gunfire behind me. And even by the standards of Mogadishu, it's been incredibly intense. We're only half a kilometer from the presidential palace. Behind me, across that valley where you can see the smoke, that's where the insurgents are. They're trying to inch closer to the seat of power.

(voice-over): There's been no government in full control of Somalia since 1991. The divisions here, based on clan and interpretations of Islam have bred anarchy. The current president Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed is seen by the West as a moderate Islamist. He used to be an ally of the groups now trying to oust him and kill members of his government.

Neither side in the fight for Somalia's capital have shown its people much mercy. The young Al-Shabaab fighters are happy to show off their fire power, but their faces remain covered. They worry that if they're recognized, they might not be able to carry out suicide operations, a tactic they've adopted from the insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq, insurgencies offering not just inspiration, but experienced fighter. Mohamed Osman Aruz (ph) is a Hezbollah Islam commander. In his strong hold in the north of Mogadishu he tells us foreigners have been filling out his ranks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do not view other Muslims as foreigners and anyone who is a Muslim can come to Somalia. We welcome any Muslim who is ready to help us kill non-Muslims and wants to join us in jihad.

ELBAGIR: AMISOM, the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia -- it was dispatched in early 2007 in an effort by the international community to check Somalia's downward spiral. It's mainly made up of Ugandan and Burundian troops and numbers under 5,000 soldiers. But its presence has become a rallying call and a target for foreign Mujahideen flooding into the country.

This Al-Shabaab video was distributed by the insurgents in Mogadishu in March of this year. They say it's a present to the Somali people, a message from Osama bin Laden can be heard over the images of jihad preparation. Bin Laden calling on Al-Shabaab by name telling them to fight on and fight harder. The commentary says that among Al-Shabaab, there are both white and Arab Mujahideen, and it says this fighter is an American citizen of Somali origin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I sincerely advise my beloved brothers and sisters to immigrate and come join us and defend the religion of Allah.

ELBAGIR: Intelligence sources in the region tell CNN there are an estimated 5,000 foreign fighters in Somalia. They bring tactics and training learned in other wars, like making improvised explosive devices which have proved so devastating in Iraq and Afghanistan. And the prime minister Omar Abdirashid tells me they're making Somalia even more dangerous.

OMAR ABDIRASHID, PRIME MINISTER, SOMALIA: All indications are that in most of the people who have fled Afghanistan and Iraq, they are on their way to Somalia. In the last few months, we had foreign fighters, jihadists, come into the country and I think that's why the situation here got worse. And I think added a new element into Somalia's situation.

ELBAGIR: The government is desperate for international support.

ABDIRASHID I think any support delayed might be support denied. And that the international community really must act now. I think Somalia should be prevented from becoming another Afghanistan or Iraq.

ELBAGIR: The government's hold is slipping, in part, because of this man. Sheekh Xasan Daahir Aweys was one of the most powerful men in the Islamic courts union when it briefly ruled Mogadishu three years ago.

Now he's fighting the government as the head of Hezbollah Islam. He's listed by both the U.S. and United Nations as a supporter of terrorism and has a $5 million price on his head.

(on camera): We've been told that Sheekh Xasan has agreed to meet with us, so they've asked us to drive up to the border between the territory that they hold and the territory that the government holds where his car will be waiting to pick us up.

(voice-over): As we cross into the insurgent side, we're ordered to turn off the camera. We're allowed to start filming again only in the darkened corridor that leads into the meeting room. Inside his safe house, Sheekh Xasan claims he has no organizational ties with al-Qaeda, but says his allies in Al-Shabaab.

SHEEKH XASAN DAAHIR AWEYS, HEAD OF HEZBOLLAH ISLAM: Al-Qaeda has been treated unjustly. The Taliban have been treated unjustly and have been occupied and pursued across their land. What is the crime committed by he who has a relationship with al-Qaeda? That is why we fight, so that we can have the freedom to have the relationships we want.

ELBAGIR: And Sheekh Xasan has this warning for the United States.

AWEYS: They interfered in Afghanistan, what have they gained? They interfered in Iraq, what have they gained? Add to that list any interference in Somalia. By the grace of God, the whole world will be in flames.

ELBAGIR: Mogadishu and most of Somalia is already in flames. Tens of thousands of people have fled the capital in the last two months as rival militia have fought over its ruins. The teenage fighters tearing up the streets know no other reality. But the echoes of that reality now threaten to reverberate far beyond Mogadishu and far beyond Somalia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR: From warlords to Islamic militants, anarchy has been the constant in Somalia for most of two decades. But the battle lines are shifting. The greatest threat to the U.N. brokered transitional government comes from the hard line Islamist group Al-Shabaab. Since 2006, Al-Shabaab has been expanding its control of the country. In 2008, it was added to the U.S. terror list. Its direct links to al-Qaeda have raised concerns in western capitals. And just this week, it declared war on the other insurgent group it's been allied with, Hezbollah Islami.

No one understands the potential threat from Somalia better than Ken Menkhaus, a former political adviser to the United Nations operation there. So welcome, Mr. Menkhaus, to the program. You heard right there in that report Sheekh Xasan of Hezbollah Iran basically threatening the United States, saying it has failed in Afghanistan and Iran -- Iraq, rather. If it intervened in Somalia, the whole world would be in flames. What is the strength and the capability of those groups and al-Qaeda right now in Somalia?

KEN MENKHAUS, FORMER U.N. ADVISER IN SOMALIA: Well, they have the ability to disrupt, there's no question about that. But they're actually surprisingly weak. These groups are very internally divided, both Hezbollah Islam and Al-Shabaab. Pretty much everyone on the playing field is very weak as is the transitional federal government. Their ability to disrupt any U.S. operations in the country, particularly support to the TFF is real. But I wouldn't exaggerate their capacities.

AMANPOUR: So I just want to put up a map for my viewers. We're talking about the Horn of Africa. Already Admiral Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is saying that he's concerned that for instance from the Horn of Africa across to Yemen, there could be sanctuaries for al- Qaeda. Is this spreading? I mean, you call it weak. But is there nonetheless a link there?

MENKHAUS: Well the question of could al-Qaeda use Somalia is somewhat different from how strong or weak Al-Shabaab and Hezbollah are. It is certainly the case that al-Qaeda operates in Somalia and in the entire Horn of Africa. To date they've mainly been dabbling in Somalia. It's a very low-cost, high-yield irritant against the United States, the West and regional states like Ethiopia.

I personally think it would be very risky for them to use Somalia as a base. I think they'd be very exposed. It's a non-permissive environment for everyone, for relief agencies, for terrorists. I'd be surprised if they made a significant move there. And I think they would face a lot of Somali resistance to a large foreign radical presence there.

MENKHAUS: They're not talking about a foreign presence, they're talking about anywhere up to -- from a hundred to 500. And the United States is already taking some action. The U.S. government has already basically acknowledged that it sent some 40 tons of military equipment to the transitional federal government, the TFG, and that more may be on the way. What is the U.S. doing and what can it do getting involved now there again?

MENKHAUS: The shipment of arms to the transitional federal government was meant as a symbolic gesture to demonstrate that we back the TFG, that the TFG is the only solution, we're not going to let it fail. And there are good reasons for doing that. Many of the actual arms found their way into the open market in Mogadishu. And so from a military point of view was not successful. But from a political point of view sent the message that we're not going to leave the TFG high and dry.

Having said that, the TFG is so week and -- and -- and some of its members don't even appear particularly interested in winning this war, that it's left both the U.S. and the U.N. at a bit of a loss as to what to do.

AMANPOUR: So what we're talking about is a fairly moderate transitional government that the U.N. and the U.S. supports, we're talking about these radical groups, Hizbul Islam and Al-Shabaab, and we're talking about Al- Qaeda. Is Al-Qaeda the biggest threat there? Does -- do -- do -- do the U.S. not really care about the internal groups, then?

MENKHAUS: That's a great question, and it depends who you ask. For the United States, it's Al-Qaeda first that is a threat, because they will act in the region to attack Western interests and targets. For neighboring Ethiopia, which is very important in all of this, arguably they are more concerned about Shabaab and Hizbul Islamiya, because they -- they -- they promise to establish an Islamic state in all Somalia inhabited portions of the Eastern Horn, which includes a chunk of Ethiopia. So our ally, Ethiopia, and the U.S. are actually fighting two somewhat different wars in the region.

AMANPOUR: Let me just again point to this map, just to make sure we all know where we are. The U.S., in fact, in September of this year made one of its most brazen sort of forays, really, into -- into Somalia, when it went after Nabhan, someone who they suspected was part of an Al-Qaeda attack in Mombasa, Kenya, several years ago, in 2002.

So, I mean, they're really targeting that area. Are they -- can we expect more of these kinds of interventions?

MENKHAUS: I think they're going to be very selective. The fact is, there were only a small number of what the U.S. government called high- value East Africa Al-Qaeda targets moving in and out of Somalia, three to five people, of whom Nabhan was one.

A couple are dead now. And the fact that they were able to hit Nabhan, I think, was important. It didn't elicit the same kind of very negative Somali reaction you might have expected, because he's a foreigner.

AMANPOUR: Up next, Somalia at war and in the midst of another humanitarian catastrophe. Why this matters, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AMANPOUR: These are heartbreaking images taken by Doctors Without Borders or Medecins Sans Frontieres. They put a human face on the tens of thousands of refugees streaming out of Mogadishu, the people who are forced to leave their homes devastated by drought, crop failure and war. And now Nima Elbagir brings us more of her exclusive report, this time looking at what happens to the people when their nation collapses.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELBAGIR (voice-over): Medina Hospital in Mogadishu is funded by the International Red Cross. For most of the civilians left in the Somali capital, this is the hospital. Through nearly two decades of civil war, the staff here have been witness to the worst ravages of the conflict.

DR. MOHAMMED YUSSIF HASSAN, HOSPITAL DIRECTOR: Where there is war, there is no protection, there's nothing. Around a hundred people come into this hospital daily. From May until now, we had almost 1,500 wounded people.

ELBAGIR: It's hard to put a number on the civilians killed here.

HASSAN: The suffering of the people is getting even worse.

ELBAGIR: It's not just the bullets and the bombs. Cholera is endemic and chronic malnutrition leaves both children and adults susceptible to disease.

HASSAN: Given the state and the condition of the diseased people, they're getting worse in this last three years. I think that was the worst in the history of this country.

ELBAGIR: Down by the ancient port, pock-mocked buildings surround a deserted checkpoint. Unbelievably, this was once Mogadishu's commercial hub and was briefly reopened when the Islamic Courts controlled the city three years ago.

Now the only sign of life is sporadic sniper fire, as radical Islamic groups baffle the government.

(on-screen): You can see that this area is completely deserted. About a third of the residents of Mogadishu have left the capital.

(voice-over): In the last two months, tens of thousands of people have taken the road north to Mogadishu. Colorful signs along the roadside announce the names of camps that have sprung up either side. Aid agencies say this stretch of road has the highest concentration of displaced people on the planet.

This is Al-Shabaab territory, and their militant brand of Islam doesn't tolerate the presence of foreign aid workers. International aid agencies have been doing what they can, working through Somali staff, but it's not enough.

Safidahi (ph) is 70 years old. She and her eight-month-pregnant daughter Banadir (ph) came here a month ago. They still haven't received any aid.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We just live a horrible life. I don't have any food, and I can't work.

ELBAGIR: They've been living off donations from their equally hungry neighbors.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We escaped the war, but now we need help and peace.

ELBAGIR: What is striking here is how few men there are. The war seems to have absorbed most of the husbands, brothers and fathers. Many are fighters, but many more are victims.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): My husband was killed as we were trying to escape. I fled from Mogadishu with my four children, and we've had no one to help us. We thought we'd find help here, but we've received nothing. Behind us in Mogadishu, there is war. And here, there is hunger.

ELBAGIR: Halima Malim (ph) is 50. She says there have been many months without aid. Now, she said, when it does arrive, she sells her share in the hope of saving money to be able to buy her family food when there are no distributions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The newcomers have money to spend, but when there aren't enough buyers, I have to borrow from other people and end up in debt, so sometimes I eat, and sometimes I don't.

ELBAGIR (on-screen): Nearly half the Somali population -- that's almost 4 million people -- are completely reliant on food aid. And 1 in every 5 Somali children is acutely malnourished. And as the fighting continues in Mogadishu, continues to increase in severity, more and more people are fleeing to the camps on the outskirts of the capital.

(voice-over): Back at Medina Hospital, we find more dead and injured after another burst of fighting. Thirty people have been killed. As the battle for Mogadishu identifies, the choice for its people has become an impossible one: stay and risk death by bombs, bullets and disease or move to the camps, where the drip feed of aid is slowly drying up.

After nearly 20 years of conflict, the almost inconceivable is happening: Life for Somalis is getting worse.

Nima Elbagir, CNN, Mogadishu.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR: That was a rare look inside Somalia, but this is not just a story about yet another African disaster. It's the story of what happens when the world pulls out and turns away, leaving a failed state and the chaotic environment in which terrorist groups can thrive. That's what happened to Afghanistan. And that's why the debate today about what to do next in Afghanistan is so vital. But when we come back, we'll show you a remarkable story of hope that we also found in Somalia.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AMANPOUR: And now for a closing note on another kind of reality in Somalia. It's about people who are not giving up. We're featuring this story on our Web site, CNN.com/amanpour. It's about an ambulance service that's funded entirely by donations from Somalis, most of them now living outside the country.

These ambulances venture into areas without any water or electricity in the midst of war to give emergency help to the victims of the violence there. The human spirit stays strong even in what the relief agency Oxfam now calls the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. So for all of us here in New York and our staff around the world, good-bye for now, and we hope to see you next week.

END

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