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Syria Cease-Fire Hangs in the Balance; Breedlove on His Exit as NATO Supreme Commander; Cate Blanchett Meets Refugees in Lebanon and Jordan; Imagine a World. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired May 2, 2016 - 14:00   ET




CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: emergency talks in Geneva trying to salvage the Syria cease-fire after a bombing blitz on

Aleppo, including a children's hospital.

And as he makes his exit, the NATO commander, General Breedlove, tells me that a safe zone to protect civilians in Syria could be possible.


GEN. PHILIP BREEDLOVE, SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER, NATO: We know how to do this. We've identified the challenges. We've identified the risks and the

costs. And in the end game we know how to do it. And it really, Christiane, not to dodge your question but, at this point, it is a

political decision.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): As the Syrian war creates the biggest refugee crisis since World War II, my exclusive with Oscar winning actress Cate

Blanchett. Why she's stepping into a new role as a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador for Refugees. She joins me here in the studio.


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

Syria's biggest city, Aleppo, comes close to falling to Assad's forces, backed by Russian warplanes. And the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry

and the Saudi foreign minister fly to Geneva as more than 250 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the past week.

The U.S. blames Syrian forces for attacking a hospital and a clinic in Aleppo and says that it is outraged.

And if Aleppo does fall, it could spell disaster for opposition forces, cutting them off from their supply routes into Turkey.

Matt Frei reports for Britain's Channel 4 News on the hospital attacks that leave the cease-fire and the city hanging by a thread.


MATT FREI, CHANNEL 4 NEWS (voice-over): This is a silent film. But you begin to imagine the sounds. The CCTV cameras outside the hospital in the

rain and inside are unflinching observers of what is about to unfold.

The clocks on the screen are an hour out. It is 9:38 on Wednesday evening and the Al Quds Hospital is shaken by an explosion nearby. Some people

head downstairs, expecting casualties to arrive. That turns out to be a deadly mistake.

No one you can see here has any idea that this hospital is seconds away from becoming a target itself. The choice of where to go, left or right,

up or down, seals their fate.

The man in green is Dr. Mohammed Moaz, leaving the intensive care unit. He is 36 years old and he's the last pediatrician in Aleppo. He's already

done one day shift at another hospital and is the middle of the night shift in this one.

He is single and his parents have fled to Turkey. He was looking forward to visiting them a few days later. We don't know exactly where he has now

gone but we do know his fate.

At 9:42 and 12 seconds, the hospital is hit.

Same explosion, different camera.

Minutes after the dust clears, the survivors emerge, the ghostly image of a nurse, carrying a child or a baby from the maternity ward. Civilians

milling around in a daze, taking on the tasks of the nurses who have been killed or injured.

Dr. Moaz is now dead and so are 50 others -- nurses, patients, visitors. As the smoke clears, the road outside emerges as a field of rubble. Since

then, two more hospitals have been hit and yesterday's one of Aleppo's main medical storage facilities. In this case, four CCTV cameras bear silent



AMANPOUR: And amid this carnage, NATO's Supreme Allied Commander, General Philip Breedlove is stepping down after his three-year term, before he

hands over to General Curtis Scaparrotti tomorrow. Breedlove gave me this exclusive view of this unresolved military disaster in Syria and all the

challenges that his successor will inherit.


AMANPOUR: General Breedlove, welcome back to the program.

BREEDLOVE: It's great to be back on your program, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Obviously, a huge crisis that has really enveloped practically you whole time and your whole tour has been --


AMANPOUR: -- the war in Syria and it's affecting NATO because it's right on NATO's border right there with Turkey. The president of Turkey told me

that he still hopes and he still has his fingers crossed for the idea of a safe zone in Northern Syria, an idea that the U.S. would help patrol a no-

fly zone.

What are your thoughts on that going forward, as you leave this NATO mission?

BREEDLOVE: We as military men and women have given our advice. We know how to do this. We've identified the challenges, we've identified the

risks and the costs. And, in the end game, we know how to do it.

And it, really, Christiane, not to dodge your question but, at this point, it is a political decision, how we would move forward on that.

What we do need to all understand -- and I think we do understand -- is that this border region is something that we will all prosper by if we

settle it down and stop the flow of these -- not the immigrants who deserve our help --


AMANPOUR: The refugees.

BREEDLOVE: -- but certainly -- yes, those criminal elements, those terrorist elements and those foreign fighter elements, we have to -- we

have to bring those flows to a stop.

AMANPOUR: Is the world a more peaceful place or a more dangerous place, as you see it, under your brief, in those intervening years?

BREEDLOVE: I believe, Christiane, that we are in a much tougher place now. We face bigger challenges than when I came aboard.

And at that time, we did not see the level of challenges that we see now in Western Iraq, Eastern Syria, the Levant and Northern Africa. So in the

last two years, we've seen some pretty big changes.

The change in Afghanistan has occurred. We are in the Resolute Support mission but we're facing a very determined Taliban opponent. We see the

leading edges of daish or ISIL in Afghanistan and that makes the problem tougher.

We've seen this horrible civil war in Syria, where Bashar al-Assad has turned on his own people and created a huge problem of immigration. And

that has spread into some of the adjoining areas.

And then, of course, we've seen this problem of a revanchist Russia, you choose the objective, but a Russia that is no longer adhering to those

international norms that we were trying to establish with them over the last two decades, a Russia that has put force back on the table to change

internationally recognized borders.

AMANPOUR: So in view of that fact and that development, NATO, which was set up precisely as a counterweight to the Warsaw Pact, when it was the

Soviet Union, what can NATO do to prevent a revanchist Russia from being a serious military threat to Western Europe?

BREEDLOVE: At some point, we have to come to an accommodation, understanding, a relationship with Russia, because their energy reserves,

their markets, these are all things that would be useful in a whole, free, at-peace and prosperous Europe.

But what we have seen is a Russia that does not appear to be interested in that paradigm.

AMANPOUR: There are reports that you've requested more U.S. troops in Europe precisely because of these challenges that you're talking about, to

deal with the Russian threat and, indeed, to deal with the ISIS threat.

And we know that the Pentagon has, over the years, been drawing down to an extent in Europe, as it focuses more on the Asia Pacific and the pivot to


Can you tell me, do you need more troops in Europe?

And does your successor stand any chance of getting them?

BREEDLOVE: The drawdown in Europe actually happened well before the pivot to Asia. Across two decades, we've been trying to make a partner with

Russia and we've been trying to treat them as a partner. And so we significantly have drawn down.

Again, when Captain Phil Breedlove came here in the early '80s to fly his F-16 and to serve with the Army, we had over 400,000 American troops in


And yes, I have been vocal that, in the face of the new challenges that we face, not only from the east but now from the south, that our force

structure in Europe is not right.

And our nation has responded. For two years, we have brought rotational forces over. We have invested in our capabilities here in Europe to

rapidly reinforce, train and build partnerships and capability amongst our allied nations. And we have done all of this, to address our concerns.


AMANPOUR: Throughout your tenure, what would you say your biggest regret might be?

And what might you have done differently if you could have done so?

BREEDLOVE: Wow, that's a tough question. I've served eight times in Europe and the regrets are very few. I have told you before that I served

here during a great division of this continent.

And literally, in the third assignment that I was here, as I was going back to America, I was driving east with my wife to visit the easternmost part

of West Germany at that time.

And it was the day that the wall in Czechoslovakia came down and we saw all these vehicles going the other direction. And so I was able to witness the

beginning of the reunification.

And now I've served my last several times in Europe in this portion of the continent, where we have reunified Germany and we have brought the wall

down. And there is this incredible opportunity for goodness and cooperation. And if there's any regret, it's that we haven't made it to

that point yet.

We were trying to get there and now we've seen, again, Crimea, Donbas, Georgia and other things, which are problematic. And so I think there is

still great opportunity here. And NATO is a huge part of keeping that opportunity alive.

And I believe that we should keep striving to that point where we reach that grand union here in Europe.

AMANPOUR: General Breedlove, good luck to you. Thank you very much for granting us your exit interview and we wish Europe and the NATO area well.

BREEDLOVE: Thank you, Christiane. It's good to talk to you again.


AMANPOUR: As General Breedlove makes his exit from the world stage, the Oscar-winning actress, Cate Blanchett, makes her debut there, but in a

totally different role, as a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador for Refugees. She joins me on set next.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

The Oscar-winning actress, Cate Blanchett, has played everything from a depressed socialite in "Blue Jasmine," to Katharine Hepburn in "The

Aviator," to Queen Elizabeth I and now she's about to take on one of the most important roles yet, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador. The U.N. refugee

agency has just named Blanchett to the position.

And as we've been reporting, the most pressing humanitarian crisis of our time comes from Syria, with 12 million refugees since the war started five

years ago, inside and outside the country. She's back in London after a visit to some of those refugees and she joins me here on set.


AMANPOUR: Cate, welcome to the program.

BLANCHETT: Thank you, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Am I right?

Is it the most important role yet?

BLANCHETT: Well, one could say motherhood is perhaps the most important role. But it's a balance, isn't it.

And for me, I mean, I've long been engaged remotely in the refugee crisis just as a human being. I mean, like millions of people around the world.

And when UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency, approached me and asked me a year ago, would I be a Goodwill Ambassador, I was very -- I felt compelled to go

on that journey with them, because I think, as you suggest, the global displacement crisis is completely unprecedented, with --


BLANCHETT: --- 60 million people around the world.

AMANPOUR: It is huge.

BLANCHETT: And those figures are very, very difficult to relate to, in a way. You feel very powerless.

But in the last year, having gone on missions with the UNHCR and meeting these families, women, children, you know, single men, first-hand, the

points of connection, I think, and the stories that you hear, suddenly the human face and the similarities between everyone become really apparent.

AMANPOUR: What was it like for you?

Because you have just returned from visits to the camps. Even before you were named, you had been to see the refugees out there in some of those

camps in the front-line countries.

What sort of struck you the most?

What was something that you didn't expect?

Or was it all as bad as you expected?

BLANCHETT: One hears, I suppose, about this mass exodus. You hear about the numbers. And what -- I went -- just recently was in with my husband,

Andrew Upton, was in Azraq camp and Zaatari in Jordan, and also visiting refugees who were in an urban context who's without UNHCR's help, obviously

in a much more fragile position, in a way less safe than those in the camp.

I think what struck me most was the resilience and fortitude and pride. There was one woman I met in the education center and she could see a

fairly privileged white woman walking through.

And she summoned me over and she asked me why I was there. And she asked me what I did. And I told her what -- I said I was here to try and amplify

the voices of the refugees, that one can hear these things from afar but you want to get the human stories back out and to decrease the level of

xenophobia that seems to be arising.

And she said, well, tell people that Syria is full of strong women who want to rebuild Syria -- and the pride. She doesn't want to be in that camp,

she doesn't want to be outside Syria. She doesn't want to be resettled in Europe. She wants to be home. But Syria is not safe.

AMANPOUR: You just mentioned xenophobia and it is everywhere right now. You can see what's happening in the presidential campaign in the United

States. You can see what's happening in Europe, all of this influx has really created the rise of xenophobia and right-wing parties.

But your country also, Australia, is not the most friendly to refugees.

What's your view on that?

BLANCHETT: It is bewildering to me -- we are a signatory, Australia, to the '51 Refugee Convention and we're a nation, certainly since

colonization, that has founded its identity on immigration and being very receptive and warm to refugees.

So it is bewildering what is going on there. And, like all countries, Australia needs to do more to burden-share.

AMANPOUR: Do you think -- look, it gets political.

Do you plan to be political?

In other words, we're sitting right here in England and, right now, there is a crisis because several thousand children, who they had promised to

bring in, are still not being able to come in, Syrian children, refugee children.

What do you feel are the parameters of your role?

BLANCHETT: Well, I think that it's very important that the right to refuge, to sanctuary to people who are fleeing, these are citizens who are

fleeing torture, who are fleeing rape, whose children are -- literally I met one family, whose -- her sister, the woman's story had died, took in

her three children and they fled because her nieces and two of her own children were injured by very unfriendly fire.

And they couldn't go to the hospital because, if you're injured in a hospital in Syria at the moment, you're considered the enemy. And it's so

confusing for those people, because they don't actually know who is shooting at them.

And they fled in absolute terror. And this is the point, is that these people are -- they're not political, they're not on one side or the other.

They are victims and they're citizens.

AMANPOUR: You collected, very profoundly, when you were out there, you've just described a little bit of what you saw and what people asked you for

in the camp.

There was, when you went to the camp, also some acting that was going on. I think you saw a play, some of the children learning how to act. We want

to play a little bit of it and then talk about it.


BLANCHETT (voice-over): Medi (ph) likes to act. And this group of children, about 15 of them, had chosen to create, through a series of

scenes, this play about early marriage.

So it was drama as therapy. This community center and the chance for them to enact their fears, their worries, their stories, their hopes, it became

a really important outlet for them.


AMANPOUR: So obviously, you're narrating that piece of UNHCR --


AMANPOUR: -- video but you're an actress, we have you on the red carpet, you've won Oscars.


AMANPOUR: What do you think for these people, who have got nothing, who fled in the circumstances that we've all been reporting and you've seen

first-hand now, what does that give them?

Is it escapism?

Is it something else?

BLANCHETT: I think it's a way to start to deal with the intense trauma that they have experienced because obviously these people are not migrants.

They're refugees. And there's a very important distinction between those two states.

If you're migrating somewhere, you have time to prepare your exit and plan your entry somewhere. But if you're a refugee, you're fleeing from, you

know, a terrifying situation.

And these children, I mean, the amount of stress that they have suffered, losing siblings, losing parents, some of them actually being shot. I saw

one -- the exit wound of a bullet on a 13-year old -- you know, I've got a 14-year old -- in Zaatari camp.

And these children, the drama, I think, actually gives them an outlet to tell the -- what's concerning them most. And they're all -- this is a

middle class problem, the people in that community center, the parents of these children that I met, they were architects, they were doctors, they

were pharmacists, they were lawyers, they were engineering students.

And these children don't expect to be put into an early marriage. But that, the boys and the girls, chose to create that drama around that

because, obviously, when your family has nothing, arrives with nothing, an early marriage suddenly becomes an option for these people.

AMANPOUR: You tell me that you have told those people there that you want to amplify their voice. You are a world-famous actress and, presumably,

that's why UNHCR wants you there, to be able to use that voice and that presence.

But I just want to also switch gears very, very briefly because you also are a women's activist, for women's rights. You've partaken in several


I want to know what you make of your colleagues in Hollywood, who want equal pay or better pay for the roles. And we've just been reading that

Patricia Arquette, who made a big stance during her Oscar speech, has said that she feels that she's getting fewer roles and she's being more shunned

in Hollywood since she made that speech but that it was a price worth paying.

What's your view on that, because it goes to the heart of Syrian women, every woman being paid equally?

BLANCHETT: Of course. I did begin to work with UNHCR on the issue of statelessness. And there's 27 countries around the world that don't confer

-- that don't have equality in their gender nationality laws so that women can actually confer a nationality on their children.

So these children end up, simply because of their gender, of their mother not having that equality, these children don't have access to education,

they don't have passports, they can't travel.

Where do we start?

But in relation to what you're asking me, one does being to wonder what century we're in that we're even having this conversation. But I think

there's a critical mass of women across all industries and I think Hollywood, yes, it's a -- you know, I don't even know what Hollywood means.

I think it's a state of mind, you know. I sort of lift up --]


BLANCHETT: I suppose so.

But it does mean exposure. And so it's the pointy end. It's a very exposed industry in that way.

But I cannot name an industry where there's equal pay for equal work. And I think that's what people like Patricia Arquette and anyone who voices

that is trying to say. And it's also to do with the age window, that certainly actors like Judi Dench and Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep and

Charlotte Rampling have been expanding those boundaries but there have been many limitations placed on them in both financial and the creative


But I think that's beginning to change because it's not just in the film industry. It's across all industries. And I think it's -- you know,

that's why I wanted to get involved in this.

If you have access to an audience, if you have access to authority, then I think you have a responsibility to use that wisely and sensibly, that air

time. And so if you can speak up for actresses of generations behind you, then I think it's important that you do so. And that's -- I think what

Patricia said was fantastic.

AMANPOUR: Cate Blanchett, thank you very much.

BLANCHETT: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: Thanks for joining us.


AMANPOUR: And next, we imagine a world where the curtain comes down on a certain big-top performer. The end of an era but the start of a new life -

- after a break.





AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine a world packing up its trunks and making tracks.

For Ringling Brothers Circus, the 145-year-old tradition of elephant entertainers has come to an end with the circus' last 11 elephants set to

move to the Ringling Elephant Reservation in Florida.

The Ringling Brothers Circus has been touring the United States since the 19th century.

But in recent years, the elephants in the room have quite often been the elephants under the big top.

Animal rights activist have campaigned against cruelty to these huge mammals for decades, attacking their cramped living quarters in zoos and

their brutal training routines, which sees the animals forced to stand on their heads, balance on small stools and perform other tricks while

strapped into their costumes.

Activists are still working to end the use of any exotic animals in the circus. But for this traveling troupe, the show finally is over and they

can finally just be elephants.

That's it for our program tonight. Remember, you can listen to our podcast, see us online at and follow me on Facebook and

Twitter. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.