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Journalist Documents Alleged Abuse By Iraqi Troops; Baghdad Bombing Kills 21, ISIS Claims Responsibility; Cuba's Forgotten Castaway. Aired 11- 11:30p ET

Aired May 30, 2017 - 23:00   ET


[23:00:52] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Tonight, the photojournalist Ali Arkady now fearing for his life after capturing

disturbing footage of torture and execution by one Iraqi special forces unity.

Also ahead, the little boy who became the center of an international diplomatic row 17 years ago. A new film tells the story of Elian Gonzales,

rescued from the sea trying to get from Cuba to the United States.

And, Twitter storm (ph) diplomacy. Part two of the Trump Merkel feud.


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

The intense fight to retake Mosul now in its eighth month, seems to be nearing its end game. But, Iraq's violent insurgency continues unabated.

Today, more than 20 people were killed in central Baghdad when twin car bombs exploded, including one outside an ice cream shop. ISIS claims

responsibility for the attacks and says it targeted Shiite families.

From day one, Iraq's bloody insurgency has been fueled by sectarian violence. Now, new video and photographic evidence from the fight for

Mosul are raising the possibility that war crimes are being committed by the U.S.-backed Iraqi military.

The report comes from Ali Arkady, a prize-winning Iraqi photojournalist, who set out to tell a success story of elite Iraqi troops taking the lead

in the fight against ISIS. Instead, he uncovered disturbing evidence of torture and execution of civilians by soldiers from the emergency response

division of the Iraq's interior military (ph).

Akardy was embedded with one unit of the elite ERD fighters. He risked his own life to share his footage, and then he was forced to flee the country.

Once again, his evidence raises the critical question -- can Iraq survive if the sectarian fighting continues?

I spoke to Arkady from an undisclosed location, and some of the images are disturbing.


AMANPOUR: Ali, welcome to the program. Can I start by asking you why you wanted to follow this unit, the ERD?

ALI ARKADY, IRAQI PHOTOJOURNALIST (through translator): The purpose was to present something positive for the Iraqi society. Sometime later after

following those six soldiers, I started noticing things happening. I was always with them, in the same house and in the same room. And things

happened suddenly while I was shooting.

(inaudible) to tell people, when I was there, and I saw cases of torture. And they torture them first, then interrogated them afterwards. And they

told me that I was allowed first to record the interrogation. Only that part.

Later on, they told me that it didn't make any sense for them to keep cutting the photograph and told me that I could record the whole thing,

then edit it.

AMANPOUR: Well we have a piece of that video, which is quite violent and ugly. It's the torture of one man who is hanging from his arms with

bottles to weigh down his back, and he is being swung around by these people. And it looks very painful. How did they allow you to photograph

that, to record that?

ARKADY (through translator): (inaudible), like I told you at the beginning. I had some mutual trust with them, and I opined approval (ph)

from that unity. Maybe they didn't know that I was eventually going to publish it.

[23:05:05] AMANPOUR: We see pictures in some of your video of two people who look like they've been executed. How did that imagery, how did that

scene come about?

ARKADY (through translator): They told me that they were going to move these two individuals to the intelligence office where there were three

soldiers. Those three soldiers happened to know me because they knew about my work. And they allowed me to film. I started to film. I recorded the

interrogation, then I heard voices coming from the other room where the second brother was being tortured.

I remained with the first brother and I heard noises coming from the second room where the second brother was. So I went to see what was happening.

He was being tortured. I started to film. And they knew that I was filming, and they allowed me to.

The following day, the person who was torturing these two brothers the night before showed me videos and pictures. He said, we executed them. He

just told me that he just executed the two brothers. I asked him why. He said, they were Daesh, and we killed them. We buried them outside of the

village. That's what I heard.

I asked them if he could get me that video. He said, yes, I'm going to send it to you by WhatsApp.

AMANPOUR: We have a picture of a man whose eyes are being gouged out, or at least fingers are going into his eyes. Did you shoot that picture?

ARKADY (through translator): Yes, I shot this picture, and this is one of the two brothers. His name is Raith (ph) and this was during his


One of the soldiers in the intelligence section, I believe it was also (inaudible), was interrogating him. And he stuck his fingers in his eye in

that fashion during the interrogation.

AMANPOUR: Ali, why did you publish this if they told you not to publish it?

ARKADY (through translator): During five weeks when I became aware of the torture, and it became stronger as time went by, I wanted to have those

videos as evidence in the future. But when things went that ugly with the torture and execution, and when those people sent me those videos, the

video of the two persons getting killed after I witnessed them being tortured, I felt that this is a war crime. I was witnessing war crimes,

and especially inflicted on civilians, mostly civilians. And I decided to publish it even though they told me not to publish it, but I felt that the

matter was bigger than me and them.

AMANPOUR: The Minister of Interior has said that they will conduct an investigation. But we have just spoken to a spokesman for the ERD who says

that you are lying, that you are corrupt and a thief, and the whole video is a fabrication that you asked them to perform.

ARKADY (through translator): I heard a lot of that already. But the video is true, and the people are real. And I don't believe that anyone can

seriously say that it was a role play or anything like that. Why would they do something like that in my presence and allow me to shoot it? What

is the purpose? What would the purpose be? I am asking that a real investigation be conducted, and people who survive torture be questioned so

they become witnesses. I am a journalist, and I am stating that all my work is real.

One of the soldiers who was in that unit admitted to me that what they were doing was very bad and it made them not different from Daesh.

AMANPOUR: Ali Arkady, thank you very much for telling us this story.

ARKADY (through translator): Thank you.


AMANPOUR: A harrowing story, indeed.

The Iraqi Interior Ministry says that it's investigating the alleged abuses documented in Arkady's work. And Arkady says the unit twice forced him to

join in the beatings. He said he protested, as a journalist, but fearing for his life and under coercion, he says he did slap two suspects.

Now for more on all of this, I'm joined by Ali Khedery. He was the longest serving official at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. That was from 2003 to


Ali, thank you for joining me. You have -- we've drawn upon your expertise to comment on many of these developments over the years. How surprised are

you by this graphic development? Do you think it's isolated, or widespread?

[23:10:07] ALI KHEDERY, FORMER SENIOR U.S. ADVISER IN IRAQ: Thank you for having me again, Christiane. Unfortunately, I'm not at all surprised by

this behavior. It fits into a long standing pattern by Iraqi government forces, and particularly, Iraq's interior ministry going back to 2005 when

an Iranian-aligned minister too power and started integrating Iranian- aligned and funded and commanded and controlled militias into the Iraqi Security Forces.

So unfortunately, what is supposed to be Iraq's top law enforcement agency is systematically breaking Iraqi laws, and in fact committing war crimes

through a systemic campaign of endemic torture, rape, murder, as has been document by Ali Arkady.

And I think frankly, it's very important to note that Ali Arkady is in fact a hero. He has risked life and limb. His family is being now threatened

by the same Iraqi interior ministry, including his parents, and his acts are heroic, because they have uncovered in high definition video and

imagery these endemic acts of torture and murder, and in fact rape, as well.

AMANPOUR: He explained to us that some of the more brutal actual video of the executions and et cetera were actually sent to him via WhatsApp. You

heard him say that. Is there anything that gives you any doubt about this? And why do you think these people would share this stuff?

KHEDERY: Well, I think it speaks to the impunity in which they are behaving. They know that because they are the law, they believe that they

are above the law. And again, going back to now more than a decade, you've seen a repeated pattern of thousands, maybe tens of thousands of Iraqi

males, principally, disappearing, and there have been various reports from a variety of sources, some of which we can discuss, some I can't get into,

of a pattern of Iraqi government forces committing war crimes by unjustly kidnapping civilians, torturing them, murdering them, and their families

never hear from them again. This time, we have again the video and the imagery.

AMANPOUR: Yes. Ali, what does this mean going forward? And I ask you, of course, on a day where we're reporting at least 20 people blown up by ISIS,

targeting they say themselves Shiites. What does this mean for the future of this country?

KHEDERY: Well, ISIS, like its predecessor, al-Qaeda in Iraq, wants to spark a sectarian war. They want a holy war being fought between Sunni's

and Shia. But we and our allies cannot allow ourselves to fall into that trap. Instead, the United States and its coalition allies must condition

assistance (ph) the Iraqi government based on the rule of law and not committing things like these atrocities, these war crimes.

Einstein said that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again hoping for a different outcome. Well, the United States has

been providing assistance to Iraq on an unconditional basis since 2003, and again, we've seen this pattern of endemic rape, torture, and exo-judicial


So what the United States should do now is we should condition assistance to the Iraqi government forces based upon their respect for the rule of

law. If they cannot respect their own laws and international laws, then frankly, they should be sanctioned. Iraq is already providing millions of

dollars of funding to Iranian-backed elements, the so-called popular mobilization forces, which are in fact Iranian-backed militia who have been

guilty of killing and wounding thousands of Americans and Iraqi civilians over the past decade.

AMANPOUR: Ali, what about the pledges of investigations and holding these people accountable, as we've heard from the Iraqi Interior Ministry, but

also from the United States? I want to read you this, because you talk about the U.S., but they also want to defeat -- they want to defeat ISIS.

And recently, the commander of Task Force Strike in Iraq said, they have proven to be a very effective fighting force. This is the first time that

we have advised them, and it's been really a fruitful partnership in all regards. That was about the ERD, although it's said, we don't currently

train or equip them.

KHEDERY: Well in fact, two star American general, Major General Joseph Martin has also praised the ERD on Twitter, and that's frankly very

disturbing given their conduct. I do not believe that the Iraqi ministry will seriously investigate this incident or any other of the hundreds of

incidents of reported abuse because again, these actions are condoned by the highest levels, because they believe that in order to defeat ISIS, they

must carry out a wholesale demographic change across the country, which again, feeds into the reason why ISIS came about in the first place because

millions of people felt disenfranchised, disillusioned, and alienated by their own government.

[23:15:04] So again, unless the Iraqi government reconciles with its population, starts behaving justly, then I'm afraid that we will see

something worse than ISIS a few years down the line.

AMANPOUR: Oh, gosh. I mean it really is very horrifying all of this. Ali Khedery, thank you very much indeed for joining us from there.

And we reached out to the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, and they said, in part, the coalition does not condone or support any violation of the laws

of armed conflict, and it works hard in training to ensure partner (ph) forces are aware of and understand the requirements of a professional

fighting force to abide with these laws.

And after a break, the documentary making waves, 17 years after the dramatic sea rescue of a five-year-old boy caught between America and

Castro's Cuba. The journalist behind "Elian" the film. He joins me, next.


AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. President Trump plans to roll back President Obama's diplomatic normalization with Cuba. A U.S. government

official has told CNN that Trump is expected to announce a new tougher Cuba policy in the next few weeks.

Now, President Obama's diplomatic ties with Cuba is a process that some trace all the way back to the year 2000. And a story that captured the

hearts of Cuban-Americans and attracted worldwide attention. A story that involved the Pope, Fidel Castro, and the U.S. government.

It was the story of Elian Gonzales, whose mother drowned trying to bring him in a rickety boat all the way from Havana to Miami, Florida. He became

the little boy caught up in the middle of bitter U.S. Cuban politics. And now, a new documentary, "Elian", captures all that drama.


TEXT: I am Elian Gonzales.

You may remember me, you may not.


What happened to me wasn't a movie. It was a true story.


AMANPOUR: Elian then and now, screening now in the United States. It will also premier in August across American television as a CNN film, which was

co-produced by its partner as it rolls out over the next few months. I spoke to the former "New York Times" journalist, Tim Golden, who wrote and

co-directed the film.


AMANPOUR: Tim Golden, welcome to the program.

TIM GOLDEN, CO-DIRECTOR, ELIAN: Thanks very much for having me.

AMANPOUR: Let me start by asking you, why did you choose to revisit this story? I mean it's 17 years. Nobody's really paid a huge amount of

attention to it.

[23:19:55] GOLDEN: Well one of the remarkable things we found was that nobody had paid any attention to it. It had been an extraordinary trauma,

particularly in Miami, but also in Cuba. And then it had just gone away and not been revisited. And over that time, it became much clearer that it

had been a pivotal moment in Cuban American politics and in the relationship between Cuba and the United States.

AMANPOUR: We all remember these incredibly, almost violent protests outside Elian's house and in Miami, and then the protests in Havana itself

in Cuba. What did it do then, and what do you think it led to, if anything, now?

GOLDEN: Well the guiding philosophy of Cuban-American politicians really since the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 had been confrontation, implacable

combat at any cost to try to overthrow the Castro government. And the Elian story and the way that those politicians conducted themselves in

trying to fight for Elian was really an expression of that kind of sacred intransigence, as they called it.

So to a considerable degree, the defeat that they experienced in the Elian moment led them to kind of turn and question that approach to change in

Cuba for the first time.

AMANPOUR: Tim, a lot of people remember it, certainly people who are in the United States. It was like a drama unfolding on television before our

eyes. Even the Pope had to intervene, didn't he?

GOLDEN: He did. Well, he didn't actually intervene, but he offered the use of the Vatican Embassy in Washington as a neutral place where the

family might be able to meet, and the confrontation at that point was to such a degree that the meeting fell apart. But it really was an

extraordinary media story, kind of at the dawn of the 24 hour news cycle. And in some ways, it was an early reality show, which this humble Cuban

family found dozens and sometimes more than 100 cameras parked on the lawn in front of their house, just waiting for them to come outside with Elian

and film his every move.

AMANPOUR: So that was from Miami. Then in Cuba itself, Fidel Castro obviously made a lot of political hay about it, and really brought the

country out onto the streets there. And we have this clip where Fidel was the maestro of all these machinations and announced to people that the

father would go to the United States to bring his son back.




AMANPOUR: So there he is, putting his whole prestige behind the return of this little boy, Tim. What did Elian mean for Castro, and what has become

of Elian? Does he still have a place in society?

GOLDEN: Well just as the Cuban-Americans saw Elian as this extraordinary symbol of the suffering of the Cuban people, Castro embraced Elian as a

symbol of the incredible lengths to which he thought the Cuban-American politicians would go to fight him. And it was a great victory at a time

when he had, for a full decade, been reeling from the impact of the collapse of the Soviet bloc and the contraction of the Cuban economy by

more than 30 percent. So it was a great oxygenating event in his long rule.

And he really raised Elian kind of as a grandson that he adopted. So, he has grown up to be a great believer in the Cuban revolution, and it

certainly is possible that he might emerge in a new post-Castro future as part of a Cuban leadership, or as a spokesman for the government. The

communist government wants very much to find ways to appeal to young Cubans, and that's very hard when the economic and political conditions are

as they are.

AMANPOUR: How do you think it will be taken in Havana, Cuba, and in Little Havana, Miami, if indeed President Trump does reverse a lot of what

President Obama did to reestablish normalization with Cuba?

GOLDEN: It really is a question, now, as to whether this is what Cubans in the United States want. Because the reception to Obama's changes was one

generally of support, even surprising degrees of support. So I think there's not a great groundswell of Cuban-American opinion that wants the

embargo tightened. There's a majority that want the embargo lifted.

[23:25:02] So we'll have to see what the response is. I think for the Cuban government, this is something that plays into their hands as the

policy of isolation has played into their hands for the last half century.

AMANPOUR: Fascinating story, and a great reminder of that thing that gripped the nation 17 years ago. Tim Golden, thank you very much indeed.

GOLDEN: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And we'll await to see if there is any Cuba policy change from Washington.

Up next, feuding between Cuba and America is one thing. But between America and one of its closest allies? Imagine the gathering Twitter storm

after this.


AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, we imagine the choppy waters of trans- Atlantic diplomacy. President Trump has struck back at the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, after she said that Europe can no longer fully

rely on the United States, tweeting, we have a massive trade deficit with Germany. Plus, they bare far less than they should on NATO and military.

Very bad for U.S. This will change.

Now, even Angela Merkel's main election rival has come to her defense. The social democrat's Martin Schulz calling Trump a destroyer of Western

values. And Germany's foreign minister doubled down after his scathing condemnation Monday, saying America is older than Trump, and that relations

will improve once again.

As for Chancellor Merkel, while she's busy trying to knit together a stronger Europe and cast a wider net. She's hosting the Indian Prime

Minister, Narendra Modi, today, and then she'll welcome the Chinese premiere ahead of Friday's E.U. China summit. Two of the world's largest

polluters who, unlike President Trump, have publicly committed to the Paris Climate Accords.

That's 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 goodbye from London.