Return to Transcripts main page


World Reacts to Trump at Munich Conference; U.S. Defense Secretary Says Trump Fully Supports NATO; One Month of Trump

Aired February 17, 2017 - 14:00:00   ET


[14:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Tonight, from the Munich Security Conference, global defense and foreign ministers cast a weary eye

on a White House in turmoil and they are asking what really is the Trump foreign policy.

Good evening, everyone, and welcome to our special program from Munich tonight, where the organizers of this conference behind me called this

moment a stress test for the transatlantic alliance, under a torrent of Trumpian tweets often contradictory and confusing on the world's most

challenging issues. They are urging the west to organize and to seize the day, to continue defending security and shared democratic values.

They worry about the Trump administration's commitment to Europe, about whether they alone will be able to ward off the threats from Russia or

indeed whether they will be able to uphold the nuclear deal with Iran.

I began the day with an exclusive interview with Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. I asked him about Donald Trump's threats to that Iran nuclear

deal, to that constant broadsides against Tehran and the new sanctions slapped on because of Iran's later ballistic missile test.


AMANPOUR: Foreign minister, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: When the United States says that they put Iran on notice and as you heard President Trump saying that actually Iran has been very lucky

Obama administration was very kind to you, what's your answer to that?

ZARIF: Well, first of all, everybody over the past 38 years has tested Iran and they all know that Iran is hardly moved by threats. We do not

respond well to threats. We respond very well to respect and mutual respect and mutual interest.

I believe President Obama and his administration tried every other option. They were the first who tried the crippling sanctions. The net result is

when they started the sanctions; we had less than 200 centrifuges spinning. When they came to the negotiating table, we had 20,000 centrifuges

spinning. So the reason President Obama and Secretary Kerry came to the negotiating table was sanctions had not worked.

AMANPOUR: So when you hear President Trump saying this is the worst deal ever that we're going to do this that or the other, rip it up, renegotiate

it, move the goal post, add more pressures on Iran for other behavior, not just the nuclear parameters -- regional, Germany, terrorism, what do you

say about that? Do you think it will happen?

ZARIF: First of all, I believe this was the best deal that was possible for all concerned. Not just for Iran, but for the United States, too. I'm

sure they would have tried and they did try to get a different deal. But this was what was possible.

We had other preferences, too. So we had to come to an agreement on a middle ground. And I believe a deal is a good deal when nobody is totally

happy with it.

AMANPOUR: So, again, what do you think sitting in Tehran, do you believe the Trump administration will try somehow to change the deal? What have

you heard from your interlocutor? You say it's not a bilateral deal. So what have you heard from European ministers who have spoken to the Trump


ZARIF: I believe everybody, including experts in the United States know that this is the best deal that was possible particularly in Europe.

Europe played an important role in getting to the deal and we've heard every representative of European countries -- UK, France, Germany, European

Union, others making the same statements that this deal is not open for renegotiation. We've heard Russia and China making the same statement.

AMANPOUR: As you very well know, certainly the U.S. administration under President Trump certainly said an Arab allies of the United States, Saudi

Arabia, the gulf states, certainly Israel and many other countries are very worried about the projection of Iranian power.

You recently gave a very impassion speech about this ballistic missile test in which you said it was defensive. But people are watching Syria and they

are seeing that without Iran, this murderous regime would not still be in power. And they are wondering, where was the defensive nature of your

intervention on behalf of Bashar Assad in Syria?

ZARIF: Well, I think if they want to look at regional influence, they need to look at the wrong choices that they have made.

AMANPOUR: Specifically, I need to ask about this, because I'm not asking about them. I'm asking about Iran.

ZARIF: Yes, I will ask --

AMANPOUR: Why come in on the side of the Middle East Milosevic (ph)?

ZARIF: It's your impression, but my --


[14:05:00] AMANPOUR: No, Mr. Foreign Minister. There are 500,000 people dead. There are 12 million refugees. There's torture. There's mass

hanging. It's not my impression, those are the facts.

ZARIF: No, those are not the facts because you had a group in Syria that was armed and equipped and financed by outside forces. Mistakes were made

in the beginning, but the worst mistake of all was to arm a group of terrorists, who are not only a threat to Syria, but a threat globally.

Mistakes were made in Syria as in the past mistakes have been made. The same people who armed Daesh, armed the terrorist groups, but it's the same

people who armed Saddam Hussein, but it's the same people who created an armed al-Qaeda, that a group of countries, which the United States calls

allies, plus the United States itself and here I'm referring to President Trump himself during his campaign saying that Daesh is a creation -- ISIS

is a creation of the United States government.

AMANPOUR: You defend very passionately the way the world sat by and watched Saddam Hussein gas Iran during the Iran-Iraq war with no

accountability. And yet you are supporting Bashar al-Assad who's been gassing his own people with chemical weapons, with chlorine gas and barrel

bombs. It's really hard to understand why you would take that position.

ZARIF: No. We never support the use of chemical weapons because we were victims of chemical weapons. And we --


AMANPOUR: Right. But they are using it and you are supporting them.

ZARIF: Hold on. We made a very clear stand against use of chemical weapons. We were instrumental in getting the international agreement on

the removal of chemical weapons from Syria.

Unfortunately, that international agreement lacks a very serious element and that is to remove chemical weapons from the stock piles of ISIS and al-

Nusra who have now been confirmed, even by the United States as having used chemical weapons against Syrians.

AMANPOUR: There is word in the United States that President Trump may commit ground forces to Syria to fight ISIS, and that is his mission. He

wants to destroy ISIS. Would you support that?

ZARIF: No. We have to see what created ISIS. I believe what created ISIS in addition to very clear financial support that came from certain allies

of the United States, it was a fact of occupation. We need to look at this and not commit to solutions at are -- instead of being solutions are in

fact part of the problem.

AMANPOUR: So you wouldn't support it.

ZARIF: I believe, I believe the presence of foreign troops in an Arab territory against the leash of the government and the people of those

territories is in and of itself a recipe for these demagogues, these extremists to rally behind and to gain your support and to recruit new

fighters who are disenfranchised views, who have been deprived of their dignity because of certain policies that have been followed.

So we need to look at this from a comprehensive approach. We should not try to address one particular element and then augment the problem itself.

AMANPOUR: Can I move on to why people in the region are worried about Iran today.

Prime Minister Netanyahu standing next to President Trump said that, yes, Iran says its missiles are defensive but on them are written we must

destroy Israel.

ZARIF: I challenge anybody who's making accusations against Iran, who's complaining against Iran simply to make a simple statement this is not

anything outlandish. We have never used our weapons except in self- defense. For 250 years, never invaded any country. But anybody who dare to invade us, even when the international community, the entire world was

behind them, just like Saddam Hussein, we showed them that they cannot defeat the resistance of our people. We will resist aggression. We need

means to defend ourselves.

AMANPOUR: Why do they have destroyed Israel on them when they get fired off?

ZARIF: Well, they make statements every day that they want to destroy Iran. They make statements -- you heard the statement, I'm sure you've

heard the statement that all options are on the table. You know what that means. All options are on the table means that they are threatening on a

daily basis to use force against Iran. We've never made that threat at any level of government or Iranian system against anybody.

AMANPOUR: And last question, in response to a lot of what's coming from the Trump administration, the supreme leader said, you know, we want to

thank Mr. trump for finally showing the true face of the United States. And it seems like, you know, tensions inside Iran, you know, the death to

America chants, all of those things that seem to be easing off after the nuclear deal have come to the floor.

How would you describe the mood inside the country? Where do you think this is going to lead?

ZARIF: Well, the U.S. policy -- at least declared policy was that they respected the Iranian people and had defenses with the Iranian government.

Now the current administration unfortunately decided to insult the entire Iranian nation, who compose a large segment of Iranian migrants, people of

Iranian origin, people who are studying in the United States, people --

AMANPOUR: We're talking about the ban of course.

ZARIF: The ban. And that was an affront to the entire nation who has not committed one single act of terror. You cannot find any Iranian who has

committed a single act of terror against Americans in any of these atrocities that have taken place.

Iran has always condemned every single terrorist incident in the United States since 9/11. And for the current administration, to come and pick

Iranians of all people, who are a very successful group in the United States, the most educated, according to statistics, the most educated, the

most successful in business in the Silicon Valley and elsewhere in the United States, are Iranian migrants.

And to insult them was in fact to show that that policy was stated policy, of differentiating was not accurate. That statement was false. And that

created the reaction of the Iranian people.

AMANPOUR: Foreign minister, thank you very much indeed for joining me.

ZARIF: Good to be with you.


AMANPOUR: And, next, NATO. What does the British defense secretary make of his U.S. counterpart suggestion that the United States might moderate

its commitment to the alliance?


AMANPOUR: Welcome back to our special report from Munich, where all eyes and ears are on what the top U.S. officials here are saying. Defense

Secretary James Mattis sent a sigh of relief through the gathering by reaffirming America's support and commitment to NATO.

But he also sent a shiver by saying that unless the alliance maintains its share of the burden, the United States could moderate that support.

The conference opened with concern by the organizers that for the first time in seven decades since World War II, America's commitment to leading

this world order is in question.

They say massive uncertainty now surrounds the future of the Transatlantic alliance. The NATO secretary general put on a brave face saying that all

members were committed to upping their pay to the alliance, but he also said that America would continue leading because NATO is in America's

interest, too.


JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: We have to remember that two world wars and the Cold War, fought or sets stability and peace in Europe

is also important for the United States. And the only time we have invoked our collective defense cause Article 5 was after an attack on the United



AMANPOUR: I sat down with the British Defense Secretary Sir Michael Fallon for his take.


AMANPOUR: Secretary Fallon, welcome to the program. We have literally just come out here after General Mattis, the U.S. defense secretary has

given his opening remarks to this conference.

I want to ask you first, how did you react to the remarks, to the defense of NATO but also to meetings that you've been having with him in Brussels,

where this word moderate U.S. support for NATO was bandied around by General Mattis.

MICHAEL FALLON, BRITISH SECRETARY OF STATE FOR DEFENCE: I think we're extremely fortunate in NATO to have Secretary Mattis there in post as

defense secretary. A former NATO commander. Somebody respected by our military in Britain, by military across Europe. Somebody who served in

Iraq and Afghanistan.

And I noted today that he was encouraged by the response that he got from NATO. I've been with him for two days. He gave us a tough message on

spending. They want the alliance to modernize, to face new threats. We agree with that. We spend two percent in Britain. We want other countries

to do the same.

AMANPOUR: Obviously, the Trump administration has made this transactional relationship front and center of its commitment to NATO. There was a lot

of concern and consternation over the last two days when the word from Brussels, your meetings in Brussels had General Mattis threatening,

warning, I don't know what the right word is, but to moderate U.S. support and defense of NATO.

What does that word moderate mean to you and the rest of Europe?

FALLON: Well, first of all, the president gave our Prime Minister Theresa May an absolute commitment that the United States is 100 percent committed

to NATO.

Now, the Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, I think issued a timely warning to the rest of Europe that we have to take our share of -- a fair share of the

burden of expenditure.

AMANPOUR: Is it normal operating procedure that the most powerful member of NATO, the umbrella, the security umbrella that lasted since World War II

talks about if you don't, then what, moderating support, withdrawing support, whatever it is? Did you get that kind of message?

FALLON: We can't always expect the United States to lead. We can't always expect every deployment to be led by the United States. We have to lead,

too. Britain is deploying troops in the Baltic states, so is Canada, so is Germany and the other countries have got to do the same.

AMANPOUR: Can I just read you a few words from the opening statement by Ambassador Kissinger. Basically he was asking what is our national

security. The most important role played by the United States is now in question. He said there's, quote, "Massive uncertainty including about the

future of the Transatlantic relationship. What really will be U.S. foreign policy today?"

FALLON: There's always a degree of uncertainty as people in the new administration settle down. But you've got to judge the administration by

what it does, not by what was said during the campaign. What it's actually doing. And I'm in no doubt about the commitment to the United States to

the alliance.

AMANPOUR: Can I ask about security? Some of this is also political security in Europe with the rise of populist nationalism, plus as many of

the officials here have been -- talked about, I was surprised to hear, the word fake news, fake news, fake news, fake news constantly being deployed

here at this security conference. Why?

FALLON: Because we've seen a step change in Russian behavior over the last couple of years -- weaponizing misinformation, using the tools of

propaganda and fake news through news agencies that they are able to influence to get these rumors, to get these rumors going and we've seen

some pretty unpleasant interference in a number of the democracies across the European continent and indeed in the United States.

The allegation that they interfered in the Democratic Party machinery. And that's new. That's a step change in Russian behavior and we need to call

it out.

AMANPOUR: What could that lead to? Let's say in elections coming up in France and, you know, Germany, Netherlands, elsewhere?

[14:20:00] FALLON: Well, it's a disturbing pattern of behavior now that is beginning to see Russia trying to influence the outcome of a democratic


AMANPOUR: And what about your very security. The head of GCHQ, Britain's, you know, intelligence, basically said that Britain is being hit by 60

significant cyber attacks a month, including attempts by Russian state sponsored hackers to steal defense and foreign policy secrets from

government departments, that's their new cyber security chief.

How dangerous is the threat? Can you tell us?

FALLON: Well, it's a very real threat and we recognized it as one of the top three threats affecting Britain. We put aside some 2 billion sterling

to deal with it over the next few years. And we're helping not just agencies of government defend themselves and our military, but we're also

helping businesses defend themselves against attack.

So this is yet another threat that we have to deal with and we have to deal with it in our own way, but we should also look at it in the alliance.

AMANPOUR: And is this war by other means? I mean, do you feel like Europe is in a state of war, obviously an unconventional war, but nonetheless war

is being waged?

FALLON: Well, Europe is facing threats from terrorism, conventional threats, threats from the nuclear posture of those countries that have

nuclear weapons but it's also facing this kind of hybrid warfare, a mixture of different techniques, whether it's cyber or propaganda or

misinformation being used in different circumstances.

So the answer is NATO has to modernize. It has to be able. It has to be faster and more agile at dealing with these threats just as it is in the

deployment of troops and tanks.

AMANPOUR: There's a lot of advice coming now and a lot of concern in European capitals that if the United States pulls back not just its NATO

shield, but its intervention in the rest of the world, that Europe will have to, quote, unquote, "Wake up, get organized and figure out its own

European defense posture."

Is that real?

FALLON: Well, we've not seen the U.S. pulling back yet. On the contrary, we've seen the U.S. deploying troops to Poland with Secretary Mattis, the

counter Daesh coalition ministers met yesterday to discuss how we can accelerate the campaign against Daesh in Iraq and in Syria.

Equally, Europe, yes, has to do more to make sure the alliance is as relevant now as it was in the years of the cold war. And that it's agile

and fast enough to face up to some of these European threats on its own.

AMANPOUR: Would you deploy ground troops to fight Daesh? You know, there was word from the United States that perhaps they would put combat forces

on the ground in Syria?

FALLON: No. We think this is a battle that has to be won by local forces that have the support of the local population. That the Sunni population

on western Iraq and Syria, that the Sunni population can support. It can only be done by local troops, not by western boots, but we're there to


We're there with intelligence, we're there with air strikes and we're there with training. Britain alone has trained nearly 40,000 Iraqi and Peshmerga

troops and we're making a contribution with air strikes into helping the Iraqis liberate the rest of Mosul.

AMANPOUR: Secretary Fallon, thank you very much indeed.

FALLON: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: Next, we imagine a world led by not just a new American administration, but by a very different one.


[14:25:36] AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, it's four weeks in. Yes, four weeks, one month since Donald Trump took the oath of office as president of

the United States.

In that time, he has tried to implement and institute a Muslim travel ban. He's done battle with the U.S. courts over that. He's had a running war

with the U.S. media and he has railed against his own intelligence services. And yet, in his latest press conference, Donald Trump said his

administration is running like a well-oiled machine.

And here at the Munich security conference, this year's report warns of a world facing unprecedented dangers. Its illiberal moment, saying, quote,

"Across the west and beyond, illiberal forces are gaining ground. From within, western societies are troubled by the emergence of populist

movements that oppose critical elements of the liberal, Democratic status quo. From outside, western societies are challenged by illiberal regimes

trying to cast doubt on liberal democracy and weaken the international order. And western states themselves seem both unwilling and unable to

effectively tackle the biggest security crises with Syria as the prime example."

Indeed, an illiberal world order does nothing to help Syrian refugees fleeing their war to end the terrible war in Yemen, to help unite divided


So imagine a world, imagine those leaders in the conference behind us summoning the willingness and the ability to face our most pressing crises.

And that's it for our report tonight. Remember, you can always listen to our podcast and see us online at and follow me on Facebook and

Twitter. Thanks for watching and good-bye from Munich.