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Iraqi Kurdistan President on the Battle for Mosul; Filmmaker Shares Rare Insight of Julian Assange; Love Thy Neighbor

Aired October 19, 2016 - 14:00:00   ET



[14:00:10] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Tonight, the battle for Mosul is in full swing. My exclusive with the president of Iraqi Kurdistan as his

Peshmerga forces lead the charge.


MASOUD BARZANI, IRAQI KURDISTAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We have achieved many successful achievements. And the terrorists of ISIS, we

managed to defeat them. But it's a fierce fighting.


AMANPOUR: Also ahead on the program, Ecuador unplugs Julian Assange as WikiLeaks keeps hacking into Hillary's campaign emails.

Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in New York. ISIS leaders are fleeing Mosul. That's according to

the American military in Baghdad, three days into the offensive to liberate the city.

That as our Ben Wedeman reports from the front lines, the fighting is hard enough. But there are much bigger concerns about the day after.


HAIDER AL-ABADI, IRAQI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): The victory bell has rang and the operations to liberate Mosul have begun.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is the Iraqi prime minister who issued the call to arms this week. But it was

the Peshmerga troops from Iraq semi-autonomous Kurdish region in the north who made the first push.

Some 40,000 of them are moving on Mosul. They've proven to be an effective ground force, driving ISIS out of Mount Sinjar and steadily pushing back

the frontline.

The threat to Iraq's Kurds is existential. ISIS territory is just a short drive from their capital here in Erbil. Their success has larger political


BARZANI (through translator): I would like to reassure the people of Mosul that there is a coordination between the Peshmerga forces and the Iraqi


WEDEMAN: That reassurance from President Masoud Barzani is necessary because his has long been called the nation in waiting. Full independence

has long been Barzani's dream. The central government in Baghdad said only Iraqi troops will enter Mosul city center. That's the plan, but as they

say, no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Erbil, Northern Iraq.


AMANPOUR: And joining me now from Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, is the President Masoud Barzani.


AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, thanks for joining us.

BARZANI (through translator): Thank you.

AMANPOUR: You have just come back from the front lines. You're talking to your commanders. How is the fight going?

BARZANI: Today is the third day of the first phase of the liberation of Mosul. The fighting is continuing and up until now, 300 square kilometers

has been liberated. And the war is continuing.

AMANPOUR: Is it harder or easier than you thought?

BARZANI: This is a war. Sometimes it's easier. And sometimes it's more difficult. And sometimes it will not be as expected. But in general,

there are many advances and we have achieved many successful achievements. And the terrorists of ISIS, we manage to defeat them, but it's a fierce


AMANPOUR: What kind of resistance are you seeing? We have seen one image of a Peshmerga force being confronted by an ISIS suicide bomber. And

obviously we've also seen trenches which have been set on fire, oil trenches. How difficult is the resistance?

BARZANI: They depend on the car bombs, mostly. And also they are burning black oil in order to make a lot of smoke so the fighter jets cannot see

them. But these did not prevent the advance of the Peshmerga. The resistance is very low. But they depend on the car bombs, the mines and

the suicides personnel. And ISIS -- the people, the families are IDPs now and they are in Kurdistan.

[14:05:07] AMANPOUR: So tell me about why this is important for the Kurdish people? Why is this fight important for you? And what is the

formation and the military responsibility of the Peshmerga? What are they meant to be doing?

BARZANI: The terrorists say that Mosul is the capital of their militia. Mosul is 60 to 70 kilometers far from Dahuk and 18 kilometers far from

Erbil. And it's on the touch line with the Kurdistan region. So the existence of ISIS terrorists in Mosul is constant threat to Kurdistan


AMANPOUR: You know there's a lot of concern about all the different forces, which are fighting.

What is it that you as president of the Iraqi Kurdistan want in return for helping to liberate Mosul? Because there's a lot of talk about political

activity, about territorial gains for the Kurds.

BARZANI: We do not want to conquer anyone's land. And the lands or the Kurdish lands are the Kurdish lands. And whenever we can attack and hit

the terrorists, we will do that. And we always say that anyone who helps us against the terrorists, we thank them. And also, also we will help to

diminish the terrorists. This is our philosophy in our war against the terrorists.

AMANPOUR: You've said that this is the first time the Peshmerga and the Iraqi forces have worked together. And there is obviously a huge concern

about what happens after Mosul is liberated. So many competing forces, competing political groups, competing ethnicities and militias.

Is there a plan for Mosul after the liberation?

BARZANI: This is the first time that the Peshmerga of Kurdistan with the Iraqi forces, they fight against the one enemy. And it's a change. And

the second thing is we, we would have loved to have a political plan along with a military plan how to manage Mosul, how to administrate Mosul because

Mosul have a variety of religions with ethnicities

Probably it would have taken a longer time. But in order for us to continue, to continue not to face more difficulties, so we agreed with

Baghdad, to form a committee -- a joint committee that if there is any problem occurs, we can deal with it.

AMANPOUR: All right, you just said there was no political plan for the post-liberation of Mosul in order to govern Mosul. But there are reports

that the United States believes that the former governor of Mosul will come back. The governor of the Nineveh Province, which where Mosul is,

(INAUDIBLE). And the place will be divided into sub-districts to be, you know, governed by local mayors.

Is that acceptable to the Kurds? Is that the plan as you know it?

BARZANI: I'm not aware of this kind of plan. But there must be a new form for Mosul. But the most important thing is that all these people, all the

components of Mosul to be reassured of their future. And not to face this crisis again.

The solution is that after the liberation of Mosul -- first of all, we'll not -- let's not allow the revenge on and we want to reassure the people of

Mosul, to live a prosperous life and no one can have revenge.

And also, to have a common administration -- a common administration or some administration divisions in order to insure a good future for all

these components. So we have to talk about all this with the people of Mosul and also with the related parties.

AMANPOUR: Do you expect a massive exodus of civilians from Mosul during this fight? Have you seen people coming towards you for instance? Are you

prepared to host refugees, if you like? People who are fleeing the fighting now in your area of Kurdistan?

[14:10:06] BARZANI: Now the Kurdistan region -- despite this crisis, now that we are having, we have 1.8 million IDPs from Mosul and all other

people. Also 300,000 came from Syria. There are Kurds and other people as well.

We cooperate fully with the federal government with all the parties. But from now on, the international community must help us, because we cannot do


AMANPOUR: And, finally, are you optimistic and how do you see this next few weeks going? How long until Mosul is liberated, do you feel?

BARZANI: War is not a pleasant thing. But these terrorists -- these terrorists have made life very difficult for the people of our country and

also for the security of Europe and the world. So this is a big fight. This is a big war.

And if we can -- if we can diminish, diminish these terrorists, I'm optimistic that the Peshmergas, brave Peshmergas will do a good job.

And also I said this is a fierce fighting. This is not an easy war. But I believe in the cooperation with the Iraqi army and also with the support of

the coalition forces, we will have great victory.

AMANPOUR: How long do you think it will take?

BARZANI: This is a difficult question. We wanted to be as soon as possible. But it's difficult to set a certain time. We are continuing and

we will advance, God willing.

AMANPOUR: President Masoud Barzani, thank you for joining us, from Erbil tonight.


AMANPOUR: And when we come back, President Obama says that Russia may be trying to influence the U.S. election. And Ecuador unplugs WikiLeaks.

Next, one-on-one with the Oscar-winning filmmaker who knows the dark side of Julian Assange and his motives. Alex Gibney joins us after a break.


AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

Now the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for four years became a little more isolated today.

Ecuador says that it's restricting his Internet access because they believe he's trying to influence the U.S. election.

Assange and WikiLeaks have been releasing a steady stream of stolen or hacked emails from Hillary Clinton's campaign amid suspicions that he's

colluding with Russia.

Now even senior Republicans are speaking out here. The former candidate, Senator Marco Rubio has warned his party not to make hay out of all of

this, quote, "These leaks are an effort by a foreign government to interfere with our electoral process and I will not indulge it," he said in

a statement. "Further, I want to warn my fellow Republicans who may want to capitalize politically on these leaks. Today, it's the Democrats.

Tomorrow, it could be us."

So what is Julian Assange's story? Perhaps no one knows better than Alex Gibney, the award-winning documentary maker, who did make "We Steal

Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks," and he joins me now here in New York.


[14:15:10] AMANPOUR: Alex, welcome to the program.

Everybody is sort of scratching their head, trying to figure out what is behind and what motivates Julian Assange to release all this Hillary

Clinton inside story.

ALEX GIBNEY, FILMMAKER, "WE STEAL SECRETS: THE STORY OF WIKILEAKS": Well, it's very difficult and it can be complicated to disentangle some of the

conflicting issues.

You know, I think Julian as an individual is motivated by personal pique. He hasn't liked a lot of things that Hillary Clinton has said about him in

the past.

I think in terms of his position as a public figure, as the guy who runs WikiLeaks, he's always believed in the sort of anarchic value of releasing

as much information as possible relating to people in power and that that will ultimately prevent them from saying stuff in secret, which will allow

us all to hold them to account in some way.

So there are conflicting agendas here. And I think it's complicated. But it's clear that he's trying to tilt the scale against Hillary Clinton.

AMANPOUR: You know, one of the reasons we're talking, is not just because you know him, and you've spent what you yourself describe in this op-ed for

the "New York Times," as an agonizing six hours for your 2013 documentary on WikiLeaks.

But the title of your op-ed is "Can We Trust Julian Assange and WikiLeaks?" And it has to be said you've also done "Zero Days," which is about


So the U.S. believes and I actually asked the Russia foreign minister who denies it, but the U.S. believes that Russia is very much the hacking

source and just giving all this stuff to Assange.

What do you believe based on your expertise after discussing and examining this cyberwarfare in general?

GIBNEY: I believe a couple of things. It's fairly certain that the Russians were behind the hack to get the DNC emails. That is pretty clear.

We really don't know at this point who is behind the hack of the Podesta emails. In fact, it could have been the Trump campaign. It could have

been a hacker who took them to Julian Assange, because they knew he would publish them. It may have been something as simple as getting a password

that allowed somebody access.

So in the Internet, attribution is so difficult and that's one of the problems here. The question of Julian Assange as a publisher is more


Obviously as a publisher, if there are emails that are in the public interest, he should publish them. No matter where they come from. On the

other hand, Julian is very irresponsible in terms of how he publishes materials that really aren't in the public interest.

In fact many materials put people at risk or embarrass them needlessly, and violate their privacy in a way that is setting a very bad example for

ethics on the Internet. And I think Julian Assange who does have a considerable amount of power as a publisher is abusing it.

AMANPOUR: Well, let's take down into that. Because on the one hand, you do believe that the release of the DNC emails was in the public interest

and was a public service.

But you have written and we sort of know that there are a lot of extraneous information that have also been released at the same time. You're just

alluding to that.

Tell us what that information is. And he also did that, regarding hacked emails from Turkey's ruling AKP Party. And that caused a huge firestorm of

protest in the summer.

GIBNEY: Yes. What you referred to has to do with a number of emails that game out I believe the addresses and personal information on a number of

women who could have been very badly compromised by that information, by people in power.

So it was exactly the opposite of what Julian Assange maintains, which is that he's speaking truth to power. He was actually handing those in power

a way of victimizing the vulnerable. So it was an appalling case.

And even in the Podesta emails, there's a lot of gossip and trivial information that only reflects badly on people in terms of how they conduct

themselves theoretically in private. That has nothing really to do with the public interest. But Julian Assange really isn't interested in

curating. And this puts him in very big distinction to somebody like Edward Snowden, who has been very careful about how he takes the materials

that he has, giving them to journalists who pore over them, make sure nobody is harmed by their release and make sure that they're in fact in the

public interest. That's journalism.

What Julian Assange is doing is publishing, sometimes valuable, sometimes extremely reckless. And also I think it is fair for us to hold him to

account in the sense that it's important to know what Julian Assange believes and how he thinks his motivation has got to be clear. Because

it's clear that he's tilting the scale against Hillary. Maybe in collusion or maybe not with the Russians, that we don't know. We really don't know

for sure whether the Russians have handed him the material or how he's gotten it.

It is clear that the Russians have an interest in influencing the American election. So all this stuff is trying to be sorted out and people are

trying to sort it out in real time when it takes a lot of time to figure out attribution.

It's very complicated in the Internet. And a lot of information can be provided and a lot of disinformation can be provided very quickly.

[19:20:25] AMANPOUR: You mentioned the Podesta email several times. Obviously John Podesta is Hillary Clinton's campaign manager.

And it appears that a lot of social security numbers and all sorts of other sort of private information that you are referring to was published.

But you also talk about, in your op-ed, about how it's different now to what it was originally. When WikiLeaks published the Afghan logs about the

Afghan war, they did it in conjunction with a number of highly reputable news organizations who went through a process, what we all know called

redaction, right?

They will scrawl-out and black out any sensitive information, names of people whose lives may be in danger.

But why do you think that's not happening anymore?

GIBNEY: I think there's two reasons. One is that Julian doesn't really care. I don't think he's that interested in redaction. I don't think he

ever was.

It is interesting, you refer to the Afghan war logs. And there was a problem. Material was released. But in the next release, the Iraqi war

logs -- the people around Julian really made a big deal of the need to redact. And then they devised a brilliant computer program to scrub the

material of all the information, which would have put people at risk. It was genius. And, therefore, it allowed that material to be put out into

the public domain in a way that wouldn't harm individual sources.

After that, Julian, I think, reverted to form in his leaks of the State Department cables. Because he ultimately ended up dumping them on the

Internet. And that is his policy since then.

And, I think, in point of fact, he just doesn't really care. He thinks in some fundamental way that if you get emails or communiques of the powerful,

they should be released wholesale without any redaction whatsoever. And I think it's terribly reckless, dangerous and abuse of power.

AMANPOUR: And just very finally and very quickly, you also write in your op-ed about one of the sort of strange associations he has with one of the

so-called journalists, who basically is helping him, you say, sort of smear some of these women who have accused him of sexual misconduct.

GIBNEY: Yes, that's correct. I mean, I think you'll find, if you dig deep into the original State Department cables leak, you'll find that some

relating to Belarus were given to a man named Israel Shamir, who handed them over to Belarus in a way that disadvantage people who are campaigning

for civil rights, possibly put them in danger. That person is the father of the guy who's Julian Assange's key witness in the rape case, which may

never come to trial because Julian Assange is in the Ecuadorian embassy.

AMANPOUR: It's truly the stuff of documentaries and films and you've been doing it. So thank you so much indeed, Alex Gibney.

Thanks for being with us today.

GIBNEY: Thank you, Christiane.


AMANPOUR: And, of course, talking of the United States and Russia, not on this planet, but they are at least working together in space. Today, a

NASA astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts blasted off towards the international space station where they'll live and work together in the

closest of quarters for the next four months.

When we come back, some supernational support as Americans find themselves locked into this gloomy election cycle. Imagine a world of Canadians

trying to cheer them up. We'll tell you how. Next.


[19:26:00] AMANPOUR: And finally tonight ahead of the final face-off between the two U.S. presidential contenders, the mood is less one of eager

anticipation and more one of impending doom and gloom.

When it comes to tenor and bare-knuckles bust-up. How low can the debates go, we ask?

Well, Canada is coming to the rescue. Trying to be a good neighbor. Maybe it's because they're still swooning over their own prime minister, whose

year-long political honeymoon just won't stop.

Yup, one poll shows that two-thirds of Canadians approve of Justin Trudeau's leadership. For Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, those are

numbers to die for.

And so tonight, we imagine a world where Canadians aren't gloating, they're doting on their American cousin. With a new campaign that urges them to

tell America it is great.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's up, America?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey guys, we're just up here in Canada talking about how great you guys are down there. We thought we'll just send you a little

bit of love.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We like you guys.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We know you've got some really big decisions to make.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But as you're thinking about your future...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We just want you to know that...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You guys are great.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You really are great.


AMANPOUR: Some here south of the border are giving that love right back with a campaign of their own. Tell Canada, thank you.

Now, you might remember the report we did from Cape Breton in Canada this past summer. Well, it gained instant fame by offering quote, "asylum" to

Americans fleeing the prospect of a Trump presidency. And since we were there, an American, one, has actually moved in. And Americans have snapped

up five properties, which is up from zero the year before.

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 New York.