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Mounting Anger between Rival Powers; Inside Ramadi; China's Two- Child Policy; Imagine a World. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired January 4, 2016 - 14:00   ET




CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: mounting anger between rival Persian Gulf powers, Iran and Saudi Arabia, threatens a

region that is already inflamed. Saudi insider Jamal Khashoggi is live from Jeddah.

And here, the former British foreign secretary Jack Straw tells me the severing of ties is a serious blow to the fight against ISIS.


JACK STRAW, FORMER U.K. FOREIGN SECRETARY: It will make cooperation, which is central against ISIS and the jihadists in daish and these other extreme

Sunni groups, that much more difficult.


AMANPOUR: Also ahead, a new year and a big change for China. A special report on the new two-child policy.


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

If anyone thought this new year would bring new hope for peace in the Middle East, the dramatic escalation of the Cold War between Saudi Arabia

and Iran could derail that possibility. Sunni Saudi Arabia, followed by Bahrain and Sudan, have severed ties with Shia Iran and the UAE has

downgraded relations following Iran's decision this weekend to execute the Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, whom they accused of terrorism after which

a few dozen Iranian extremists stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran.

Despite President Rouhani condemning the attack and ordering the arrest of those responsible, Saudi Arabia says it is now severing all ties with



ADEL AL-JUBEIR, SAUDI FOREIGN MINISTER: We decided to cut off all diplomatic relations with Iran. We will also be cutting off all air

traffic to and from Iran. We will be cutting off all commercial relations with Iran and we will have a travel ban against people traveling to Iran.


AMANPOUR: For its part, Tehran accused Iran of looking for, quote, "excuses" to further harm relations between their two countries.


HOSSEIN JABER ANSARI, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESPERSON (through translator): Iran is naturally taking international regulations in order

to protect all diplomatic missions. The Saudi government has taken action when everything has been under control and there was no threat to Saudi



AMANPOUR: And there are now growing fears the crisis could seriously derail efforts to end the wars in Syria, Iraq and even Yemen, where Iran

and Saudi Arabia back opposing sides.

Let's go directly to Saudi Arabia and Jamal Khashoggi, who is an insider and influential journalist close to the ruling family.


AMANPOUR: Jamal Khashoggi, welcome back to our program.

Has Saudi Arabia overreacted?

Why has the kingdom done this now?

JAMAL KHASHOGGI, JOURNALIST: No, I don't think we -- the kingdom has overreacted. It is the last straw that broke the back of a very sour, very

bad relationship between Saudi Arabia and Iran that had been devastated with suspicions and doubts from both sides.

Things were really bad between us and Iran for the last five, six years. It was manifested in the form of Iranian aggression and militias,

sectarianism, sectarian militias fighting in Syria, killing Syrians by the thousands, sending arms and creating a sectarian party that could break up

Yemen in Yemen.

So Saudi Arabia basically is -- wasn't happy with what the Iranians are doing and that what happened yesterday was just the tip of a major problem

that has to do with the remaking of the new Middle East.

There are two projects colliding together. The Iranian hegemony and sectarianism project and people's freedom project, what the people of Syria

and Yemen, they want to have the right to establish their own country, according to their aspiration to freedom and, thank goodness, my country

happen to side with the latter, with the people.

AMANPOUR: Jamal, I hear what you are saying. Obviously from many people's perspective, including obviously Iran's, Saudi Arabia is reacting against

its own domestic issues, for instance, the Shia minority.

Many believe Saudi Arabia has backed the much more hardline extremists that are manifesting themselves in Syria and elsewhere.


AMANPOUR: And Iran is very upset about the 500 people who were killed in Mecca. I mean, that's just a few things. And Saudi Arabia we know is so

angry about the nuclear deal.

I wonder what you make about the expert on this region, Vali Nasr, who's the dean of the graduate school at Johns Hopkins, basically he tweeted,

saying, "The execution of a Shia cleric is a clue to Saudi Arabian strategy, provoke Iran and escalate sectarian tensions."

I mean, in whose interest are these Sunni-Shia tensions, do you think, Jamal?

KHASHOGGI: We are already in that conflict, on the sectarian conflict. It -- no one had to start it by the execution of al-Nimr. The mere fact that

there are thousands of Iranians fighting in Syria against Sunni Syrians and siding with the Shia president of Syria, that is sectarianism.

Everywhere you look in the Middle East and you see where the Iranians are, they are siding with the sect of their own. In fact, Iranians are -- now

stand with dictators. They do not look for the future of the people of that country, not even what they claim in their constitution, that they

should side with the freedom of the people.

Who are the friends of Iran in the Middle East?

It is Bashar al-Assad, Ali Abdul (INAUDIBLE), dictators. So Iran should not argue and take that line.

AMANPOUR: Well, let's just ask you this then because both sides, Iran and Saudi Arabia, have these mutual accusations about freedom and dictatorship

and this and that. And it's true that Iran sides with Assad.

But the rest of the world, including Saudi Arabia, was hoping that they could get around the table, the U.S.-sponsored Vienna talks, and have some

kind of political resolution.

I mean, is that out the window, the effort to end the Syria war, the fight against ISIS?

Where does that go from now?

KHASHOGGI: It is always a good idea to sit at a table and negotiate but it is not a -- it is not a dispute over territories. It's a dispute about

future, about project. What to -- for us this road is to accept Iranian hegemony, not only this road. This road is on most of the Middle East to

accept Iranian hegemony in our region or to wash it out. We have no option but to fight the Iranians. It's not about territory. It is not about --


KHASHOGGI: -- the right of this minority or that majority.

AMANPOUR: You say fight.

KHASHOGGI: -- hegemony.

AMANPOUR: You say fight.

So where is this going to go next?

I mean, is this, the -- is it going to get worse?

Saudi Arabia has now cut all diplomatic and commercial ties with Iran.

Is this going to be made better or is it going to get worse?

KHASHOGGI: I think it's going to go worse. Saudi Arabia will put more effort to help the Syrian people and that will lead to more confrontation

with the Iranians and the Russians, unfortunately, who will come to the side of the Iranians and try to put an end to the war in Yemen and bring

them back into the table so they will look for the future.

But it is fire and dynamite, Iran and Saudi Arabia in one room. Anything could go wrong. An emergent disaster could happen in the Middle East.

That's why the international community, particularly Mr. Obama, is needed to look seriously into the matter in Syria and put an end to it.

We should -- Syria, it is -- the problem in Syria is not going to be a Syrian martyr only. It is going to engulf the whole region. The

Pakistanis even will be brought into it. The Turks are already in it. And so is Yemen. The international community should look seriously at the

problems of the Middle East but otherwise we, the Saudis, have to take matters into our hands because we are the one who are receiving the

attacks. We are the one who are on the defensive.

AMANPOUR: Well, it is very troubling indeed and you say fire and dynamite in the same room. Very troubling indeed. Jamal Khashoggi, thank you so

much for joining us from Jeddah this evening.

KHASHOGGI: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: And now to the former U.K. foreign secretary, Jack Straw, whose long push for the normalization of relations with Iran including nuclear

negotiations that he undertook under the Blair administration. And he says this rift between Iran and Saudi Arabia could, as we've heard, harm the

fight against ISIS, which has just launched a new threat against the U.K.


AMANPOUR: Jack Straw, welcome back to the program.

Can I ask you, step by step, first and foremost, the execution by Saudi Arabia of the sheikh has been criticized and condemned in the United

States, Europe, the United Nations.

What would your government --


AMANPOUR: -- have said after the execution of this sheikh?

STRAW: This was a very unwise move without justification. In Britain, we're against capital punishment in any circumstances. But if it's going

to be used, then it needs to be used for serious, egregious terrorists.

Now some of those who were executed were, by all accounts, Al Qaeda terrorists. So you understand that.

But there was no evidence that I'm aware of that Sheikh Nimr was in any active way involved in terrorism. He was an -- he was an oppositionist --

because he's Shia -- to the Saudi regime. But he was not a terrorist.

And the Saudis must have calculated -- at least I hope they have -- what the consequences of executing this man in these circumstances would be.

AMANPOUR: Let's talk about the wider consequences in a moment.

But, by the same token, you would condemn Iran storming and violating diplomatic immunity of the Saudi embassy.

STRAW: Yes, that, too, was very unwise and President Rouhani has made that very clear, saying that, once and for all -- his phrase, not mine -- this

kind of invasion of embassies has got to stop.

What this illustrates, by the by, is the serious divisions inside the Iranian regime.

AMANPOUR: It's very serious, isn't it, because it's happened to the Saudi; it's happened to your embassy, the British embassy back in 2011, and of

course the big one was the U.S. embassy right after the revolution.

Iran undermines its own claim to being part of the civilized world when this kind of thing happens.

STRAW: Of course it does. And protecting diplomatic property is fundamental to diplomatic relations. That's why President Rouhani has been

so angry about this.

And by all accounts, this was not just a spontaneous demonstration by a group of hooligans. This was organized by the Basij, who are the non-

uniformed irregular militia attached to the Revolutionary Guard.

And so what you're seeing -- bear in mind, you've got national elections next -- parliamentary elections next month in Iran -- you're seeing this

continuing struggle for power between the reformists led by Rouhani and the conservatives embedded in the IRCG.

AMANPOUR: In terms of the bigger impact, what will this do to whatever's going on in the Middle East right now?

STRAW: Well, it exacerbates divisions; it could lead to quite serious civic and civil disorder in Saudi Arabia, which has a very large Shia

minority, and in Bahrain, where it's not a minority.

And it's going to make the settlement of the conflicts in Syria and in Yemen and in Northern Iraq much more difficult because you begin to settle

those conflicts. You need the principal supporters that the parties, Saudi Arabia and Iran, to try and reach an accommodation.

So very serious indeed.

AMANPOUR: This is the 21st century. And yet we have a ancient fight, an ancient struggle between two strains of Islam: Shia, which is Iran; Sunni,

which revolves around Saudi Arabia.

Let me just play you a sound bite from the Saudi foreign minister, explaining why they've cut ties with Iran.


AL-JUBEIR: We are determined not to allow Iran to undermine our security. We are determined not to let Iran mobilize or create or establish terrorist

cells in our country or in those countries of our allies.


AMANPOUR: So basically Adel al-Jubeir, the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, is giving voice to what many believe is kind of an enough-is-enough

feeling in Saudi Arabia.

They're really upset about the Iran nuclear deal. They don't want to see Iran come back into the community of nations. They're worried that Iran

might use its historic sort of you know troublemaking activities and be further emboldened.

How is this resolved, do you think?

And how serious is the Sunni-Shia divide?

STRAW: Well, it is very serious. And for every claim -- maybe justifiable -- made by the Saudi foreign minister, there are equal and opposite claims

made by the Iranian foreign ministry about the fact that for a long time no stop now there were elements in Saudi society who were funding ex-jihadist

extremists on the Sunni side.

This is very deep-seated. Yes, it's 14 centuries old. It's Arab versus Persia; never forget that, one of the greatest insults you can pay an

Iranian is to say they're Arab.

But it also has a history of the last 40 years going back to the Iran-Iraq war, an eight-year war, a terrible war, unprovoked by Iraq at the

beginning, which the Saudi Arabians helped to finance and these scars are still not resolved --


AMANPOUR: And then, of course, there's ISIS.

STRAW: -- and there's ISIS and other jihadist elements, which, by the --


STRAW: -- narrative of the Iranians, they see that the Saudis have, in part, encouraged. And they will point to the fact that almost all the

terrorists involved in 9/11 were Saudis; none were Iranians.

AMANPOUR: What should the British government be doing now?

STRAW: Well, I think the British government has to carry on doing what it is doing. It's quite right for us to get involved in the bombing of Syria

as well as of Iraq. We've got to ensure there is the widest possible international cooperation there.

One of the tragic consequences of the execution of Sheikh al-Nimr and then the invasion of the Saudi embassy in Tehran is it will make cooperation,

which is essential, against ISIS and the jihadists in daish and these other extreme Sunni groups that much more difficult.

And that's why I think the Americans and the European countries will be doing their damnedest to ensure that, whatever happens, that cooperation is

maintained at an operational level, even whilst there's a rhetorical battle going on between the Saudis and the Iranians.

AMANPOUR: Jack Straw, thank you very much indeed.

STRAW: Thank you very much.


AMANPOUR: So tension piling upon tension in a region already fraught with sectarian division.

When we come back, you heard what Jack Straw said about needing both powers to defeat ISIS, whether in Syria or Iraq.

Next, how is that going?

We get a special report from the Iraqi city of Ramadi.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

The major world powers have staked their hopes for peace in Syria and Iraq largely on even limited cooperation between Iran and Saudi Arabia, who, as

we've said, are backing opposing sides. So the crisis that's erupted between them is coming just as Iraqi special forces, helped by the United

States, try to consolidate their grip on the city of Ramadi, where Nima Elbagir brings us this special report.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Into Ramadi, the fight still rages through the killing fields ISIS has sown in the city. We arrive with

Iraq's counterterror services, their helicopters a watchful eye.

And all around us, what remains after six months of ISIS rule.

ELBAGIR: Driving through here, you just really get hit by the desolation, the devastation that was visited on this city. What the airstrikes and the

ground offensive didn't destroy, ISIS rigged to blow.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): Ramadi fell in May last year. Since then, Iraqi forces have been battling to reclaim their territorial integrity and their

ravaged morale. It is slow, painstaking work; under every inch lies the unknown.


ELBAGIR: Yes, here OK.

The only way we can safely walk is in his footsteps. Even though they've cleared this area, even though they've held it for the last few days, there

are still areas within this that are booby trapped.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): A week on from the announcements of liberation here in Ramadi and counterterror forces battle to purge the city of the --


ELBAGIR (voice-over): -- remaining militants' presence. Blindfolded and bound, captured ISIS fighters face the wall. They were, we're told,

attempting to blend in to what remains of the local population, a reminder ISIS fighters could be hiding in plain sight.

ELBAGIR: We are hearing some pops of gunfire there a little further across the other side of the river. The fighting is ongoing; the cleanup

operation is still going on. And that's why the helicopter's circling overhead.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): Ramadi was home to nearly a million families. Today, as troops continue their push we're told possibly over 1,000

families remain trapped amidst the ruins.

The ones you see here are the lucky ones, extracted during the ongoing operations. As the fighting still rages, it's hard to get a sense of the

toll on civilians. Counterterror force soldiers filmed for us these images as they gathered what remained of the dead.

Some, like this woman, who appears to have been shot, others blown to pieces by IEDs, much of what they felt is too graphic to show you, like the

remains of a little boy carried to burial.

The head of Iraq's counterterror force told us the liberation of Ramadi celebrated around the world.

COMMANDER OF JOINT OPERATIONS (through translator): Defeating ISIS and this victory has impacted on ISIS' plans and its very existence, causing

weakness and desperation. The road to Mosul is now open and clear.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): Everyone here knows so much is at stake in this claimed liberation and not just for Iraq.

COMMANDER OF JOINT OPERATIONS (through translator): This victory is a victory for humanity because ISIS is against Iraq and against all of


ELBAGIR (voice-over): Night falls in Ramadi and more rescued families escape.

This little girl can't stop crying.

For now, at least, she's safe -- Nima Elbagir, CNN, Ramadi.


AMANPOUR: And from trying to consolidate that long-awaited liberation on that front line to the domestic front lines in China, imagine a world where

the new year ushers in new domestic freedom. China's two-child policy comes into effect. That's next.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, we imagine a world in the next stage of a draconian social engineering experiment. It's happening --


AMANPOUR: -- in China as this new year the country ditches its one-child policy. That program of forced abortions and sterilization and harsh

penalties was first introduced in the late '70s amid rapid population growth.

Now that is graying baby boom is threatening China's future economic growth and public services. So China's new two-child policy goes into effect

right now. But as our Matt Rivers reports from Beijing, the pain one-child families had to bear lingers on.



MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Their voices carry beyond the small room where they gather. Men and women, some off-pitch, most filled

with emotion, all with two things in common: they each had one child and that child has died.

Yang Chanhai (ph) sings louder than the rest. He lost his son last year; leukemia took him at 31 years old.

YANG CHANHAI (PH), BEREAVED PARENT (through translator): He was sick for so long and suffered for so many years. We tried our best to save him but

could not.

RIVERS (voice-over): Yang (ph) is like so many other Chinese parents who raised children over the past three decades. The official policy here was

one couple, one child. So he only had one. Now his son is gone, as is any chance for grandchildren to carry on his name.

YANG (PH) (through translator): I think if I had had two children, it might be a little easier to deal with this loss. I think we've made a

sacrifice for China's economic development.

RIVERS (voice-over): Parents like Yang (ph) paid the human cost of social engineering that was, at times, carried out in brutal ways. Rights groups

say forced abortions and sterilizations were a regular occurrence. Couples who could afford it could pay fines to have a second child.

WU YOUSHUI (PH), LAWYER (through translator): The so-called social support fees are actually a method for local authorities to rake in money.

RIVERS (voice-over): Wu Youshui (ph) is a Chinese lawyer who says local governments strongly rely on fines to help fund their operations. He says

he did his own study and sent letters to each of China's 31 provinces, asking for information on the amount of money made from one-child policy

fines in 2012. Twenty-four responded and together reported they made 20 billion yuan, about 3.2 billion U.S. dollars.

RIVERS: Enforcing that policy and collecting those fines requires an incredible amount of manpower. The government says roughly a half-million

people work for the family planning commission. They helped create an entire generation of only children, a deeply entrenched bureaucracy that

isn't going anywhere.

RIVERS (voice-over): Wu (ph) thinks that bureaucracy will use old methods to enforce the new limit of two kids per couple.

WU (PH) (through translator): I'm not optimistic about the new policy. I think the local family planning commission will continue to force


RIVERS (voice-over): Continued enforcement, including fines because local governments will still need that revenue.

For people like Yang Chanhai (ph), questions about the future are irrelevant. He and others here grieve about the past.

He says his son was very kind, getting choked up. Nothing will ever replace his pain, he says. Whether things change for others in the future,

no longer his concern -- Matt Rivers, CNN, Beijing.

AMANPOUR: And that is it for our program tonight. Remember, you check out our all-new podcasts, you can watch us online at and you can

follow me on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.