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ISIS and the Threat to Global Security; Taking Elizabeth Taylor to Iran; Imagine a World. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired March 30, 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: from Washington, where world leaders are gathering for a big nuclear security
summit, I've just conducted an interview with one key player, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Coming up, in the wake of the Brussels terror attacks and ISIS spreading its tentacles far and wide, what is America's role in the world?
The author of "The Obama Doctrine," Jeffrey Goldberg, and the French political philosopher, Bernard Henri-Levy, debate.
Also ahead, up close and personal with the legendary actress, Elizabeth Taylor. The Iranian diplomat turned photographer and confidant
to one of the most famous women in the world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FIROOZ ZAHEDI, PHOTOGRAPHER: She was such a great friend. And she was so compassionate, so generous, not just to me but to a lot of people.
I mean, the book is called "My Elizabeth," but she really belonged to a lot more people than me.
AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour, live in Washington, where leaders from more than 50
countries will debate the biggest security threat in our world today and that is how to stop nuclear weapons from ending up in the hands of
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR (voice-over): The two-day nuclear security summit, hosted by President Barack Obama, couldn't be happening at a more critical time,
coming just one week after ISIS launched its deadly terror attacks in Brussels and just a few months after the attacks in Paris.
Among those in Washington for the talks is Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who joined me just moments ago for an exclusive interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, PRESIDENT OF TURKEY (through translator): Just look in how many countries daish is present with the foreign fighters
coming from all around the world, namely 98 countries make up daish. This is very interesting. And we are jointly fighting against all these
fighters that make up daish, from 98 countries around the world.
We are committed to this goal and we expect the same determination from the Western countries as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And you can hear much more of that, the full interview with the president, on tomorrow's program, talking the gamut from relations with
the United States, domestic pressures, the crackdown on the press, refugees, all of those issues we touched on.
Now the nuclear summit here is the first of its kind since the signing of that historic deal with Iran, which was designed to stop the country
from being able to develop and deploy nuclear weapons. The deal is also a defining mark of Barack Obama's foreign policy, which could, along with his
handling of Syria, shape his presidential legacy.
So how will history judge him?
We're going to drill down on this now. Here in Washington is Jeffrey Goldberg, the national correspondent for "The Atlantic" magazine, who's
interviewed President Obama many, many times, as well as many of his foreign policy advisers for his article, "The Obama Doctrine."
And from New York, we have Bernard Henri-Levy, the French political philosopher and the author, who takes a slightly different view.
So joining me now, let me welcome you both.
And let me ask you first, Jeffrey, having sat down with the president for so long, what do you think history will say about this deal with Iran?
JEFFREY GOLDBERG, "THE ATLANTIC": Well, I hope you don't mind being a little bit of a copout artist here when I say that it's too early to tell.
I think, look, if we head -- if we get 10 or 15 years down the road and Iran has not developed a nuclear weapon and isn't any closer to that
and, perhaps, by that time, the government may be a little bit more moderate, the supreme leader may have departed the scene, people will think
that Obama was very smart to do what he did.
If Iran uses the money that it's getting and sanctions relief and continues its kind of aggressive posture in the Middle East and continues
to work on its ballistic missiles, among other things, I think people are going to think that the president was probably naive to think that a deal
would end their nuclear ambitions.
AMANPOUR: Jeffrey, before I turn to Bernard on this, you know, so many people wondered whether, in fact, the United States and this sort of
force reluctant projector, if you like, President Obama, would actually use force to prevent a nuclear weapon from being developed by the Iranians.
You asked him that specific question.
GOLDBERG: Yes. I did and you know, and I've been interested in this question for years. There are not a lot of people in Washington anymore --
GOLDBERG: -- in part, because of what happened in Syria, with the red line, who believe that he would have used force in Iran, against Iran, to
stop it from crossing the nuclear threshold.
And you know, my formula is as follows: I don't think he's a bluffer. I think he's a bit of a gambler but he's not a bluffer. And he said to me
very, very plainly, oh, no, I would have.
I mean, it becomes an issue of, what is the definition of crossing the nuclear threshold. But he is absolutely convinced -- he's convinced
himself, certainly, that he would have used whatever force was necessary to stop Iran from gaining possession of a nuclear weapon.
AMANPOUR: Bernard, let me turn to you, because Jeffrey just brought up the red line.
And the French and many other people still, to this day, remain very upset and very angry and believe that it was a game-changer when President
Obama failed to act on his own red line back in 2013, when Assad used chemical weapons on his own people.
Your former foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, has been talking about it and saying that this really changed the course of Middle East history as
we know it right now.
What is the reaction to all of that?
BERNARD HENRI-LEVY, POLITICAL PHILOSOPHER: I think it was a real mistake, a mistake in terms of human rights, of course; a mistake in terms
of the avenir (ph) or the future of the area but also for the legacy of President Obama.
When President Obama says to Jeffrey Goldberg that he's proud of this decision to have pushed the pause button, I confess that I don't understand
what he means because the credibility of the U.S., the reliability of U.S., the power of the U.S. is at stake with this problem.
You cannot say, be careful, beware; if you cross the red line, you will be punished. The guy crosses the red line and nothing happens. It's
really, the credibility of this country, which was at stake, and President Obama, who is so concerned -- and he's right -- with his own legacy, took a
Maybe he's a gambler but he might not have been good enough a gambler this day, when he did that.
AMANPOUR: Well, it's -- it is so fascinating, Jeffrey. I mean, he did say -- and you surmised that he was proud and at peace with this
decision. And to Bernard's use of the word "credibility" -- and many people have talked about U.S. credibility -- the president, to you, sort of
pooh-poohed that notion, talking of Washington being obsessed by, quote, "the fetish of credibility."
I confess, I was shocked by that description of this -- you know, of the issue of credibility, which seems to be so important in foreign policy.
GOLDBERG: Right, right. He believes himself to be something of an unorthodox thinker or even a revolutionary a bit on this issue. He
believes that America has frequently gotten into trouble.
Vietnam is sort of the most obvious example. But America has gotten into trouble when it's tried to prove that it's capable of using force.
The formula he uses is that the worst reason to -- one of the worst reasons to use force is to prove to people that you're willing to use
force. And he believes that the Middle East, in particular; Syria, in particular, is one big slippery slope and that if you start firing
missiles, you don't know where you're going to end up.
And ultimately, you lose credibility by entering a war and then not winning it. And I think that would be the way -- that would be the way I
would encapsulate his argument on that.
AMANPOUR: And I want to talk to Bernard, because I think he was shocked, along with many others overseas, that, to you, President Obama
kind of departed from presidential protocol and unloaded on certain European allies, whether it be David Cameron, whether it be former
How was that viewed in Paris and in London, Bernard, when he criticized allies for, as he saw it, not sharing enough of the burden?
HENRI-LEVY: Again, this is not very fair. I am a real admirer of President Obama. I'm an admirer of what he did in domestic policy.
But in this case, again, what a disappointment.
How can he -- with all the power of America, how can he put the responsibility of the lack or of the failure on others?
In a way, you know, Obama gained his credit with the famous formula, "Yes, we can."
Now it has become -- it has become, "Yes, you will," or, "Yes, you should have would, will."
This is not very serious.
LEVY: And France has been a serious ally. England has been a faithful ally to America, from long; in Libya, in particular. Barack Obama
decided from the very first moment to lead from behind. That's OK. But it's very hard, five years later, to say I was out. I washed my hands of
what would happen. The responsibility is on the others.
This is not quite as elegant as Barack Obama used to be and is.
AMANPOUR: So you know, you talk about Libya -- and obviously that was a big part of Jeffrey's conversation with the president. And he really
looks at Libya and feels that everybody, including him, did the wrong thing going in and not being able to do it right. And look where Libya is today.
Jeffrey, though, I want to ask you, do you think the president has over learned the lesson of Iraq or Libya?
In other words, overblown the idea of being reluctant to pursue, for instance, Syria, based on Libya and Iraq?
GOLDBERG: Well, I happen to think that almost any president who followed George W. Bush would be particularly hesitant to go into these
And, you know, there's a former National Security Council adviser, named Phil Gordon, who has a very neat formula on this.
He says, in Iraq, Americans learned that full intervention doesn't work. In Libya, we learned that partial intervention doesn't work. In
Syria, we learned that no intervention doesn't -- or very limited intervention doesn't work.
And so I think President Obama is not outside the American mainstream when he looks at the Middle East and looks at these places and says, you
know what, it's better just to not get in too deep, because we're not going to win, no matter what we do.
AMANPOUR: And yet -- and this is a question to both of you -- going forward. OK, so the president has stayed out of Syria in a major and
important way. And Syria has dominated foreign policy from Europe to the Middle East to the United State for the last five years.
And some would say that, into that vacuum, has stepped not only ISIS, these terrible terrorists, but also, another world leader, Vladimir Putin.
Do you agree, for instance, Bernard, that Vladimir Putin has been, at least, the political leader who has won more from this vacuum that the
United States has left?
HENRI-LEVY: Unfortunately, yes.
And again, Barack Obama said it to Jeffrey Goldberg. He assumed and he admitted that he brought back Russia in a game of which Henry Kissinger
withdrew it 40 years ago.
So I'm not sure that in terms of international terrorists, this was a good idea. In Syria, it might -- today there is good news. The Russians
helped to liberate Palmyra. This is the first good news since the news of their involvement in the Syria sky.
For the moment, it is well known that the forces of Vladimir Putin bombed the opposition to Bashar al-Assad much more than the daish, Islamic
State. So I am not sure it was such a good idea to involve him.
About Syria and Libya, I continue to think that the balance of the non-intervention in Syria is much worse than the balance of the
intervention in Libya.
AMANPOUR: Well, it's fascinating. It will be endlessly debated.
One last and final quick word to you, Jeffrey.
If the Middle East is not considered President Obama's top American foreign policy challenge, what is?
What did you find that he's worried most about for the future, what country, what part of the world?
GOLDBERG: I think there are three quick things. One is climate change. Very controversially, he believes that that's an existential
threat to humanity. Republicans don't like hearing that but he says it.
Two is managing the rise of China. He sees China as a formidable foe, unlike Russia, say. Russia's less of a foe.
And the third, in -- short- and medium-term issue is the containment and defeat of ISIS and ISIS-style groups. He does argue that this is
important. He just argues against an overemphasis on this to the exclusion of everything else.
AMANPOUR: Fascinating. And we'll be continuing to watch it, obviously. "The Obama Doctrine" by Jeffrey Goldberg, thank you from
And thank you to you, Bernard Henri-Levy, for joining us from New York today.
GOLDBERG: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And after a break, we shift gears. More Americans abroad but we're shifting to the glamorous ones with the life and times of one of
Hollywood's brightest stars, Elizabeth Taylor. My interview with Firooz Zahedi, the Iranian photographer and friend, who took her to Persia.
AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.
From "National Velvet to "Cleopatra," Elizabeth Taylor dazzled generations of moviegoers with her glamor and her unparalleled beauty.
But when the Iranian diplomat turned photographer, Firooz Zahedi, met her in the summer of 1976, he discovered a very different side of the movie
star. I spoke to him just a few days ago, when his book -- when his book, "My Elizabeth," hit the shelves.
AMANPOUR: Firooz Zahedi, welcome to the program.
ZAHEDI: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: This is pretty extraordinary. It's called "My Elizabeth." And here you are with some really kind of unseen pictures of Elizabeth
Taylor, including Elizabeth in Iran.
I mean, who would have thunk it, that the world's most famous actress went to Iran all those years ago?
How did that come about?
ZAHEDI: Well, I mean, I don't think even a very imaginative writer could have come up with the whole scenario of how we met and how we ended
up going to Iran.
I had been a diplomat for a while. I had quit going to art school. My family was very conservative, really didn't want me to study art but I
wanted to be a photographer.
So my cousin was ambassador in Washington, D.C. This is prior to the revolution in Iran. And so he started having a relationship with Ms.
Taylor. And he invited her to come and stay at the embassy.
And he asked me to help look after -- although I was no longer a diplomat, he sort of relied on me helping him out once in a while with his
And I thought to myself, good God, you know, I had -- I was at school, I had exams coming up and I thought, well, you know, exams are OK.
But how many times is someone going to come up to you and say, "Will you look after Elizabeth Taylor?"
So I said, sure, fine, definitely. And sure enough, she arrived and I thought I was going to see some bejeweled movie star arrive --
AMANPOUR: As one would, Cleopatra or whoever.
ZAHEDI: But she arrived, very down to Earth, in a T-shirt and flare bottom jeans, like a hippie and was very friendly to everybody. And you
know, at first I was too shy to go up to her and say anything I just said hello.
AMANPOUR: And she stayed a very close friend of yours for the next three decades or so.
ZAHEDI: She did.
AMANPOUR: And you photographed her throughout, right up until she died.
AMANPOUR: But this trip to Iran was so unusual. And I don't think heavily publicized.
ZAHEDI: We went to Persepolis, we went to Shiraz, we went to Ispahan.
AMANPOUR: All the great historic sites.
ZAHEDI: All the great historic sites. And everywhere we went, she would go to the bazaar, buy a costume here or buy a chador there, buy
fabrics, whatever. And she got into the whole spirit of the whole country, you know. And the look of it -- yes, she was an actress.
AMANPOUR: An actress, yes.
ZAHEDI: And you know, she assumed this role.
AMANPOUR: We have a great picture of her -- well, you have a great picture of her in what people now call a burqa but it was a chador.
And there she is, in the chador. I mean, at that time, I guess it wasn't such a political statement or anything.
ZAHEDI: No, it wasn't. I mean, and as you can see, men and women were going into the same mosque there.
AMANPOUR: Well, that's unusual, in and of itself.
Could you have done that today?
I mean, fast forward, post-revolution, could a photographer, Iranian American, bring a world-famous -- the most famous woman at the time, she
was -- to Iran and do these kind of things?
ZAHEDI: I doubt it.
AMANPOUR: Why did you decide to write this book about you and her?
ZAHEDI: I made this decision years ago --
ZAHEDI: -- because of all the efforts -- she was such a great friend. And she was so compassionate, so generous, not just to me but to a lot of
people. I mean, the book is called "My Elizabeth," but she really belonged to a lot more people than me.
She did so much for AIDS. I mean, she was the first major celebrity voice to stand up in front of the government, in front of the
pharmaceutical companies, the U.N., everybody and say, look, you've got to do something about this.
AMANPOUR: And we're just showing, because that is how you photographed her for "Vanity Fair," holding the condom and basically
launching her AIDS activism foundation.
ZAHEDI: Yes, and that was -- she was promoting safe sex at that point. And you know, holding a condom back then was kind of an awkward
thing. Nobody was talking about condoms until the whole AIDS issue came about. I mean, again, we had people who would whisper about it. But for
it to be the cover of a "Vanity Fair" magazine, was quite --
AMANPOUR: Did people suggest she shouldn't do it?
Did her publicist -- were you worried about the fallout?
ZAHEDI: I was. I was. And I presented it -- I mean, I went to the magazine and I said, we should do a cover with her.
And they said, well, we'll do it if she'll hold a condom.
And I felt very uncomfortable about that because she was like family to me and it was like going to your mother and saying, would you hold a
So I said to the publicist, you know, can you go check with her and see if she might do this?
And so she came back and said, yes, sure, she'll do it. She had no problems with it.
AMANPOUR: What was it that made her so deeply involved, to her death, with the AIDS crisis?
ZAHEDI: I think, first, it started when her good friend, Rock Hudson, got AIDS and then she saw how he was being treated and then she saw not
just how he was being treated but that people with AIDS in general were being treated, as if there were -- it was a plague and they had to be
avoided and not touched and -- I mean, it was a very, very difficult time in the '80s.
I don't know if people now are aware how scary it was then. People were petrified of anyone who had AIDS. But she embraced them. She would
hug them, hold them.
AMANPOUR: You write about her being a kind of a mentor.
ZAHEDI: She -- at the point where I was very insecure about my future, I had no support from my family -- well, I mean, I had support but
they always said, "Why do you want to be an artist?
"There's no future in it. You're not going to make money."
They made me feel like my life would fall apart if I pursued that.
She came along and said, no, do it, pursue it. And she helped me, she got me assignments, she got me work, she took me to Hollywood as her
I mean, I had one camera to my name, one little 35 mm camera to my name and she called up this producer in Hollywood and said, "I want to
bring Firooz Zahedi with me to Hollywood as my personal photographer. And I want you to give him this much money and put him up at the Beverly Hills
She made the deal herself.
AMANPOUR: And she was a child actor. Nobody perhaps remembers that she came on the stage at a very, very young age, probably pushed by a sort
of a showbiz mom.
And how did that affect her life?
Including injuries. I think when she was doing "National Velvet," she fell off the horse; she had back injuries for a long time.
ZAHEDI: She was pushed and pushed and pushed and pushed by the mother. And when she was in her late teens, she told her mother, "I don't
want to act anymore."
And she said, "No, you have to. You owe it to your fans."
She put a guilt thing on her. And that's why she ended up marrying her first husband when she was, I think, about 17 or 18, just to get out of
her home, you know, away from her parents.
And that's why, I think, all the relationships she had afterwards was because she missed the sort of -- the life you have as a young woman, a
young girl, a young woman, when you fall in love with someone your age and you do all that -- you go to the prom or whatever it is, she missed out on
So I think all the scandalous stuff that happened was she was making up for --
AMANPOUR: She was rebelling. That was her adolescence.
ZAHEDI: And you take it with some of these actresses today that were child actresses, who are now in major trouble with drugs, et cetera. They
never made their transition.
Not only did she make the transition and stay healthy but she started a second career, as you know, behind her perfume business that made her
millions of dollars.
And then she went on to become the major voice for AIDS, you know?
So she was always doing something better than before. And I think why I did this book was because I knew her in the second half of her life. And
I feel that second half was so much more relevant and important and fruitful than the first half.
AMANPOUR: Amazing. Firooz Zahedi, thank you very much indeed for joining us.
ZAHEDI: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: What rare insight.
And what is more rare than a Hollywood great in Iran?
Well, we outdo even that next, as we imagine the Nazi super soldier who became an Israeli spy. That's after this.
AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine a world discovering the strangest of bedfellows.
Otto Skorzeny was once known solely as a top Nazi soldier, a favorite of Hitler. He was awarded the Iron Cross for a daring rescue of Mussolini
A fascinating, if despicable life in itself. But new information given to Israel's "Ha'aretz" newspaper by historians and former Israeli
spies has revealed a twist in this tale.
Not too long after the war, he was found by Israel's elite Secret Service, the Mossad. But they didn't kill him, they recruited him, sparing
his life so that he could track down other former Nazis.
Becoming Israel's man in Cairo, he rooted out his own colleagues and assassinated Nazi rocket scientist Heinz Krug with the help of three Mossad
agents, one of whom was Yitzhak Shamir, who would be the future Israeli prime minister.
The leader of Israel working with Adolf Hitler's attack dog?
It's hard to imagine that.
But that is it for our program tonight. Thanks for watching and goodbye from Washington.