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Iraq PM on Mosul Offensive; Paris Climate Deal Close to Becoming Binding; The Muppet Pulling at Afghanistan's Heart Strings

Aired September 22, 2016 - 14:00:00   ET


[14:00:02] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Tonight, live from the United Nations, Iraq's prime minister on taking down ISIS from the stronghold that

shocked the world. And why he's optimistic that Mosul can soon be liberated.


HAIDER AL-ABADI, IRAQ PRIME MINISTER: What we are doing now, we have a schedule. And this schedule is on time. And we are progressing here very

rapidly. Much better than we anticipated.


AMANPOUR: Plus, my interview with former U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres on what's uniting nations in this time of global disunity.

And the Muppets, those string less puppets, bringing joy and love to thousands of children across Afghanistan. We take you behind the scenes of

"Sesame Street" in downtown Kabul.

Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program.

I'm Christiane Amanpour at the United Nations, where the most pressing issue this year is about finally eliminating the global menace that is

ISIS. The Iraqi army has just announced it's recaptured the town of Shirqat, which is a crucial stepping stone in the big push towards Mosul.

Iraqis backed by U.S. forces are gearing up for a huge fight to try to take back that key city, which is where this global menace all started back in


The Islamic State is hunkering down there, apparently, building tunnels under the city and a mote around it. Citizens in Mosul say the group is

panicking with a spate of arrests and executions.

When I sat down with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi just last night, he predicted today's victory in Shirqat. And I started by asking about

reports of ISIS using a mustard agent against U.S. forces assisting in that area.


AMANPOUR: Prime Minister, welcome to the program.

Can I ask you, first, to react to some latest news, which is that U.S. officials say that an ISIS mustard agent attack has taken place on U.S.


AL-ABADI: Well, some of this is old news. We had some information, the reports is that Daesh has acquired some chemical weapons from stores in

Syria. They tried to use it in Iraq. But they don't have the means of using it. It's not only chemical weapons. It's how you use it. How you

swat on the other side.

They haven't developed their means. They're trying very hard, but they have been not effective at all.

AMANPOUR: Are you concerned, given you just said that they have brought it from Syria. That they could perfect it?

AL-ABADI: I think they're trying. They've tried. They've thrown some missiles on Khasa, which is in Kirkuk, a few months ago and it cause

injuries to people. But it wasn't that much effective.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you, because everybody, the world is sort of looking at what is going to happen with Mosul.

What is the status first of Shirqat. The town somewhat south of Mosul, that's seen as sort of a first test case.

AL-ABADI: Yes, we've started this operation yesterday and our forces now almost inside the city. I think they've taken part of the city, and I hope

tomorrow they'll be inside the city proper.

All these villages that's been taken by our forces in one day, or one and a half day, which is I think is an accomplishment. Daesh is retreating.

AMANPOUR: So do you believe that your forces have got not just more expertise and they're readier, but their morale is higher than it was

obviously when Daesh sent them packing from Mosul?

AL-ABADI: Yes, for sure. The morale of our army is very high at the moment. We haven't lost a single battle since more than a year ago. I

mean look at the map now. Fallujah was liberated, simultaneously while we are, we're fighting to liberate Fallujah, our army pre-took Qayyarah, which

is south of Mosul inside Nainoa (ph).

So we have this ability now -- our security forces has this ability now to wage different wars at the same time with maximum capabilities.

AMANPOUR: So what can you tell us about the plan for Mosul?

AL-ABADI: What we are doing now, we have a schedule. And this schedule is on time. And we are progressing very rapidly. Much better than we

anticipated. Of course some people say it will take months to liberate Mosul. We never know.

They've told us it could take months to liberate Fallujah. We liberate it. It took three weeks with minimal casualties. And that the idea was to --

we wanted to delay Fallujah until after Mosul. Because everybody thought it's a very much harder place, but we've managed. Our security forces have

managed successfully to liberate it.

The same with Mosul. We are on track. There is like a certain time, which has been fixed. But still I have to decide at the last minute, what when

our forces will start offensive to liberate Mosul.

AMANPOUR: What does it depend on?

AL-ABADI: It depends on last-minute preparation of our armed forces. We have still some units in training. They supposed to end the training in

probably -- in one week.

We have to provide a proper air cover. The main issue which is remaining is all we have to be careful about it as humanitarian. Caring for the

population inside Mosul. This is a huge task.

AMANPOUR: To that point, obviously, the U.N. has been wondering, you know, what will happen.

Apparently, aren't there about a million people whose lives are at stake?

AL-ABADI: Well, we have experience now from other fights and other areas and other cities, Daesh, usually they dig in and they usually prepare for

the worst with what we have seen them.

In the last offensive, they just flee. They put a resistance on the start and we don't find much resistance. What they -- they plant many IEDs in

the way of our forces. They have snipers to try to delay our forces from advancing. That's what we have seen the pattern in other cities. But this

pattern has been reduced now in Nainoa (ph).

Now about three weeks ago, there is a city of Qayyarah. The people stayed in the city while our armed forces moved into the city. The citizens have

helped our security forces to advance. And in actual fact, some of them they took part in the advance of our forces and they've killed some Daesh

and others they just flee and we control the city.

AMANPOUR: Do you think that will happen in Mosul? Will, do you expect, are you counting on them to be able to rise up as well?

AL-ABADI: Exactly. We're counting on them to do this. Because, to be honest, Mosul supposed to be easier than these other cities outside Mosul,

which we've been liberating. Because these are the outskirts, they've supposed to be more pro-Daesh than the city itself.

But you never know, we have to plan for the worst. Yes, we are planning for a fight for many months. But we anticipate the fight for Mosul will be

easier than probably Ramadi.

AMANPOUR: What will the effect be, the knock-on effect, if Mosul is liberated?

AL-ABADI: I think it's huge. I think this is a huge blow to Daesh. Daesh is an ideology -- false ideology. Were they are trying to convince young

people that they have a state, which is expanding. And probably some young people like this. They want to contribute to this. Now what we are

showing, Daesh is shrinking.

If we take Mosul out, it's a huge blow to Daesh. That's why Daesh will be probably resorting to some terrorist attack somewhere either in Baghdad,

along populated area, some cities in the western, in the west or probably the U.S. or other areas.

Every time we manage to break their back in a battle like what's happened in Fallujah, they strike in Baghdad, they strike in France. They strike in

probably other places.

AMANPOUR: You've been in office for over two years now, just over two years. It coincided with when Daesh really came to Mosul, and really, they

were very black days.

And you had a really hard job in front of you. Personally and politically, what have these two years done for you?

AL-ABADI: Well, for me, or for the country? I think if you look at the map, two years ago, we were, we were fighting around Baghdad to protect

Baghdad. I remember when U.S. army report was that Baghdad airport was under threat.

And, of course, we tried to say no, we are fighting very hard to protect it. But since then, we made it much safer. Baghdad Airport.

We pushed the enemy back. We liberated Tikrit. The whole of Saladin now is liberated. The whole of Diyala is liberated. Most of al-Anbar, we're

reaching the border of Anbar.

We are fully controlling the highway from Amman to Baghdad. Most of it was in the hands of Daesh at that time. Now we are, our army is on the

doorstep of Mosul (INAUDIBLE), trying to liberate the area. So it's a huge advance.

I mean, two years ago, people were not believing Daesh is that bad. They thought some areas welcome Daesh. Because they thought Daesh would get rid

of something, they would give it freedom. Daesh walked into Iraq under the slogan of protecting the Sunnis. But in actual fact they ended up killing

the Sunnis, destroying their properties. Making majority of Sunnis homeless.

I think the world was shocked to see Daesh occupy so many cities at one go. And many Iraqi army divisions just collapse.

[14:10:00] But since then, I think people have grown in confidence. They've seen the world has moved quickly, swiftly to support them, to

support our military and this is very positive. People, because this is a hideous, criminal organization. Terrorist organization which we are very

careful, to be very careful about. We shouldn't give it a second chance.

And I think this cooperation of the whole world with Iraq is a positive step which enabled us to free our land.

AMANPOUR: Prime Minister Abadi, thank you very much indeed for joining us.

AL-ABADI: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And after a break, we go from trying to liberate Iraq and Syria, to trying to save the whole world for future generations. Good news from

the United Nations next.

I speak to one of the architects of the Paris Climate Accord, Christiana Figueres.


AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

From here in the United Nations, and there is precious little good news this year from the world body that was set up to end wars and manage global

refugee crisis.

However, on one grave existential threat to our planet, there had been progress and it is important progress.

The U.N. has announced that an important threshold for the Paris Accord on Climate Change has just been passed. More than 55 countries have now

ratified it and that includes the worst polluters, China and the United States.

As the agreement comes close to being legally binding, the woman who helped pull off this feat, Christiana Figueres joins me. She is the former U.N.

climate chief.

Welcome to the program.

CHRISTIANA FIGUERES, FORMER U.N. CLIMATE CHIEF: Thank you very much, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: So let me get all that actually correct. So China and the United States have said they will ratify it.

FIGUERES: No, they have already.

AMANPOUR: They have ratified it. So that's totally formal.

FIGUERES: The instruments of ratification are in.

AMANPOUR: OK. So that means 55 members --

FIGUERES: Well, actually 60, which is very exciting.


FIGUERES: Because the threshold that we -- there's a double threshold. It was 55 countries. And we now have 60 instruments of ratification already

in right behind us. But the other threshold is they have to represent 55 percent of global emissions. How many mission do we have? 47.5. So we're

almost there.

AMANPOUR: So what's it going to take to get to the 55?

FIGUERES: Well, it takes more countries, but there are many countries who actually came and gave -- put in their instruments, and many other

countries who said we're working on it and we will have them in by the end of this year.

AMANPOUR: And there's no doubt?

FIGUERES: So we are waiting with bated breath.

AMANPOUR: And there's no doubt?

FIGUERES: No, there's no doubt. We will definitely go into force either this year or certainly in the first quarter of next year. Which is three

years early than what it was originally planned. How often does that happen?

AMANPOUR: OK. Well, it doesn't. Particularly on climate change, I mean, this whole, you've been working on this for so much of your professional

life. And you more than anybody probably has come across the intransigence, the climate deniers, the moral equivalent -- or the factual

equivalents between deniers and climate acceptors.

Did you ever think that you would get to this tipping point?

[14:15:00] FIGUERES: Well, we certainly knew a year before Paris that we would get an agreement. What we worked on for the 12 months just before in

December 2015, was on an ambitious agreement. And we've been on this ambitious momentum ever since. The fact that we already have 60-odd

countries who have ratified is also a sign of concern, Christiane. Honestly, that's what it really reflects.

It reflects that every single country has already felt the effects of climate change. And so there really is very little space left for

denialism, on the one hand.

On the other hand, most countries have not -- have also understood that addressing climate change is in their interests.

AMANPOUR: And let's just keep it real here. Because it's not just about air quality and pollution, it's actually about the whole global migration

crisis that we're seeing, too, right?

FIGUERES: Very, very clearly. Very clearly. Because one of the very threatening effects of climate change is what we call desertification,

which is the process of arid areas becoming more and more decertified, becoming true desserts.

Once that happened, you can imagine the people who live there, can no longer live there. They don't have food. They don't have water. They

have to migrate.

And we already have 65 million migrants or at least displaced people in the world, higher than any other time in history. We cannot afford to double

or triple that number.

AMANPOUR: So given that, are you concerned that there are still important climate deniers?

Today, about 300 eminent scientists have written a letter to Donald Trump, you know, talking about getting on board, the climate change bandwagon. As

you know, he's called it a hoax. He said it's bad for business and who knows what might happen if he becomes president.

What would you say to any leader who may be thinking of ripping these kinds of deals up?

FIGUERES: I think it's pretty clear, ask your business. The fact is that there is an ever-increasing number of business who have understood it is in

their interests. They are really worried about business continuity and believe me they are. They really want to be on the cusp of this. They

want to be ahead of schedule. They know that we are moving into a decarbonized economy and they want to contribute. They want to be there.

They don't want to be the Kodaks of the world. They don't want to have a Kodak moment. They want to be with the technologies of today.

AMANPOUR: Again, it is incredible that this sort of happened, especially in the U.S. which is having such a hard time ratifying all the previous


But what about the next big issues? You were talking about having to deal with aviation fuel and all the pollution.

FIGUERES: Yes, it's very important. Because aviation being international, obviously mostly international, and maritime transportation also, mostly

international, are not covered by the climate convention, not by these numbers that we have just discussed. So that is also contributing to

climate change. Although they're not covered.

So those two processes are actually coming to a head, also. Very soon. Next week, we will be looking at aviation emissions and there's very good

momentum. No deal yet. But very good momentum on most carriers, actually airline carriers saying we want to be a part of the solution and give us

something practical.

And then we will be looking at maritime. I will also looking at refrigeration substances that also have climate effects. So we're looking

through all the sectors that contribute to climate to really be able to --


AMANPOUR: You mean like the incredible air conditioning that goes on in the U.N. building behind you?

FIGUERES: Indeed. And for which, we have to put on, you know, our winter clothes in order to go in there in the middle of the summer.

AMANPOUR: Why have you stepped down from being a contender for the next U.N. Secretary-General? There was a great sort of groundswell of hope,

prediction that it might be a woman this time and you're up there, given what you've achieved.

FIGUERES: I stepped down because above all I'm a very loyal person and I have institutional loyalty.


AMANPOUR: Was it disloyal putting your name forward?

FIGUERES: No. But it would have been to continue there and make life very difficult for the Security Council. The Security Council for the health of

the organization needs to get to the point of a very short-lived and make a final decision as soon as possible.

It is unfair to the institution, it's unfair to the world to finally come to the decision of a secretary-general minutes or days or even weeks before

they have to start.

The more time that person has to prepare, the better it is for the institution. So I stepped down in order to alleviate and accelerate that

process for the Security Council.

AMANPOUR: Well, this Security Council having a very, very hard time. We talked about the catastrophic failures over Syria, for instance. And you

said that the U.N. is on a precipice right now.

I want to play a sound byte from the Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, outgoing, who used some of the strongest language he has ever has about


Let's listen.


[14:20:00] BAN KI-MOON, U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL: Powerful patrons that keep feeding the war machine also have blood on their hands. Present in this

hall today are representatives of governments that have ignored, facilitated, funded, participated, in or even can and carried out

atrocities entreated by all sides of the Syrian conflict against Syrian civilians.


AMANPOUR: Practically his whole term has been dominated by this, and there have been so many words of outrage, perhaps not as strong as this from him.

But what kind of a leader would you like to see take the helm? And can a secretary-general really actually do anything when it's the constituent

parts, the five members of the Security Council, the permanent members, who rule the roost here.

FIGUERES: I do think so. I think there is space for the secretary-general to create an atmosphere there of more trust, of more confidence, of more


But what Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has said here is true, either -- in fact, both by commission and by omission, OK? So what I have said from the

very, very beginning is that we need to understand that this is not just about the crisis, painful as it is. Bloody as it is. We are creating more

of these situations in the future if we don't deal much better with natural resource management. Because we're going to have more and more of these

conflicts. There is an arc of peace. There is an arc of conflict. And we need to see all the components of that arc.

AMANPOUR: Christiania Figueres, thanks for joining us.

FIGUERES: Thank you very much.

AMANPOUR: Do you think a woman is going to win?

FIGUERES: I hope so. I hope so. It is about time.

AMANPOUR: And on that note, the accord, those Climate Accords were signed in Paris last December you remember. And now France is following up

announcing that all disposable plastic cups and plates will be banned by the year 2020.

When we come back, imagining a different future. We go to Sesame Garden in Afghanistan, where a new puppet is enchanting the children. And, boy, do

they need it.


AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, we imagine a fantastical land of friendship and felt smiles.

Meet Zari, the first Afghan Muppet for Afghanistan's version of "Sesame Street" known "Sesame Garden" there.

Well, our Ivan Watson paid her a visit, and even managed to pull some strings to get an interview with the new girl on the block.



ELMO: You're sweet.

ZARI: Thank you, Elmo.

WATSON: She is the newest resident of "Baghch-e-Simsim," or "Sesame Garden."

It's the Afghan version of the popular children's television show, "Sesame Street."

Zari is the first and only Afghan Muppet on the program, and I got a chance to meet her.

[14:25:10] WATSON (on-camera): Salam. Hello.

ZARI: Salam.



WATSON: So this is Zari. I'm going to ask her how old she is.



WATSON: Six years old? You're six?


WATSON: Who is Zari?

SIMA SELTANI, PUPPETEER: Zari is a naughty, intelligent and so cute girl.

WATSON (voice-over): 18-year-old Sima Seltani and 23-year-old Mansoora Shirzad are the puppeteers who bring Zari to life.

(on-camera): Do you think it's important that Zari is a little girl?

MANSOORA SHIRZAD, PUPPETEER: Yes. It's lots of rules for a girl here. Lots of challenges. We want to show to people that it's not impossible for

a girl to do anything that she wants.

WATSON: How do the children react when Zari comes into a school?

SELTANI: They are, they seem so happy.

SHIRZAD: They want to touch Zari. They want to hug. Mostly, they want to kiss Zari.

WATSON: That's beautiful.


WATSON (voice-over): There's a whole team that puts together "Baghch-e- Simsim," including Zubair Ahmad Kakkar, the Afghan voice of characters like Grover and Cookie Monster.

(on-camera): How does Cookie Monster sound in Afghanistan?


WATSON (voice-over): It's not easy to make children's television here in the studio while facing the very real dangers of the war outside.

Last January, a Taliban suicide bomber killed an editor of "Baghch-e- Simsim," Sayed Jawad Hussaini, along with at least six others in an attack targeting one of the TV station's buses.

The producers avoid references to the conflict. They say the TV show provides a safe escape for children.

SHIRZAD: We want to give this idea for the children that's, it's not just about war in our country, and we want to make them happy and make them to


WATSON: There is magic to how these talented Afghans bring Zari to life. And the proof is on the faces of the children.

Ivan Watson, CNN, Kabul.


AMANPOUR: So Afghanistan, the latest destination, "Sesame Street" is shown in more than 140 countries around the world.

And that is it for our program tonight.

Remember, you can always listen to our podcast. See us online at and follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks for watching and good-bye from the United Nations in New York.