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U.S. Urges Restraint as Turkey Targets Rebels in Syria; Oscar Nominees Cover Range of Diverse Films. Aired 2-2:30a ET

Aired January 23, 2018 - 14:00   ET




CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight, Turkey sends troops into Syria to fight U.S. backed forces. Now NATO's two biggest militaries

face off.

So how did two allies get to this place. My interview with Turkish President Erdogan's top adviser, Ibrahim Kalin.

And the former U.S. State Department spokesman, John Kirby.

Plus Oscar nominations are out.

So will diversity finally take center stage?

My conversation with the renowned film critic, A.O. Scott.


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

Relations between Washington and its long-time ally, Turkey, have reached a new and dangerous low as Turkish forces launch a land and air invasion

against U.S. backed forces in Northern Syria.

Turkey, a NATO ally and a key partner in the fight against ISIS, maintains that the U.S. backed Kurdish militia are a terrorist group while the U.S.

sees them as vital proxies, who fought and defeated ISIS instead of sending American troops into that battle. U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis is

urging Turkey to exercise restraint in its military operations.

I asked Turkey's presidential spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, where this will all lead when he joined me moments ago from the Turkish capital, Ankara.


AMANPOUR: Ibrahim Kalin, welcome to the program.

Ibrahim Kalin, Turkish presidential spokesperson: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: It looks like it's a very dangerous situation. You have launched Operation Olive Branch and it's directly confronting American-

backed forces and the U.S. presence there.

How can this be happening?

KALIN: We've been raising this issue of supporting PYD/YPG by the Americans in the name of fighting ISIS or daish for months now, for almost

years, and we haven't really received any convincing answers or positive results from either the American side or from other countries in the


The reason we had to take this action is precisely because of our national security along our borders. There have been a number of attacks, in fact,

in total over the last year or so, 700 attacks from this Afrin region controls by PYD/YPG. And there have been cross-border operations on both

sides, et cetera.

So we've raised this issue a number of times and, at the end of the day, of course, you know, we had to take action to protect our border. And as you

know, PYD and YPG is PKK Syria branch. And PKK is listed as a terrorist organization in both Europe and the United States.

And we cannot let this kind of a terror organization establishing some kind of autonomy or state structure right along our border.

AMANPOUR: So the acronyms you're talking about refer to the names of these Kurdish groups, some of which are backed by the United States.

But is this going to pit two NATO allies against each other?

I mean, what measures are you taking, if any, to make sure that you don't enter a hot war with your major NATO ally, the United States?

KALIN: Well, first of all, Americans are not in the Afrin region. They are mostly in the Memphis region, which is in the -- to the east of the

Euphrates River. We are talking about the western side of the country, right across the Turkish border.

Number two, of course we coordinate this operations, Olive Branch, we have briefed our allies, we have briefed the United Nations, P5 countries. Our

president just spoke to President Macron; he will be speaking to President Putin. He will also be speaking to President Trump tomorrow.

And we've been doing this in around the diplomatic circles to make sure that everybody understands what we're doing. So we're being transparent

with this because our national security is at stake.

Let me also underline that, Christiane, this is not an operation against the Kurds of Afrin or Syria. This is an operation against a terrorist

network that claims to represent the Kurds, but that's just far from the truth because there are thousands of Kurds who do not subscribe to PKK's or

PYD's Marxist or Leninist ideology --



KALIN: -- and you have them out of the greatest ironies in modern history where American government has chosen a Marxist-Leninist organization as its

ally in Syria.

AMANPOUR: Well, that's the point. So obviously the Americans are very aware of your sensitivities with these various Kurdish groups. But they

say that you also have a joint -- a joint desire to beat ISIS and these were the forces that the Americans armed --


AMANPOUR: -- in order for them to beat ISIS so they didn't have to send too many Americans into harm's way. This is what Ash Carter, the former

Defense Secretary, told me about this situation.


ASH CARTER, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We had to protect ourselves and now we have to sustain the victory. And that means letting the people

who live there rule in a way that is better than ISIS ruling.

Now these Kurds actually live there, so the idea that they should govern is, I think, unassailable. I think we do owe it to Turkey, as a NATO ally,

to make sure that, to the extent we can, that those Kurds that are part of that Syrian force that we helped don't turn their means against Turkey,

which, after all, is a NATO friend and a NATO ally.


AMANPOUR: So you can see that he understands your sensitivities but these are the fighters, these are the successful fighters and they are the

residents there.

Is there anything the U.S. can do to reassure you that these people won't turn their guns or whatever on you, Turkey?

KALIN: Well, there is one concrete action that the American government can and should take and it is to collect all the weapons that they have

given to PYD/YPG over the last two years because the reason or justification for providing all that military support to PYD/YPG was the

fight against ISIS or daish.

And they told us many times that, once daish threat is eliminated there won't be any more support, military support to PYD/YPG. Now ISIS is

eliminated but, unfortunately, support or military aid, equipment, ammunition, weaponry, et cetera, continues to go to this PYD/YPG groups


So the question is, why are you still supporting them?

Because the daish threat is not there anymore.

How are you going to make sure that they're not going to use these weapons against us or against, you know, other Syrians, like Arabs or Turkmen or

other groups?

AMANPOUR: The main force that seems to benefit from this NATO-on-NATO problem here between you and the United States is Russia.

How do you feel about that?

KALIN: If you look the result, I mean, cosmetically it looks like Russia will want to manipulate this. But we haven't seen Russians really going

that way in any way. In fact, this has worked on the Syria issue and we'll continue to work obviously with the Russians.

But we're a NATO ally. And we would like to see our, you know, NATO allies, primarily the United States, obviously, stop supporting a group

that's been targeting Turkey for 30 years or so.

AMANPOUR: So finally, let me ask you to comment. I wonder what President Erdogan feels about President Trump.

It's quoted, you remember, on the sidelines of the UNGA in September, President Trump said that, "President Erdogan has become a friend of mine.

I think now we're as close as we've ever been," he said.

Does the president, your president, share those views, especially at this moment?

KALIN: Well, they, obviously, have a good relationship. They developed a good chemistry and they will be -- they have talked many times. They've

talked many times and they've met in person a number of timed and they will be talking again.

But there are key issues that we have to resolve really at the leadership level. I think American-Turkish relationship is just too important, too

significant to be damaged or shadowed by, you know, groups like PKK, PYD, et cetera.

We have greater strategic interests in the region if we work together, for the region, for ourselves and, obviously, for the Americans.

AMANPOUR: Ibrahim Kalin, presidential spokesman, thanks for joining us from Ankara tonight.

KALIN: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: So what of the American perspective?

Joining me now is the former State Department spokesman, John Kirby, who is in Washington, I think.

John Kirby, welcome to the program. You heard Ibrahim Kalin and you heard him say, I think what the Americans could do is, first of all, clear up all

those weapons and stop those groups having access to them.

Is that likely?

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Well, I don't think so, not in the near term, Christiane, for two reasons.

First of all, the weapons that have been provided to Kurdish fighters -- and it's not just Kurdish fighters; it's Syrian Democratic Forces, which

also include Arabs as well -- are small weapons, small munitions, that kind of thing.

And number two, the fight against ISIS in Syria is still very much alive. I think the spokesman was simply wrong when he said ISIS is eliminated in

Syria. Nobody has said that, certainly not this administration and not the military. There is still pockets of ISIS groups inside Syria, mostly now

in the middle of the country and to the south of the Manbij area. But they are there.

And so we still need to partner with Syrian Democratic Forces on the ground to go after the rest of ISIS there in Syria.

AMANPOUR: But so what can you do --


AMANPOUR: -- to allay Turkey's fears?

You heard what Ash Carter said, the Defense Secretary, who was there with President Obama while you were the spokesman for the State Department.

What can you do and shouldn't you be doing something more to reassure Turkey?

KIRBY: Yes, I think this administration can do more to reassure Turkey. I think they are trying. So they're -- right now they are trying to figure

out where Turkey is going with this operation in Afrin. Now we know what they are saying and it's about their border security. But we don't know

what the outcome is. They don't know exactly how far they're going to go.

Are they going to put occupying forces in there?

Are they just going to do something in the air and then back off?

So they are trying to figure out the outcome, the goal here for Turkey.

And, number two, they are trying to work behind the scenes diplomatically to reassure Turkey that we understand their border concerns. They're

legitimate border concerns but there are better ways to address them than by cross-border attacks such as the one that they're doing.

I also want to make a point here, that the Afrin area is way in the northwest of Syria. It is a historically Kurdish region. The Kurds have

always been there throughout history. This is not -- this is not a pocket of terror attacks from the PKK.

Now I can't dispute that there haven't been perhaps cross-border strikes out of Afrin. But it is not a hotbed of the PKK as they would have you

think. The current thinking on the U.S. side, Christiane, is that the Turks chose this time, chose this place to deliberately try and drive a

wedge between the United States and the Syrian Democratic Forces, which we are working well with east of the Euphrates.

AMANPOUR: So where do you think this goes?

And before I ask you that, well, do you think this ends in a shooting match between Turkey and, by extension, the United States?

KIRBY: I don't think so. I don't think either side wants it to get to that point. I think what's going on here is a political calculation by

both Turkey and Russia to minimize, if not completely eliminate, U.S. military presence inside Syria. Both sides want us out.

The Turks are using this to drive a wedge between us and the SDF because if they think they -- and you've seen probably, Christiane, the SDF have

already said that they might come to their brothers' rescue in Afrin, which would take them away from the fight against ISIS where we need them.

And number two, you're seeing Russia using this very much to try to drive a wedge between Turkey and the United States, as you rightly noted, two NATO

allies. I don't think it'll come to blows.

But I do think it is straining the political bonds between us and a key NATO ally.

AMANPOUR: Yes, again, I do actually have to press you on this because a former American ambassador, James Jeffrey, has said -- and we was

ambassador to Turkey and Iraq -- look, we told the Turks that the Kurds were temporary tactical and transactional to defeat ISIS. Now we need them

to contain Iran.

So Americans believe that you are moving the goalpost on this.

KIRBY: I think that, look, I think Mr. Jeffrey's criticism isn't all bad. I think he's right. He makes a point. We did make sure, when we started

arming the SDF, the Syrian Democratic Forces, the Kurds, we made it clear to Turkey that this was all -- two things, one, aimed at going after ISIS

and only ISIS, not to get involved in the civil war, not to do anything in terms of pressuring the border with Turkey and, number two, that when that

fight was over, that support would cease.

We did tell them that. So he's not wrong. We did make it very clear that this was temporary. From the American side, I think what they will say is

that fight is still ongoing. ISIS is not eliminated. And so I don't think the United States is necessarily moving the goalpost. I would disagree on


It's not that we're going relinquish on that promise to eventually stop that support but they believe that that support is still vital because the

fight against ISIS is still very much alive.

AMANPOUR: Well, you are saying that, that the fight is alive and, as you know, Secretary Tillerson not so long ago raised the specter of an open-

ended U.S. commitment, which clearly goes against what President Trump thought, of course years ago, several years ago, when he tweeted that we

should stay out of Syria; the rebels are just as bad as the current regime, what will we get for our lives and our billions of dollars? Zero.

Do you think Secretary Tillerson made a mistake by raising this open-ended commitment and actually telling the Turks that we're going to raise a

border army with Kurds, you know, 30,000 strong?

KIRBY: So a couple of things there, Christiane. First of all, I think it was miscommunicated as I understand it, this is not a 30,000-strong border

security force. This is an effort to continue to train and equip those Kurdish forces on the Syrian side of the border, to continue to go after

ISIS in that area of Syria, not necessarily to secure the border with Turkey.

So I think it got a little miscommunicated. And I don't know whether Tillerson misspoke or not. I mean, it's hard to say, inside this

administration, what they are thinking.

And obviously I don't think Americans in general would support a, quote- unquote " open-ended commitment" in Syria. I don't think Americans would support open-ended military commitments anywhere aside from actual

alliance treaty commitments that we have around the world.


KIRBY: That said, I do think that Secretary Mattis and Secretary Tillerson are right to want to stay committed to the fight against ISIS inside Syria

and to keep our military presence, small though it may be, in place and alive and vibrant while the fight against ISIS continues to persist.

It is, I think, an unhealthy thing for us to relinquish Syria to Russia and Iran and to Bashar al-Assad --


AMANPOUR: Well, let's talk about Russia.

KIRBY: -- and to prolong the civil war.

AMANPOUR: Let's talk about Russia, Admiral Kirby, it's on President Obama's watch, the president you served as State Department spokesman, that

they allowed Russia to enter the fray, well timed, well known. It was on Obama's watch that this happened.

And now Russia is there to stay and many say is calling the shots at the U.S. expense. Again, American diplomats are saying this whole situation

right now, mess, shows that the U.S. is in some disarray in Syria and unable to shape and influence the outcome there.

They are right.

KIRBY: Yes. No, I don't disagree with that at all, Christiane. I think, first of all, a couple of things. Russia was always there to stay in

Syria. They had, even before they ramped up military pressure a couple of years ago, military presence a couple of years ago, they had two bases


There's no indication that they were ever going to give those up, regardless of which way the civil war went. It's one of the reasons why

they prop Bashar al-Assad up so that they can maintain their presence. Syria is their toehold in the Middle East. There's no way they're going to

give that up.

That said, you're absolutely right. And the critics are right, that they have gained more influence because the United States has ceded influence.

And it didn't just start under President Trump; I understand that. But they have definitely now sort of controlled the table with respect to the

future of Syria.

And just today, Christiane, you may have seen, the Russians now are trying to call for a meeting in Sochi of the U.N. Security Council members to

discuss, you know, the civil war in Syria and potentially solving this diplomatically along the U.N. lines.

And I think that's unfortunate, that Russia is now being put in the driver's seat diplomatically. This administration, while I have praised

them for the work against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, up until very, very recently, just last week, there's been almost no discussion out of the

Trump administration about how to solve the Syrian civil war diplomatically, how to drive the U.N. process forward, the way that

Secretary Kerry very tirelessly tried to do while he was in office.

They've pretty much abrogated all of that now to the Russians and that's not a good place for us to be. It's certainly not a good place for the

Syrian people to be because we can't expect that the Russians will have the better interests, the democratic interests at heart of the Syrian people.

AMANPOUR: Right. And meantime, Bashar al-Assad sits safely in his palace in Damascus, watching all of this.

Admiral Kirby, thank you very much indeed for joining us.

So as tension builds yet again in the volatile Middle East, Hollywood, at least, has served up a well-timed distraction. This morning, the 2018

Oscar nominations were announced. The state have nominate films covers an extraordinary range of diverse talent and stories.

And A.O. Scott is the chief movie critic for "The New York Times," who is joining me from New York.

Welcome to the program.

A.O. SCOTT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES" Great to be with you.

AMANPOUR: So we're doing a hard turn from Syria and Turkey all the way to fiction.

What leapt out for you in the slate of the announcements today, the nominations?

SCOTT: Well, one thing which I think you suggest is just how diverse the nominees are in terms of gender and background and race but also in terms

of generation and style and genre.

You have the movie, "Get Out," which was the big hit of the early part of 2017. A horror movie. A first-time director, Jordan Peel, an African

American director. A movie that really, I think, touched a lot of raw nerves in the American psyche in a way that was very insightful and


You have Greta Gerwig's "Lady Bird," also a first feature as a director. She was nominated for Best Director and it was nominated for Best Picture.

So compared to years past, the slate of nominees in the aggregate looks not only more diverse and more inclusive but also I would say more youthful. I

think we've moved away from the idea that Oscar films are sort of stodgy prestige products of the studio.


AMANPOUR: How did that happen?

How did they get more youthful?

Because to be honest with you, I'm looking at the statistic here. The Academy is still 72 percent male and 87 percent white.

How has it expanded to become more youthful and more sort of independent and edgy?


SCOTT: Well, there's been an effort, I think the numbers of voting members have expanded to almost 8,000 from 6,000. And even though the numbers that

you just cite are -- don't look very encouraging, they are a big improvement over where it's been in the past.

So I think that the voting membership has gotten younger, has gotten less dominantly male and white. And I think, for whatever reason is, you're

finding voters and people in the nominating bodies, who are much more attuned to movies that are more adventurous, that are more ambitious, that

belong to popular genres that reflect even, let's say, critics like me, who has been an Oscar skeptic, if not an Oscar hater, for a very long time.

Think of it as the best movies of the year -- been very unusual in my career as a film critic that I agree with the Academy. But it's happening

more and more.

AMANPOUR: Well, I mean, I wonder, do you agree then, with "The Shape of Water," which I think took everybody by surprise by garnering the most

nominations -- I'm not sure whether everybody has seen it or heard of it. But maybe the bigger blockbuster like a Steven Spielberg "The Post" about

the Pentagon Paper didn't get hardly any.

SCOTT: Yes, that was very interesting. And, again, Guillermo del Toro, who directed "The Shape of Water," has been a fan favorite for a very long

time and has directed some big kind of action, fantasy movies.

This is a more intimate monster movie. But it's a movie that I think has gained a lot of support with critics and with critics' groups and, as it's

come out into the marketplace with audiences, it's a very unusual movie.

It's basically about a love affair. It's a monster movie but it's also a love story. And Sally Hawkins plays a woman working at a research facility

in Baltimore during the Cold War, who falls in love with a fish, basically, with a creature from the Black Lagoon, who is being kept in this facility.


SCOTT: And it's very strange. But it's very romantic and I think it has a real appeal for its mood and also for some of its technical aspects.


AMANPOUR: So let's play a clip from "Lady Bird." You mentioned it. Greta Gerwig is the director. Let's play a clip and we'll talk about it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to go where culture is, like New York --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- or at least Connecticut or New Hampshire, where writers live in the woods.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can't get in those schools anyway.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can't even pass your driver's test.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because you wouldn't let me park --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The way that you work or the way that you don't work, you're not even worth state tuition, Christine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My name is Lady Bird.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, well, actually it's not. And it's ridiculous --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Call me Lady Bird like you said you would.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just -- you should just go to city college, you know, with your work ethic, just go to city college and then to jail and then

back to city college and then maybe you'd learn to pull yourself up and not expect everybody --


AMANPOUR: Well, that's a dramatic end to that clip. I wasn't expecting that. I haven't see the film yet but I certainly will go to see it.

Is it relevant to you that, in this #MeToo moment, this film, directed by a women about two women, is so well recognized?

SCOTT: I think it's absolutely relevant. I think that this is a story about a teenage girl -- and we've seen a lot of stories over the years of

American teenagers and teenage girls and they are often either sentimental or exploitative or silly.

And this takes its main character very seriously. She takes herself very seriously. But it's such a fresh and sensitive and honest look at an

ordinary teenage girl's life and the performances are wonderful. That was Laurie Metcalf as the mother and Saoirse Ronan as Lady Bird. And they are

so -- they are just so real.

And the emotions in this movie are so clear and so precise and it's very funny but it's not ever cruel to its characters. And I think it's a

wonderful movie and I think that there are a lot of movies that are kind of taking up female characters and looking at women's lives with kind of more

honesty and more nuance than maybe we're used to. It's striking -- sorry, go ahead.

AMANPOUR: No, no, no, that's OK. It's a really interesting point because, you're right, women have often been underrepresented in that full banner,

that they are being, certainly in the films we've just seen.

But what about the breakout newcomer, Timothee Chalamet? I interviewed him along with his costar, Armie Hammer, in New York last week after the Golden

Globes. That's "Call Me By Your Name." And as we know, it's about a summer romance between these two men in Italy.

Here's what Timothee told me about the film.



TIMOTHEE: It'd be fair for anybody to watch this movie and say it's a gay movie or a bisexual movie or a coming-of-age story or a coming out story or

a Northern countryside in Italy summer movie or a first romance.

I don't know. I'm always careful with this movie than any project I'm a part of. The art for me takes place in the head of the viewer.


AMANPOUR: When was the last time you saw such an amazing breakout actor, young actor?

SCOTT: Oh, gosh, maybe it was Saoirse Ronan in "Atonement."

I think he's just extraordinary. This character he plays, who's a 17-year- old boy named Ilio, who is spending the summer with his parents and has this affair with a somewhat older graduate student who has come to stay

with them and work with the father.

What he gets across is the way that this kid is still figuring himself out and he's unpredictable to himself and his own emotions and reactions take

him by surprise.

And it's very rare that you see a performance of this kind that doesn't seem to have been programmed in advance. It seems to be happening, as if

the character is taking shape from one scene to the next, right before your eyes. And it's really just -- it's a breathtaking performance.

AMANPOUR: Indeed, and so many.

A.O. Scott, I wish we had time for many more clips and your predictions. I was going to put you on the spot. I will next time.

That is it for our program tonight. Remember, you can always listen to our podcasts and see us online at and follow me on Facebook and

Twitter. Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.