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Iran's Role in ISIS Fight; Estonian Agent Snatched by Russia; Imagine a World

Aired October 14, 2014 - 14:00   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: the powerful speaker of Iran's parliament on a nuclear deal and stopping ISIS.


ALI LARIJANI, CHAIRMAN, PARLIAMENT OF IRAN (through translator): I think it is very unlikely to destroy guerrilla fighters by just dropping

bombs on their heads.


AMANPOUR: Also ahead, an unprecedented cross-border raid: Russia snatches an Estonian intelligence agent.

What is Putin's game? I ask Estonia's foreign minister.


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

Top military commanders from more than 20 countries are meeting tonight with President Obama as pressure grows to do more to stop the

relentless advance of ISIS across huge swaths of Iraq and Syria.

Let by America's top military brass at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, this meeting comes as militants push towards Baghdad. From the

start, Iran rushed to Iraq to blunt the ISIS surge right after it took Mosul in June. And the head of the Revolutionary Guard's Quds Force has

even been photographed on the battlefield.

Whilst ISIS is a common enemy, Washington and Tehran are at odds about strategy. Last month, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani told me that U.S.

airstrikes were mere theater. But now even the U.S. administration admits that airstrikes alone won't crush ISIS. And as a backdrop to this drama,

Iran and the United States and other world powers are trying again to thrash out a lasting nuclear deal. New talks begin today in Washington.

But while the West doesn't think they'll make the November 24th deadline, Iran seems to think they can.

I spoke about all of this today with Iran's powerful speaker of the parliament, Ali Larijani, who joined me from Geneva.

I also asked him when they would release colleagues of our who've been imprisoned in Tehran jails for months now.


AMANPOUR: Mr. Larijani, welcome to the program.

LARIJANI (through translator): Thank you.

AMANPOUR: Let me first start by asking you about the threat of ISIS. There are many reports that the group is very close to Baghdad, could

threaten the Baghdad airport.

What is Iran doing to defend itself and Baghdad from ISIS?

LARIJANI (through translator): You know, ISIS was not a group that was created on its own. We have to get to the root causes and we have to

know that big powers, the responsible for its creation and also some countries of the region.

And I think it is very unlikely to destroy guerrilla fighters by just dropping bombs on their heads.

I have also heard that the Americans are going to find two places, two bases in the region, in which people will be trained for ground operations.

Terrorists cannot be destroyed by bombing them. You cannot solve terrorism by occupation. And in order to fight them effectively, you have

to choose another method. And you know that we have good experience in that because we have actively fought against them.

AMANPOUR: Could you spell out the security related solution to this problem that you have in mind?

LARIJANI (through translator): Yes, I can spell it out to you. But in that case, you will be helping the ISIS.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me assure you, Mr. Larijani, that none of us want to help ISIS.

So as you yourself have said, there is no solution by air bombardment alone. Many inside Iraq are calling for American troops to help them.

In Hit, in the Anbar province, where they're losing their towns, they are calling for American troops to help them.

What would -- what would you say if American troops or other boots went in on the ground to stop Daish, which is also your enemy?

LARIJANI (through translator): You know, in order to fight ISIS effectively, you have to come up with a very good security solution. Part

of it can be a ground operation.

And the people who are going to be there on the ground should be skillful enough. And these people should not be like mercenaries. They

need to have enough motivation to do that.

AMANPOUR: So you mean the mostly Shiite militia that you and Qasem Soleimani and the Revolutionary Guard are helping now in Iraq?

Is that correct?

LARIJANI (through translator): Not necessarily. I think people -- I mean, Iraqis and Syrians themselves are capable enough to carry out such

operations themselves.

We know these people, whether Shias or Sunnis or Kurds in those two countries, they have what it takes to be successful on the ground. I think

the best thing that the U.S. can do is to prevent its allies, its friends in the region, from sending arms and money to these groups.

It is not a child's play. I mean, fighting terrorism is not a child's play. It can be very costly.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Larijani, I want to move on to the nuclear negotiations, which are about to have a new round of discussions in Europe

this week.

The president of Iran, Mr. Rouhani, said that he believes a deal is possible by the November 24th deadline.

Do you believe that that is possible?

And would the Iranian parliament -- you are the speaker of the parliament -- accept the deal that is being worked out now?

LARIJANI (through translator): I think it is quite possible. Of course, this providing that both sides are serious enough about reaching a

deal. I think the remaining issues or the outstanding issues can be resolved by the -- that deadline, November 24th.

But I think it will be unlikely to achieve a deal if both sides keep bargaining over small things.

AMANPOUR: Are you satisfied with the interim deal so far?

LARIJANI (through translator): It has advantages and disadvantages.

AMANPOUR: So if there is no possibility of reaching a final deal by November 24th, would you accept a continuation, an extension of the talks

under the current deal, maybe locking in some of the progress made under the interim deal?

LARIJANI (through translator): We have to discuss about this internally. We don't want to do something to just keep us busy for a


AMANPOUR: What do you think the result will be if there is a total breakdown and no extension?

LARIJANI (through translator): I don't think that is going to be very much in favor of the U.S. because it means that they have lost the

opportunity to achieve something diplomatically. Of course, it is going to be a loss to others as well. We are going to do whatever we have been


We do not want to develop a nuclear bomb. But we insist on having access to nuclear technology and knowhow. And we are ready to be

transparent enough about that.

You know, it makes me surprised that why is it that in these negotiations there is just talk about the number of centrifuges? Or how

they can limit our R&D aspects of the nuclear technology?

I think that is not so really important, the number of centrifuges. The important thing is that Iran is trying to be transparent and Iran is

going to be clear about its program.

AMANPOUR: Can I move on to the internal situation inside Iran?

We have been monitoring very closely the number of Iranian Americans, Iranian English people who have been jailed over the last several months.

Let me first ask you about a young girl, Ghoncheh Ghavami, who is Anglo Iranian and she's in jail since June, I believe.

Will she be released?

What do you say her crime is? She has not been charged.

LARIJANI (through translator): Of course, I can confirm that the number of these people jailed is rising. These are very rare cases and

this is very natural for these cases to happen, because Iran is a very big, large country, with a population of 80 million people.

They might have done something wrong or committed an affairs and the judiciary has to look into it.

There should be no doubt that we don't want to send anybody to jail with no good reason. As far as I know, there has been an investigation

opened into the case. And I hope that this will come to an end and be concluded as soon as possible.

AMANPOUR: Well, she is on hunger strike now, so her health may be in jeopardy. And obviously many, many people outside of Iran are watching

what happens with these young people. And as I say, no charges have been filed against Ms. Ghavami.

Let me ask you about a colleague of mine, a fellow journalist, Jason Rezaian, who is also in jail. Recently his wife was released. We are very

grateful for that. Jason Rezaian has had no charges put against him.

We would like to know why he's in jail and will that case be expedited?

LARIJANI (through translator): It seems that I don't have as much information as you do, because you say that no charges have been leveled

against him.

AMANPOUR: Nothing public has been said.

LARIJANI (through translator): You're right. You know, according to the rules and the laws in Iran, the charges cannot be publicly announced

before an investigation is done.

Of course, laws are different in different countries. As far as I know, there are some charges against this person, but they have not yet

been made public because of those laws I told you about.

But his case is being processed as we speak.

AMANPOUR: Of course, your brother is the head of the judiciary in Iran. And we had a colleague, Maziar Bahari, who was jailed after the 2009

elections in Iran. He spent four months, 118 days, in solitary confinement.

It turns out that the principle charge against him was a comedy show in the United States. He was involved in a comedy show -- nothing real,

but a comedy show.

And therefore I wonder whether we need to explain to the judiciary in Iran that some of these things that they may think are real are not

actually real so that they don't keep targeting journalists.

LARIJANI (through translator): These are the questions you have to put to the judiciary people because I don't really know much about these

cases. Maybe there are other things involved in these cases that you don't know about.

I cannot give you a straight answer right now because I am not in charge of matters like this.

AMANPOUR: But would you agree that these cases should be expedited?

LARIJANI (through translator): Definitely expediting is good. Even explaining about them as much as the law allows us. But we should not

really put -- force the judiciary to rush things.

AMANPOUR: On that note, Ali Larijani, speaker of the Iranian parliament, thank you very much for joining me from Geneva.

LARIJANI (through translator): Wish you all the best, all of you.


AMANPOUR: And of course we will continue to monitor that situation in Tehran. Russia, of course, is another country where scores of journalists

and human rights workers have been jailed.

But what Russia is doing to its own former Baltic States, now NATO members, smacks of Cold War skulduggery. We asked Estonia's foreign

minister whether he knows what Putin's game is. That's next.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

Now while the world is preoccupied trying to find a way to stop ISIS on Russia's border war games and psychological warfare continue. Apart

from its obvious attempt to halt Ukraine's tilt westwards, worrying new questions now about Russia's aim and its game in the form of Baltic States.

What happened in Estonia last month reads like a John le Carre novel. One of their intelligence agents was snatched in a cross-border raid by

Russian FSB agents and recently he was paraded on Russian television as a spy.

Is Putin testing NATO, seeing how far he can probe one of its own? I asked Estonia's foreign minister, Urmas Paet, who joined me from Tallinn,

whether the country feared the Ukraine treatment now.


AMANPOUR: Foreign Minister Paet, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: We want to dig down a little bit into relations between yourself and Russia, particularly as exemplified by this cloak-and-dagger,

very Cold War mystery about one of your intelligence agents, Mr. Kohver.

Tell us what happened. He got abducted; he's now sitting in a Moscow jail.

What is going on?

PAET: Well, your description was completely adequate. It happened on the 5th of September; our police had an operation close to the Russian

border and one of our police officers was taken from Estonian territory by Russian FSB and, yes, he's at the moment in Moscow in Lefortovo Prison and

waiting for the court.

So that of course, our demandings that he has to be returned to Estonia as soon as possible together with also our partners. We demand it

but, unfortunately, so far no -- well, real positive developments in this regard.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Foreign Minister, has this happened before?

I mean, is this a regular occurrence on your border, that various police or intelligence agents somehow get taken by either country?

PAET: Of course not. It is actually first time in our history. But I think that here is also a little bit larger picture.

In the days that during last weeks, unfortunately, they have seen actually many different incidents but of course, verinist (ph) incidents,

be it airspace violations in Finland and Sweden by Russian aircraft, be it reopening criminal investigation against people who refused in Lithuania 24

years ago to go to serve in Soviet army or some others.

And I put also this issue, well, into this bit larger framework.

AMANPOUR: In that case, what message do you think Russia is trying to send you?

You know, some in your region, including the former secretary-general of NATO says that Russia is trying to test NATO's vigilance. It's pushing

and pushing and pushing to see the reaction to these probes.

Do you agree?

PAET: Well, I still think that the main goal of Russia at the moment, of course, is building the so-called Eurasian Union. It means that Russia

has to stop the movement of Ukraine and also other former Soviet republics closer to the West, closer to the European Union, closer to NATO and it is,

well, their first target.

AMANPOUR: Do you believe NATO has the defenses in place to send a stiff enough warning to Russia, that it better not do this or else there

will be consequences?

PAET: Well, I am absolutely sure that NATO cooperation is actually these days even stronger than it used to be and also Russia knows it.

And in this instance, the outcome of recent NATO summit in Wales has been very clear and positive also from our point of view so that though

this kind of reassurance measures I see have been adequate and appropriate and I'm absolutely convinced that also Russia understands and knows it.

AMANPOUR: Now obviously the situation in Ukraine, formally there's meant to be a cease-fire. That was signed in early September. But there

have been 331 people at least killed in Ukraine since then.

We now understand that President Putin has called 17,600 troops back to base.

What do you think is going on?

Is this serious?

It is just realigning of Russian forces?

Do you think President Putin is beginning to step back from his intervention in Ukraine?

PAET: Nothing just happens. It's clear that Russia wants to achieve some sort of agreement with Ukraine and of course also Ukraine wants to see

that this military aggression, military intervention of Russia will not continue and that Russian troops will not move further on the Ukrainian


But of course it's also clear that even Russia will stop its military aggression in Ukraine. It has the price and now the big question mark is

what kind of price it will be, what kind of price Ukrainians are ready to pay and, well, I'm afraid that we will get answers actually pretty soon and

I'm not very confident.

I'm not very sure that the outcome of these kind of talks at this stage before winter in Ukraine, whether it's lack of energy, where there

are still Russian troops on the ground, that this balance point will be very positive for Ukraine.

AMANPOUR: So you're saying these talks that are coming up between President Poroshenko and President Putin may result in down the line Russia

cutting off energy supplies, if I read you correctly?

PAET: Well, Ukraine is in very difficult situation, we should understand it. Russian troops on the ground, Ukraine already lost Crimea,

very difficult situation in Eastern Ukraine and, well, Ukrainian army is, of course, clearly weakened, weaker than Russian army.

Second issue is, yes, the lack of energy supplies.

Third is overall difficult situation of Ukrainian economy, also upcoming parliamentary elections in Ukraine.

So that if we put all these together, it means that, of course, Ukraine wants to stop this military aggression but it is also clear that,

yes, there will be certainly price because otherwise I don't think that Russia and Russian leaders just stop the activities they are had in Ukraine

during last months.

And then they still have the goal to stop Ukrainian movement closer to West, closer to the European Union so that, in this light, well, I also

think that agreement or so for balance point, also will reflect all these concerns.

AMANPOUR: Foreign Minister, do you believe Estonia is under threat?

Do you feel threatened?

PAET: Short answer is no because it's clear that Estonia is member of NATO, is member of European Union, Estonia is the most well integrated

Northern European country at all, international community and it makes huge difference.

So that -- and Estonian people, we made our clear choice already more than 20 years ago that we want to be member of the European family and we

don't want, well, never be alone again, as it happened before Second World War.

AMANPOUR: Foreign Minister Paet, thank you so much for joining us from Estonia.

PAET: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And fiercely, jealously guarding their hard-won independence and freedom.

Now though what constitutes a state may sometimes be in dispute, recognition of statehood is a source of pride and hope for its people. The

British parliament has just voted to support a motion to encourage the government to recognize Palestinian statehood, even before a final

agreement with Israel.

Sweden has just become the first E.U. country to do just that.

What will this really mean? We don't know yet. But imagine living without a state, a passport or an -- or an official identity? Six hundred

thousand people inside Europe are currently officially stateless.

What precisely does that mean for them? Find out after a break.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, the very human desire to seek a better, safer life forces so many to risk everything for a new start. Just

look at the terrifying and deadly odyssey of thousands who keep trying to cross unforgiving waters from Africa to the Italian island of Lampedusa.

But imagine a world where rather than leaving your old state in the hope of finding a new one you are stateless with no nationality, no

passport, no driving license or Social Security number. You're paperless. You're in limbo. You cannot work, legally marry or get health care. Six

hundred thousand people live like this here in Europe alone. These living ghosts are often the outcasts of war.

For instance, the many who fled the former Yugoslavia 20 years ago, who simply fell through the cracks and melted anonymously into the system.

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 left more than 200,000 stateless in the Baltic republics, no longer Soviet citizens, but nor Latvian,

Estonian or Lithuanian. And discriminated minorities such as the Roma in Southern Europe can't get the official documents they need.

Today the European Network on Statelessness handed in a petition to the E.U. calling for their legal recognition. A small step, perhaps, but a

move in the right direction to help 600,000 people find somewhere to call home.

And that's it for our program tonight. Remember you can always see our show online at, and follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.