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Surviving Syria's Chemical Attacks; The Challenges Facing Trump and Xi; Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired April 6, 2017 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR: -- first mini summit with President Trump. And next we dig deep into the high-stakes negotiations on

trade, North Korea, and other issues.

Tonight, could Donald Trump take military action in Syria, as sources are telling CNN?

A survivor of the 2013 atrocity that crossed Obama's red line tells me the world has failed his people.


KASSEM EID, SURVIVOR, SYRIAN SARIN GAS ATTACK IN 2013: I feel that we've been left alone to suffer and get slaughtered and killed while we turn from

humans into numbers, into statistics.


AMANPOUR: Also ahead, pressure from North Korea on Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at their first mini summit in Florida. Kurt Campbell

who served as the U.S. senior diplomat dealing with Asia joins us.

And the art of negotiation from Jonathan Powell, who spent decades dealing with the IRA, German unification, China, Colombian rebels and many more, as

Britain faces Brexit, what is the main take-away?

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

The world has thrown two of the most serious foreign policy crises at President Trump at the same time. And sources now are telling CNN that he

is considering military action after Syria's chemical attack. And how he responds to Syria and North Korea will set the tone for this

administration's foreign policy.

The president left a rainy Washington to meet the Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. That meeting will happen

tonight. President Xi has just arrived in Palm Beach, even as Pyongyang's progress towards deliverable nuclear weapons puts huge pressure on their

two-day meeting.

As for Syria, the face of what he calls "an affront to humanity," President Trump says his attitude has changed, and his vice president, Mike Pence,

ramped up the pressure on Assad.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think you saw Ambassador Haley at the United Nations today express the very strong

position of the United States of America. We're hopeful that there may well be action in the United Nations Security Council. But let me be

clear, all options are on the table.


AMANPOUR: Now while there are the usual claims and counter claims, Turkey now says that based on autopsies that it conducted with the World Health

Organization, this was a chemical weapons attack Turkey claims by the Assad regime. And now the United States has established that Syrian planes were

in the air and did drop bombs in the city center at the time and place of that chemical attack in Syria when it was reported to have happened.

A U.S. official tells CNN that radar intelligence followed the radar track of regime airplanes and the infrared heat signature of the bombs.

Now Kassem Eid, a former activist and former rebel fighter, barely survived what remains the largest Sarin gas attack of the Syrian war in August 2013.

I spoke to him moments ago from Germany where he now lives.

Kassem Eid, welcome to the program and thank you for joining me. You know, in the wake of this terrible attack, I want to get your experience, your

eyewitness experience of having survived the last really catastrophic Sarin gas attack.

EID: Absolutely. I will never forget in my mind. It is a day that I always describe as judgment day. I was up at 5:00 a.m. for the early

morning prayer. I started hearing the alarms coming from Damascus. Suddenly rockets started flying into the ground. Hitting the ground.

Seconds later I lost my ability to breathe. I felt like my chest was set on fire, my eyes were burning. I felt pain in each and every part of my


A few seconds later I couldn't breathe, I couldn't scream, I couldn't do anything. So I started beating my chest as hard as I can to get just one

single breath.

AMANPOUR: Wow. How did you survive, Kassem?

EID: After I took my first breath I started screaming to alert my friends. Also the name I first started screaming. I tried to help a little boy who

was suffocating. Took him to the field hospital where I lost my conscious there. My heart stopped and the doctors gave up on me after they thought I

was dead. After several attempts with Atropan and CPR, I was placed between the dead bodies.

[14:05:04] My friends noticed I was still moving somehow. They called the doctors again. With a lot of Atropan and a lot of CPR, and a lot of mercy

from God, I had another chance and I woke up.

AMANPOUR: It just is horrendous listening to you describe this and then seeing what happened just this week, just a couple of days ago. I want to

play a little sound bite, a little fragment of an interview that our Ben Wedeman got from one of the survivors of this Tuesday's attack in Idlib.

Just take a listen.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: "I saw the explosion in front of my grandfather's house," he recalls. "I ran to their house

barefoot. I saw my grandfather sitting like this, suffocated. Then I became dizzy." How many of his relatives were killed? "Nineteen," he



AMANPOUR: This poor desperate boy. I mean, he must remind you of yourself all those years ago. What do you feel when you hear that?

EID: What do you expect I'd feel? I feel betrayed. I feel disappointed from humanity. I feel that we've been left alone to suffer and get

slaughtered and killed while we turn from humans into numbers, into statistics. That boy's a real boy, just like the boy that I was trying to

save. I don't know, this is not 2017. This is the Stone Ages. This is -- this is a war where the powerful can kill and rape and gas and do whatever

the hell they want because there is no consequences.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you to describe what you have tried to do to make people listen. You have gone on television. You have gone to the United

States. Just describe who you've tried to be -- to talk to since it happened to you, since that famous red line by President Obama.

EID: I tried to talk to each and every person who wanted to listen. The U.S. government. In think tanks. In universities. On media. Everywhere.

I was just trying to convince President Obama to change his mind. But after two years in the States, I give up and I left the States. I left

with my own will out of disappointment.

And now if I may just say, I want again to send a direct message to President Trump if you may just give me few seconds. I want to tell

President Trump, please, for the love of god, don't make the same mistakes President Obama did. Please help Syrians. If you wanted to take out ISIS,

take out the man who helped creating ISIS. If you are a smart man, you should take out Assad.

AMANPOUR: You make a very, very strong appeal. I wonder, Kassem, what you thought when you presumably saw President Trump in the Rose Garden last

night. Very, very strong, very almost emotional about what he's seen happen in Idlib. And he said the following.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That crosses many, many lines, beyond a red line. Many, many lines. I will tell you, that attack

on children yesterday had a big impact on me. Big impact. My attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much.


AMANPOUR: What did you think when you heard that? What did you expect?

EID: I felt hope. I felt hope again. And I hope I won't get my heart broken again. Just like so many Syrians did.

AMANPOUR: Kassem Eid, thank you so much for your testimony tonight.

EID: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: And how President Trump deals with Syria's chemical attack could influence the actions of North Korea. And when Trump and President Xi

Jinping meet tonight behind closed doors, there will be some very tough talk and painstaking negotiations which my next guest knows all about.

Over the past 40 years, Britain's Jonathan Powell has negotiated with the IRA, the old Soviet Union and China, among others. So as Britain bargains

over Brexit and the U.S. confronts China over North Korea, Powell, former Prime Minister Tony Blair's chief of staff, join me here to discuss the art

of negotiation.

Jonathan Powell, welcome to the program. We're talking about all of these very, very difficult negotiations and these critical problems facing the

West. Xi and President Trump, how is that going to go and how would you advise a negotiation over, for instance, North Korea's nuclear capability?

JONATHAN POWELL, CHIEF OF BREXIT EXCHANGE: Well, I'm sure that President Trump will push President Xi very hard on North Korea and ask for his help.

The trouble is so did President Obama and presidents before him. There is a limit to how much the Chinese can and will help on North Korea. You

cannot rely on them to do it.

[14:10:01] Now the American administration has taken the position recently. They won't talk to North Korea. We have this policy of strategic patience.

It hasn't worked. In the intervening period the North Koreans have made great advances in nuclear weaponry. So someone is going to have to talk to

them. It was not the Chinese, it would need to be the Americans, right? I think if I was advising President Trump, I would ask -- I would advise him

put pressure on the Chinese but also be prepared to talk.

AMANPOUR: What about Syria? Because Syria now actually has deployed a weapon of mass destruction several times, but this is the worst in the last

four years. How does the West deal with Assad and I suppose that's about putting pressure on Russia?

POWELL: Well, it's also about being prepared to take action. You know, we have this hangover from Iraq that we now no longer want to take action, as

we did in Kosovo, as we did in Sierra Leone. But I think we need to revisit that. We need to say to ourselves, there are consequences from

inaction as well as consequences from acting in the wrong way. And we need to be prepared to intervene when necessary.

No, I'm not calling for an attack on Syria or anything as silly as that. But why not safe zones? You know, we talk about safe zones awhile back.

The Turks are talking about safe zones. Why not start establishing safe zones where people can go and not be attacked and not subject to these

terrible things like the chemical weapons attack.

AMANPOUR: So those are your views on negotiations that could possibly resolve some very, very dangerous military threats. What about when it

comes to the economic and other threats that Brexit potentially poses, according to some, or the great opportunity that it poses, according to


Donald Tusk is in town today meeting with Theresa May. How is that going in your view?

POWELL: Well, for the last nine months the British side has been negotiating with itself. We've all been talking about what our negotiating

position should be. And now we're going to have to face the hard reality that nearly all of the cards are actually in the hands of the other 27

members of the EU.

AMANPOUR: If you were, you know, in a position to advise the prime minister, what should she do? Because she's already -- we can see

softening some of the stances about free movement of people, about, you know, not doing trade before the -- you know, the settlement is sort of


POWELL: Well, the purpose for negotiations actually to build trust, not to try and win over someone. If you try and win over someone, you won't

succeed. So she has to stop the chest bumping and I think she is doing that. But what she's doing at the moment is retreating from a whole series

of positions. She is saying we must be prepared to accept continued migration and free movement from Europe. She's saying we're going to have

to carry on making contributions to the EU. She's saying we're going to carry on accepting the European Court of Justice. In those circumstances,

why on earth are we leaving?

AMANPOUR: Well, I was going to ask you that.


POWELL: Well, I've never been in favor of Brexit so I don't think it's very sensible. I do think the British people will change their mind when

they see the reality over a number of years of this negotiation, when they see the threat to the United Kingdom itself with Scotland and even Northern

Ireland threatening to leave in these circumstances when they see the threat to Gibraltar, when they see the threat to our economy.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me take Northern Ireland because obviously that was something that you were very, very involved in. You were the main

negotiator for Prime Minister Blair in the Good Friday Peace Agreement and you have recently written "The UK government has put themselves in the

position of achieving something that the IRA couldn't achieve by 30 years of armed campaign. They've actually put the issue of a united island back

on the agenda."

And this presumably is all about the hard border between EU republic of Ireland and Brexit Northern Ireland.

POWELL: That's exactly right. We have politicians who go around saying there won't be a hard border. Both Tony Blair and John Major, both of whom

contributed to the Northern Ireland peace process. Went to Northern Ireland during the campaign and said the danger is a hard border.

Theresa Villiers who is the North Ireland secretary of Northern Ireland. Now the government says no, there won't be a hard border but they don't

explain to us how they're going to avoid it and you have a different customs policy, and you have a different immigration policy. How on earth

can you avoid a hard border? And once you have a hard border you undermine the basis of the Good Friday agreement, which is by identity you are able

to be Irish and British and live in Northern Ireland. Now with a hard border that will be much harder.

AMANPOUR: You know, you've mentioned in your writings, you know, you have to go all the way back at least to Hong Kong where again Britain thought

that it had this great hand but actually China really had the hand because it didn't care about the things Britain did. And you mentioned the

negotiator there.

Give us a sense of I guess what it takes to have a successful negotiation when you may not hold all the cards?

POWELL: It does take a great deal of subtlety. In the case of Hong Kong, Mrs. Thatcher thought that the Chinese would never try and kill the golden

goose. China needed Hong Kong for imports and exports, for currency and so on. So she thought they'll be sure to allow us to keep sovereignty, sure,

they'd allow us to keep administration. But actually they wouldn't. Because years of nationalism in China have made people feel the opium wars,

the loss of Hong Kong was a national slight. And they were determined to reverse it.

So as soon as you raised the issue, Deng Xiaoping said we will have Hong Kong back in China. We can have one country and two systems. But once he

said that in the Chinese system there was no going back from it. But in the end what we managed to do is by using the deadline that Deng Xiaoping

set for these negotiations, he said they had to be finished within two years and his official staff had to deliver it. And we said well, we're

not bound by this deadline. We can go on and negotiate further.

[14:15:02] And we used that right until the end of the negotiation to force them into some real details, and the details that may exist on all sorts of

issues from the economic to the political. And those really are what allowed Hong Kong to prosper in the intervening period.

AMANPOUR: So by that logic, can Britain do that with the EU?

POWELL: Well, actually, unfortunately the deadline works against us in this case because you have this two-year deadline. And for the EU, it's

fine because that -- all 27 agree the deadline can be extended. For us the problem is we can do nothing to change that deadline. It is there in law.

They will implement it against us unless we can persuade all 27. And they'll want something for changing that.

AMANPOUR: And throw up a coin. Do you think it will happen in two years?

POWELL: My personal belief is that there is no chance the negotiations will be complete in two years. Absolutely no chance. They're much too

complicated for that. My belief is that the British people will actually change their mind when they begin to see the realities of Brexit and it may

well not happen.

AMANPOUR: On that note, Jonathan Powell, thank you very much.

POWELL: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: Now Churchill famously said that instead of war, war, let's jaw, jaw. And we'll have more of that after a break.

I'm joined by Kurt Campbell, who is the Obama administration's point man on Asia. And we drill down on whether Trump and Xi can strike a deal on

containing North Korea and all the other major issues.


AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. Now how to diffuse Pyongyang's nuclear threat will be one of the main issues on the table when Chinese

President Xi Jinping meets President Trump at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

Kurt Campbell is the former assistant the secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affair for the Obama administration and he joins me live from

Washington now.

Welcome to the program. And you have obviously dealt with this issue and you've met President Xi on several occasions. Just from your perspective,

tell me about him and how the chemistry, not to mention the negotiations, might work with President Trump.

KURT CAMPBELL, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, THE ASIA GROUP: Great. And thank you, Christiane. Let me just say, I don't know if chemistry has ever been more

important in the relationship between the United States and China. Perhaps back to the time of Nixon and Mao, largely because each leader depends on a

very small group of advisors and really takes advice most from themselves. Right? And so Xi is a singular leader. He has spent the last three or

four years essentially dismantling collective leadership in China. He makes almost every major decision.

There are some similarities between the men. They're both nationalistic. They're both head strong. They both are impatient and they distrust the

media. I think the chemistry is likely to be initially quite difficult. I think they're both domineering personalities. It is going to be

interesting to see how President Xi presents himself and China in the meetings with the president, particularly after all the tweeting and all

the sort of critical comments the president has made about China in the last couple of weeks.

Just one last thing. I was just in China, and just as there are big debates in the United States about China, the advisors around President Xi

are divided themselves about what to expect.

[14:20:07] One group believes that President Trump is essentially a negotiator, and this is highly transactional, and China just has to come up

with the right price, and then everything can proceed accordingly. Another group believes that this is really a sea change in American policy and

we're heading into a situation in which much greater tensions, even conflict, might be in store.

AMANPOUR: Well, you talk about conflict. And what is on the table is the perennial threat of conflict over North Korea. And it seems that that is

ramping up. I mean there's all sorts of declarations that are being made, not to mention, you know, President Trump, what he said to the FT, if China

doesn't deal with this, we will.

Just give me a sense of what is the best the U.S. and the world can expect to come out of their meeting on North Korea?

CAMPBELL: So I probably take a minority view here, Christiane. I think by putting so much pressure on the issue, and by acting a little bit, you

know, unpredictable, I think the Chinese are very anxious about North Korea and are likely to take steps to try to rein North Korea in.

Now despite protestations that they don't have as much influence or leverage, they do. And they're going to be very worried that an

unpredictable president might take steps that go beyond previous administrations. I know that seems contrary that, you know, the crazier

you are, the more impact you have on China. But I think behind the scenes, China's prepared to ramp up pressure on North Korea commercially and



CAMPBELL: I'm not sure President Xi will admit that in the meeting with President Trump, but behind the scenes, I think the pressure's ramping up.

AMANPOUR: You may have heard Jonathan Powell who also does North Korea work, and has done in the past, but basically stating the obvious, that

your administration's policy is strategic, patience. And other previous administration's policies just didn't work. The -- the sticks didn't work

because North Korea has ramped up its nuclear program and is now very, very close to threatening the United States. Do you think it's -- the U.S.

should actually decide to talk to North Korea under the correct circumstances?

CAMPBELL: Yes, Christiane, that's the key here. I think there is this idea somehow that the West and the United States has not been prepared to

talk with North Korea. We have been prepared to talk to North Korea, but on the condition that North Korea will make a choice between international

engagement or, you know, isolation. And to enjoy the benefits of being part of the international community, they have to give up nuclear weapons.

They have not been prepared to do that. I think under any circumstances -- and I am afraid that the way forward is going to involve more pressure,

both on North Korea and on China. The key here, though, is consultations with the allies and preparations.

This administration is not fully manned. There's no one below Secretary Tillerson. It is largely chaos in policy making. We have deep uncertainty

in South Korea. No consultations with Japan, and no relationship really of trust between the United States and China.

AMANPOUR: Well, quickly --

CAMPBELL: So you cannot court -- yes. You can't court this kind of tension without creating the context for harder pressure.

AMANPOUR: Well, you know, obviously up until now, President Trump's focus has been on trade and what he calls, you know, China basically raping -- he

used that word -- the American economy. What is that going to do for dynamic and is trade going to be more important? Or how are they going to

trade that off with security?

CAMPBELL: My guess is that the Chinese are going to come with a card, and they're going to say, look, we're prepared to invest this amount of money.

We're going to send this number of 747s to the United States. Chock or block full with Chinese investors and buyers and we're going to buy

airplanes and technology and property.

We're going to do everything we can to help you make America great again. And they're going to hope that that kind of highly transactional approach

which is about American jobs and investment will win over the president. I think they're also hoping that the president does not have very much

experience or knowledge in diplomacy or the history of Asia, and so there are attempts that China's made in the past to play a similar card. They're

hoping that he doesn't have that context to be able to make judgments.

AMANPOUR: All right.

CAMPBELL: Whether this is a good or bad deal.

AMANPOUR: We shall see after these few days at Mar-a-Lago.

Kurt Campbell, thank you very much indeed for joining us.

CAMPBELL: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: And after a break, imagining the enterprising student newspaper reporters who scoop their own principal.

[14:25:07] It is a story taking the world by storm. We'll have it next.


AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, we imagine the high school investigative reporters scoring a major scoop and taking the world by storm. When

Pittsburgh High School in Kansas hired a new principal, a feature report by the school newspaper designed to introduce her to the students and the

community really wasn't supposed to cause much fuss. But that all changed when the school's budding journalists quickly discovered inconsistencies in

their new head teacher's story during their interview with her.

Now encouraged by their teachers, they dug deeper and they scored a major front page scoop revealing the Master's degree and doctorate that she

claimed actually belonged to a decidedly doggedly dodgy institution with no known address. They also found irregularities in her claimed bachelor's

degree from the University of Oklahoma. And just four days later the new principal resigned.

Pittsburgh High School told us today the students handled it professionally and with integrity. They knew it was a big responsibility, but committed

to the story anyway.

I guess it is never too early to speak truth to power.

And that's it for our program tonight. Good-bye from London.