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Trump Targets Iran Nuclear Deal; Civil War, Starvation and Cholera Grip Yemen; Nobel Committees Believe "Liu Xiaobo is no Criminal"; Faiths Unite in a Prayer of Protests. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired July 24, 2017 - 14:00   ET



[14:00:17] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Tonight, Trump's son-in-law says that he did not collude with any foreign government as the Russian saga

drags on and becomes a soap opera gripping Washington.

And how much bandwidth does that give the new administration to deal with other crises coming from Israel, Iran and Yemen?

The chief of the international Red Cross joins us with a firsthand report on the humanitarian crisis there.

Plus, Liu Xiaobo was China's only Nobel Peace laureate and his campaign for democracy at home came at a high cost. I discuss his legacy and the

Nobel's in an exclusive interview with the new committee chairwoman.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If Liu Xiaobo had not received the prize, his memory would not have been kept alive.


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

The rolling crisis engulfing Washington keeps on rolling. Today, President Donald Trump's son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, briefed congressional

investigators on his contacts with Russians during the presidential campaign.

As the Trumps and political class obsessed over these investigations, it's important to understand that they are being distracted from the crises on

the front burner around the world.

Unrest is brewing in Israel and Jordan, and it's turning deadly. The Iran nuclear deal is working, but it appears to be hanging by a thread as

President Trump is eager to use the scissors.

And perhaps most pressing of all, thousands are dying in Yemen as famine stalks the land amid a full-pledged cholera outbreak while the Saudi-led,

U.S.-backed war there grinds on.

In a moment, a searing eyewitness report from the war zone.

But, first, let's get a reality check from John Kirby, retired Rear Admiral, former assistant secretary of state and CNN's national security

analyst now.

Admiral Kirby, welcome to the program. Let me get right in there. First to my premise.

Do you think this obsession in Washington, this soap opera, as I have described it, is distracting and preventing the dealing of a super power

with real crises around the world?

JOHN KIRBY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, two thoughts there, Christiane. First of all, I think the focus on the Russian probe and on

the investigations are going on in the policy circles here in Washington is appropriate. This is a serious effort by Russia to meddle in our election.

And I also think that it is definitely distracting the west wing from issues of the president's agenda that he wants to more steadily focus on.

Most of those issues are domestic. The wall, immigration, the economy, that kind of thing, and jobs. But I also think that the foreign policy

agenda is certainly being stifled a bit by this intense focus on the Russia probes.

The other thing that's happening here, Christiane, is that he has excellent help at the cabinet level with Secretary Mattis at defense and Secretary

Tillerson at state. General McMaster is his national security adviser. It's not like he doesn't have people that can focus on these issues and

help him get his arms around them. All the ones you mentioned, as a matter of fact.

But the problem is that there is a mismatch in messaging and there is a mismatch I think in the policy decision making process on some of these.

And our allies and partners are a little confused when, you know, Secretary Mattis makes it clear that we're going to stick by, you know, NATO and

Article 5 and article amendments and the president then goes to Brussels and says we're not. So these major policy agenda items can actually be

undermined with a simple tweet by the president that kind of cast doubts on American commitments.

AMANPOUR: Obviously we saw at the G20 how he did actually commit to Article 5.

KIRBY: He did.

AMANPOUR: But let me ask you about Iran. Because that is something you were very close with Secretary Kerry in him shepherding that through with

the Iranians. And it appears now that even though the White House, the administration has recertified Iran's compliance, the president and other

advisers are thinking perhaps they may not, and don't want to do that.

How, you know -- how difficult is that to get a grip with?

KIRBY: Well, I think, look, first of all, no problem in the Middle East is going to be made easier with a nuclear-armed Iran. And the deal -- and I

understand there's people that don't like the deal, and have issues with it. But the deal is working. And Iran has given up the capability to go

after nuclear weapons.

And that -- not that it solves all of the problems in the Middle East, but it certainly makes all of them a little bit easier to deal with. It

doesn't mean that we turn a blind eye to Iran's destabilizing activities.

And, look, I support the administration's efforts to hold Iran accountable for these destabilizing activities. The ballistic missile program, support

the terrorism around the region. All of that makes sense and all of that is worth pushing them on.

[14:04:00] But if you pull out of this deal, first of all, you know, we're not the only ones in this deal. There is other international players that

may want to still subscribe to it. But you'll destroy the credibility of the United States with respect to the negotiations that led to it. You'll

also give the hard-liners, and this is the key point, Christiane.

You'll give the hard-liners in Iran who do want to see the deal fail, so that they can continue a more hard line foreign policy. You'll give them

all the ammunition they need to do exactly that.

Look, Iran just had a Democratic election and the moderates took some additional seats. I mean, Iran politically is beginning to move in a good,

healthy direction.

I'm not saying that we turn a blind eye again. But they're moving in a good direction. And torpedoing this deal, as distasteful as the deal might

be to President Trump, is not the long-term solution to stability in the Middle East.

AMANPOUR: And very briefly, we've only got a few seconds, if you look out there, what is your biggest worry about what's getting neglected?

KIRBY: I think honestly, I am worried about Syria and where Syria is going, because it also gets to the refugee crisis throughout Europe.

What I don't hear from this administration, and I would like to hear more of, is how they want to get to a political solution in Syria. All the talk

from the administration so far in Syria has been of a militaristic way. Again, legitimate concerns because of ISIS. But what you don't hear is a

healthy, long-term strategy, a commitment to the Geneva communiques, to try to get a political solution there.

AMANPOUR: Rear Admiral Kirby, thank you very much indeed.

And talking of war and political solutions, civil war has gripped Yemen for two-and-a-half long years now. Escalated by U.S.-backed, Saudi-led bombing

campaign, attempting to put down an Iran-backed rebellion.

At least 10,000 people have died, and bombing is far from the only problem. Food is scarce. Every ten minutes a child under 5 dies of preventable

causes. And the fact that it's so preventable infuriates David Beasley. He's the head of the World Food Program, and he told me recently.


DAVID BEASLEY, HEAD, WORLD FOOD PROGRAM: If you're not willing to step up with the funds, then apply the pressure necessary to end the wars. In

other countries that are not given ought to be giving. The Saudis, the gulf states.

AMANPOUR: Well, president Trump is very fond of them. Maybe he can put some pressure on them.

BEASLEY: Well, I sure am hoping so.

AMANPOUR: Are you going to tell him to?

BEASLEY: I have already done that.


AMANPOUR: But nothing seems to register with the warring parties. The U.S. did approve more funding recently to fight the famine, including in

Yemen. But a cholera epidemic has taken off. The highly preventable disease has spread, as the health system collapses and garbage piles up,

poisoning the water.

Peter Maurer, president of the International Red Cross just arrived in Taiz, Yemen to see the devastation firsthand. And he tells me this is

needless suffering.


AMANPOUR: Peter Maurer, welcome to the program.

You have said that you are horrified about this needless suffering, you find it infuriating, and that the world is sleepwalking into yet more


Describe what you're seeing and what's not being done by the world.

PETER MAURER, PRESIDENT, INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS: I have spoken to a lot of families, to farmers, to fishermen, to people who have been forced out

of business.

Parents are confronted with impossible choices in the morning. Do I send my kid to the hospital in order to get treatment, or do I buy food for my


In particular, the attack on civilian infrastructure, on electrical facilities, on water distribution systems, on hospitals, has left the

medical system, the water distribution system, in awful conditions. And therefore, I think a lot has to be done by the parties to the conflict, but

also by those who supported them.

AMANPOUR: We hear that there is an exploding cholera epidemic there. Give me a sense of the numbers and whether it's possible to bring this under

control. Every day it seems more and more people succumb to this disease.

MAURER: What we see at the present moment is a roughly 300,000 cases. And we expect the doubling of these cases by the end of the year. We have been

able with other respondents of the international community to get some control. And, nevertheless, the growth of the problem that we have is

still of huge proportions. And therefore, this is the largest cholera epidemic that we have seen in a long time.

AMANPOUR: I have read that the water is not safe almost anywhere in the country. And yet people are being forced to use that water to drink, to

bathe in, to cook and that is basically how cholera is transmitted. And the rainy season is coming up.

MAURER: Water facilities have been bombed. Water distribution systems have been disrupted. Waste is piling up in the streets here. And this is

contaminating the water in many of the Yemeni cities. So we are here confronted with a vicious circle, where the war destroys the water

distribution system. Where water is not available or not safe because of poor waste management, because of the war going on, and where people are

infecting themselves.

AMANPOUR: There are alarming statistics about famine around the world. Something like 20 million people faced famine and death. And a lot of

those people are in Yemen. We have the most appalling pictures that are -- the colleagues at frontline and PBS have shown the world.

This is what a nurse told them about the famine and the conditions there.




AMANPOUR: So she is saying there that malnutrition is on the rise. And, again, we see that graphically in the pictures. Little girl who we just

saw there, she is almost skin and bones. Her ribs are showing through her skin.

How bad is the food and hunger crisis right now? What can be done about that?

MAURER: The situation is increasingly bad as we speak. We see also an economy where normal families can't simply afford anymore to get the daily

nutritional necessities to the table. We see fathers and mothers working who don't get paid, and therefore, can't afford to buy food. And,

therefore, humanitarian organizations have to steeply increase as well the food response to this crisis as much as the health response, which, by the

way, are closely connected to each other.

AMANPOUR: Are you even getting the funds that you need in the absence of an end to this war to actually feed people and bring clean water?

MAURER: Well, we have seen quite an important increase in contributions of the international community. But, of course, this is not sufficient to

really cope with the crisis. We need more money. We need at the same time at least a fundamental change of attitude and behavior by the belligerence,

so that it is worthwhile spending this money, and that those water systems that we are reconstructing and rehabilitating are not destroyed tomorrow


AMANPOUR: And if it's not done, what is your -- what is your assessment of what will happen in six months' time or another year of this war?

How many more people are going to be dead? How much more disease and famine?

MAURER: I mean, it's obvious that the vicious circle of warfare, of destruction, of civilian infrastructure, of epidemics has been spreading

over the last couple of months exponentially. And if this is not done, we will see more people, much more people dying, and this will be one of the

most serious crises we are looking at in six months' time. It is already bad enough today.

AMANPOUR: Peter Maurer, thank you very much indeed. We hope Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United States, the coalition, all sides to this are listening.

Thank you for joining us.

MAURER: Thank you very much.


AMANPOUR: And when we come back, human rights in China.

The Nobel committee speaks out for the first time since the death of the Chinese peace prize winner Liu Xiaobo. My exclusive interview with the

chair of that committee, next.


[14:15:48] AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

China and the United States, a relationship that has fallen and risen and fallen again under the Donald Trump presidency over trade and North Korea.

But if there's one topic that seems increasingly off limits, it is China's human rights record.

Brought into sharp focus recently, since Liu Xiaobo died in custody this month from liver cancer. He is the Nobel Peace Prize winning activist who

was jailed by the Chinese government in 2008 for, quote, "subversion." He got no funeral and no tombstone. His ashes were hastily dropped in an urn

into the sea.

The leader of the Norwegian Nobel Committee Berit Reiss-Andersen wanted to attend the funeral, but was denied of Visa by China.

She joined me from Oslo for this exclusive interview, insisting that the Nobel committee stands by its laureates and the values of peace and

democracy they defend even at the cost of their own freedom and life itself.


AMANPOUR: Ms. Reiss-Andersen, welcome to the program.

I just want to ask you, I know that you are a chairperson of the committee. But I want to ask you as a human being, what you felt when Liu Xiaobo died.

When you couldn't go to the funeral. When there's been so much reticent from the Chinese government over him.

BERIT REISS-ANDERSEN, NORWEGIAN NOBEL COMMITTEE: Well, personally, and I think I share the emotions with all members of the committee. We're only

five people, and we know each other well.

We felt grief. We have since 2010, when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, tried to communicate with him, get in contact with him and just

communicate our support and wait for the day when he could come to Oslo and receive the prize. We never got in touch with him, because he was kept in


AMANPOUR: You know, the empty chair at the Nobel award when he should have been there to accept it is iconic. It wasn't even allowed to be shown

inside China.

Tell me what it was like every time you or the Nobel tried to contact the Chinese government about him.

REISS-ANDERSEN: Well, we haven't really contacted him through official channels. We realized that would be impossible, because he was a prisoner,

serving a prison term of 11 years and kept in isolation.

And even his wife has been for many years, I think about eight years, under a rather strict house arrest, so that interests abroad, including the Peace

Prize committee, were not able to communicate with him.

AMANPOUR: You have said, and I quote, "The Chinese government bears a heavy responsibility for his, Liu Xiaobo's premature death."

REISS-ANDERSEN: I find that, because when he was transferred from prison to hospital, he already had a very serious condition that most likely would

have led to his death.

It is very unlikely that this condition arose suddenly. So that is the basis for what I am saying. And it still is the firm belief of the Peace

Prize committee that Liu Xiaobo was no criminal.

AMANPOUR: I want to ask you, because there is a considerable discrepancies between what the Chinese say and what Nobel and others say.

They say that he didn't want to. That he communicated that he didn't want to leave China. In those last moments. You know, and get treatment

abroad. Others say that actually he did want to. He wanted to get treatment abroad.

Can you add any clarity to that? And the Germans apparently, you know, said that there was some bedside videos that were heavily edited by

apparently the Chinese authorities.

[14:20:00] REISS-ANDERSEN: Well, there's two sources of knowledge here. It's the Chinese authorities and it is the American and German doctor who

were allowed to visit him at the hospital to examine him, and they would promise, participate in the medical evacuation of Liu Xiaobo if he want the

treatment abroad.

The two doctors came back and expressed firmly that it was his wish to go abroad for medical treatment. And I cannot see that these doctors had any

reason to make such a claim if they did not have it from their patient.

AMANPOUR: And I want to ask you, because obviously the Chinese government through their state-run media organizations have hit back furiously at the


Under the presidency of Xi Jinping, it really does seem like the idea of human rights has been relegated, not just by the Chinese government, of

course, but by interlocutors and partners around the world. Relegated to either behind closed doors, if at all, but certainly not a main plank of

western partnership with China.

REISS-ANDERSEN: I agree in that observation. And I do find that the international community has been very cautious in this matter, because each

state has, of course, a great interest in keeping diplomatic relationships with China, commercial relationships with China. But if we really believe

in our values of democracy, rule of law, human rights, we also have to be willing to speak up for these values.

AMANPOUR: And finally, I want to play you this little sound bite from Liu Xiaobo's older brother after he died. And basically praising the communist


Just listen to this for a second.


LIU XIAO GUANG, OLDER BROTHER OF LIU XIAOBO (through translator): I want to take the opportunity here to once again thank the party and the

government for their loving care for the Liu family. Especially with Xiaobo's special situation. They showed humanitarian spirit.


AMANPOUR: Do you buy that?

REISS-ANDERSEN: I don't. Of course, one can have different opinions within the family, but I interpret this as an expression of the enormous

pressure that his family is under.

AMANPOUR: on that note, Berit Reiss-Andersen, thank you so much indeed for joining us.



AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine a world divided by faith but united in a common cause.

We speak to the Christian praying alongside Muslims for tolerance in Jerusalem. That's next.


[14:25:00] AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, in Israel, a tense atmosphere has been further inflamed after authorities added metal detectors and

security cameras outside Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque located in a shared Muslim and Jewish holy site also known as the Temple Mount.

The new measures come after two Israeli soldiers were killed near the site. But as tension dangerously mounts, we imagine two different faiths brought

together in a prayer of protest.

Our Ian Lee has this report on this extraordinary moment in Jerusalem.


IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's nothing remarkable about this street in Jerusalem. Bicycles, cars and trucks rumble by. But something

remarkable happened here last Friday.

While Muslims gathered to pray and protest, among them, a man with a crucifix and bible In hand.

NADAL ABOUD, CHRISTIAN WHO PRAYED ALONGSIDE MUSLIM AT JERUSALEM (through translator): The idea came to me when I saw an old man sitting on a chair

outside lion's gate, crying because the occupation prevented him from praying inside the Al-Aqsa mosque.

LEE: 24-year-old Nadal Aboud says he wouldn't want metal detectors in front of his church so why would he want them in front of the mosque? He

tells me all three religions must learn to live side by side.

ABOUD (through translator): Judaism is Christianity's origin. We share one book. We all pray to one god. If I deny that Judaism exists, it

questions my own beliefs.

LEE: And even as a Christian-Palestinian, he views al-Aqsa as the face of Jerusalem.

He tells me, "The greatest symphony you'll ever hear is the mosque called to prayer and the ringing of church bells."

(on-camera): What were you reading in the Bible during the prayers?

ABOUD: When they started the prayer saying Allahu Akbar, I opened the Bible spontaneously, and the sentence was, "If God is with you, then who is

against you?" Which is Jesus' message of love to us all.

LEE: A hopeful message at a time of deadly division.

Ian Lee, CNN, Jerusalem.


AMANPOUR: And we could all always deal with some hope.

That's it for our program tonight. And remember, you can listen to our podcast at any time. You can see us online at and follow me

on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.