Return to Transcripts main page
The Untold War in Yemen; FBI Translator Turned ISIS Bride. Aired 11- 11:30p ET
Aired May 2, 2017 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[22:59:44] CLARISSA WARD, CNN ANCHOR: The untold war in Yemen and the famine that threatens to engulf the country. Tonight a rare voice on the
ground. Top humanitarian leader Jan Egeland joins me from the capital Sana'a with a plea to world leaders to help end the bloody conflict that is
bringing the Yemeni people to their knees.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[23:00:06] JAN EGELAND, SECRETARY-GENERAL, NORWEGIAN REFUGEE COUNCIL: Millions of refugees by this conflict. It has to stop. It can stop. It
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARD: Plus, how to stop terrorists from taking advantage of the chaos across Yemen and the Middle East. My interview with former FBI special
agent and best-selling author Ali Soufan.
Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Clarissa Ward in London sitting in for Christiane Amanpour who has just sat down with
Hillary Clinton in New York for her first live TV conversation since the presidential election. It was part of a "Women for Women" charity event
where Clinton implored the Trump administration not to end efforts to improve women's rights.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am going to publicly request that this administration not end our efforts making women's rights
and opportunities central to American foreign policy and national security.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I was going to ask you what you made of the severe proposed cuts to the State Department.
AMANPOUR: To the USAID budget.
AMANPOUR: To the women's issues and platforms that you started.
AMANPOUR: And what you make of the distinct lack of any women, most women, at the security and defense and peace table of this current administration.
CLINTON: Well, I'm hoping that voices like many of yours in this room, and I would say bipartisan, nonpartisan voices, will speak up for the work of
diplomacy and development. I know that Secretary of Defense Mattis understands that. He has spoken out and said you cut the State Department
and the USAID budget, you're going to have to buy me more ammunition because you cannot talk about pursuing diplomacy and development that will
be to the benefit of the United States to our security, to our values and interests, without understanding then that we're left with just one tool in
the toolbox. Namely, the military tool.
That is a necessary tool but it should be only one of three. And diplomacy and development should be the first efforts. And I'm hoping that because
of voices like Jim Mattis and others that that will begin to influence the administration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARD: Christiane was speaking with Clinton as part of a Women for Women charity event. And you can see much more of their wide-ranging
conversation from women's rights to North Korea to Syria across CNN in the coming hours and on this program tomorrow.
One of the many crises facing the Trump administration is the devastating civil war in Yemen which has killed at least 10,000 people after nearly
three years of fighting between Iran-backed Houthi rebels and the Saudi-led coalition.
Already one of the poorest nations in the Middle East, the country is in even more desperate need of aid with millions on the brink of famine. The
secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, Jan Egeland, is currently on the ground in the Yemeni capital Sana'a. He told me that the
situation is beyond belief and that nobody is aiding the efforts for peace.
Jan Egeland, thank you so much for joining us on the program. I want to start out with something the U.N. secretary-general said last week that was
so striking. He said that on average, a child under the age of 5 dies of preventable causes in Yemen every 10 minutes. I mean, that is just
staggering. How is this happening?
EGELAND: What I've seen here in Yemen is indeed shocking. It's beyond belief because we, the world, are letting a civilian population, some seven
million people, men, women and children, be engulfed in famine. And what's even worse is that it is preventable, but it is still happening. And it is
totally, totally manmade.
WARD: You use the word famine, and I wonder, what specifically constitutes a famine and how is it manifesting itself in terms of the numbers of people
that you are seeing on the ground in Yemen who don't have enough to eat.
EGELAND: Well, some 17 million people are food insecure in Yemen. I mean, they -- their lifeline is threatened, if you like.
[23:05:05] Seven million are on the brink of famine. Half a million children are life-threateningly malnourished. It means that people are not
dying slowly but surely at home, especially children, and the weakest. I was today going to the hospital here to see one of the few specialized
feeding centers for the most malnourished children. That had just been closed. Why? Because the nurses and the doctors had not been paid salary
for eight months. They are themselves trying to survive. They've stopped working.
Mothers with babies are turned away. They've gone home. They do not have enough food. The World Food Program and the rest of us in the humanitarian
community tried to reach the seven million people every single month. We could afford to reach just over three million this month. That is the
acuteness of this disaster. We need cash. We need relief. We need injection of capital now.
WARD: Just explain to us why it is that these people are starving. Why is it that wages aren't being paid, that aid isn't getting in, that food isn't
being grown? How did it get to this level of catastrophe?
EGELAND: Well, this is first and foremost the war that has been going on now for years. Totally senseless war where you have competing authorities
here in Sana'a where I am now and in Aden where I was just visiting. So you have civil war with regional powers aiding the different sides to this
war. Nobody -- everybody is bringing fuel to the fire. Nobody is aiding the peace effort really. And at the same time, there is a severe
restrictions on air space, on sea routes and on land. Some call it the blockade. That means that the commercial sector has totally collapsed.
All of that can stop if we get the authorities in Sana'a and Aden to sit down on the negotiating table instead of killing each other. If we get
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Iran, and the Western powers who support the Saudi-led coalition, to sit down and push the
parties to the negotiating table and stop bringing fuel to the fire.
WARD: You mentioned Saudi Arabia, and of course Saudi Arabia and the Saudi-led coalition are the ones who are essentially enforcing that
blockade. Have you and the U.N. and others doing similar types of work sat down with Saudi Arabia and asked them categorically to lift this blockade,
to allow the free flow of aid and food back into Yemen? And if so what's their response?
EGELAND: There has been numerous contacts with the Saudi-led coalition which is, by the way, Western backed. The United States and the United
Kingdom and now this assist this coalition. We've asked them to let the economic sanctions drop. There may well be an arms embargo but there
shouldn't be this enormous economic sanction. They say that they want to help us get humanitarian relief to the country and we're getting quite a
bit to the country. But if there is no commercial import, then it will collapse.
There will be famine because we cannot feed an entire population. There are 27 million people here. That's why we need an end to both the
political, the military and the economic conflict.
WARD: So are -- if I understand you correctly, are we looking at more debts now from famine or from hunger than we are from violence?
EGELAND: Absolutely. Thousands are dying because of this senseless war that is going from town to town and district to district. But many more
will die from the secondary effects which is famine and a collapsing health system.
There is one port here called Hodeidah where we get all of the relief through and where most of the commercial import has come through. That
port is now threatened by attack. If it is attacked, that lifeline will be cut and millions will surely not have food because Yemen is importing 80
percent, 90 percent of all its food. There is really no food production in this food desert.
[23:10:01] WARD: And I have to ask you because you say it's the biggest, of course, you've worked very closely with Staffan de Mistura in Syria, and
one doesn't like to compare conflicts but how is what you're seeing in Yemen, how does it compare to what we have seen in Syria, for example?
EGELAND: Well, Syria is, of course, the other horrific conflict. More people die in Syria from the conflict. It's a bigger war. But more people
are threatened by famine and in need of relief in Yemen simply because this was the poorest place on earth before this war, before the economic
sanctions, before the economy was strangled. That's when so many lives are here at stake. We need world leaders to put an end to both the war and the
economic collapse here.
WARD: Jan Egeland, thank you so much for being on the program.
EGELAND: Thank you very much for having me.
WARD: The destruction in Yemen is so pervasive, it is even reaching into the past. In Sanaa's main university, these ancient mummies have given
visitors a glimpse of humans who lived more than 2,000 years ago. But now they too face the perils of a modern crisis. Because of the country's
calamitous war, the university is having trouble preserving the mummies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ABDELRAHMAN AL-GAR, HEAD OF ANTIQUITIES DEPARTMENT, SANA'A UNIVERSITY (Through Translator): We now have a big problem because the mummies
started decaying and they're infected with bacteria. This is because, firstly, we don't have electricity and the machines which is supposed to
maintain the mummies are unavailable. Finally, we need some chemicals which the mummies are supposed to be sanitized with every six months and
they aren't available due to the economic and political situation the country is going through at the moment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARD: When we come back, more on the dangers plaguing the living. Former FBI special agent Ali Soufan and I discuss radicalization and his new book
"Anatomy of Terror" after a break.
WARD: Welcome back. There's huge embarrassment for one of America's top intelligence agencies after it emerged that an FBI translator with top
secret clearance married the ISIS fighter she was investigating.
Daniela Greene who secretly traveled to Syria in 2014 also tipped him off about the investigation. He is Denis Cuspert, a German rapper turned
notorious ISIS recruiter. Greene later regretted her actions and fled back to the U.S. where she was sentenced to two years in prison. She is now out
Well, here with me now is former FBI agent and the author of "Anatomy of Terror," Ali Soufan.
[23:15:05] Ali, thank you so much for being on the program. I just want to ask you briefly about this story because it is so astonishing to me. As a
former FBI agent, what does this tell you about FBI operations and also what does this tell you about the vulnerability of the most unlikely of
people to ISIS propaganda or to the allure of extremism?
ALI SOUFAN, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: It's such a weird story. I mean, personally, I never heard of anything like it but it just gives you another
reminder. It should give us another reminder, all of us, about the threat of the ideology, of the narrative, of the appeal that organizations of ISIS
are gaining using the Internet, using social media. And it just gives you an example that even people who work in our government are basically
vulnerable to this narrative. It is -- it's such a weird and sad situation.
WARD: In your book, you sort of plot through some of the main components that have allowed jihadists to really take hold across the Middle East.
What, broadly speaking, are some of the major factors that you see as contributing to this?
SOUFAN: Well, it's basically sectarianism is now the number one, you know, incubating factors to extremism. And you see that in places like Yemen.
We just witnessed your wonderful interview. Your tragic yet great interview about Yemen. But also we see it in Syria. We see it in many
What's happening now that regional countries are trying to use sectarianism and use religion to settle score against each other and to create this kind
of like, you know, geopolitical sphere of influence that's based on sectarianism. And unfortunately we have lost a generation. We have people
being killed and living in refugee camps because of this zero sum mentality between all these regional countries, and Yemen is just a perfect example
Another thing with the threat is it mutated. You know, bin Laden's death did not take al Qaeda, nor the bin Laden narrative with him, you see now
his organization and his ideologies spreading like wildfire in the Middle East. Bin Laden at one point had -- you know, basically during 9/11 had
400 members and they were only based in Afghanistan. 400 pledged members. But if you look at al Qaeda today, Al-Nusra which is al Qaeda affiliate in
Syria, and their affiliates in the country have about 20,000. In Yemen, AQAP after the war in Yemen went from 1,000 to more than 4,000 members.
In Sahel area, in North Africa, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, AQIM, you know, they were able to bring different ethnic groups and tribal groups
into their banners which historically, you know, their inability to bring the Fulanis and the Arabs and the Tuareg under one banner hindered their
operations. Just last year alone they conducted more than 250 terrorist attacks in the Sahel.
JI, which is al Qaeda affiliate, for example, in Southeast Asia, they have taken advantage of what's happening, the sectarianism, the vacuum that
exists in the Muslim world. And they are building their network or rebuilding their network. In Indonesia, for example, JI had 32 radical
madrasas at the time of the Bali bombing. Today they have 66. So that gives you an idea how that threat is expanding around the Muslim world and
expanding in the Middle East.
WARD: OK. So just give me a sense, though. How did al Qaeda evolve into ISIS? Because when you look at the two groups, ISIS is the one that is
hogging all the headlines at the moment, and the groups are distinctive from each other. Do you see a path or an evolution there?
SOUFAN: Well, we have to remember that ISIS was a branch that came out from al Qaeda. ISIS used to be Al Qaeda in Iraq and later because of
personality problems between the leadership of al Qaeda and the leadership of ISIS, they separated. And they separated because of the whole war in
Syria. Al Qaeda wanted the Syrian jihad to be separate than the Iraqi jihad, Islamic State in Iraq at the time. They wanted both of them to be
one and they added Iraq and Asham which makes it ISIS.
So ISIS ideologically speaking is the same as al Qaeda. ISIS believe that they already established a caliphate in a state so they are already at the
last phase of the bin Laden strategy.
[23:20:05] Al Qaeda still believe they are in phase two where they are building the network around the Muslim world in order to establish a state.
The organizations, both of them, al Qaeda and ISIS, are just, you know, different branches of bin Ladenism, of the bin Laden ideology.
WARD: OK. Ali Soufan, thank you so much for your insights. They are fascinating and all of us will be taking a read of your book. Thank you
very much for being on the program and joining us.
SOUFAN: Thank you.
WARD: When we come back, we imagine a Western photographer using his Russian nationality to unlock Syria. Seeing the country through his lens.
But first, a little deja vu in the French elections where controversy has sprung up around a speech by Marine Le Pen in which she clearly used the
words of former presidential candidate Francois Fillon. Take a listen.
Seems pretty clear what's going on there. Marine Le Pen's campaign says she purposefully lifted phrases to show that she is not sectarian, that she
can build consensus, but she didn't attribute the remarks to Fillon during the speech. We'll be right back.
WARD: And finally tonight, imagine seeing a world few others can. Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Sergey Ponomarev managed to capture a
different perspective of Syria while he was there in 2013 and 2014. In part, thanks to his unusual background. Though he describes himself as a
Western photographer, he was able to gain rare access to regime-held areas because he is a Russian national. We met with him at his new exhibition,
"A Lens on Syria," now showing in London's Imperial War Museum.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SERGEY PONOMAREV, PHOTOGRAPHER: My story about the Assad Syria is a story about the people living in these governmental controlled bubble. All
people were kind of brainwashed by the safe propaganda. There's a portrait of Assad. It means like this is always controlled by Assad.
First I came there it was 2015 so it was two years since the protest and the civil war started. What was striking us all the time that there might
be an explosion just in the next block and on the other side of the street will be a normal business street bus and a traffic jam and people will live
[23:25:05] I believe I might be one of the last Western journalists were in Palmyra before it was taken by ISIS. So I keep this photos in my flat
because that's our heritage. You can see it here. You can see it in Palmyra.
Though they have this strong conflict, despite that, just beautiful land and they have very rich culture and I'm just really sorry that they are
destroying that with this fight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARD: And we want to bring you just another line from Hillary Clinton's wide-ranging conversation with Christiane Amanpour in New York where
Clinton says she was, quote, "On the way to winning the 2016 election until FBI Director James Comey announced the agency was reopening its probe into
her use of a private e-mail server and until Russian meddling came into the picture."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: It wasn't a perfect campaign. There is no such thing. But I was on the way to winning until a combination of Jim Comey's letter on October
28th and Russian WikiLeaks raised doubts in the minds of people who were inclined to vote for me but got scared off. And the evidence for that
intervening event is, I think, compelling, persuasive, and so we overcame a lot in the campaign.
We overcame an enormous barrage of negativity, of false equivalency, and so much else, but as Nate Silver who, you know, doesn't work for me. He's an
independent analyst but one considered to be very reliable, you know, has concluded, you know, if the election had been on October 27th, I'd be your
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARD: And just a reminder that you can watch more of that interview with Christiane and Hillary Clinton on tomorrow's show, that is at 7:00 p.m.
London Time, 8:00 p.m. Central European Time, and 2:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.
Well, that's it for our program tonight. You can listen to our podcast, see us online at ammanpour.com and you can follow me on Facebook and
Thank you for watching and good-bye from London.