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U.N. Security Council Meeting on Violence in Aleppo; Interview with Defense Secretary Ash Carter; Plight of Unaccompanied Child Refugees in Europe; Imagine a World. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired May 4, 2016 - 14:00:00   ET




CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: I'm here at U.S. military headquarters in Stuttgart for an exclusive interview with the

Defense Secretary, Ashton Carter.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN HOST: And I'm Michael Holmes at the CNN Center as we get details on the Syrian cessation of hostilities extending to the

brutalized city of Aleppo.

Also ahead on the program, meet the Greek grandmother opening up her home to Syrian refugees.

The British prime minister bowing to pressure to accept unaccompanied child refugees from Europe. Coming up, the grave danger they face from


And imagine a world where a desert land builds a mountain to open the heavens. We'll explain.


HOLMES: Good evening, everyone, welcome to the program.

A truce in Aleppo: after days of frantic diplomatic talks, the U.S. announcing an agreement with Russia for a so-called cessation of

hostilities to extend to the brutalized Syrian city.

The news following a recent upsurge in violence in Aleppo, which has claimed the lives of almost 300 people in the past two weeks. It also

comes as a special session gets underway at the United Nations Security Council to discuss how to bring Syria back from the brink.

Also today, another key meeting, this one in Stuttgart in Germany. U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter and 11 of his counterparts held crucial talks

to discuss how to step up and accelerate the fight against ISIS, Carter paying tribute also to the U.S. serviceman killed by ISIS in Iraq on

Tuesday and said his death shows the battle against extremists is far from over.


ASH CARTER, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: These risks will continue and we greatly regret his loss. But allowing ISIL safe haven would carry greater

risks for us all.


HOLMES: Christiane sat down with Ash Carter in Stuttgart for an exclusive interview on the ongoing fight against ISIS and the efforts to salvage

Syria's fragile cease-fire.


AMANPOUR: Mr. Secretary, welcome to the program.

CARTER: It's good to be here.

AMANPOUR: I want to first talk about the issue that was brought up in your press conference and that is the death of a Navy SEAL in Iraq. You were

very clear. You said that he was in a firefight. He died in combat.

But what I want to ask you about is the fact that 100 ISIS forces were able to breach the toughest front lines that exist in the fight against ISIS,

which is the Peshmerga.

How worrying is that?

CARTER: Well, I mean, his death is tragic and he -- it was a heroic action that he was part of. And obviously, as Secretary of Defense, the most

serious responsibility I have is to put people in a risky situation like that.

But he was operating with one of the toughest forces in the whole Middle East, certainly in the Iraq-Syria theater against ISIL, namely the

Peshmerga from Northern Iraq in the Kurdistan regional government area.

And he was operating with them. And it was a surprise ISIL attack. That suggests something that I think also needs to be a caution to us, in

addition to his loss, which, in addition to being tragic, shows us this is risky -- this is a risky campaign.

There is risk here; Americans are at risk doing it but it's necessary. We need to, we will defeat ISIL. But there's going to be risk associated with


And you know, obviously, Mr. Secretary, that there's been a huge amount of criticism at the incrementalization (sic), the incrementalism of the

deployment of forces since ISIS took Mosul a couple of years ago.

I can read you what you already probably know; Senator John McCain, there was a long report in "The Wall Street Journal," where he noted that, quote,

"As a young military officer, I bore witness to the failed policy of gradual escalation that ultimately led to our nation's defeat in Vietnam."

He says, "This administration's grudging incrementalism in Iraq" -- presumably Syria -- "risks another slow, grinding failure."


Would you agree that the thousands of troops that you have there right now, which have come in very slowly and over a long period of time, would have

packed a bigger punch had they been deployed less grudgingly earlier, sooner?

CARTER: Well, we do want to get this over with soon. And that means accelerating what we're doing. That means building upon success where we

have it. That means seizing opportunities.

So any war proceeds step by step. But we need to take these steps as aggressively --


AMANPOUR: Are you pleased with the slowness of the step-by-step?

CARTER: -- and as quickly as possible.

No. We want to accelerate the campaign. That's the whole purpose of doing it.

So, for example, in Iraq, we're very pleased that the Iraqi security forces, with our help, have taken Ramadi back. They've taken Hit back.

They're working in Anbar now.

But we want to get up to Mosul. We're trying to position the forces as quickly as they can be positioned to envelop and ultimately collapse ISIL's

control in Mosul. So we need to do this as quickly as it can be accomplished --


AMANPOUR: What would you say to people who say, this has just been too slow, too slow?

CARTER: I would say -- it -- I, too, am impatient. I want to accelerate this.

AMANPOUR: Even these 250 that you just announced --

CARTER: Our --

AMANPOUR: -- the president announced this week.

CARTER: -- again, my experience with the chairman has been that, when we go to the president and with something that we know will accelerate the

progress there, he has approved those things. And that's been both true in Iraq and Syria.

And, by the way, it's important also to recognize, as we're talking about the overall campaign and how much of this we're going to need to do, it's

not just Iraq and Syria. That's where the cancer of ISIL began. It is necessary to destroy it there. But it's not going to be sufficient. It

has spread elsewhere.

So we're going to need to do other things there. And we want to accelerate that part of the campaign as well.

And, by the way, I want to accelerate our efforts to protect our homeland from Paris-type attacks as well.

And on all of these fronts, we want to move more and more quickly -- so that's why I say, are we going to be doing more?

Yes, we're going to be doing more. Every time we see an opportunity to capitalize on, to reinforce success, we're going to take it.

AMANPOUR: Because they say that the two years that you've waited has allowed ISIS to recruit, to grow, to spread, as you say, into Afghanistan,

Libya, et cetera.

CARTER: Well, we shouldn't wait. We should -- we should -- we should get on with it and seize every opportunity we can to build upon the success

that we're having and get this done.

Now, I'm realistic; I know it is a complex enemy and so forth. But we should go just as soon as we -- as fast as we possibly can.

AMANPOUR: I want to ask you about the current disaster unfolding in Aleppo. When I see Syria, I see a much worse version of Bosnia. When I

see Aleppo, I see a maybe much worse version of Srebrenica.

Is the United States prepared to see another Srebrenica?

People are very concerned that Aleppo is going to be taken by Assad, backed by the Russians, with a wholesale slaughter of civilians.

CARTER: I was in the Pentagon on the day that Srebrenica was taken. I remember that tragic day. And this is why putting an end to the Syrian

civil war is of such desperate importance.

These people have suffered a great deal. And you don't want to see that happen again in Aleppo. That's why I think what John Kerry is doing, in

trying to get a political settlement to this long-standing -- I know it's difficult but he's doing an excellent job of it and I don't want to speak

for him now.

He's in the middle of those negotiations. But he's highly aware, we're all highly aware, of the human tragedy associated with the Syrian civil war.

AMANPOUR: And Mr. Secretary, with respect, you say he's doing an excellent job. In April, more civilians were killed in Syria than -- under a cease-

fire than in the five years of the war.

My question to you is, sitting here and talking to your military counterparts, do you feel that an offensive, an Assad backed by Russia

offensive, is coming to Aleppo to seize that city?

Is that what you see happening?

CARTER: Well, what -- I can't say that. I can't say that. But I -- and I'm sure Secretary Kerry would be a better person to pose that question to.

But you talk about the Russians operating with Assad. One of the tragedies of this situation out of the last year has been that the Russians entered

the Syrian situation, they said --


CARTER: -- to help resolve the Syrian civil war. But that's not what they did. They backed Assad, which fuels the civil war. Now they need to help

Secretary Kerry to move Assad aside and get a political solution to it.

They said they were going to fight ISIL. That's not what they did. They basically backed Assad. Now what the Russians are doing -- and this

terrible civil war situation in the Aleppo area is not affecting our counter-ISIL campaign. We're conducting that and we will and we have to.

But that doesn't take care of all of Syria's problems. This civil war, this tragic civil war needs to be put to an end. The only way effectively

to do that is politically. And there, the Russians can get on the right side of this situation, prevent another kind of tragedy like we saw in the


Also, Christiane, interestingly, back in those days, I helped negotiate with the Russians their work with NATO in the Kosovo force. That was --

the Russians were difficult in those days, too. We managed to get them doing the right thing. I'm confident Secretary Kerry is giving it the best

possible shot.

AMANPOUR: There's discussion of a safe zone in the press, in the administration.

Is that going to happen for the people trying to flee ISIS and the devastation in Syria?

CARTER: So it would be a substantial military undertaking for Europe, Turkey, aided by the United States, whatever. But they've shown no

inclination to put a force that large and to create a zone that was truly safe, because as soon as you went in there, you know every ISIL extremist

would try to show that it wasn't safe.

So you couldn't just declare it safe. You have to make it safe. I mean, you have to defend it.

And then you have to ask yourself, who wants to be in there?

I -- we don't want to create a zone into which people are forcibly expelled. If that's the idea, to expel people from Europe or Turkey into a

zone, then that's a more questionable idea.

So you have to ask, who is going to want to come to this zone?

AMANPOUR: Secretary Carter, thank you very much indeed.

CARTER: Good to be with you, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Thank you.


HOLMES: And you can watch the second half of Christiane's interview with Ash Carter on Friday, where he talks more about the long-term challenges


As the world's conflicts drive refugees into the arms of sometimes unwilling nations, we'll look at how the kindness of strangers offers a

respite for the lucky few -- after this.




HOLMES: Welcome back to the program.

In Greek, the culture concept of philoxenia is welcoming strangers. It's ingrained in the culture and no more so than in the older generation. As

Europe closes its borders to Syrian refugees, one Greek grandmother or "Mama" as she's known, decided to take matters into her own hands and

strangers into her own home.

Our senior international correspondent Nima Elbagir has her story.


PANAGIOTA VASILEIADOU, GREEK HOST TO REFUGEES (through translator): We were five children and our parents. They burned down everything. We had

nothing left, only the clothes --


VASILEIADOU (through translator): -- we were sleeping with. I understand the pain these people feel.

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Panagiota Vasileiadou is 82 years old. She's called Mama, though, by almost everyone who's met her.

She's lived in the tiny Greek down of Idomeni for most of her life, except for the darkest days of the Nazi occupation of Greece.

That's why, she says, when Syrian refugees knocked on her door, she couldn't turn away.

VASILEIADOU (through translator): I have been through all of it. If you haven't, you cannot feel for them. I went through it and I know.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): Two of the young men staying with Mama Panagiota agree to speak to us. They may be far from the ravages of Syria but

neither of them give us their names. There are still family members at home, whom they believe could be harmed by the Syrian regime.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Not just any person would open up their home, not just any person. Given the war we have come from, most

people would think we are a violent people. But she found it in herself to do this. It has lifted our spirits, given us hope that we can live with

normal people, in spite of what we've seen.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): The future for these young men and the almost 10,000 other refugees in Idomeni is bitterly uncertain.

Plus the gateway into the Balkan routes into Western Europe with the shutting of the Macedonian border, Idomeni, they tell us, has become a


This young woman says they queue for hours for food.

Another young man angrily describes the relentless rain and cold.

Greece is in the grip of an economic crisis, that even as the country teeters on the bring of economic collapse, everyday citizens are attempting

to do what they can.

ELBAGIR: How long do you think you're going to continue to do this?

How long do you think you'll be able to continue to do this?

VASILEIADOU (through translator): I wish I was younger and with more money and take with me half of the camp and look after them. The issue won't be

resolved with only five of them being taken care of. They were the lucky ones.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): Mama Panagiota knows that what she does, with the help of her family and neighbors, can never be enough.

Selwa's (ph), like the refugees who live with Mama Panagiota, are grateful to the Greek family that allowed them shelter in a disused garage. But it

doesn't take away the sting of their European dream turned to dust.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): This is an embarrassment for Europe.

Where is the respect for human rights?

My child is crying at 3:00 in the morning because he's hungry and there's nothing I can do.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): Nima Elbagir, CNN, Idomeni, Greece.


HOLMES: Well, in the United Kingdom, the British prime minister has bowed to pressure, agreeing to take in unaccompanied refugee children from

Europe. David Cameron says a revised bill proposed by Lord Dubs, a child refugee himself, will now be accepted. How many minors, we don't yet know.

It is set to be debated in Parliament again next week.

The U.K. currently takes in children directly from Syria and the region but will now resettle refugee children in Greece, Italy and France.

Now the number of unaccompanied refugee children in Europe is, frankly staggering, and the dangers they face constant. Joining me now is a

spokesperson for the International Organization for Migration, Leonard Doyle.

Mr. Doyle, thanks for being with us. So a government turnaround of sorts in the U.K., one with some conditions. But this comes after refusing to

budge on the issue.

So what do you think sparked the change of heart and what's your reaction to it?

LEONARD DOYLE, INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR MIGRATION: Well, thanks very much for having us on. I think what we're seeing is there's been a

reduction in the tension and in the flows, of course, of refugees and migrants coming into the Western Balkans following the agreement between

the European Union and Turkey.

So in one sense, the amount of political -- the steam has gone out of this kind of boiling issue. So I think it's been tough and it's probably not

gone down very well. And it's a nice humanitarian gesture to take children who were probably already within the European Union. They've already made

the dangerous journey and they certainly need help.

HOLMES: The U.K. decision, of course, is today's headline. But what it also does is shine a spotlight on the wider issue of unaccompanied

children. And at least 10,000 have disappeared after arriving in Europe. That's according to Europol, 5,000 in Italy alone. And that's just the

number who've disappeared, not arrived.

And the frightening truth is authorities --


HOLMES: -- don't know where those kids are.

How can that be?

DOYLE: Well, we need to look at the definition of what they mean by children. This includes youngsters up to 17 years of age. A lot of them

coming from Afghanistan and from Iraq, countries where people grow up very young and can be off to the military, as we know, as child soldiers.

So I think we're not talking about babes in arms here. So we need to just look at it in context. It's not a good thing, of course, but I think the

notion that there are 10,000 youngsters wandering around Europe, uncomprehending and lost somehow, is probably a misunderstanding.

I think if this was the case, we'd be hearing about it from the non- governmental organizations and that's simply not the case that we are doing that.

HOLMES: But we are hearing that organized gangs have been trafficking some of these children. That's been widely reported.

How is it that organized gangs can find these kids but the authorities meant to process them cannot?

DOYLE: Well, trafficking is a huge issue and when we found indications of trafficking in the vast numbers of people who were coming into Europe in

the last two years, so it's a big issue, it's not just children, of course, although that's probably the most egregious part of it.

But remember that they're coming in, in effectively an uncontrolled way and it's easy then for them to be picked up by criminal elements and to be

trafficked. And evidence for this remains a bit scant.

We certainly are concerned and aware that there are trafficking gangs but a little bit hard to put the finger and say exactly how many. So it's

difficult enough I think for authorities to crack down on it. But indeed they do have evidence of trafficking, especially of young people,

especially in the sex trade. It's certainly not uncommon.

HOLMES: As you point out, a lot of these children, the 10,000 or so -- nobody knows the real number for sure, a lot of people think that number

could well be low -- a lot of them are 16, 17. But many, many of them are not. They're younger than that.

What is the moral responsibility to these children, especially when you consider Britain's role in helping children escape the Nazis before World

War II, the Kindertransport scheme, as it's known?

That came into play here, didn't it, in terms of pressure?

DOYLE: You make an excellent point. I think sometimes we forget the generosity of previous generations and the Kindertransport was definitely

part of that. And I think in the fury that we've seen in the public space, in the media, certainly, in people's fury at the welcome that was given to

these migrants and refugees this year, the extremist elements have certainly raised the hackles of lots of people.

There's been a lot of misinformation around -- and I think in that process, we've lost a sense of our humanity, a sense of the importance of looking

out for the vulnerable, be they unaccompanied children, be they pregnant women, be they the elderly.

I mean, you have to really remember that these are people, by and large fleeing war, fleeing hardship, fleeing the rigors of climate change. So

whether they are refugees from Afghanistan and Iraq or whether they are migrants desperately seeking a better life, at least let's handle them with


HOLMES: And also, let me make the point, a lot of these children are from Afghanistan, not necessarily Syria but a war-torn place nonetheless.

I'm curious, how do they -- and particularly the younger ones -- how do they become solo in the first place?

Are they not all processed when they arrived, taken care of?

What happens to them in the system, such as that system is?

DOYLE: I mean, they come through in a very organized way, with traffickers who give them three attempts with a guarantee of money back if they don't

get through. So they're very well cared for to some extent, by the smugglers, in effect.

And when they come to Europe, they're told, don't say that you're a minor. Say that you're a bit older because if you say you're a minor, you'll be

put into detention. So the numbers are funny because people have an incentive to lie, if you will, so that they don't get put into detention.

And then perhaps later on they might say that they're a minor seeking asylum.

But it's kind of -- you know, they're -- they grow up pretty fast on the road and they learn the ropes and they learn what will help them get their

case heard better. And not to say they're a minor is one way.

HOLMES: Leonard Doyle with the International Organization for Migration, thanks so much. Appreciate you being on the program.

DOYLE: Thanks so much for having us.

HOLMES: And from acts of compassion growing in scale to a construction so big it aims to manipulate the Earth. Imagine building a mountain to open

the heavens -- after the break.





HOLMES: And finally tonight, imagine a world where the mountain really does come to Muhammad. As the World Bank warns that water shortages could

devastate Middle Eastern economies, the United Arab Emirates is taking the first step in an uphill struggle by building a mountain. That's the plan,


They're about to finish the first phase in a quest to make it rain in one of the driest places on Earth. Of course, the world has a long history of

trying to summon precipitation, from rain-making rituals to seeding clouds with salt flares, which have been used in the UAE to startling effect.

Usually that Gulf state gets around 8 centimeters of rain a year. Not much.

But in March, extensive cloud seeding helped create a Middle Eastern monsoon, making years' worth of rainfall in less than 24 hours.

Well, some scientists believe a mountain could help in this process, driving moisture in the air towards the sky, where it forms clouds, which

then release rain for a thirsty nation.

So while salmon fishing in the Yemen remains fiction, mountain climbing in the UAE could be a reality, if an uphill effort.

That's it for our program tonight. Remember, you can listen to our podcasts, you can see us online at, follow me @Holmes on

Twitter. Thanks for watching. And goodbye for now from the CNN Center.