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Crisis in Haiti; Political Tremors Shaking Iran
Aired January 17, 2010 - 14:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, HOST: This week, the crisis in Haiti. What is the world's moral obligation? Will this tragedy be the opportunity for real recovery?
I'm Christiane Amanpour, and welcome to our program.
This week, of course, Haiti dominates the news and begs the question, how much more can this land and its people be expected to bear? Thursday's earthquake toppled thousands of buildings and trapped tens and possibly hundreds of thousands of people. It's impossible to tell for sure yet.
Residents are still searching for family and friends with their bare hands, because while planeloads of foreign forces, aid workers and supplies are arriving, ruined roads are making it too difficult even to get food and water to those who need it the most.
Barack Obama spoke with Haitian President Rene Preval and promised America's commitment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I pledged America's continued commitment to the government and the people of Haiti in the immediate effort to save lives and deliver relief, and in the long-term effort to rebuild.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: It's been a week that has tugged at our heartstrings and perhaps even pricked our consciences, a week that few will forget. And this is how CNN has been reporting it.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're just getting word of a major earthquake in Haiti only about 22 miles west of the capital, Port-au- Prince.
CAREL PEDRE, EARTHQUAKE SURVIVOR: Every two steps, I saw, like, a house collapsed. Every two steps, I saw people bleeding. Every two steps, I saw young children with a big hit (ph) in their head.
SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Are you able to live in the palace, or is it completely destroyed?
RENE PREVAL, HAITIAN PRESIDENT: I cannot live in the palace, I cannot live in my own house, because the two collapsed.
IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Doctors are telling me they don't have enough medicine to treat these patients. They don't have enough gas to run the generators, to run the medical machines to treat these patients.
WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Think how you would feel if you lost everything, you were wandering around streets at night, they were all dark, you tripping over bodies, living and dead, and you didn't have water to drink or food to eat. That's what we're facing now.
WATSON: It is kind of heartbreaking to hear this because she's pinned there.
What do you need to save her right now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now we just need a saw to cut a piece of iron.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been waiting for three or four days. We cannot do nothing. The president is in the airport while he is doing nothing for us. But now we do our best.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Take a look behind me. We're live right here on the runway. I know it's loud. And you can see all of those yellow and bright crates. That is the humanitarian aid that is being loaded onto those trucks.
WATSON: Within the last two hours, they did manage to get a little generator in there to run an electric saw to cut a piece of metal to free her leg. So she's made it first that pass terrible hurdle. Now the question is treating her very grave injuries.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get me out!
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She's clearly in pain. They discovered her early this morning. It's now a little past 12:00 and they're still digging. They're not clear how they're going to get her out. They only have this one shovel.
(voice-over): After being trapped for more than 18 hours, the men make a small hole and pull Dee (ph) out. She is alive. She is finally free.
"I felt that I would live," she says. "I wasn't scared. I wasn't scared of anything. People were dying below me. I could hear them, but I wasn't scared. My heart didn't skip a beat."
DAVE TOYCEN, PRESIDENT, WORLD VISION CANADA: It's overwhelming, the need. We basically have one day left supply of water, of blankets, of some of the basic things, medical supplies that we're distributing. And time's running out. We feel the urgency growing really minute by minute, every day.
AMANPOUR: And we'll be focusing first on Haiti this hour. And later we'll be discussing Iran. We'll have the heartbreaking story of three different Iranians and the notorious prison that brought them together.
But we start with Haiti, where the dead are piling up with, survivors are getting desperate, and time is running out.
Joining me now, Sir John Holmes, the U.N.'s emergency relief coordinator; David Rothkopf, a former Clinton administration official and once in charge of trying to bring economic development there; Joel Dreyfuss, whose homeland is Haiti and who is managing editor of the online magazine, "The Root"; and here in our New York studios as well, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who led the international police force in Haiti in the mid '90s and who's just returned from there.
Welcome, all of you gentleman. Thank you for being with us.
Can I go first to you? What were you doing just before and what is the most pressing need right now?
RAYMOND KELLY, POLICE COMMISSIONER, NEW YORK CITY: President Preval had asked me, actually about a year and a half ago, to go and do an assessment of training needs of the Haitian police. We were particularly focused on training for kidnapping, anti-kidnapping strategies and tactics.
Now, obviously, what we need, I think, still, is we've got to get rescue workers and the ability to save lives in there. We think there's still an opportunity, even though it's 72 hours, almost 72 hours. I think that's got to be job number one.
Secondly, we need to move those materials that are coming in from the airport into town. It's about five miles, for the most part, but it's a tough five miles, as you know. The roads are not good. Perhaps the helicopters from the Carl Vinson are going to be used to do precisely that.
AMANPOUR: Well, I was going to ask you about that. I can see helicopters on the ground, and I'm wondering why they're not airlifting supplies in, or at least the most critically damaged out to the outlying hospitals.
KELLY: Yes. I don't have the answer to that, but I think, also, you need to be organized on the ground and be able to receive it, because you'll start many disorders. It has to be done in an equitable, controlled fashion.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you, Sir John, being in charge of the relief effort for the United Nations, trying to coordinate all the NGOs, what is hampering you? We know the roads are down, but is there any way to use the infrastructure that is there and that's coming in right now?
SIR JOHN HOLMES, U.N. UNDER SECRETARY GENERAL: Well, obviously, every kind of ingenuity is being needed. We have blockages at different points, or bottlenecks at different points.
The airport, coming in, not as many planes as we'd like to get in there because of the landing blockages, because of need to unload, because of lack of fuel. It's happening, but it's happening not as fast as we would like. We've got to unload it, get it into warehouses, then get it into trucks, then get it to distribution points, and then start to distribute it, as the commissioner says, fairly and equitably, without provoking a riot.
It's all happening. It's beginning. Food distributions began yesterday and will be continuing and building up in the days to come.
But it's a big logistical operation, and we're at the classic point of a massive aid operation like this, when there's a huge effort going in from huge numbers of countries and aid organizations. But it's not so visible on the ground because you can't quite get it there. But we will do it, slowly and surely.
AMANPOUR: Because our reporters have been reporting not just over the first few days, but even today. And where they are, they can't see food coming in, certainly no heavy equipment yet, to get the heavy rubble, the iron off these people.
HOLMES: Well, there are something like 27 search and rescue teams now either on the ground or on their way. And that's beginning to make a difference. Of course, with every day that passes, we know that the chances of finding somebody alive diminish, but that effort must continue, and we must continue to try to look after the injured.
The medical problems are very severe, as you've been reporting consistently for the last three days. So we face a lot of challenges, but there's a massive effort going in.
It's not as visible on the ground as we would like. We know why people are angry and frustrated. So are we, but you simply can't get it there. You can't snap your fingers and make it happen just by magic, I'm afraid.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you, Joel Dreyfuss, of the online magazine, "The Root," you are Haitian. You have said that your country has a glorious past, a brutal present, and a bleak future.
What are your thoughts right now about what can be done?
JOEL DREYFUSS, MANAGING EDITOR, "THE ROOT": Well, I think the first step, obviously, is to -- is the rescue operation and the emergency needs of the country. But I think once that gets under way -- and I understand it takes time to set up and distribute -- I think you have to start thinking about, how do you rebuild Haiti and put it in a better position?
I don't think any country would be prepared to deal with an earthquake. And, in fact, some of the complaints about supplies to Haiti remind me of the early days of the Katrina disaster, although, obviously, there's a lot more readiness now to help Haiti than there appeared to be with Katrina.
So, I think, first, you have to do the emergency help. But I think the more important long-term thought is, how do you help Haiti get on a firmer footing, functioning government, decent emergency services, and so forth?
AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask David Rothkopf precisely that.
As a former Clinton administration official and, as I said, leading the economic effort to revive Haiti, how do you do that? Can one do that? Is now an opportunity?
DAVID ROTHKOPF, FOREIGN POLICY MAGAZINE: Well, it's an opportunity because the attention of the world is directed to Haiti once again. And it's an opportunity because all the countries in the world are on the ground. But there are a lot of obstacles.
One obstacle is that right now, you've got something close to a nonexistent or nonfunctioning government there. There's no infrastructure, there's no real absorptive capacity. And so you're going to have to strike a real balancing act between a well-coordinated international community that's able to do the heavy lifting and finding a mechanism for making that kind of recovery that was spoken about, a Haitian recovery.
I do think there's also another opportunity. And that is, we see crises like this, disasters where entire cities or villages are wiped away on a regular basis. And it happens sufficiently frequently that perhaps we can use Port-au-Prince in the future as a kind of a showcase for the new technologies and new approaches that we can take to make poor communities survive disasters of this sort.
AMANPOUR: All right.
You talked about setting an example. You also talked about a functioning government. I want to play you a little part of an interview that I had with Ambassador Joseph earlier this week, precisely about the government's ability right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAYMOND JOSEPH, HAITIAN AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: I have not had any contact with any minister, not even my own minister of foreign affairs. I have had contact with some officials that are government officials, but not at the level of ministers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So that was Ambassador Joseph in Washington, saying that because of all the buildings that have been toppled, not just the presidential building, but ministries, parliament, they cannot even make contact with any semblance of government officials.
Is that harming and hindering your efforts, Sir John?
HOLMES: Well, clearly, that is a problem. Normally speaking, the government would be a major part of the response. In this case, they've had trouble doing that. I mean, just to take the police, which Commissioner Kelly was talking about, I was told this morning that 300 police died in the collapse of the main police area.
AMANPOUR: Haitian police.
HOLMES: Haitian police. So it's not surprising they haven't been able to recover from that blow.
But the prime minister and the president are functioning now, the minister of the interior. We are setting up coordination arrangements with them. It's beginning to happen, but it's very slow. Capacity was very low to start with and now it's almost nonexistent, and that does complicate our task, but that gives us an extra responsibility.
AMANPOUR: Who is stepping into law enforcement? Is it just the U.N. peacekeepers there?
HOLMES: The U.N. peacekeeping troops, and we also have police there. There are 3,000 troops and police in Port-au-Prince. There's another 6,000 in and around the country who can be brought in to help. So they have primary responsibility for law and order, and so far it's been reasonably calm.
And we're all aware of the risks, of course. And then the U.S. troops will be arriving and will be able to help if necessary.
AMANPOUR: All right.
And when we come back, we're going to ask our panel who are staying with us, again, develop this idea of, could this be the moment to rethink international development with Haiti setting the example?
COOPER (voice-over): At the prison in downtown Port-au-Prince, the inmates have escaped. The rubble is all that remains.
(on camera): We'd heard the prison was destroyed. We didn't realize we'd find the door wide open.
(voice-over): Inside, prisoners' possessions are strewn about, signs of overcrowding are everywhere. This jail was meant to hold some 1,200 inmates, but at the time of the quake, there were more than 4,500.
(on camera): We're not exactly sure what happened here, but a U.N. source tells us they believe the prisoners actually rioted after the earthquake, took over the facility from the guards, and then were able to escape from a variety of different routes.
We found this rope which has been tied around a post and then thrown over the side of this prison wall. It goes down about 30 or 40 feet. Clearly, inmates were using this rope to try to escape. And all along these walls, there's bloody handprints and streaks of blood.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: We're back with our guests, Sir John Holmes, David Rothkopf, Joel Dreyfuss, and Ray Kelly.
Let me quickly ask you because of that report from Anderson, what is the immediate danger of this, of 4,500 prisoners, some of them highly dangerous, having escaped?
KELLY: Well, obviously, it just compounds the problem. There were some really serious criminals there, but there were also people that shouldn't have been there. And it just underscores the justice system. It's not working.
AMANPOUR: What do you mean?
KELLY: Lots of people that should have gone before a judge just simply never had that opportunity. That was told to me just a week ago. And it's a chronic problem in the Haitian system of justice.
AMANPOUR: Sir John, we've seen, obviously -- the pictures are showing us, obviously, the devastated parts. Can you give us an idea? Do you have any independent information you can tell us about how much is destroyed, how bad it is?
HOLMES: Well, we had an initial assessment from an aerial view we've seen of the city, and it looks to us that about 30 percent of the buildings are either destroyed or damaged -- the homes are destroyed or damaged. In some of the worst affected areas, it's much more than in the 50 percent, but there are other areas like the main slum area, if I can call it that, Cite Soleil, which are relatively -- I say relatively spared because of their geographical location and maybe the nature of the building. So, it's not universal, although the damage is very devastating. And of course there are other cities outside Port-au-Prince which are also badly affected.
AMANPOUR: Joel Dreyfuss, it's been said and it's a fact that the world's poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, at least Haiti, sits right on the doorstep of the world's richest country, the United States.
Do you believe the U.S. has a moral obligation, and the rest of the world, to really rebuild Haiti for the future and not just throw short-term aid and rescue aid at it?
DREYFUSS: I think it's hard to talk about moral obligations at this time when countries are very much out for themselves, in a sense, or concerned about their own national interests. I've always felt American concern about Haiti was more about keeping a flow of refugees from coming to the United States than about an inherent interest in Haiti itself. But that's fine, because at least that gets some attention.
I think the big concern I would have now is that whatever reconstruction takes place, pays attention to what Haitians have to say. And when I say Haitians, I don't mean just a few people in the elite who are English-speaking and get along well with international aid workers and international agencies, but the masses of people in Haiti.
You know, we have 90 percent of the population that has very little voice because government has been for so many years dictatorial, although we have some efforts at democracy today. And second, the impact of American policy.
One of the reasons Haiti is so overcrowded is the U.S. put a lot of pressure on Haiti to open its markets to food imports from the U.S. And that absolutely destroyed agriculture in Haiti. The Haitian farmers were not able to compete. And that upset a balance that had existed for a long time, and it added to the masses of people into the city.
So, when the big power, you know, does something that seems minimal or rational, it often has huge impact.
AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you, David Rothkopf, because I was there in '94, when the U.S. restored democracy, brought President Aristide back. Ray Kelly was there. There was a sense that there was a chance here for Haiti to have another chance.
ROTHKOPF: Well, a few things happened. I mean, I sat next to Ray Kelly on the inauguration viewing stand the day that President Aristide was sworn into office, and there was a lot of hope then about him. I think he let the country down. I think we bet on the wrong man with him, and, ultimately, it turned out that his associations and his intentions were not the kind that we should have bet on.
I think once we got into a new cycle of sort of political disintegration or weakening, the interests of America shifted. And then, of course, we had an economic crisis, we had 9/11, and the country stopped paying attention to this. So internal problems and external disinterest.
AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you, because there clearly is some kind of conversation building in Washington, counterintuitively, about long-term development. Some even trying to suggest that real development could be a vital pillar of national security.
Is that serious? I mean, does Washington have an idea that long-term attention and development is a solution?
ROTHKOPF: No, I think it's very serious right now. Secretary Clinton is leading something called a QDDR, a review of how we do development and diplomacy in the country. There's similar efforts in the White House.
There's a real focus in this administration on development because we realize now that failed states and weak states are a breeding ground for terror, they're a breeding ground for other transnational threats, disease. They're kind of the cracks on the surface of the earth onto which our real problems fall and build. And so, I think there's a recognition that if we do as we're doing in Haiti and wait until the disaster to fix it, it's much more expensive and dangerous for us all.
AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask both Sir John and Ray Kelly.
I mean, since 2004, when Aristide was overthrown, Rene Preval has been in office and the U.N. has pretty much been helping to run the country. There seem to be hopeful indicators.
HOLMES: I think we did make some progress with the peacekeeping force there, and they took on some of the criminal gangs in Cite Soleil and elsewhere. They really made it happen. Then, of course, there were more disasters in 2008 when they were hit by hurricanes.
Clearly, it's going to have to be a massive aid effort, this time as last time, and a lot of rebuilding back better. But the key is not to reinforce aid dependency. I mean, the key is to give people jobs.
Agriculture is key and it needs massive development. Other jobs are key. Reforestation is key, otherwise just more disasters will follow on these ones. So that's the kind of development we need.
Former President Clinton has already been engaging on this with the U.N. to try to make this fresh start for Haiti, even before this last disaster, and I think we should reinforce those efforts now.
AMANPOUR: Last word, quickly.
KELLY: Jobs are the key. I know former President Clinton, the Clinton Global Initiative has been focused on this. President Clinton is talking about 30,000 jobs. And I think that was just -- that move was just in the offing.
Now, this terrible tragedy has interrupted that, but that's what they need. We don't want to take people unnecessarily from the countryside, but we need massive job development in Port-au-Prince, for the most part.
AMANPOUR: We'll be following this, of course. And thank you all for joining us.
CNN's iReport is usually a place to just submit news, but people with missing family and friends in Haiti are now using it to look for earthquake victims, with CNN's help, and you can find that at Amanpour.com.
And next, as Haiti struggles to survive, a reminder of how some other countries have dealt with earthquake disasters. That's when we return.
AMANPOUR: This disaster will plague Haiti for years. And the U.N., which is helping to run this country, has already lost some 37 people, peacekeepers who were pronounced dead in the first hours. And still, there are many, many missing, including the chief of mission and the deputy chief of mission, and there is very little hope that anybody will be found alive for the moment.
But take a look at how some other countries fared after suffering major earthquakes.
In Sichuan Province in China two years ago, almost 90,000 people were killed. Beijing rapidly mobilized tens of thousands of troops who had to spend the first few days digging survivors out just with picks and shovels.
And in 2003, much of the historic Iranian city of Bam was destroyed, nearly 30,000 people were killed there. The U.S. then sent military planes to Bam, loaded with supplies and rescue teams. And in a symbolic move, American and Iranian troops former human chains to unload the cargo, joining forces for the first and only time since the Iranian revolution, now 30 years ago.
Next, a very different look at Iran, the political tremors shaking the country today.
And a miracle in Mexico 25 years ago that may still give hope to those who are still trapped under Haiti's rubble.
AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.
We turn now to Iran and a major development this week which stemmed from allegations of torture and death at a notorious prison. In the protests that followed June's disputed election, Iranian security forces detained thousands of people.
Now the Iranian parliament has issued a scathing report on the Kahrizak Detention Center. The parliamentary committee has publicly blamed Tehran's reviled prosecuted general, Saeed Mortazavi, an ally of President Ahmadinejad, for the deaths of several men there. And there are calls by conservative members of parliament for more such investigations.
CNN's Ivan Watson has more.
IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Kahrizak Detention Center, a facility with such an appalling record of torture and killings that last summer, the Iranian government ordered it closed. It was within these walls that the fates of three very different Iranians became inextricably intertwined, a hard-line Tehran prosecutor, a young doctor who saw his job as a holy mission, and a powerful pro-government politician whose son was beaten to death in Kahrizak.
This is Abdul Hossein Ruholamini at the memorial service for his son, Mohsen. The ceremony was broadcast last summer on state TV. When anti- government demonstrations erupted across Iran last summer, the younger Ruholamini was one of the estimated thousands of protestors to be detained. But within weeks of arriving at Kahrizak, he was dead.
Initially, the official cause of death was meningitis. But then the father and influential government insider objected and demanded an official investigation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This systemic problem has to be corrected. When these problems are corrected, this country will move forward. Everyone in this country belongs to one big family. Their hearts are invested in it. And Mohsen was one of them.
WATSON: This week, a parliamentary investigation announced the security forces at Kahrizak had gone too far.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: An Iranian parliamentary fact-finding committee has released a long-awaited report on the events inside the Kahrizak facility in southern Tehran. The committee found that three inmates died as a result of violence and bad prison conditions.
WATSON: The committee blamed this man for the prison's brutal conditions, that former hard-line Tehran prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi. Already notorious for shutting down dozens of reformist newspapers, Mortazavi has also been accused by the government of Canada of overseeing the 2003 detention and death in custody of a Canadian-Iranian photographer in another Iranian prison. Mortazavi was never charged.
HADI GHAEMI, INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGN FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN IRAN: In 2000, when he shut down the free press in Iran, he was called the butcher of the press. Then, after that, after he -- he was involved in murder of Zahra Kazemi, he became known as the murdering magistrate. And so on, he has been sort of the face of the repression that we have seen for nearly a decade in Iran.
WATSON: The investigation concluded Kahrizak prisoners suffered harsh corporal punishment, humiliating and insulting techniques. But the report did not mention the tragic case of the young doctor who worked at Kahrizak prison.
At medical school, Ramin Pourandarjani was a rising star with a bright future who thanked his parents and professors in this graduation speech.
RAMIN POURANDARJANI: A great holy spirit has traveled through time and has manifested itself today into a white coat. We are the legacy of that spirit.
WATSON: After graduation, Pourandarjani had orders to examine prisoners at Kahrizak prison as part of his mandatory military service, but family members told the Wall Street Journal he began fearing for his life, after testifying before parliament about the prison and refusing to participate in a Kahrizak cover-up.
Then, last November, the promising 26-year-old died. Iranian officials first said it was a car accident, then a heart attack, then suicide, then food poisoning. The family wondered to the Wall Street Journal whether he was another victim of Iran's Kahrizak prison.
Ivan Watson, CNN.
AMANPOUR: We asked anyone from the Iranian government to come on this program. We also asked for the prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, and Abdul Hossein Ruholamini, father of the protester killed at Kahrizak prison. They all declined.
But a short time ago, I did speak to Mohammad Marandi, professor of North American Studies at the University of Tehran, about the significance of the parliament's censuring Mortazavi, the prosecuted general.
MOHAMMAD MARANDI, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF TEHRAN: Well, I think it's quite significant, and just a couple of hours ago, I spoke to Dr. Ruholamini, who is a professor at Tehran Medical University. He is the father, as you know, of one of the three victims.
He said that he was very satisfied both with the committee's findings, as well as the general investigation being carried out by the judiciary and the one carried out by the supreme national security council. He said that Ayatollah Khamenei ordered the closure of Kahrizak when he heard rumors about the abuses, and this was a day or two or three before the three young men were killed. And he said that the problem was basically that the response of the judge, Mortazavi, was slow and that if he had -- and he blames Mr. Mortazavi for this.
AMANPOUR: Mr. Marandi, I want to know what you think is going to come next, because there are suggestions that Mr. Mortazavi may be a scapegoat, may be dismissed. But, in fact, he seems to still hold his position as deputy prosecutor general, and has been promoted.
MARANDI: Well, I don't think he's been promoted, but there is an ongoing investigation. And again, Professor Ruholamini was telling me that he felt very confident that there will be no scapegoats, but that the judicial process is a slow one and the judiciary is being very careful, and that he believes that all the people involved in the crime will be punished and that some of them may actually face capital punishment.
AMANPOUR: Where else do you think this is going to lead? And do you think the government is trying to find ways of rapprochement with the opposition?
MARANDI: Well, I think that is, to a large extent, already happening. Over the last week, there have been a large number of debates between reformists, or principalists, or conservatives on television, on Iranian television. They've been very lively and they've had a very large audience. It seems that the opposition, which is very divided in itself, is trying to redefine itself. And, of course, the principalists, or the conservatives, they, too, are differing factions that have differences among themselves.
One other thing that I should add, and that is that Dr. Ruholamini also told me that the young physician who died, he apparently, himself, was -- he had committed some offenses that were not very major, but he said that that may have been a reason for suicide, but he does not know if he committed suicide or not, and that the case is still ongoing, and that no one really knows exactly at this point what happened to the young physician.
AMANPOUR: Why do you think there are all these shifting reasons and explanations by the authorities for the death of Dr. Ramin (ph)?
MARANDI: Well, to be honest, I don't think that there has been any shift or change over the past few weeks. The first 24 hours after it was revealed that he had died, there were conflicting reports about how -- what happened. But again, Professor Ruholamini told me that he had -- this young gentleman had committed some minor offenses, and that he may have been fearful about going to jail as a result.
But, again, it is unclear and it would be unfair to make any comment either for or against either argument, whether he was killed or whether he committed suicide. The investigation is continuing, and he believes that it will get to the bottom of it.
AMANPOUR: Of course, I asked Dr. Marandi precisely what so-called minor offenses Dr. Ramin (ph) has allegedly committed. He didn't have an answer, and nor, he said, did anybody else who he asked.
And you can see the full-length interview with Mohammad Marandi on our Web site, Amanpour.com.
And in a moment, two leading experts on Iran will join us to give us their perspective when we return.
AMANPOUR: Joining me now for more on Iran, Hooman Majd, author of "The Ayatollah Begs to Differ." He was born in Tehran and was a translator for President Ahmadinejad at the U.N. And Karim Sadjadpour, an associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He's a leading Iran analyst.
Welcome, both of you gentleman, to the program.
HOOMAN MAJD, AUTHOR, "THE AYATOLLAH BEGS TO DIFFER": Thank you.
AMANPOUR: I want to ask you, Hooman, about this issue of the parliament censuring Saeed Mortazavi, the dreaded prosecutor general. What do you make of that, the significance of it?
MAJD: Well, I think it's very significant, particularly now, in the last week or so. The government seems to have backed off many of its accusations against the opposition, that they're fomenting a velvet revolution. They're even not using the word anymore, "velvet revolution."
AMANPOUR: Where do you get that?
MAJD: From talking to the opposition in Tehran, people in the opposition, and following what's going on in Tehran through contacts there. They've stopped even using the word "velvet revolution."
I think there's a realization that they're going to have to deal with some of these issues that have been brought up by Mousavi, Karoubi and Khatami, and Rafsanjani as well. One of them is the prison abuse. And I think parliament and, of course, Ali Larijani, the speaker of parliament, is no fan of Ahmadinejad's, and is, although a conservative, generally opposed to Ahmadinejad and opposed to his government. So, I think you're going to see some more of this, and it's not really going to be scapegoating, it's going to be pretty intensive.
AMANPOUR: And Karim, you know, obviously, there's a lot of wishful thinking when it comes in certain quarters to projecting what people would like to see happen in Iran. People are trying to figure, is there a winner, is there a loser, what's going to happen?
Today, how do you analyze what's going to happen?
KARIM SADJADPOUR, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE: It's obviously difficult to say, Christiane. Iran is not a monolithic society.
That being said, I think many people predicted back in June that these protests would fizzle out after a few week. They said the protesters are only the urban elite in northern Tehran. They're disunited and they're not going to go anywhere.
And I think six months later, we see that these protests actually transcend socioeconomic classes and they remain strong. And remember, your guest, Professor Marandi, said six months ago that the protests were going to be dead.
So, I think that I wouldn't -- I am less confident than Hooman is that we're seeing some types of conciliation. I think that the demands of the opposition have only hardened with time.
AMANPOUR: Well, have they? I'm interested in you saying that, because, in fact, it seems that Mr. Mousavi, after the Ashura demonstrations, and on January 1st, his latest pronouncements have stopped calling for a change of government and for an overthrow of Ahmadinejad.
Am I right? And do you believe the people and the opposition are calling for a revolution?
MAJD: I don't believe that the opposition is calling for -- the organized opposition, the opposition that we know, Mousavi, Karoubi and Khatami, are calling for -- they're certainly not calling for a revolution. They've made it very clear that they're not calling for a revolution, including Khatami's latest statement from a couple of days ago.
So, I think that -- and in the demand that you were talking about, to have a new election, that demand has gone way, although he did refer to free elections, so the implication is that they do want free elections and want them sooner rather than later for the presidency. I think that Mousavi and Karoubi and Khatami, now, if you believe that they are the leaders of this movement -- some people disagree that they're the leaders anymore -- but if you believe that they are -- and I tend to believe that they still are -- they do want to have reform, they want to have change, they want to have free elections. They want to go back to the principles of the constitution and the Islamic republic, and I think the majority of the supporters certainly feel that way too.
AMANPOUR: So, more of a civil rights movement than a revolution?
MAJD: I believe it is that. That's how they're determining it. That's how they're analyzing it as, yes.
AMANPOUR: Well, this is interesting, Karim, to ask you, because you're obviously in touch with a lot of the American policymakers, and clearly many of them -- as I say, there's a lot of projection, a lot of wishful thinking, hoping that the government won't have to make the hard decisions, the people of Iran will.
How is this going to affect U.S. policy, particularly right now, when the nuclear issue is coming up yet again -- in fact, this weekend?
SADJADPOUR: Christiane, I don't think anyone in Washington believes that the collapse of the Islamic republic is imminent. I think people take what's happening in Iran seriously. They think the regime is in a state of crisis, but I think the Obama administration is going to move forward with diplomacy.
The door of dialogue is going to remain open with Iran on the nuclear issue, on issues like Afghanistan and Iraq. But they also want to reconcile that with a show of support and solidarity for the demands of Iranian people.
Hooman mentioned the term "civil rights movement." I think that the Obama administration is looking at this within the context of a civil rights movement. They're not looking at it as a potential revolutionary moment.
But I think, Christiane, they want to be on the right side of history. President Obama has said this many times over, about being on the right side of history. And I would argue -- and I think I would argue and feel confident in saying that the vast majority of Iran's very youthful population believes that the regime is on the wrong side of history.
Well, then let me ask you, Hooman, if the United States wants to be on the right side of history, what is it going to do? Because sanctions seem to be the next step. At least that's what they're preparing at the U.N., it seems. And are they going to be crippling, are they going to be targeted? How are they going to not hurt the Iranian people?
MAJD: Well, it appears that the administration has backed off the crippling sanctions, as Hillary Clinton once talked about. So now it's about targeted sanctions and targeting the revolutionary guards and the Basij forces.
But the problem with that is that it does hurt ordinary Iranians because the Revolutionary Guards are involved in every business. I have friends in Iran, family in Iran who are businessmen, but they have to have partners in the -- or they do have partners in the revolutionary -- they will be affected. And these are not people who are in the administration of Ahmadinejad, or even pro -- they're actually anti-Ahmadinejad people. But that's the way that the tentacles of the Revolutionary Guards are just spread far and wide throughout business. So I don't know if you can impose any kind of sanctions that will not affect Iranian people, and every opposition leader has come out against sanctions.
AMANPOUR: All right. On that note, we're going to continue to follow this. We'll talk to you again at another time. Thank you so much for being with us, both Hooman Majd and Karim Sadjadpour.
And next, we have our "PostScript," and we return to the crisis in Haiti, and to the stories of survival from another country that may inspire earthquake victims and their families struggling now in Port-au-Prince.
AMANPOUR: And now our "PostScript."
The devastating stories, the grim reality on the ground if Haiti remind us all of another awful disaster in Mexico city 25 years ago. Even today, authorities still don't know for sure how many people were killed there. They believe it was possibly 10,000.
But amid the ruins, there were stories of incredible hope -- newborn babies who somehow survived when their hospitals collapsed. Some of those babies stayed a live for days, and one for as long as eight days and 17 hours. They were called the miracle babies.
Perhaps there'll be some more such miracles in the ruins of Port-au- Prince as rescuers continue to search for the survivors there.
And as we close, we want to leave you with some more images of tragedy in Haiti.