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Are US Elections Stopping Intervention in Syria?; Fashioning Peace

Aired July 10, 2012 - 15:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

Tonight, this question: what is the real stumbling block in Syria? And why can't the world unite to stop the bloodshed there? It's all Russia's fault, or so we've been hearing. Vladimir Putin stands by his Syrian friends, and the Russian nyets are keeping the U.N. Security Council from taking stronger measures to keep Bashar al-Assad's war on his own people.

But last night on this program, I heard a different story.

Dimitri Simes, a highly connected Russia expert, told me that Putin might not like it, but he would not resist international intervention in Syria.

And earlier this year, Turkey's foreign minister came to Washington to see U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and presented detailed plans for a much more robust solution to the war in Syria. According to a highly placed Turkish journalist, the answer, though, from D.C., was, "Not until November."

So could the U.S. presidential elections be standing in the way of stronger efforts to stop the slaughter? I'll explore all of this with Nicholas Burns, a top U.S. official in both the Clinton and Bush administrations.

But first, here's what's happening later in the program.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): From battle-scarred hands to high heels on the runway, designing a better world.

And North Korea's supreme leader, supremely mysterious. Could it be he's met his match?


AMANPOUR: We'll get to all of that in a bit. But first, who is blocking intervention in Syria?

With me now is Nicholas Burns. He's former U.S. undersecretary of state, as well as a former ambassador to NATO.

Ambassador, thank you for joining me.


AMANPOUR: Let's go straight to the heart of the matter. We've been seeing signals from Russia over the last 24 hours, at least, that there seems to be some kind of shift, at least publicly, the Russians agreeing to host the Syrian opposition, the Russians saying that they wouldn't be sending new weapons to Syria and basically a call for Assad to talk to his adversaries.

What do you think that signifies?

BURNS: Well, Christiane, I think it's apparent that the Russians are now reconsidering whether or not they believe that Bashar al-Assad can stay in power. As long as they believe that he might weather the crisis in Syria, they were supporting him with everything they had, including blocking Security Council resolutions put forward by the U.S. and others.

But since the defection of that senior military officer in Damascus, and the continued ferocity of the opposition in Syria, the Russians appear to be hedging their bets now. As you said, tomorrow there will be a meeting in Moscow with the Russian foreign minister and the leading anti- Assad coalition group.

And the F-130s, the advance military jets that were promised to Syrian Air Force will now not be coming. So the Russians are sending a quite powerful message to Assad that they can't -- that he cannot bank on their support, and I think that's highly significant.

AMANPOUR: Or, as I explained in the lead-in to you, we had talked yesterday to Dimitri Simes, who I know you know. And let me just play you what he told us about this very relationship.


DIMITRI SIMES, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR THE NATIONAL INTEREST: Russia would not welcome such an intervention; Russia would not approve such an intervention. It would not resist such an intervention and this intervention would not become a major issue in the U.S.-Russian relationship.


AMANPOUR: So, Ambassador, he's basically saying that he had hosted a top-level meeting, including a Russian delegation. And the very question of intervention was raised, and it was very strongly addressed as he put it. That seems to me a green light now for the U.S., likeminded international capitals, to decided to do what they want to do.

BURNS: Well, President Putin gave a speech this -- yesterday morning, I should say, in Moscow, where he was very clear that he felt that there had to be a diplomatic solution, some kind of an agreement between Assad and the opposition as opposed to military intervention. So I would, with respect, I don't agree with Dimitri Simes.

I think the Russians still would block any kind of planned international military intervention. They'd use their veto in Security Council for that. I just think that Russia is trying to put itself in the driver's seat to be a potential peacemaker between Assad and the opposition, and they're trying to preserve their influence.

AMANPOUR: Absolutely. I'm sure that's all true. But of course, you know better than all that President Putin often says things in public. In fact, many leaders do for domestic consumption.

What he was talking about, Dimitri Simes, was not so much a U.N. Security Council resolution, but a Kosovo-style act. I mean, you were in the Clinton and Bush administrations. You remember when President Clinton went around Russia, intervened in Kosovo, and Russia did not stand in the way. Might not have liked it; Milosevic was much closer of an ally than Assad is.

So is it feasible to say, as Dimitri Simes has, that actually the U.S. and the West is hiding behind Russia, and using that as an alibi to take even stronger measures, even short of intervention?

BURNS: I don't agree with that. I don't think so. I think Dimitri's not correct about that. I do think there is still, in effect, a Russian and Chinese veto.

The Chinese also, as a matter of precedent, don't want to see United States march into another country to overthrow the regime and second, Christiane, as you know well and you've covered on your show, there are really important problems about any kind of military intervention. Libya was relatively easier for a variety of reasons.

Syria, because it's dense urban warfare would be a very, very difficult undertaking. I think there are a lot of reasons why the United States has been reluctant.

AMANPOUR: How much do you think U.S. presidential elections are playing into this? And let's be very frank. President Obama has essentially staked his presidency -- well, no, even before. He took a position that he wanted to end these American military interventions and adventures. He has done in Iraq. He's talking about withdrawing from Afghanistan. I mean, it's on track. He obviously doesn't want to get into another adventure.

How much are these elections playing into a decision right now?

BURNS: You know, it's hard to say what's -- what factor the elections are going to play in a specific foreign policy case like Syria. I do think you're seeing a great deal of caution from the United States.

And, frankly, I think it's warranted, because Syria, of course, an explosion in Syria or a further problem in Syria caused by a U.S. intervention, would have repercussions for Lebanon, for Jordan and for Israel. So I think there is a premium here to be very cautious as they move forward.

Having said that, obviously the United States would like to see the continuation of efforts by countries like Turkey and Qatar (ph) and Saudi Arabia to put pressure on Assad. I still think the U.S. prefers a scenario where Assad leaves voluntarily rather than he leaves because the U.S. 82nd Airborne has marched into Damascus.

AMANPOUR: All right. But you know that nobody's going to be marching in anyway, and nobody's made that suggestion. But you do -- you raise an interesting point. You talk about what could be a possible deal for Assad to step down. What do you think the United States should do diplomatically to facilitate Russia's diplomacy?

BURNS: Well, you know, I think that Russia is a key country here. It obviously has a lot of interest in both Syria and Iran, and those are two key actors, and the Iranians have a lot of influence on Damascus. President Putin, if he chooses to play this, could become, in effect, the lead international diplomat in trying to convince President Assad to leave power, to exit Syria, to go into exile in some third country, perhaps in a deal to be forgiven any possibility of imprisonment or being tried for war crimes.

If President Putin wanted to be the one to make that happen, I think that you'd find a lot of countries supporting him, including possibly the United States and the European countries themselves.

AMANPOUR: Let's go back to the role of U.S. elections and a more robust effort to find a solution to Syria. You talk about President Putin. You don't really believe that he wouldn't oppose -- he wouldn't oppose intervention.

But what about what the Turks are trying to do? And you just mentioned Turkey. As you know, the Turkish foreign minister came to Washington, met with secretary of state, met with a lot of State Department and other officials and presented a slew of alternatives, all the way from a coalition of the willing, with the Arabs on board, buffer zones at Syria's border -- which, by the way, the defectors have told us, if only there were buffer zones, you'd see the whole army defecting -- humanitarian corridors to the besieged cities and a joint effort to help organize the army defectors.

He said that the U.S. basically said, no until after November, again raising this specter, that it is U.S. politics at the moment, despite the difficulties, as we know, that's standing in the way. What do you make of the Turks saying that? It's not Simes now, or Putin.

BURNS: Well, I didn't hear the Turks say that, but you know, I think the Turks have been -- you know, their relationship fell apart with Syria. There has been -- there's very bad blood between Prime Minister Erdogan and President Assad. The Turks are obviously trying to push the United States.

But the U.S. has to calculate not just the domestic impact in our elections here, but how about the foreign policy impact in countries that really matter to us? I'm thinking first and foremost of Israel, the importance of stability on the Golan Heights and Israel's northern border, and of course Jordan and Lebanon, which are much more unstable countries.

I think the U.S. is trying to do no harm here. They obviously -- we obviously want to see Assad leave power. They want to see the opposition strengthened. They want to see Assad out the door. I think the U.S. is still of a mindset they'd prefer to see that happen because Syrians make it happen rather than the United States taking a lead in a Kosovo- or a Libya- style military coalition.

AMANPOUR: And just before we switch to Egypt, Ehud Barak, the defense minister of Israel, told me in no uncertain terms that they think it's time for some kind of intervention and to get rid of Assad like that.

But, look, let's move to Egypt. What we've seen today is -- and I know that you were a member of the staff of the embassy there in the `80s, so you know that country very, very well. There was a consultation (ph) today between the new president, Mohammed Morsi, and essentially the military, when he reconvened parliament for a very short period of time.

The military has now said -- or rather the courts -- that they stand by their decision; parliament is dissolved. So let's see what happens. But in the meantime, why is the United States, the bastion of democracy, continuing to pay the military $1 billion a year with no conditions attached in terms of democracy?

Don't you think it's time for the U.S. to say, look here, we like you; we support you. You're our ally (ph), but you can't go around hijacking democracy if you want our billions.

BURNS: Well, I think United States is trying to preserve the influence that it does have with the Egyptian military at a really critical time.

Here, again, Christiane, I suspect that the motivation in Washington and some other capitals is, again, can we work with both sides -- in this case the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Morsi and the Egyptian military -- to try to get them to work out some modus vivendi, some way for them to coexist, live together, share power and have Egyptian democracy evolve in a positive direction.

I think the fear is that if United States comes down on one side or another and begins to pick winners and losers, it actually might exacerbate the problems in Egypt itself. And it was an extraordinary day in Egypt today.

And you saw a very bold move by Mohammed Morsi to, in effect, try to take back some of the powers that the military took from him just before the presidential elections. But I think the U.S. hopes it sees the Muslim Brotherhood rising in influence. It wants to have a relationship with them. It wants to retain influence with the new leadership.

But it understands that the military will have a say on certain questions, and particularly on security, the U.S. interests are paramount. The peace treaty with Israel and of course Egypt helping to block Iran. So the U.S. is trying not just to have it both ways, to have influence in two camps that may be sparring in Cairo for months into the future.

AMANPOUR: In one word, you said U.S. doesn't want to come down on one side or the other. Doesn't the U.S. have to come down on the side of democracy? The freely elected president?

BURNS: Well, I think -- I think they did. When President Obama called President Morsi on the day of his election, the president and the White House have made very clear that we support the legitimacy of this new government, the Muslim Brotherhood government, that we want to see the results of the elections actually take hold and not be stolen by the courts.

I think the U.S. has actually stood up for democracy, whether we use our influence, Christiane, with the $1.3 billion, I think if the military began to act in clearly anti-democratic ways and tried to arrest the movement of this new government, then you might see some consideration of that in Washington.

AMANPOUR: Always great to talk to you, Ambassador Burns ,thanks very much for being with us.

BURNS: Thank you, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: And from involvement in Syria and Egypt, we'll turn to an entirely different kind of intervention. I will speak with human rights activist, Paul van Zyl, who is using fashion to help design a better world.

But first, take a look at this picture. At least one business in Syria is booming. This weapons seller in Idlib province is selling AK-47 bullets, along with AK-47s, to members of the Free Syrian Army. We'll be right back.


AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. For over 20 years, Paul van Zyl has been a human rights advocate, first in his native South Africa, where he served alongside Archbishop Desmond Tutu on the country's post- apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission; and then as a human rights lawyer and activist around the world.

So when van Zyl proposed the idea of launching a luxury fashion label, people might have been scratching their heads. But the key to luxury line Maiyet is its business model, turning a profit while partnering with skilled artisans in countries where energizing local economies can bridge ethnic conflict and try to stop war.

Van Zyl, who had never been a fashion show, turned to industry veteran, Kristy Caylor, to help create a line that has launched to praise from style icons and activists alike. Maiyet cofounders Paul van Zyl and Kristy Caylor join me right now.

Welcome. First I have to ask you, we said a bit about why, but tell me in your own words why, from human rights activist, to luxury style?

PAUL VAN ZYL, COFOUNDER AND CEO, MAIYET: Well, Christiane, part of my life was working both in South Africa to deal with the terrible legacy of apartheid and to try and promote reconciliation there. And then to take that work and take it around the world. And in the course of that, I met a remarkable man, Daniel Lebedsky (ph), who had worked on pioneering using business to promote peace.

And I had always arrived in countries when there had been killing and conflict and would try to promote justice and try to promote reconciliation through a range of different mechanisms.

And I always had the feeling that if we weren't creating jobs and we weren't using small business to help create jobs in these economies, we would be back there five years later because the roots of the conflict would not have been fundamentally addressed.

AMANPOUR: We have some wonderful pictures. You've got beautiful designs. You are one of the designers.



AMANPOUR: Yes, indeed.

How did you find Kristy?

VAN ZYL: Well, part of it is I realized that I'd reached the limits of my expertise. I knew that I wanted to try and establish a fashion brand and I had an idea that if we could find artisans around the world, that either brought people together from opposite sides of conflicts or empowered and employed women, or looked to do poverty alleviation, and we were to create a brand that didn't produce pity products, that didn't produce staff that people never should have supported charitably and in a benevolent way, that didn't really love and want to buy, we would be in trouble.

And so I really thought, let's find an industry veteran and somebody who would put fashion first and create something that people would want to buy regardless of the mission --

AMANPOUR: Well, I was going to ask you that. We're seeing these beautiful pictures; they're from your Paris runway show.

CAYLOR: Yes, exactly.

AMANPOUR: Again --

CAYLOR: (Inaudible).

AMANPOUR: -- pity product, that's a great way of putting it.


AMANPOUR: When he first came to you, did you think this was yet another do-gooding idea?

CAYLOR: Well, I had spent some time. I ran the Red project for Gap, so I had kind of dipped my toe in the water at the intersection of social impact and fashion, and had spent some time in Guatemala, working with some fair trade artisans there. And I was very passionate about building something that did something good for the world, but was also incredibly beautiful.

And so it was one of the first conversations we actually had when he said, I want to do this and I want to work in these countries. And it was close to my heart and such a natural fit. And you know, the wheels started turning on how we could do this. And I'm like we have to make amazing things.


AMANPOUR: (Inaudible) of which, you're wearing some of your jewelry, or some of the jewelry that the company --


AMANPOUR: -- designed. Let's see, your hands are --

CAYLOR: I do --

AMANPOUR: -- bangles (ph). Who makes the gold bangles?

CAYLOR: So these are actually done in Kenya. We do hand-poured brass casting with artisans there. They literally use sand and sugar molds that they fire over an open fire and then polish by hand. We then place them in 18-karat elevates (ph) and finish the product. This is also done in Kenya, but by three different types of artisans.

AMANPOUR: Let's have a look. Hold it up like that. Those are the -- that's the fish necklace --


CAYLOR: This is the fish necklace.

So this is done, hand carved horn, done by one artisan. The little fish bodies are also done in hand carved horn. And then the tails are hand-poured brass, again plated in 18-karat. So a lot of collaboration --

AMANPOUR: And you're also wearing a beautiful leather belt with a brass clasp?

CAYLOR: Yes, it's a brass-finish clasp, a little bracelet over here from Jaipur. So --

AMANPOUR: So India everywhere.

These sell in Barney's for a lot of money.

CAYLOR: Yes, I mean, it's a luxury product, and at the end of the day, we really wanted to celebrate global artisans and elevate the value of their work, so they were recognized for the beautiful handcraft heritage that they had and really even the playing field that way.

AMANPOUR: So tell me about these high prices. I mean do people -- should people think, like, you know, these are really expensive things and you're trying to do good? I mean, is there a disconnect there or not?

VAN ZYL: I mean, I don't think there's a disconnect at all, because there's sort of South Africa likes the idea that the next generation of luxury artisans are not from Italy and France, but they're from Kenya and from Colombia and from India and from developing economies where people have a competitive advantage.

And the problem with these rare skills, the block printing, the hand pouring, the incredible fine jewelry is that they're often trapped in local economies. People don't have design direction. They don't have access to markets. They don't have fair financing and they don't have training.

So if you can do all of those things and you can elevate the value of what people produce, people shouldn't be making hand carved salad bowls and tongs and selling them in the local market when they can be doing something which gets real value for the skill. And I think the fundamental point is that it's really -- it's trade and it's not aid. And that, for me, is really sustainable.

AMANPOUR: We were just seeing a picture of what you're calling the block prints that you do in India. Tell me how that came about.

CAYLOR: Well, Paul and I always kind of approach it from two perspectives, which is where in the world do we want to work to have the most social impact, and then where do I -- we also think we can find beautiful craft. And --


AMANPOUR: (Inaudible) seeing right here on our magic table.

CAYLOR: Yes. And block printing is a very old technique in India, and we found an organization that was really trying to protect that heritage. And so when we design a seasonal collection, we approach it from a very design-driven place, set a color palette and a pattern intention. And then we send those directions to the block printers, and they carve a block, print the product for us and we get it back.

AMANPOUR: So it's obviously very labor intensive, and it's -- and, as you say, luxury. Does it turn a profit? Is this going to be able to endure? I know you've done very well in your first season. Give us a sense of the numbers.

CAYLOR: Absolutely. I mean, we run it like a fashion business. So we have very strong sales production. We're projected to $3.5 million this year and to see that business grow quite rapidly over the next five years, actually. And that was intentional. We wanted this to run properly and build a sustainable business. In building our business, our (inaudible) are also sustainably thriving.

AMANPOUR: And tell me, Paul, what would happen to some of these artisans if they were not doing this? I think you've got people from Gujarat in India, as you mentioned, in Kenya, places where people were at war with each other.

VAN ZYL: Yes, I mean, I think part of it is to try and find ways of giving people economic incentives to work together, so one of our real fantastic partners which does this incredible hand embroidery in Ahmedabad, which is in Gujarat, which is really the ground zero of Muslim and Hindu conflict in India, they bring together Muslim and Hindu women, and they work in these incredible embroidery cooperatives.

If you didn't find a way of capturing that skill and properly leverage it, it would done on napkins and tablecloths and wouldn't really be reaching its full value. But if you give it a design direction and inspiration and you take this remarkably gifted group of people who work at Maiyet to give it proper design, then you're driving greater value to them.

You're letting them grow employment. You're letting them grow profitability. And --

AMANPOUR: You're keeping them from warring.

VAN ZYL: Precisely. And you know better than most, there's no guarantee that, you know, there's no silver bullet in conflict prevention. And we view what we do as a modest contribution. But I think what people want in the world is products which have transparency and integrity and meaning.

And because it's not mass produced and there is a hand and an artisanal touch in it, it's really covetable, because you're not going to see 10,000 of it on the shelves, and that has some kind of desirability to it as well.

AMANPOUR: Well, I hope everybody hastens to the line. It's beautiful.

Paul, Kristy, thank you very much indeed for coming in.


AMANPOUR: And changing the world one fashion accessory at a time, it's quite a concept.

Up next, we'll look at a country where fashion and everything else is dictated by an enigmatic supreme leader. North Korea's Kim Jong-un may demonize America, but he also seems to enjoy a little Disney. We'll explore that mystery when we return.



AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, when we look at Egypt and Syria, we see turmoil and transition. But at least we know what's going on. Then there's North Korea. Imagine a world where enigma seems to be the norm. North Korea's new supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, recently attended a concert.

And the entertainment including dancing Disney figures, a truly strange sight, given North Korea's antipathy towards the United States and all that it represents. But the mystery deepened when a young woman appeared at the Supreme Leader's side. Some say she's his girlfriend. Others say she's his sister, or perhaps even his wife. All we know for sure is that North Korea and its Supreme Leader continue to dance to their own mysterious tune.

And that's it for tonight's program. Meantime, our inbox is always open, Thank you for watching. Goodbye from New York.