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Obama Visits Vietnam, Lifts Arms Embargo; Tunisia's Ennahda to Separate Politics from Religion; Imagine a World. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired May 23, 2016 - 14:00:00   ET




CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: the United States lifts a decades-old arms embargo against a former enemy, Vietnam.

But what will China make of this move?

The former Australian prime minister and president of the Asia Society Policy Institute, Kevin Rudd, joins me live.

Also ahead: the Iraqi army tries to scrub out the Islamic State while Tunisia's governing party scrubs Islam from its party platform. "The New

York Times'" Robert Worth joins us with his book about the rage for order in the Middle East.


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

President Obama pledged to pivot the United States towards Asia. And today he is putting in one of the last bits of groundwork before the job

gets left to the next president.

First stop for President Obama: Vietnam and lifting the arms embargo against this old enemy. It is an extraordinary historic and symbolic



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Over the past century, our two nations have known cooperation and then conflict, painful

separation and a long reconciliation. Now more than two decades of normalized ties between our governments allows us to reach a new moment.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Now security experts say Vietnam will likely seek surveillance radar and intelligence technology from the United States,

equipment to build up strength in the South China Sea, where Beijing has been aggressively laying claim to various strategic islands.

President Obama, though, insists the embargo has nothing to do with countering China.

But again, will Beijing buy that?


AMANPOUR: Vietnam of course is only part of this Pacific Rim puzzle and one person who knows the region as well as anyone is Kevin Rudd, the

former prime minister of Australia and now president of the Asia Society Policy Institute in New York, from where he joins me.


AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program, Mr. Rudd.

So what do you first off make of this amazing gesture to totally lift the arms embargo?

KEVIN RUDD, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA: Well, Christiane, I think it's been a long time in coming. Remember, it's 20 years since the

Americans normalized their diplomatic relations with Hanoi. And it follows that this is one of those things which was going to eventually come.

I think the other thing to bear in mind, though, Christiane, is that this has not elicited some storming condemnation from Beijing. I've looked

carefully at the statements coming out of the Chinese foreign ministry and they seem to be remarkably calm and balanced in their response, saying that

the lifting of this arms embargo is removing one of the last vestiges of the Cold War.

So I think we need to put into context what will be normally the sense that this is some massive playing of a strategic card against the Chinese.

AMANPOUR: OK. Come back to the Chinese for the moment. But first about Vietnam. Obviously there has been some criticism, as you can

imagine. Many people are saying the president shouldn't have made this gesture until there was, for instance, reciprocal gestures on political

prisoners, human rights and other such things.

Do you buy that?

And do you think that also Vietnam is going to let the Americans back into the Cam Ranh Bay, for instance?

RUDD: Well, again, let's take a slightly longer view of this. Take my own country, Australia. We were allies in the Vietnam War with the

Americans against the then-North Vietnamese. Australia normalized diplomatic relations with Hanoi I think in 1975 and we've had full

diplomatic relations since.

The Americans took another 20 or so years. My own brother was a solder in Vietnam. So these are all still within recent living memory.

I think the process of normalization will take some time. You raise the question of human rights. The truth is, if you go to the question of

religious freedom in Vietnam, what you do see, if you speak to the relevant churches, is an increasing level of an ability to express religious faith

in that country. It's not absolute but it --


RUDD: -- has moved in a positive direction. Certainly, there are still human rights concerns.

But I think the president has got to put this relationship into a much broader context and a broader foreign policy and strategic policy

relationship with Vietnam from the U.S. perspective would be seen as desirable in closing, finally, that chapter of history, which began in

1963, when President Kennedy landed troops there.

AMANPOUR: You say that you have been reading and trying to figure out what Beijing is making of this move. But listen to what the U.S. Defense

Secretary told me about how the U.S. administration views China and how they are trying to counter it. Listen to this.


ASH CARTER, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: But even countries like Vietnam, with which we have, to put it mildly, a complicated past,

countries that used -- like India, with which we did not used to have any kind of military relationship, we're developing a military relationship

with them.

And we want to work with them in order to keep that peace and stability that's essential to the Asian economic miracle.


AMANPOUR: So, actually, Kevin Rudd, what the Defense Secretary started by saying is that there is a changing dynamic, China's tendency to

be coercive with other countries in its region is causing them to come to us, the United States, not just longstanding allies but, as he then said,

Vietnam as well.

So whether China is reading it that way, certainly the United States seems to be openly saying that, hey, let's get even our old adversaries to

counter what we consider these coercive moves in the South China Sea and elsewhere. So they are making it very clear what they are doing.

Do you think China will then be -- oh, sorry. Don't mean to interrupt you. Carry on.

RUDD: No, no, I was just going to respond that my comments before were about what I've found a surprisingly even-handed Chinese response,

given the foreign ministry's statement.

I think your rendition of Secretary Carter's position through what you have just shown is absolutely accurate. I mean, I have heard the secretary

speak on these matters a number of times.

And what he is pointing to is the fact that because there are a number of concerns on the part of Southeast Asian states concerning the

uncertainty of China's future long-term strategic trajectory as they see it, that, as a consequence, they are seeking some form of strategic

reassurance elsewhere.

For me, however, the fulcrum of all this lies in one core question and that is the future of the South China Sea, the future of the conflicting

territorial claims within it.

There are six sets of intersecting claims.

And what is the diplomatic pathway through trying to find a solution to this, short of running the risk of lots of military hardware getting

really close to one another and creating an incident?

AMANPOUR: And, of course, there have been sort of incidents with Chinese aircraft, U.S. aircraft, et cetera. But let's, if we could, just

pivot across to Japan, which is going to be the last stop on this visit for the G7 summit. President Obama going to Hiroshima.

What do you make of that?

There's obviously been a little bit of criticism by veterans of Pearl Harbor, et cetera, their families and descendents.

But is this something that is a long time in coming?

Should the president have gone with all the other G7 leaders?

Or is it just fine that he is going alone?

RUDD: Well, the visit by the serving president of the United States to Hiroshima is a major event, the first one in history to do so while in

office. I encountered a smaller version of this debate when -- back in 2008, as prime minister of Australia, I also landed in Hiroshima and then

discovered, because my Japanese host told me, that I was the first serving Allied head of government to visit Hiroshima.

It struck me as puzzling that we'd left it 60 years-plus for such visits to occur. There is no inherent contradiction here.

Number one, no one's seeking to revisit the decisions taken by President Truman back in 1945 against the impossible military circumstances

at the time, whether then Japanese militarist regime were stating that they would fight to the last man and woman on the main islands of Japan and

leading an enormous further loss of life in a war which was anticipated to last another two or three years. That's a matter of history.

I think what President Obama is trying to do is bring people's attention back to his core agenda on nuclear non-proliferation, something

about which he has been passionate since he gave his speech in Prague, I think in the first year of his presidency.

That's where he's seeking to focus opinion.

AMANPOUR: OK. On that note, Kevin Rudd, thank you so much for joining us from New York tonight.

Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And so the U.S. wants to pivot towards the Far East. Some have charged by simultaneously trying to pivot away from the Middle East.

Yet surely the past five years of turmoil since the Arab Spring have shown what happens when the U.S. leaves --


AMANPOUR: -- a vacuum there. As Iraq starts yet another offensive against ISIS, we put it all into perspective with Robert Worth, formerly of

"The New York Times" and now author of "A Rage for Order: The Middle East in Turmoil." That's after a break.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

The Iraqi government says it has launched a massive military offensive to recapture and liberate Fallujah from the violent extremist IS, which

took it more than two years ago. Residents have been told to get out or fly a white flag above their homes.

This as Tunisia, the Arab Spring's only success story, decides to ditch the project of political Islam, pledging to separate mosque and

state. It is a major turning point for the region, as ISIS claims responsibility for more bombings that have killed 78 more people in Syria.

Joining me now from Washington is Robert Worth, the former regional correspondent and Beirut bureau chief for "The New York Times." He is

author of the highly acclaimed new book, "A Rage for Order: The Middle East in Turmoil from Tahrir Square to ISIS."


AMANPOUR: Robert Worth, thank you for joining us.


AMANPOUR: So when you look, first and foremost, at today's news about the offensive for Fallujah, I mean it was obviously really difficult to

recapture Ramadi from ISIS. They haven't yet done Mosul.

What do you expect, how do you expect that to transpire, Fallujah?

WORTH: Well, I think we have many reasons to be skeptical about them taking back Fallujah anytime soon. There has been talk about this for some

time. But ISIS has been in control for almost 2.5 years now and we can be sure that they have put in place all kinds of mines and fortifications.

It's going to be very, very difficult to take that city back.

I've been in Fallujah many, many times, starting in 2003. I was there for the entire battle there, the U.S. military taking back Fallujah in

November 2004. And it's called the city of mosques. It's been a center of Sunni radicalism for a long time. I think it's got tens of thousands of

civilians who are there, who've been suffering from almost nothing to eat.

I think it's just going to be very tough for them to take that back quickly.

AMANPOUR: Now the whole project of political Islam: obviously ISIS is way over on the hard jihadi, violent extremist front. And then you have

got more moderate groups like Ennahda in Tunisia, where Rached Ghannouchi this week -- or, rather, on Friday -- said that they are going to separate

themselves from political Islam.

They are going to be a political party that's dealing with governance and the economy.

Do you think this is in reaction to how Islam has been hijacked, by all intents and purposes, by ISIS?

Or is it something bigger and deeper?


WORTH: Well, you know, people tend to talk about Islamists as being all essentially cut from the same cloth. I don't think that's been true

for a long time. And it's particularly untrue with regard to Ennahda, which is really a remarkable movement. It's by far the most sophisticated

and liberal ruling Islamist party in the Middle East.

And they, in a sense, I think, by cutting themselves off nominally from Islamism, are ratifying what they have already done for the past few

years. They willingly gave up power in Tunisia. They -- and the Ghannouchi has made clear repeatedly to his followers and to others that

his movement is less important to him than the survival of Tunisia and the survival of a democratic civic space there.

And that's something you don't hear from other Islamists.

AMANPOUR: Well, exactly, I was going to say. It is extraordinary, it's unique, what he's done. It is a major turning point. If you the take

the beginning of this whole project, being political Islam with the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, and now the first-ever political group to

distance itself, to actually put into practice a separation of mosque and state and to continue to govern, it could have massive repercussions, I

mean positive ones.

Do you think?

Or maybe even negative?

WORTH: Well, I hope it will have positive ramifications. It's a little bit early to tell. Unfortunately, there are not really, so far as I

know, with a couple of exceptions, major groups like Ennahda that have the kind of sophistication that it has. I think that sophistication took a

long time to grow.

And incidentally, it grew, in large part, in London, where the Ennahda leaders were living in exile prior to 2011. So it will set an example. It

will set people thinking. And that's all positive.

But I think it will be a long time before you see another group acting the way Ennahda has acted.

AMANPOUR: And to that end, in your book, "Rage for Order," you say that after all the coverage that you have done over the years of the Middle

East, you thought nothing else could surprise you.

But what has happened in the Middle East and the Arab Spring has obviously surprised you and everybody.

How do you think that order is going to come back to this place that is in full rage and turmoil?

WORTH: Yes, well, I think we have to be satisfied with small victories. I think, despite the fact that Tunisia, by the way, is still

very vulnerable, very fragile; there's been terrorist attacks. The economy is in terrible shape.

But I think it is important and inspiring that they have really, really inspirational leadership there, not only Ghannouchi but also many of

the people in his group. And I think even some of the younger ones, which is important, because you are going to see a generational transfer before

too long.

Ghannouchi is an elderly man. But also there are some people on other side, on the secular side in Tunisia, who are willing to put their

country's interests ahead of their own party's interests.

AMANPOUR: I mean, again, it is massive. I mean, to hear that, that politicians are willing to put their country's interests ahead of their

own. I mean, we've seen the disaster from Libya to Syria. You know, some might say even Egypt. And the rise of the strong man again, not democracy

but the rise of the strong authoritarian.

WORTH: Yes, absolutely. I think that's what shocked perhaps some people, was the ferociousness with which so many of these authoritarian

figures fought back after 2011. It's particularly true in Syria, where these leaders are willing to kill so many people and to bring back such

nasty sectarian rhetoric, to really -- to create a civil war just to stay in power.

AMANPOUR: And you tell an incredibly, you know, telling story, if you like, about Syria. You talk about two women who were once friends. Tell

me how that fits into this narrative of division and identity politics now.

WORTH: Sure. Well, I wanted there, as in the rest of the book, to talk not just about high politics but about how ordinary people are

affected by all of this. And that chapter is about two young women, one of them Sunni Muslim and one Alawi, who had best friends since childhood and

who really weren't interested in politics or religion.

But once 2011 happened and their country began to divide, they began being exposed to totally different realities. It doesn't matter at that

level whether you're personally interested in this stuff. You are hearing different news reports; different rumors, different versions of your

country's past that hadn't been spoken about before.

And all of a sudden, they come together as friends and you have this wall between them because they are hearing a very, very different version

of what the world is about and what they should value. And, ultimately, that destroyed their friendship.

AMANPOUR: It's going to be really interesting to see whether any of this can be knitted together, whether it's in Iraq or Syria or wherever

when this is all over.


AMANPOUR: But let's not forget that it is 100 years, May 16th, 1916, the Sykes-Picot agreement at the height of World War I, which sought to

redraw the Middle East out of the Ottoman ashes. It's all sort of, you know, collapsing now.

Where do you see it settling down?

I mean just the border between Iraq and Syria has been erased by ISIS.

WORTH: Yes. Absolutely. I think we're going to have to wait a long time. And until then, I think we're going to see a failing or failed

states. I think it's unlikely that new states will be born out of this, except -- with the possible exception of Iraqi Kurdistan, which is, in

effect, its own state already.

But I think you are going to see Syria remain essentially divided between the Western Syria, ruled by Assad or perhaps someone like him; I

think we are going to have someone who is acceptable to Iran, whether we like it or not there in the future.

And then you have a Kurdish statelet in the north. And in the east, you are going to have this sort of wild badlands that is largely Sunni.

And I think the key question in the future is going to be, even if we defeat ISIS, even if the coalition defeats ISIS, who is going to govern


How can we put any kind of meaningful state into that space?

AMANPOUR: Huge, huge challenges. Robert Worth, thank you so much for joining us tonight.

WORTH: It's a pleasure.


AMANPOUR: And tomorrow, we hope to speak to the man who made Tunisia's radical decision to step away from political Islam as we've been

talking about, the head of Ennahda, Rached Ghannouchi. We hoped we'd have him today. But we are going to have him tomorrow.

Now the humanitarian catastrophe that's emerged from Syria and the other failed Arab Spring revolutions touches Europe, too, with refugees and

terrorism, which, in turn, are changing the political landscape.

Austria was about to become the first European nation with a far right anti-immigrant head of state. But in a squeaker of an election this

weekend, the Freedom Party's Norbert Hofer just lost to Alexander Van der Bellen, who's an independent backed by the Green Party.

And early reports say that it was the women's vote that won it for him. Meantime, Turkey is hosting the first-ever world humanitarian summit.

But aid organizations like Medecins sans Frontieres have dropped out, saying they are worried it will be all talk and no action.

Now with 130 million people in dire need of humanitarian aid, the stakes are massively high.

And next, we imagine the world of a photographer creating fantasy out of refugee reality. That's after this.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine your world turned upside down and then staged in a new light.

This photo project with a twist, initiated by Save the Children, depicts the stories of Burundian refugees who fled to Tanzania. It's based

on real experiences; it captures the hopes, fears and challenges faced by the children, as artist-photographer Patrick Willocq explains.



PATRICK WILLOCQ, ARTIST-PHOTOGRAPHER (voice-over): We are starting by listening to children, you know --


WILLOCQ: -- listening to their stories and, together with them, you know, building the decor, building the sets, not just for the children but

also with adults and other people from the refugee community.

This one is called Mountain Journey. It's -- depicts physically their journey that some of the children has have to do when they left Burundi to

seek refuge in Tanzania.

A lot of the children actually have had to cross through very high mountains at night. You know, it was dark. Some of them fell, you know,

not necessarily with adults and some of them have to walk to make two, three or four days seeking refuge.

So I wanted through this image, you know, to stage some of the children through a reenactment and show, you know, this mountain journey

again. But I wanted to do it in a way, you know, that would really, you know, attract attention and show all the humanity and the dignity and the

beauty that these children have.

And this is why we set up this stage, which really looks like a fairy tale setting. But at the same time, what's amazing is that those children

that had been with us for few days to get used to us and starting to be playful with us, when they went on the set and started to act, they really

-- I didn't have to tell them much.

They took those positions. Obviously I had to tell them put a foot here or do this or do that. But I look how serious they are, how proud

they are, how human they are. And they are really, through this image, sharing and telling us the plight of all those children.

I wanted to show a different way of telling their story and about refugees. And I wanted to show real people.

You know?

Because sometimes when you talk about the theme of refugee, you know, it's almost as if a refugee is not human anymore.

You know?

It's labeled as refugee and the connotation around this is quite different because it's not a normal person anymore. That person is a

refugee type of thing. So I really wanted to bring back this humanity, this dignity, you know and to show that those kids are real kids, you know.

And that even if they are refugees those are real kids and they have got hopes for the future, you know, they've got fears. And they have

experienced something, you know, which is absolutely crazy for children to experience.

And through these images, because it's (INAUDIBLE), because it's participative, because kids themselves tell their own stories, you know, it

was a great chance for kids to express themselves and hopefully to attract attention around those images.


AMANPOUR: And hopefully, for a little while at least, they had fun doing it.

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

Twitter. Thanks for watching. And goodbye from London.