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Reviewing Iranian Election Result; `Girl Rising' Discussed

Aired June 21, 2013 - 15:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour, and welcome to the special weekend edition of our program.

First to Iran and its new president, Hassan Rouhani. World leaders who had gathered in Europe for the G8 summit this week are still trying to take the measure of this centrist reformer after he won Iran's presidential election in a stunning upset.

All week, analysts and, indeed, Iranian officials who used to work for Rouhani are trying to convince the West that he provides a new opportunity to resolve the nuclear issue. He himself has called for Iran to give more transparency on the nuclear program.

Analysts are saying that now Rouhani has a mandate to compromise and also the approval of Iran's all-powerful Supreme Leader.

Rouhani himself says the people's backing has ushered in a new era and he used his first address to the world to call for a more moderate and constructive Iranian foreign policy. He said the relationship with the United States is complicated, an old wound that somehow must be healed.


HASSAN ROUHANI, PRESIDENT-ELECT, IRAN (through translator): We don't want to see more tension. But speaking to America in addition to that fact that it should be based on mutual respect and interest and it should be on an equal footing they need to expressly say that they will never interfere in the domestic affairs in Iran.

And secondly, all the rightful, right-set (ph) Iranian nation including the nuclear rights, need to be recognized by Americans.


AMANPOUR: So what will Rouhani's election mean at home and abroad after eight confrontational years of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? Sadegh Zibakalam, a campaign adviser and leading member of the reformist camp, joined me on the phone from Tehran with some insight.


AMANPOUR: Professor Zibakalam, thank you very much indeed for joining me from Tehran.

First of all, we heard the press conference; it sounded conciliatory.

What message is Dr. Rouhani trying to send to the world?

SADEGH ZIBAKALAM, ROUHANI CAMPAIGN ADVISER: He is sending this simple message to the world that there has been a real election in Iran and hopefully, Inshallah, there will be new foreign policy as far as Iran is concerned.

AMANPOUR: And what about -- is he a real reformer? Obviously it's within the system. Dr. Rouhani was a national security adviser. He's also one of the founders of the Islamic revolution.

Is he a reformer?

ZIBAKALAM: It is not the question of being a reformist at the moment or not. The most important issue is not to continue with the policies that have been running and guiding Iran during the past particularly four years, and moving towards a better conciliatory, realistic and pragmatist policy. I mean, that is the main issue.

And whoever can deliver this change is important. Be it a reformist, be it a pragmatist, being even a non-reformist.

AMANPOUR: Well, what do you make of, then, can he actually deliver? I note that Saeed Jalili, who is one of the more hardline conservatives -- he is the current nuclear negotiator and he was a presidential candidate. He tweeted that he supported and congratulated Mr. Rouhani and that everyone has to work together.

So does that mean the system, the Supreme Leader, is going to allow Dr. Rouhani to enact these things he's been saying?

ZIBAKALAM: Rouhani will have -- will have tremendous domestic resistance.

But as for the Supreme Leader, you must realize that, although the Supreme Leader has the tremendous power according to the constitution, but he doesn't take the decision in a vacuum. He must -- obviously he has seen that the mood of the people, the people are more or less tired of the hardline policies that have been governing Iran, particularly during the past four years.

AMANPOUR: And what kind of a government do you think we'll see from Mr. Rouhani? Will he try to bring in some of the so-called more conservative, more hardliners, to have a consensus government, a national unity government?

ZIBAKALAM: Well, there has been serious suggestion by his advisers that he must invite Mr. Velayati to his cabinet; he must invite Bagher Ghalibaf. He must invite Mohsen Rezaee. He definitely needs Velayati if he wants to conduct serious negotiation with 5+1 and also to break some ice with the West, because Velayati can get the support and confidence of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeini.

So there's the -- some of his advisers have suggested to him that you -- we have to invite Velayati to the cabinet, either as foreign minister or as someone who is in charge of conducting negotiation with 5+1.

AMANPOUR: All right, Dr. Zibakalam, thank you very much indeed.

And, of course, to remind everybody, Mr. Velayati was a foreign minister and he has conducted negotiations with the West for many, many years.

Thanks very much for joining us.

ZIBAKALAM: You're welcome.


AMANPOUR: So while reaching out, Rouhani also appealed to other nations to take advantage of this new opportunity, as he called it. In his press conference, he was asked whether he would be willing to engage in direct talks with the United States.

He said smiling, "That is a difficult question."

And so what will America do? Rouhani's election comes at a crucial time in negotiations over Iran's nuclear conflict -- nuclear program, which has come almost to the brink of conflict.

Vali Nasr is a former member of President Obama's foreign policy team at the State Department, and he is now dean of the School of International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. And I spoke to him moments ago.


AMANPOUR: Vali Nasr, welcome back to the program.


AMANPOUR: Is this a real opportunity for the United States right now?

NASR: Yes, it is. First of all, just having a reformist person different than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the president of Iran provides much more breathing room, much more space for the administration and the international community to try something new with Iran.

And then, after all, Rouhani was the architect of probably the most forward-leaning position Iran ever had on the nuclear deal back in 2003.

AMANPOUR: In other words, the suspension of their program for a significant period of time.

NASR: Yes, and he's held onto that view, because literally every diplomat that Ahmadinejad fired for favoring engagement with the U.S. was later on hired by Rouhani in his think tank.


AMANPOUR: So he was --

NASR: So he's been working on this.

AMANPOUR: -- roundly criticized for that. Do you think that suspension has even a glimmer of a hope under him now?

NASR: Well, he's once bitten, twice shy. In other words, he's not going to stick his neck out for it to be chopped off. That's the challenge for the United States and the P5+1. They have to give him something tangible so he's not seen as naive and repeating the same mistake as 2003.

So we shouldn't read reformism as immediate capitulation at an open door for a deal (ph). We have work to do. But the opportunity is there.

AMANPOUR: Now you have written that actually the ball is in the U.S. court right now.

What do you mean?

NASR: Well, because the United States has to at least suggest that it's willing to deal with Rouhani different than they dealt with Ahmadinejad. In the past, the impression in Iran was that Ahmadinejad got better deals than Rouhani did.

And Rouhani can't come to the table seriously unless the indication is that he can deliver more than Ahmadinejad. We have to help strengthen his hand in Iran. That way he can actually sell a deal back home.

AMANPOUR: Now you've been inside the administration; you've worked on Afghanistan and Pakistan, but obviously Iran as well.

Is there a willingness to get beyond this really terrible 34-year wall of mistrust that has gone up between the two countries?

NASR: I don't think so. I think the administration's handled Iran tactically, not only managing it one step at a time with an eye on American domestic public opinion. There hasn't been an audacious view of bringing Iran in from the cold, as difficult as that might be.

AMANPOUR: Let's just call a spade a spade. I've spoken to Iranian officials, former negotiators, actually people who worked for Dr. Rouhani earlier, and they said that so far the American incentives to Iran in these nuclear negotiations amounts to demanding diamonds for peanuts. In other words, the incentives that the U.S. has given so far don't amount to much.

NASR: They don't amount to much at all. The United States has only offered aircraft parts and most recently modest permission to trade in gold and silver.

What Iran is really after is offer of taking Syria's sanctions off the table, which has not been -- and possibly recognizing Iran's right to enrichment.

Rouhani has to be -- has to be able to show Iran's Supreme Leader and Revolutionary Guards that the reformists can actually get the United States to offer these things. That's how you build momentum for reform in Iran.

AMANPOUR: And of course Iran has to show the United States, the West and Israel that there's going to be total transparency and that they're not going for a weapon.

Can he deliver on that?

NASR: This is a give-and-take, in other words, each side has to risk a little and be willing to offer something. And then you go from there.

So he's talked about transparency. He's talked about constructive engagement. Those are all positive things. We have to test those things. But he has to also know that if he takes a serious step in the direction of transparency, that he will not end up where he ended up in --


AMANPOUR: But you think the regime as a whole wants this, Supreme Leader, the Revolutionary Guards; do they want a ratcheting down of the crisis?

NASR: I think they want the sanctions to go away. Iran is really hurting. They may not be -- they may not want to give up the nuclear program but they know that they can't survive under the sanctions. The country's hurting.

So lifting sanctions is an objective. And they have to be -- they have to realize they have to give something for that. And that has to come out of the constructive negotiation process.

AMANPOUR: Let's move quickly to Syria because Dr. Rouhani has actually talked about it just the day before his election in an interview in Iran.

He said, "In my opinion, in order to reach a just solution in Syria that's accepted by all parties, Iran can play the role of mediator between the Syrian government and the opposition that is working hard to achieve democracy and good governance."

Can Iran actually play a role? Because right now we know the role it's playing is bolstering Assad and actually helping turn the tide in Assad's favor along with Hezbollah in Syria.

NASR: Well, Iran wants this conflict to go away. They don't want to lose. But they want the conflict to stop. And that's a beginning.

And secondly you're not going to get to any kind of a peace deal on Syria unless Iran is on board, because Iran is the most important of Assad's backers.

It is a possibility to use the new phase in Iran to see whether we can engage them and is a potential to see whether Rouhani would be willing to play a constructive role in the Geneva conference. It's a very, very slim chance but we have to use this opening in Iran to try and do things with them.

If we treat Iran the way we did before, as if there has been no change at the top, then there will be no change in (inaudible).

AMANPOUR: Vali Nasr, thank you very much indeed.

NASR: Good to be with you.


AMANPOUR: Fascinating and important developments there in Iran.

And after a break, we turn to the power of education for women and girls around the world and for one unstoppable young girl in Haiti.

A new CNN documentary, "Girl Rising," says that it's possible to change the world one girl at a time. We'll show you when we come back.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program and to a very important topic that we continue to follow very closely and that is the struggle facing tens of millions of girls around the world who just want to go to school and who know that they need an education if they're ever to break out of their cycle of poverty.

We learned of their deep commitment to this cause when the Pakistani teenager, Malala Yousafzai, was shot in the head last year simply for speaking out publicly about defying the Taliban to go to school.

And it's by now a well-known fact that an educated girl grows up to improve not just her own lot in life, but her whole country's economic development. As the saying goes, girls are not the problem; they are the problem solvers.

And this is what's driving the innovative film "Girl Rising." It's actually a call to action for educating the 66 million girls around the world who are currently not in school. The program airs on CNN this weekend and it's already been released in cinemas here in the United States. It focuses on several girls from Ethiopia to Afghanistan, Nepal, Peru and many more parts of the developing world.

We've decided to focus on the 8-year old Wadley from Haiti, whose dreams were rudely shattered after the devastating earthquake in 2010, which reduced her school to rubble.

She eventually discovers this makeshift classroom on the side of a road and promptly sits down to learn. And Wadley, we see, won't let her family's poverty stand in the way.


KATE BLANCHETT, ACTRESS (voice-over): The next morning Wadley started for the tent school again. She wasn't sure what she was going to do. But she was determined to go and stay.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (from captions): Has your mother paid yet, Wadley? Has your mother paid the money?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (from captions): Will you leave, Wadley?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (from captions): You need to go home, Wadley.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (from captions): This is the last time I'll tell you.

WADLEY (from captions): If you send me away, I will come back every day until I can stay.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (from captions): What's this?

WADLEY (from captions): Even if you send me away, I will come back every day until I can stay.



AMANPOUR: Now Wadley told her story to the acclaimed Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat, and you may be able to recognize the narrator's voice in that film, superstar actress Cate Blanchett.

Edwidge, welcome.

EDWIDGE DANTICAT, HAITIAN-AMERICAN AUTHOR: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

AMANPOUR: That is such a touching clip. That's a dream sequence.

DANTICAT: Well, it's part dream, part reality. Wadley's school was destroyed after the earthquake. She did live in a tent camp. And every day she would actually walk by these schools that would emerge in the tent city and edge closer and closer. And the film is very impressionistic, as is a child's imagination.

And I was never quite sure whether she actually took that stand or she did it in her imagination. But we decided to tell the story they way she felt strongest about it, because she would, every day, edge closer and sort of would be turned away, but would come back every day.

AMANPOUR: So she really wanted to get into school.

What did she tell you about why?

DANTICAT: Oh, she would, you know, every day, she would wake up in the tent camp and tell her mother, when are we going to school? When am I going to school, because she really loved to learn, like a lot of these girls, like a lot of you know, children in general in Haiti. She loved to learn.

And like everybody else's child, you know, who wants an opportunity, she's a very curious little girl. She's got a great imagination. You know, when I first met her, that was her way of dealing with the trauma from the earthquake. She told me so many fantastical stories.

AMANPOUR: And as young as she is, she knew that this was her way out, education.

DANTICAT: Oh, absolutely, because her mother -- she has a wonderful family.

She has great parents who really have sacrificed so much for their -- for their children and her, you know, she could see, in spite of the poverty and eventually the destruction around her, that some of the kids who were going to school, you know, were eventually going to have a better life. Even though she was very young and was really shocked and shaken from the earthquake, she understood that.

And I think she wanted to get back to the normalcy of school after such a tragic event.

AMANPOUR: And just to be clear, she is in school now.

DANTICAT: She is in school now and we went back to Haiti and showed her the film with her family and some other school girls from the same area. She's -- you know her mom said that even a school she's in now is not, you know, up to her level. She's a really bright student, and next year she'll go to a different school that's more challenging for her.

AMANPOUR: Edwidge, as you know and I know, it's not just the earthquake that has severely crippled people's chances in Haiti. Haiti is one of the poorest places in the world. You grew up there.

What was your experience in trying to bust out of that cycle of poverty? You come from a poor family yourself.

DANTICAT: Well, I would say I think Haiti's poor in maybe financial terms, but you look at Wadley and her family, and these children and we're rich in resources, in human resources. And education for me, like a lot of us, education was what took us out of poverty.

And what I would hope for children, like Wadley, for example, is that they wouldn't have to migrate like my family did to have better opportunities, that there would be opportunities, educational opportunities for them within the country.

AMANPOUR: And what is the reality right now of opportunities, the new government, the new reality, so much aid from the West in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake? What is the reality for these kids?

DANTICAT: Well, so much is from the West that never really trickles down. The reality is that about 80 percent of schools are privately run and, in Haiti and in rural areas there, school is a very challenging thing to find.

And not only do you have to pay tuition, but you have uniforms and books, et cetera. So it's --

AMANPOUR: That's (inaudible) really expensive.


AMANPOUR: "Girl Rising" is a really interesting film because all these girls, whatever country, they matched up with writers such as yourself, each is matched up with a writer from her own country to tell the story. And then it's narrated, as we said, by some of these film stars, whose voices we recognize and who've also devoted themselves to the cause.

Why did you decide to get involved in "Girl Rising"?

DANTICAT: Well, I have daughters who are Wadley's age. And I see myself a lot in her. You know, I would not be able to do any of the things that I've done if I were not -- if I didn't have an education. I would say I think there are millions of women, boys, girls who are sort of better, probably more intelligent than me who didn't have the same opportunities that I have.

And I think it's, in that case, an obligation for us to try to pass on those opportunities to others, who -- you know, I could have easily been Wadley. That could have -- that could easily be me. She is me. I am her in many ways. And I think we sort of -- these places where our stories met were very interesting for me.

I look -- when I look at her, I see my daughters in her. I see the future in her. I see the future of Haiti in her face. And if we fail to educate girls and boys like her, we will never succeed.

AMANPOUR: Edwidge Danticat, thank you very much.

DANTICAT: Thank you for having me.


AMANPOUR: And after we take a break, another look at Iran's new president.

Does he herald a bold new breakthrough in relations with the West? Or is history repeating itself? When we come back.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, Iran's new president is talking about moderation and raising hopes around the globe for a more constructive relationship with the West, including the United States.

Imagine a world where it's deja vu all over again, because back in 1998, the new reformist president, Mohammad Khatami, made front-page news around the world, inspiring optimism in people everywhere. When he sat down with me in Tehran and reached out to the American people becoming the first Iranian leader to apologize for the hostage crisis of 1979.


MOHAMMAD KHATAMI, FORMER PRESIDENT OF IRAN (through translator): With regard to the hostage issue which you raised, I do know that the feelings of the great American people have been hurt, and of course I regret it.

AMANPOUR: The average American is familiar with one image from Iran, death to America, the burning of American flags and, as we talked about, the hostages.

You talk about a new chapter in relations between the peoples of the world.

What can you say to the Americans listening tonight, to show that person that your Iran is a new Iran or a different Iran?

KHATAMI (through translator): There are slogans being chanted in Iran. But, you as a journalist can ask all those chanting the slogans whether they are targeting the American people. And they would all say no. Not only we do not harbor any ill wishes for the American people, but in fact we consider them to be a great nation.

Our aim is not even to destroy or undermine the American government. These slogans symbolize a desire to terminate a mode of relations which existed between Iran and the United States.



AMANPOUR (voice-over): Now two years later in the year 2000, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright reciprocated in a speech that expressed regret for the CIA-backed coup of 1953 that deposed Iran's democratically elected Prime Minister Mosaddegh, and put the Shah of Iran back on the throne.

And for a while, there was a spirit of detente between the two nations. Now the window of opportunity seems to be opening again. So will both sides find a way to reach through it?

That's it for tonight's program. Meantime, you can always contact us on our website, Thanks for watching and goodbye from New York.