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The Reality in Syria; Lessons from the Past; Imagine a World. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired June 15, 2016 - 14:00 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: death, destruction and more death. That is just a normal day in Syria these days.
When will it end?
We bring you a gut-wrenching report from the front line.
And we talk to America's man who is tasked with leading the fight against ISIS.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRETT MCGURK, PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY FOR THE GLOBAL COALITION TO COUNTER ISIL: It's an unconscionable situation in Aleppo right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Also ahead: should they say or should they go?
As Britain decides whether or not to remain in the E.U., we get some much needed perspective from the past with historian Margaret MacMillan.
AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
The attacks in Orlando and outside Paris this week have once again brought ISIS into focus and their most effective recruiting tool: the war in
Syria; 400,000 dead now, peace talks come and gone, failed cease-fires and undelivered humanitarian aid.
As the United States again tries to cobble together a halt to the fighting along with Russia, Assad, who is backed by Russia, has mocked Western
efforts. And he's vowed to retake, quote, "every inch of Syrian territory."
A regime offensive north of Aleppo is killing more civilians every day. And we'll hear from the U.S. special envoy, Brett McGurk, on all of this.
But first, let's pause for a moment to show you the human cost of this war, now into its sixth year. It is hard to watch children die. But this is
the sad reality, as brought to us by Jon Snow at Britain's Channel 4 News.
JON SNOW, CHANNEL 4 NEWS (voice-over): Their day had started as any other in Aleppo, trying to be normal.
Brothers Mohammed, Mahmoud and Amar (ph) were playing at a friend's house. Then the bomb hit, dropped by either Syrian or Russian planes and all three
boys' lives changed forever.
Mahmoud (ph) and Amar (ph) wait in shock. They hover, desperate, near their brother, as doctors do their best to save him.
Opposite, an injured little girl watches in horror while they tend to her wounds.
There is no anesthetic for her pain.
Mohammed (ph) loses his struggle. The doctors try to comfort but the boys are inconsolable. A last chance for Amar (ph) and Mahmoud (ph) to see the
face of their baby brother, a heartbroken kiss. How hard it is to say goodbye. And then Mohammed's (ph) mother arrives.
SNOW (voice-over): Utterly distraught, she refuses to let go of the body of her Mohammed (ph), unable to believe her boy is dead. Holding him like
a baby, she clutches the body close, as she carries him to be buried, another child in Aleppo, gone.
AMANPOUR: A devastating portrait of everyday reality in Syria.
So for a reality check on whether this carnage will stop, I spoke Brett McGurk, the U.S. special presidential envoy to the global coalition against
ISIS. He joined me from the State Department.
AMANPOUR: Brett McGurk, welcome back to our program.
MCGURK: Thanks so much for having me.
AMANPOUR: You saw the tragedy of that report, about all these children who are being so badly wounded and so many are being killed as the war in Syria
As Secretary of State Kerry meets his Iranian counterpart, what chances do you feel there are to actually have a cease-fire?
MCGURK: Well, look, it's a troubling report. It's an unconscionable situation in Aleppo right now.
There's really two main battles going on in Aleppo. So we've been very analytically precise about this that, under the cessation of hostilities,
the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda's affiliate, is not a protected party. So the regime has every right to defend against that offensive.
They have absolutely no right, however, to continue this offensive in the northwest part of the country, in which they're trying to cut off the
opposition supply lines into the city. So that has to stop.
There's ongoing discussions about this actually right now, about settling down the situation. It's just truly unconscionable.
AMANPOUR: Brett McGurk, let me ask you how you react when you say it's truly unconscionable, to the outrageous, some might say, speech that
President Assad made not so long ago, insisting to his people that he would, with the help of Russia, retake, quote, "every inch of Syrian
And we've seen cease-fires come and then fail. We've seen deadlines for humanitarian assistance and airdrops be demanded and then fail without
MCGURK: Well, he'll never take back every inch of his country. It's absolutely impossible. Just look at the situation on the ground. It is
absolutely impossible, it's militarily infeasible. There's no way he will ever take back every inch of his country. So he can say whatever he wants
and that's never going to happen.
What's really happening here is President Putin went to his people in a national address and said, we are going to have the cessation of
hostilities. He kind of took ownership of it.
And under the rules that were set down by the entire international community, embedded in a Chapter 7 U.N. Security Council resolution, the
Russians agreed to deliver the regime to adhere to the cessation of hostilities.
Clearly the Russians have some responsibilities here. And they told the entire world what they would do. And they're not doing it.
AMANPOUR: You talked about Russian responsibility and the rules of the road that Russia agreed to.
But how much leverage does the United States and its partners have when it comes to Russia?
I would like to play you a little bit of an interview on this subject that Evelyn Farkas, who was an Assistant Secretary of Defense, who has recently
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EVELYN FARKAS, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: These talks that we're having are not going to get us to peace because of what's happening
on the ground and because of the fact that the United States and our allies on our side of the table, sitting opposite from Russia and Syria, do not
have sufficient leverage to actually have those talks mean anything, come to anything.
We won't peace until we have more leverage for those talks. So frankly speaking, I feel like the talks are a charade and Russia's role is actually
in orchestrating this charade.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: That's a former high level U.S. official, who says that this is all a charade.
MCGURK: Well, as you know, Christiane, this war has been going on for some time. You know, 100,000 fighters on behalf of the regime have now been
killed by the opposition. And if the regime wants the war to go on, a lot more of those fighters are going to be killed. This offensive in Northwest
Syria will actually -- in Northwest Aleppo, which they're trying cut off these opposition supply lines, is not succeeding on the ground.
So this can go on forever. We've been very clear about that. If they want the war to go on forever, it can. I mean, since the cessation of
hostilities has been in place, we've reached about 700,000 Syrians with humanitarian aid that were not getting it before.
But the Russians have not -- have not -- fulfilled what they said they would do in terms of delivering the regime. And maybe that means they
don't have the influence in Damascus that they thought they had --
MCGURK: -- or they're simply not trying. But it's simply not acceptable and so either this works or it doesn't. And I think we have a -- this is a
-- really a critical moment. It's a time of testing. And we're going to see.
AMANPOUR: President Obama has sort of made it clear, pretty much made it clear that he does not foresee an additional military campaign against
Yet a former senior U.S. official, Zalmay Khalilzad, taking into account the failures of post-war Afghanistan and Iraq, nonetheless, says, at the
very least, there should be a credible use of force on the table in order to get Assad to pay attention.
Do you think that's likely to happen in the remaining months of the Obama administration?
MCGURK: We're going to take the next few days to try to get something in place, particularly in the northern section of Aleppo, where the cessation
of hostilities is completely fraying.
In other parts of the country, such as the south, the cessation of hostilities has actually had some real benefits.
I think we have to do everything we possibly can to enforce what was agreed upon by the entire international community and by all the external actors
who have a role in Syria.
So no question, we have to find a way to enforce the cessation of hostilities and that's what's being discussed now, I'm just not obviously
going to get ahead of that process and internal deliberations.
AMANPOUR: So tell me now about the fight against ISIS, because there have been some -- there has been some progress by Iraqi forces, by Western
forces that are backing them up.
What do you think is the prognosis for Fallujah and also for Mosul?
MCGURK: Well, for the first time in the campaign against ISIL, we have multiple offensives going on at once. We have a major operation now
ongoing in Syria, in Manbij city, which was kind of the hub of ISIL's external plotting network.
We believe the Brussels attackers, the Paris attackers, all kind of pulsed through this network from Raqqah through Manbij and then into Europe to
carry out their attacks. So we have to move in that operation. That's moving well.
We have the city encircled and over the coming days, I think they'll begin to move into the city.
It will be difficult, a lot of civilians there but it's going fairly well.
In Iraq, we have multiple offenses going on now. In Fallujah, Iraqi security forces, the counterterrorism service forces, now have broken
through the crust of the ISIL defenses. They now have set up a foothold in the southern neighborhoods of the city.
This will take some weeks to unfold. But right now that operation is going well. We have humanitarian concerns, which we're also dealing with. And
we're also, as you mentioned, simultaneously moving in the kind of southern edges of Mosul to complete the encirclement of Mosul.
ISIL has never felt this much pressure in Syria and Iraq. And it's only going to intensify. We met with the president yesterday and the national
security team. And the clear mission of us, all of us working on this effort, is to accelerate the campaign to defeat ISIL and that's what's
going to happen.
AMANPOUR: And my final question, the president of Afghanistan, in the wake of this terrible shooting in Orlando, told me that the fight against ISIL
in Syria and Iraq is tending to push some of them into Afghanistan. So that's one issue.
Does the U.S. government believe that there is active ISIS in the United States?
MCGURK: This attack in Orlando, as James Comey has said, there's no link to any sort of external network. This is a very troubled, very disturbed
individual in Florida. It suggests a terrible, tragic, horrible crime.
But he, at one point or another, has pledged affinity with Hezbollah, who is a moral enemy of ISIL and Al Qaeda. He's also pledged to affinity to
Jabhat al-Nusra, which is Al Qaeda's affiliate in Syria, which is fighting ISIL.
So this is a very troubled individual with no external link as far as we've seen so far. And we're going to make sure we keep it that way.
They're trying to inspire lone wolf attacks throughout the world. It's in all of their propaganda; it has been for years. And they're going to
continue to do that. What is attracting so many people to this movement is this notion of a caliphate and a historical narrative that they are this
global movement. They're not.
We're shrinking a caliphate every single day, their phony, self-proclaimed caliphate. That's going to continue. And their so-called affiliates, such
as in Libya, are also now beginning to disappear off the map.
They've recently told their potential recruits, don't come into Syria. And that's because it's much harder for them to get in and, if they do get in,
they're going to die there.
But they said, think about going to Libya. But in Libya, they're very much in the process of losing their foothold in Sirte. And we're going to make
sure that that offensive continues.
So throughout the world, we're going to continue to pressure this network. It's not just military, it's diplomatic, it's law enforcement, it's
intelligence. That's why we built a global coalition to do it. But this is also a threat that's going to be -- remain with us for some years. And
we have to remain vigilant, all of us.
AMANPOUR: Brett McGurk, special envoy to that global coalition, thank you very much indeed for joining me.
MCGURK: Christiane, thank you so much for having me.
AMANPOUR: So terrorism, security and sovereignty are at the heart of a decision --
AMANPOUR: -- that Britain is about to make, that could change this country and Europe forever: Next week's E.U. referendum. We will look back to
find a way forward with historian Margaret MacMillan. That's next.
AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.
In a week from now, this nation, Great Britain, will cast one of the most important votes in its storied history, whether to stay in or leave the
Both sides are pulling out all the stops. Today on the River Thames, anti- immigrant UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, led a flotilla for the Leave campaign. But the Remain camp wasn't to be outdone.
Pop star Sir Bob Geldof tried to disrupt Farage with a whole fleet of small boats and dinghies and on of those dinghies, Rachel Johnson. She's the
sister of Boris Johnson, who is the face of the Leave campaign.
As the clock counts down and temperatures go up, let's pull back for some much needed perspective with Margaret MacMillan, professor of history at
AMANPOUR: Professor MacMillan, welcome.
MARGARET MACMILLAN, OXFORD UNIVERSITY: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: The people say they are being inundated by political slogans being hurled between each side. They want the facts.
So first I want to ask you about the fact of Europe.
Why do you think people are using Europe as this bogeyman right now?
MACMILLAN: I think there's a lot of unhappiness over globalization. Globalization has been great for a lot of people. There are a lot of
losers. I think there's a sense that things are slipping away, that our society is not what it was. There's a refugee and migrant crisis or so
And so I think Europe has become a sort of shorthand form to say that's what's wrong. Let's disentangle ourselves from this ghastly organization
called Europe and suddenly everything will be all right. We'll go say -- the boats are interesting, the British are calling on that seafaring thing,
the little boats at Dunkirk. We'll be the island again, sailing safely on the silver seas --
AMANPOUR: So it's harkening back to a simpler past, is that what you're saying?
And when Britain was leading the empire.
MACMILLAN: Yes. I think there's a huge amount of nostalgia, particularly in the Leave campaign, because they're talking about Britain reasserting
itself, Britain being a world power again, Britain not needing anyone one. They're talking about the glorious Elizabethan Age. They're talking about
the time that Britain ruled the world.
It's a fake sort of nostalgia because of course it doesn't take into account the complexities. And for a lot of its history, Britain was a
tiny, little, frightened island. It wasn't this great, dominant world power.
AMANPOUR: You said unhappiness with -- you said perceived migrant and refugee crisis. But immigration is the touchstone of all this
disaffection. It apparently is the motivating factor for those considering this issue here, especially on the Leave.
So it's not a -- you say perceived.
But it's a real issue, right?
MACMILLAN: Yes, there's a real issue here. But I think what's perceived about it is that the immigrants are somehow responsible for everything else
that's going wrong. So I can't get a job, my child can't get a job. It's the fault of the immigrants.
It's not at all clear that it is --
MACMILLAN: -- that immigrants are actually bringing a lot to the British Isles.
I'm an immigrant so I feel slightly sensitive about this. But I think Immigrants are paying their share of taxes and more than their share of
taxes. But I think immigrants, like the E.U., have become shorthand for something that people feel is unsettling in their world. And I'm not
dismissing that because I think there is a lot that's unsettling.
AMANPOUR: Now before I get to some of the specifics, and you mentioned you're an immigrant, you're from Canada, of course, the Leave campaign
talks about Canada a lot.
But first I want to ask you, what is it about Europe that is good for Britain?
MACMILLAN: Well, Britain has always been part of Europe. I mean, the British are European. If I see it from Canada -- in Canada, we say Europe.
Europe is everything to us on the eastern side of the Atlantic. Britain has been enmeshed in Europe, culturally, socially. British people, Nigel
Farage, that's a French name. You know, he came from somewhere else. His ancestors came from someone else.
Ideas have flowed back and forth. Trade has flowed back and north. And so to say that Britain isn't part of Europe seems to me just to be defying
AMANPOUR: Well, talking about history, some 300 or more historians, including Simon Schama and others, signed a letter, basically saying that
Britain would be condemning itself to irrelevance.
They said, "We face a choice to cast ourselves adrift, condemning ourselves to irrelevance and Europe to division and weakness, or to reaffirm our
commitment to the E.U. and stiffen the cohesion of our continent in a dangerous world."
Do you agree with that?
And how bad would this be -- we've talked about Britain if it left -- but for Europe if Britain was to leave?
MACMILLAN: I think it could be very bad. I mean, I think one of the things people don't realize is some will, because the E.U. and the idea of
Europe for being there for quite a while now, they think, you know, it's fine. We can shout. We can complain, we can say we don't like it.
It's a bit like adolescence. I don't like my parents; I'm going to leave home. They'll be sorry.
But you leave home and then find there's no home there. And what worries me is there are so many strains in Europe at the moment, the right-wing
nationalist movements and pitting one country against another, there's also the fear of Russia. Europe is facing challenges. It's facing climate
change, it's facing a challenge from Russia.
Is this a time to weaken what has been something cohesive? AMANPOUR: And more than that, you just mentioned right-wing and left-wing extremist groups, a lot of these insurgencies, these disaffected movements,
are being led by some of the people who perhaps were the kinds of people who typified the worst times in the 1930s.
MACMILLAN: And I think the danger when times are troubled, and I think you see in the '90s (ph), I wouldn't draw an exact parallel, but in the 1930s
with the collapse of capitalism, with widespread troubles across the world and in Europe, what you got was people turned to simple solutions and on
So you have got a rise in communism; you've got a rise in fascism, because the leaders of those parties said, we've got the solution. It's really
simple. It's straightforward. And I think that's the danger today. And people want solutions. I'm not say we shouldn't look for them. But be
careful of things that are too simple.
AMANPOUR: You have also said -- you likened the E.U. to a pair of old slippers.
What do you mean?
MACMILLAN: It's a bit unkind to the E.U. What I mean is you get used to something, it's comfortable. You don't pay much attention to it. You
think, yes, I could get something more modern, I can get a nice pair of high-heeled shoes.
Who needs those old shoes?
You kick them aside and you suddenly realize that they were comfortable, they kept your feet warm. You can walk in them. You can't be comfortable
walking in your new high-heeled shoes.
AMANPOUR: And what about David Cameron then?
How comfortable or uncomfortable is he going to be?
How do you think history will look at David Cameron, Remain or Leave?
MACMILLAN: I don't know. It's very difficult. But I think people will look back and say, why did he do it?
Why did he call the referendum?
He didn't have to. I think he was afraid of UKIP, the U.K. Independence Party, he was afraid of the right-wingers, anti-Brit, anti-Europe people in
his own party. And I think he thought he'd get it settled once and for all.
I think, in retrospect, he must be regretting that he ever did it. I think he should have weathered the storm and he should have let Parliament
AMANPOUR: You see your role as much as mythbuster as historian.
What do you think are the main myths here?
Particularly, actually, they use your country, Canada, as an example of how they could have the same kind of trade that they have with the single
MACMILLAN: I guess it's what we do professionally as historians, we're pains in the neck. We do bust myths.
But I mean, people are talking about Canada, saying, look, Canada has complete independence in the world. It negotiates all these trade
agreements. Well, it's not so easy. We negotiate agreements but we're actually a fairly small economy. We live next door to a very big power.
We do more or less what the Americans want. You know, we don't have an equal meeting with the United States and we have not managed yet to
negotiate a trade agreement with Europe. It hasn't been ratified and it doesn't protect a lot of important things, like investments.
AMANPOUR: So you're basically saying the U.K. will be doing what Europe wants much more than what the U.K. wants if it gets out.
MACMILLAN: I'm not sure Europe will be doing what -- the U.K. will be doing what Europe wants. I think a lot of Europeans will regret the U.K.
going out. But I think there will also be a bitterness.
I mean, when the British say -- the Leave people say, look, we can easily renegotiate agreements with Europe, I don't think it's going to be so easy.
I think a lot of Europeans are going to be cross and angry and hurt.
AMANPOUR: Well, we'll see. Historian Margaret MacMillan, for the Remain campaign, thank you very much indeed.
AMANPOUR: And when we come back, a royal decree. No, it is not on Brexit. But the future king of England makes a very public statement at a very
important time. We'll explain.
AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, can you really imagine a world where a British royal makes history by appearing on the cover of a magazine?
It happens all the time.
But not what Prince William, second in line to the British throne, has just done. He's made history by appearing on the cover of a gay magazine, in
order, he says, to send a strong message against bullying the LGBT community.
Quote, "No one should be bullied for their sexuality or any other reason."
In the July issue of "Attitude," that is what he says. It is the U.K.'s best-selling gay magazine. Prince William met with the LGBT members to
hear how bullying impacts their mental health, which has been the main focus of his and his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge's work.
He seems to be taking a stand, as his mother, Princess Diana, did in the '80s, becoming the first royal and the most high-profile public figure to
reach out to the gay community.
It was the height of the AIDS crisis, visiting people in hospital and famously shaking hands with those suffering from AIDS to try to
destigmatize the condition.
The duke's show of support comes at a time when gay marriage has been enshrined by the United States Supreme Court. But, as we've seen in
Orlando, where deep-seated homophobia still exists in the West and where it is a capital crime in many other parts of the world.
As they say in royal circles, noblesse oblige.
That's it for our program tonight. Thanks for watching and good night from London.