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Obama to Deliver Final State of the Union Address; Food Aid Finally Reaches Madaya; The Child Soldiers of ISIS; Imagine a World. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired January 12, 2016 - 14:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: terror strikes the heart of Istanbul's tourist district, killing nine. Another violent
reminder of the Syria war which has plagued Barack Obama's presidency and as he gets ready for his final State of the Union address, what is his
agenda for America in the world?
Plus brainwashed by ISIS: a special report from Iraq on the children who've managed to escape.
AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
As President Obama gears up to give his final State of the Union address, a bloody reminder that this past year has seen ISIS go global.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR (voice-over): The scene after a bomber blew himself up in the heart of Istanbul today, in the latest ISIS outrage abroad, killing at
least nine people; eight are German.
Turkey's leaders say the suicide bomber was an ISIS member who entered the country from Syria. President Erdogan had these strong words of
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, TURKISH PRESIDENT (through translator): You are either on the side of the Turkish government or you're on the side of the
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Echoing the sentiment of President George W. Bush after 9/11.
Now the raging Syrian war and the growth of ISIS could impact Obama's legacy forever so tonight he'll try to convince Americans that his strategy
to defeat ISIS is working.
Now on the plus side, the president is expected to highlight the Iran nuclear deal, his opening to Cuba and reviving the U.S. economy but he's
expected to devote special time and passion to gun safety in America as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And here to discuss Obama's legacy from an American and international perspective is Roger Cohen of "The New York Times" and from
Johannesburg, South African author and journalist, Eusebius McKaiser.
Gentlemen, thank you both very much for joining us.
I actually want to start with the whole gun debate because, Roger, Eusebius, you know, President Obama is specifically leaving a seat open in
the first lady's box to represent all those who have been killed by gun violence.
Roger, from American perspective, whatever he says tonight, will it make a difference?
Will it sway the dial in Congress?
Did you hear me, Roger?
Eusebius, can you hear me?
Eusebius, can you hear me in Johannesburg?
Well, you know what --
AMANPOUR: You can hear me now, Eusebius. OK. So let me ask you.
We're talking about President Obama's agenda, his final State of the Union address and the fact that he's going to devote a huge amount of time
to guns and gun safety.
How does South Africa view the epidemic of gun crime and sometimes the race riots that follow that?
EUSEBIUS MCKAISER, AUTHOR AND JOURNALIST: Well, I mean, obviously, there are great affinities between violence in terms of how it's structured
in South Africa and in the United States. I mean, violence in South Africa is something that's become epidemic for a host of reasons, historical, and
some that have to do with economic factors, constructions of masculinity and a list of things that one can discuss.
And what is quite interesting when one looks at Obama ahead of the State of the Union and I guess to some extent premature discussions about
his legacy, if we wanted to isolate specifically the question of gun violence and the questions of violence in general, particularly its links
with questions of race relations in the States, I'm afraid from a South African point of view, Obama has turned out to be pedestrian, not quite
having dealt with this fatally -- pardon the pun -- in America. So not much for us to be inspired by.
AMANPOUR: Well, you say a premature evaluation of his legacy but he is expected to lay out his legacy and hoped to push that forward by making
sure a Democrat is elected next time around. In terms of --
AMANPOUR: -- him as an African American, literally -- his father was African, obviously -- what kind of promise did he bring Africa?
And has Africa been satisfied by the promise of Obama?
MCKAISER: Christiane, I myself was someone who was drunk at Obamamania when he first came to power. So you're probably speaking to an
African citizen who is inclined to try and find the positive in his two terms in office.
But I have to say, if we go back historically, those of us who were excited by Obama were excited based on two reasons. We thought
geopolitically and developmentally Africa would benefit from the fact that he's a black man with African roots and, secondly, we also just took pride
and affinity in the fact of him being black in terms of identity politics.
But let's look at the facts, Christiane. If you take, for example, the Power Africa project, some 20 million Africans were supposed to have
access to new and sustained energy because of Obama's 7 billion U.S. dollar pledge, if we look for example at AGOA, at the African Growth and
Opportunity Act, it's meant to be extended, those volatile discussions with countries like my own, have been quite uncomfortable. And we are on the
brink of being kicked out in terms of favorable imports into the U.S.
So really, from where I'm standing, Obama promised much but we also expected too much. We thought purely in terms of identity politics, the
facts of these linkages with the continent would guarantee a new strategic posture in relation to Africa.
It has turned out not to be the case. He has become just another American president and realism in American foreign policy is still the
order of the day.
AMANPOUR: Eusebius, we have got connection with Roger Cohen of "The New York Times" so we're going to go to him quickly.
Roger, you just heard what Eusebius said about foreign policy. In terms of Africa's expectations, President Obama doesn't measure up as much
as they had hoped.
What about the Middle East legacy?
We basically postured that Syria is going to be his chief legacy.
Do you believe that?
ROGER COHEN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, clearly Syria is, Christiane, the debacle that has marked his presidency. You can't look at
Syria today, the hundreds of thousands of dead, the millions displaced, the emergence of the Islamic State controlling a large swath of territory and
construe it or see it as anything other than a disaster.
The question, of course, is could President Obama have done more?
I think he could. I think it was wrong to say that President Bashar al-Assad would go in 2011 without any plan to make that happen. It was
wrong to set a red line on chemical weapons and not follow through on that.
I think, in general, on foreign policy, the president has wanted to reduce America's role in the world after two hugely expensive and unwon
wars. He's basically saying that the world has changed. The United States is still the major power but it can no longer dictate the way things go.
But he hasn't really articulated, I don't think, that doctrine to the American people because he thinks it could be unpopular. And indeed,
foreign policy is the most unpopular single aspect of his presidency, with a 34 percent approval rating.
AMANPOUR: To follow up to you, Roger, obviously he has got a lot of domestic successes, from the economy to ObamaCare, to the unemployment
level. You know, employment is back to where it was precrash.
But about foreign policy, won't he also tell America that actually, hey, here's this big success. The Iran nuclear deal has made us all safer.
We've opened up to Cuba. Those things?
COHEN: Yes, he will. And I don't want to overstate the failures of his foreign policy. I think the Iran nuclear deal, which I wrote about
many times and always backed strongly, I think that is a major achievement. I think opening to Cuba very important and will be an important part of his
But I think overall he will focus tonight on the economy because that is the most successful, if you like, part of his presidency. And I don't
think Americans actually like retrenchment. They may like it in theory. They didn't like wars -- of course they didn't -- the cost was huge both in
treasure and in human life.
But if you say to Americans, hey, we can no longer be what we were in the 20th century, the American golden age is over, that doesn't go down
very well. And that is why I think the president has reduced -- look at Libya, look at Ukraine -- all sorts of areas where the United States has
reduced its role in the world.
But the president has never really explained that adequately. And I think his popularity has suffered as a result on that front.
AMANPOUR: Eusebius, let me turn to you on the issue of the economy.
AMANPOUR: Obviously the president -- under his watch the U.S. economy has come back since the terrible crash. But around the world, while people
are being lifted out of poverty, there's this massive inequality gap that keeps getting bigger and bigger.
What are the prospects for Africa in that regard, whether with American leadership or intervention or not?
MCKAISER: Absolutely, I think one of the most important expectations we had of Obama was precisely that developmentally we could benefit from
American injection structurally, for example, on the education front -- and you've seen a number of U.S. programs aimed, for example, in Nigeria,
trying to reach half a million young people to be able to read; in South Sudan, an emergency education program (INAUDIBLE).
But the problem is that all of these bits of pieces of spending, Christiane, haven't really translated into Africa improving the quality of
its biggest resource, which is human capital. We are a young economy as a region and the potential for us is massive.
But the problem with America and with specifically Obama's policy positioning on Africa is that, by and large, it has been ambivalent, like
Roger has said, so you are militaristic in one sense. You keep the bases in Djibouti. You go into Libya and then you pull out again.
And so Obama hasn't really helped us to really capitalize on the fact that we have a young population, that we have a massive advantage in terms
how we are structured as an economy when it comes to human resources and what we desperately need in a post-Obama government in Washington --
hopefully someone like Hillary Clinton -- I think is more likely than the Republican candidates -- is someone who will take seriously Africa
developmentally and not just have a strategic military relationship with some parts of the region.
AMANPOUR: And, Roger, what do you think?
Obviously he's looking forward to the next administration.
What do you think his foreign policy focus will be in this last year?
COHEN: Well, I think he will focus certainly on ensuring that the Iran deal is honored and that it is carried out and that we see its
benefits because plenty of people are waiting in the wings, determined to leap on him if that deal goes off the rails.
I don't think we're going to see any headway or progress on Israel- Palestine. So I think he will just keep that on the back burner. He would certainly like to move things forward in Syria. But I think Syria is in
such a state of destruction and fragmentation at this point that that's going to be very difficult.
And right now we've seen what's happened in the past couple of weeks in terms of the acute deterioration in what was already a terrible
relationship between Saudi Arabia and Iran as the personification of the Sunni and Shia worlds.
Well, you can't hope for a resolution in Syria if you have Iran and the Saudis going at each other and refusing to cooperate.
AMANPOUR: Gentlemen, thank you very much indeed. Roger Cohen of "The New York Times" and Eusebius McKaiser, journalist and also from South
Thank you so much for joining us.
And next, more on ISIS. A month-long investigation into the children they are rearing as cannon fodder. Childhood so grotesquely stolen and the
battle to win them back. That's next.
AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.
In Syria and in Iraq, children are being robbed of their future, even their lives. This week, food finally reached the people of Madaya,
including the children, who were slowly starving to death after the Assad regime refused food deliveries to their community for months.
While thousands more children have been killed by bombs and bullets and those who survive grow up with fear and without education, some are
even kidnapped and forced into battle. This is the chilling story of the ISIS child soldiers. It's the result of a month-long investigation by our
NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Five-year-old Sara was captured alongside her mother by ISIS.
Now free, when her parents aren't looking, she runs to cover her face. It's what their ISIS captors taught her at gunpoint.
ELBAGIR (voice-over): Al Farouq Institute in Raqqah: ISIS claims it is their main child soldier training facility.
"To jihad, to jihad," they're chanting.
In this propaganda video, spread out on either side of an ISIS trainer, blank-faced rows of children sit. One boy shakes visibly. Others
unable to raise their gaze.
These are the so-called cubs of the caliphate, ISIS' army of child soldiers.
"And by God's grace," he's saying, "in the coming days they will be at the front lines of the fight against the nonbelievers."
The Gweyr front line, south of the Kurdistan regional capital, Erbil, the Peshmerga commander tells us this is one of their most contested front
ELBAGIR: Just the other side of that river there, that's where he says the ISIS positions are. Just the other side of that broken bridge and
it's from there, he says, that desperate children are fleeing, making their way through that river, swimming through the river, under cover of dark,
risking their lives to make it here to safety.
ELBAGIR (voice-over): But not all manage to escape.
AZIZ ABDULLAH HADUR, PESHMERGA COMMANDER (through translator): Many times when we are fighting ISIS, we see children at the front line.
They're wearing explosive vests.
ELBAGIR: What's it like for you to have to open fire on children?
HADUR (through translator): They are brainwashed. When they make it through our lines, they kill our fighters. It's an unbearably hard
decision. You don't know what to do. If you don't kill them, they'll kill you.
ELBAGIR (voice-over): U.S. military sources tell CNN, as ISIS comes under increased pressure on the battlefield, they are relying on child
soldiers to fill out the ranks.
This 12-year-old boy was featured in the Al Farouq Institute propaganda video. He says he was training to be a suicide bomber.
Now reunited with his mother, he's asked us not to broadcast his face or his voice. He's asked that we call him "Nasir," not his real name.
"NASIR," ISIS CHILD SOLDIER (through translator): There were 60 of us. The scariest times for us all were when the airstrikes happened.
They'd lead all of us underground into the tunnels to hide. They told us the Americans, the unbelievers, were trying to kill us but they, the
fighters, they loved us.
ELBAGIR (voice-over): This, of course, was all part of the indoctrination. His ISIS handlers would tell him they were now his only
"NASIR" (through translator): When we were training, they would tell us our parents were unbelievers, unclean, and that our first job was to go
back and kill them, that we were cleaning the world of them, of all unbelievers.
ELBAGIR (voice-over): "Nasir" says the youngest of the boys was 5 years old, none of them exempt from the grueling training.
"NASIR" (through translator): We weren't allowed to cry but I would think about my mother, think about her worrying about me and I'd try and
ELBAGIR (voice-over): Highly stylized and romanticized, ISIS has released a number of videos, showcasing its child army. But the reality
is, of course, very different.
HADUR (through translator): When they arrive to us, they are so skinny they barely look human. They tell us they've been living in a hell.
ELBAGIR (voice-over): Back at the camp, Sara's mother hopes her little girl will evenly forget about the headscarf and the face covering
and the men with guns, who threatened her life -- Nima Elbagir, CNN, Gweyr, Iraq.
AMANPOUR: A really disturbing situation, about which --
AMANPOUR: -- I spoke to the prime minister of Iraqi Kurdistan, Nechervan Barzani. We spoke earlier and I asked him about their efforts to
help these children and to fight and defeat ISIS. He joined me from Erbil.
AMANPOUR: Prime Minister Barzani, welcome to the program.
NECHERVAN BARZANI, PRIME MINISTER, IRAQI KURDISTAN: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Prime Minister, it's so shocking to see a report like our Nima Elbagir has done about these child soldiers that ISIS is training.
What is your reaction to that?
And how is Kurdistan, how are you trying to rescue them?
BARZANI: So far we rescue, the number's about 2,400. We rescued them. Half of them are children.
So with our limited capacity, we established a rehabilitation center in the region. But of course it's not enough. We need more help from
international community's expert and to rehabilitate these people.
AMANPOUR: Let's talk about the battle that the Kurdish forces are taking to ISIS. We've seen Sinjar has been liberated and everybody's
talking about Mosul being next.
When do you think Mosul will be attacked next by your forces, by the Iraqi army?
How difficult a job will Mosul be?
BARZANI: Personally, I don't think so it's that easy because, you know, I mean, it's a very difficult city. What happened in Ramadi, it was
big success for Iraqi army.
But the situation in Mosul is very difficult because, you know, I mean, as you know, he announced his caliphate, you know, I mean, inside
Mosul. For them, it's very important.
And for us also it's important. In my view, I'm not sure that Iraqi army will be -- will be, I mean, ready until six months from now.
AMANPOUR: How deeply are ISIS dug in in Mosul?
And, in general, do you believe that ISIS is gaining or losing overall?
BARZANI: As a result of helping from international coalition and especially United States, we've been able to push them back.
Now the situation in -- we regain all the territories, the Kurdish territory, and also we are now controlling the same areas which is we are
not interested but we are doing on behalf of Iraqi army, like Mosul Dam.
AMANPOUR: You talk about the Mosul Dam. There is great, great fear that the Mosul Dam may break or ISIS might sabotage it.
Do you have fears for the Mosul Dam?
And, if it breaks, what is the catastrophic consequence?
BARZANI: If something happened like that, it will be a disaster, you know, for Mosul and for all Iraq as well. So now the Mosul Dam has been
controlled by our Peshmerga forces. So we are controlling the dam.
And we've been told from -- I mean, Iraqi side, from Baghdad side, that soon it will be a -- the company will come to rehabilitate the dam.
We hope that, by that time, some -- I mean, they're going to start the work there and it will not be stressed.
If something happen, it will be a big, I mean, issue for Mosul and also for Baghdad as well.
AMANPOUR: And you have a delegation in the United States right now, talking about the fight against ISIS and presumably seeking more military
What do you need since the Kurdish forces are amongst the most important forces fighting ISIS?
BARZANI: Look, until now, what we see, the policy is not to destroy ISIL really. It's about to contain.
So to contain ISIL, so far, so we did, you know, with the help from coalition and especially we are grateful, you know, for support from United
States and all the coalition members, European one as well.
So to destroy the ISIL, on the ground, we need more help. We need more assistant, military assistant from international community and
especially from European and American.
So we need more weapons. We need more assistant and also, as you may know, our financial situation, I mean, in all Iraq and especially in
Kurdistan, is very bad. So we need support, financial support and also military support.
AMANPOUR: So you just said that, despite what the president of the U.S. and everybody else says, which is to destroy and defeat ISIS that
actually that isn't happening yet. You -- at best, everybody's just trying to contain ISIS.
BARZANI: Yes. So far, that's the plan.
So far, if we really want to destroy ISIS, they need more -- I mean, they -- we have to come up with a comprehensive strategy and military
strategy at the same time so to destroy this ISIL.
It takes time. Look, last year maybe they recruit more than --
BARZANI: -- 15,000.
So according to our information right now, the number is about 35,000. So the number has been increased, you know, I mean, ISIL.
So this organization, it's dangerous. It's not dangerous only to KRG. It's dangerous to all international communities.
AMANPOUR: Prime Minister Barzani, thank you very much for your time and your insights today.
BARZANI: Thank you. Thank you, Christiane. Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And when we return, a look forward to tomorrow's program and our exclusive report behind the scenes with world-famous photographer
How did she try shaping the image of the man who was more savvy about image than almost anyone? Next.
AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine capturing the star who never stayed still. Groundbreaking photographer Annie Leibovitz has shot a
galaxy of stars but only one Starman. As much a visual artist as a singer, David Bowie's look was constantly on the move.
Today, Leibovitz told me that she wished she could have kept him in her frame a little longer.
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ANNIE LEIBOVITZ, PHOTOGRAPHER; It's always painful for me when someone passes, I mean, someone like him who was an extraordinary visual
artist and I regret not having done a really -- a good creative sitting with him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And you can see my full interview with Annie Leibovitz about her latest traveling installation on women who break the mold.
That's on tomorrow's program.
And we leave you tonight with just a handful of the countless tributes that continue to pour in for David Bowie that are taking place all over the
world. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.