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Saudi Crown Prince Wrapping Up U.S. Charm Offensive; How Jean Vanier Built A Home For The Disabled? Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired April 6, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:33] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Tonight, the Saudi charm (inaudible) is sweeping the United States, is crown prince, Mohammed bin

Salman, a real reformer or ruthless autocrat? Writer Dexter Filkins joins me for a closer look.

Plus, philosopher, theologian and humanitarian, Jean Vanier a man who his fate and spend his live lifting up the intellectually disable.

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

Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has been in United States for almost three weeks now, kicking off a massive P.R. project with a visit and

warm embrace at the White House, and then hopscotching all over the map, visiting six others cities, meeting with high powered executive like

Richard Branson, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos. The crowned prince is looking for American buy end, investment in his new reform program called Vision

2030. It calls for among other things a massive overhaul of the kingdom's fossil fuel economy.

Mohammed bin Salman is known universally as MBS, and he's one praise for reforms like lifting the ban on women driving and trying to moderate the

kingdom's hardcore brand of Islam. But he has also attracted criticism for his ruthless fixation on gaining and keeping power.

In the latest issue of The New Yorker, Dexter Filkins explores the rise and rise of his royal highness, Prince MBS, and how Donald Trump has hit his

regional widened to this young ruler. And Dexter join me to talk about this all from New York. Dexter Filkins, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: So you have spent the latest of the New Yorker trying to unravel the enigma that is not just MBS as he goes by, but what actually is

possible in Saudi Arabia. Just tell me as an introductory, what do you think he is going to do, what will his Vision 2030 end up being?

FILKINS: Well, I think that's a great question. I think that he is confronting the mass, the mass that's kind of hanging over Saudi Arabia,

which is they built their entire economy and the welfare state kind of on the idea that oil would be $100 a barrel. It's about $60 right now. So

they're burning through all their savings, very quickly. And they are going to run out of money soon. And they know that.

And, you know, the economy is a kind of one trick phony, it's just oil. They don't export anything else, the import everything. So he's got to

reform the economy like really quickly, and try to diversify it.

And that's a huge job and I think, you've kind of laid out a plan to do that. He has laid out a plan to kind of open the culture up, he's allowing

women to drive. He is kind of, you know, restraining some of the more conservative clerics.

The one thing that he hasn't done and I don't -- there's no discussion of this, anything like political reform or democratic reform, that's off the

table, I think all of this is being done to preserve the rule of the house of (inaudible).

AMANPOUR: You know, in just like what he told Thomas Friedman of The New York Times, and people have really latched on to this. That he says, he

wants to bring a moderate Islam back to Saudi Arabia. Now, that is what the United States has been yelling and screaming, and demanding, and so as

the rest of the West since 9/11. So in a way it kind of explains why he is being given an easy pass, it's not a free pass.

FILKINS: Yes. I mean, absolutely. And somebody said to me, when I was working on the piece. They said, "We've been like yelling at this guy for

30 years, you know, we've been yelling at Saudi Arabia, you know, change your system, change your system. And finally along comes a guy who is

doing it, and we're kind of freaking out."

It's true. I mean, I think that's one aspect of his reform program, which is very positive. I think he's very serious about it.

[14:05:02] He is trying to essentially marginalize the clerics in Saudi Arabia who have the most power. And those have been the most conservative,

you know, though hobbies. He is trying to -- he is basically trying to push them out of the way.

And so, I -- it's interesting because I think, I mean, I worry about a backlash because MBS has moved so quickly against so many areas of society.

I mean, he has taken on the plutocrats. He has taken on the clergy. And it makes me wonder if there's going to be a backlash against it.

AMANPOUR: Well, I want to start talking about some of the more controversial aspects, and the president has been very, very clear about

singling out MBS as the agent of change. You write about that in your article. Walk us through what cause or how the Trump administration from

the day they got into office, decided that he was the one who is their go- to-guy.

FILKINS: It's pretty amazing. The conversations I had, people who were in the White House, you know, on Inauguration Day, and shortly thereafter they

all sat down, Jared Kushner led the meeting. They -- as they describe to me, they took the map in the Middle East out, they look at it, and they

said, "Wow, like what a mess."

You know, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, all lose to the Iranians. So what do we have?

And said, we have Israel and we have Saudi Arabia. And those are our two big friends and our two pillars. And so, we're going to do everything we

can to strengthen them. And then, Jared, apparently, Jared kind of looked at Saudi Arabia and said, "Yes." And MBS is the guy.

AMANPOUR: Jared Kushner playing this very, very important role for the president. And yet, as everybody has pointed out, doesn't know the Middle

East or didn't when he came in, has never had any diplomatic experience. How did he educate himself on this complex issue?

FILKINS: Well, it's a good point. Somebody in a White House who I spoke to about this, who, you know, who work with them and links him said, "He's

not scholar but he got up to speed very quickly. He had lots of conversations with very important people like David Petraeus and Henry

Kissinger. And so he's kind of learning it on the fly."

And, you know, Jared has said publically going, you know, going out to the Middle East, I don't care about the past. You know, I care about the

future. But, you know, you can't walk into a room in Middle East and say I don't care about the past. You know, you just can't. It's like the past

is like everything. You know, and I goes back a long way.

And so, I think that some of the things that we've seen happening in the Middle East over the past year, some of which are detailed in my piece, I

think it's a result of I don't care about the past.

AMANPOUR: And we'll get to that in a moment, when we talk about Jerusalem. But first, again, on Prince Mohammed bin Salman. You know, you described

him and others have as charismatic and yet ruthless. So we have all this talk about liberating or liberalizing life for women in Saudi Arabia,

trying to liberalize the economy and diversify, and trying crackdown on corruption.

But in your article, the famous rounding up of 200 of the riches most powerful and put them in the Ritz-Carlton, you say, "They were told to

remove their clothes and were given a uniform and a medical exam, they will led into guarded rooms. And then the interrogations began, with police and

investigators presenting the detained Saudis with purported evidence of their misdeeds. A figure was usually arrived at -- under coercion -- and,

once the detainees paid up and signed a nondisclosure agreement, they were free to leave."

I mean, it's pretty draconian on the one hand and there's even more reporting of alleged harsh behavior.


AMANPOUR: So -- but on the other hand, how do you get back all of these, these ill-gotten gains if indeed they are.

FILKINS: Well, it's a good -- I mean, that's the question, right. But -- as any number of people pointed out to me, and as you just pointed out

yourself, there wasn't a lot of due process there. And who -- and, you know, that Saudi legal system isn't really setup for that.

I think what's interesting about what happen with Ritz-Carlton was, he did claw back a lot of money. I think they said they got -- they ended up with

$110 billion. And, you know, that's important to them.

But I think the other thing to remember is that, is that many of the people that went into the Ritz-Carlton were his rivals, there was political

rivals. There were people who want to be crown prince themselves, who want to be king. And they ended up there and they ended up getting pushed out

of jobs and having their wealth stripped away from them.

[14:10:00] So I think there was a kind of a dual purpose here. You know, part of it was to comeback for Russian but the other part was to eliminate

his rivals.

AMANPOUR: And then, of course, it would be uncomfortable for him, facts, of his own luxurious taste. And of course, it's known and you re-detail

them that, you know, he's got a massive yacht that he bought for $550 million, a shuttle in Paris with all the (inaudible). And of course

reportedly the 450 million of his spouse spent on the wonderful Salvator Mundi, the Leonardo da Vinci portrait of the Last Supper.

You know, we laugh, but he thought it was fine. Listen to what he said in "60 MINUTES".


MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN, SAUDI CROWN PRINCE (through translator): My personal life is something I'd like to keep to myself. And I don't try to draw

attention to it. There are some newspapers I want to point something out about it, that's up to them. As far as my private expenses, I'm a rich

person. I'm not a poor person.

I'm not Gandhi or Mandela.


AMANPOUR: I mean, you got to give him 10 on 10 for being frank.

FILKINS: Yes, it's pretty amazing. Yes, I -- look, it's -- but it's kind of the air for all sea which is I want the whole country to sacrifice, you

know, except for me.


FILKINS: Look, you know, he's 32 years old and he is effectively the king. So, he's the king, you know, he's a lot of -- he can do whatever he want.

AMANPOUR: The question of course though is, are his motives or rather the execution of his plans totally sort out. You can say one thing about

domestic, with all these pros and cons. But look this terrible war in Yemen, again, the obsession with Iran, the Iranians so-called (inaudible).

And this is the worst humanitarian situation on the planet right now. And there is no sense that they're going to stop and the U.S. is backing him.

FILKINS: Yes. I mean, Yemen is a perfect example of that. It's, you know, you -- he punch really hard, but he didn't really think about what was

going to happen after it. So, the dropping of bombs on Yemen, as you say it's a humanitarian catastrophe. There's famine in Yemen. There's cholera

in Yemen affecting potentially hundreds of thousands of people. It's a catastrophe. And it's as though they didn't think it through.

And I -- and somebody essentially told me that which was an American that I know who knows MBS very well under season regularly said, he felt like he

had to do something. And then, you know, there is a very similar kind of in the way that how rush it was MBS did in Lebanon, same thing. He said he

felt he had to strike back with the Iranians. And so, like even if doesn't work, you know, he feels like he has to throw a punch. But, you know, you

can't really do that in foreign affairs, you know, because there is like third and fourth order effect as we all know.

AMANPOUR: Indeed. And can I just ask you about Israel. We all remember that in 2002 the Saudi King at the time presented the Arab Peace Plan, in

which he pledge that all of the Arab countries would recognize Israel's right to peacefully exist, it's right to its land, along side Palestinian

lands in return for a withdrawals of the 67 borders. And nothing has change since then. That's the basic framework of peace.

Until President Trump came along and decided that Jerusalem was going to be declared the total and sole capital of Israel. So, how much do you believe

in your reporting, did the Saudis know about this? Did Prince Mohammed bin Salman give the day fact to a green light because suppose in public they

say they don't like it at all?

FILKINS: It's a great question. I think the Saudi sign off on it. I think MBS sign off on it. It seems pretty clear MBS last November summons

Palestinian leaders to re-audit and essentially presented a plan for piece in the Middle East that you can really only find on the kind of right wing

in Israel. But we're very little resemblance to the old Saudi plan.

It's, you know, Jerusalem basically gone. And here, Jerusalem is sacred to the Arabs as to it is to the Israelis. And so Jerusalem is off the table,

they ratified most of the settlements in the west bank, very limited autonomy to the Palestinians. And that was MBS. And it was MBS, I should

say right after Jared Kushner had paid him a visit and, you know, departed, he pitch this plan and really try to ram it down the throats of the

Palestinians, they completely rejected it.

[14:15:00] So, I think it's kind of dead in the water. But what's remarkable is that, you have an Arab leader who is willing to kind of toss

the, you know, the Palestinians under the bus. It's kind of amazing. We've never really seen this before.

AMANPOUR: It really is extraordinary. Dexter Filkins, it's a great read. Thank you so much for joining us.

FILKINS: Thank you. Thank you so much.

AMANPOUR: Now, the world's problems can be seen in surmountable in a deeply individualistic society like ours. But perhaps together as

community are worries and their causes could be conquered.

The philosopher and theologian, the Roman Catholic Jean Vanier has made it his life work to prove that point. Creating communes for the learning

impair to overcome their disabilities. It's called L'Arche, L'Arche and there are now more than a 147 of them in 35 countries around the world. A

new and particularly acclaim documentary "Summer in the Forest" focuses on the Paris commune. Here's a little look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We begun with no plan. The idea of rejecting all the party and starting to live together.

And you're nothing about this world of people with disability. That if you laugh together, barriers drop.


AMANPOUR: Vanier is a French-Canadian. He's a former British Navy officer. And he has made his home in France for decade. And from there we

discuss his life and how we can all learn and benefit from his extraordinary experiment in being well-just human.

Jean Vanier welcome to our program and thanks for allowing us in to your home. It looks very cozy over there.

JEAN VANIER, FOUNDER, L'ARCHE: Well, I'm really happy. I'm happy that you're there and I'm in my home, and it's great here.

AMANPOUR: Well, you know what, you have given happiness and joy to the world. And that I think is your special gift. And I just want you to take

us back, you know, more than 50-years when you first had the idea to setup the L'Arche in so many different communities. What was the spark?

VANIER: I have a story like everybody with a story. I mean, I was in the British navy. I left the navy. I resigned from the navy to follow Jesus.

And then, I met a priest and he was then a chaplain at home for people disabilities. I began looking into the situation of people with

disabilities in France. I spoke to parents. I went to psychiatric hospitals and eventually I was in an institution who gathered 18 men with

disabilities and I was really moved by them.

There was something so beautiful and so painful. I felt that deep in my heart I wanted to do something. And so I just welcome two men and we

started living together. Raphael had meningitis, he spoke of few words. He was so say major by himself approximately.

And then there was Philippe. And Philippe spoke a lot, maybe a bit too much and he had encephalitis with one leg paralyzed. And so we began to

live together, it was just superb because for these men it was home, it was freedom. And for me it was the end of a journey and the beginning of a


AMANPOUR: What shock me and it probably shock you as well is that, that institution was essentially called a place for idiots, right? I mean, that

was the official terminology that they used for this institution.

VANIER: Right, right, right, right.

AMANPOUR: And you could see beyond that to the human spirit, the human, you know, mind.

VANIER: Yes. I mean that something touched my belief that every person is precious. And that it became more confirmed as I lived with Raphael and

Philippe. You see that in each person and I sense this deeply with Raphael and Philippe, on each person there's a sort of primal innocence, it can

take very beautiful. But this primal innocence gets quickly covered up. Covered up because we've been hurt, we have to defend ourselves or we

become depress, or we get angry and so, or we have to defend. But behind all of that, it's been very tough to every human person, this is primal


AMANPOUR: You've got the government to give you money and it spread to about a 100 communities around the world. That's an amazing success.

VANIER: Well, it's not really a success. You see people with disabilities everywhere are crying out. And then people would come and help me and they

found that this sort of community is superb. They have fun together, because you see people with disabilities what is the fundamental cry, does

anyone really love me? Does anyone really want me? People are fighting, frightened up the different. Frightened of those who had someway could

take away their problem.

So we have to --in some way, find the culture of making which is the total opposite to the culture based on fear. Fear which builds up walls, which

push people away, which condemn people, but say they're no good, they're bad, and the real thing is to meet people and to discover you're more

beautiful than I do believe.

AMANPOUR: So we see that very clearly in the film. There are some wonderful images of this community with lots of laughter, lots of shared

meals. And so, I want to ask you about this because in many sort of social services, people -- the government types thought, well, listen, if people

with disabilities are able to live on their own, you know, let's give them an apartment, let's treat them with dignity. But you quickly found out

that that's not exactly what they wanted, right? They actually wanted to live in group home.

VANIER: Yes, well, to begin with, even at 1970, we had started little apartments in Kompyang (ph), 10 kilometers from here. And they found work,

but then, we found that some were becoming alcoholic, because they were looking at television drinking beers. And so, then we had to help them

enter into and so on.

Because really, what they wanted also is to have places of heartfelt friendship where they could find their place, where they could find a

certain in their freedom and so, because -- well, is it not just work, it is also relationship, meeting people.

AMANPOUR: That's such a basic human instinct that you describe. And it's really important to, you know, to focus on it right now, how to be human.

I just wonder what you learned from your own parents. Your father helped to liberate the concentration camp at Buchenwald. Your mother works for

the Red Cross and did a lot with refugees in World War II and you, of course, were in the navy. What did you learn from them at a very early


VANIER: The love which I received at the family. And the faith because mom and dad were really been also a faith. And dad was a man-- both of

them, mom and dad -- both of them has great integrity. I think that was a high integrity, a deep faith. And dad though he was in the army and then

he went in to the diplomatic, and then of course and he became a Governor- General of Canada, but he has never a politician, they haven't been struggle, he was a humble man.

And I think -- because I think of my dad is humility and his goodness and that mom the same. They were a beautiful team together. So I learned a

lot. I learned that family is something precious, deeply precious.

AMANPOUR: Indeed it is. And just finally, I just want you to reflect on meeting the queen of England. You as a young naval cadet met the queen

when you are very, very young and she was young and you met again not so long ago. Tell me -- walk me through that.

VANIER: Well, in the Vanguard, we choose the battleship which took our parents to South Africa in 1947. It's true that we met and I was young

officer, young midshipmen at that time. And we had fun together and, you know, it's a -- and actually, she had her 21st birthday in (INAUDIBLE).

And so I was advise like many of the other officers to this party. But then I had the chance to meet the queen recently.

AMANPOUR: Did she remember you?

VANIER: Did she remember me? Well, yes, you know, my dad had been also Governor-General of Canada, so and he was representing her. I was deeply

touched as I entered sitting room. She walked to me instead of me walking to her, but I walked.

[14:25:06] She looked at me and she does said, "Hello, Jack." Now, Jack was what the name I had when I was a little child, because I had a nanny

who is Scottish and the queen came up and she said, "Hello, Jack." She is a beautiful woman of deep interiority. I was amazed and touched by the

quality of that woman.

AMANPOUR: It's a wonderful story. Jean Vanier, thank for sharing that with us.

VANIER: I just want to thank you and I thank you all there because you saw the film. And the film is important. What is important are the people

there. I've been living with them now and predicted those who have seen in the movie, we live together and I'll been living with them since 1980

together, those Patrick (ph) and Michelle (ph), I'm just lucky to be nearly 90, living in this community with beautiful people and helped in every way.

And so I just want to, you know, it's such a great to help people discover if we can lower our barriers and make them, the world will change and we

will move to peace.

AMANPOUR: Well, that's a great thought to end with. Jean Vanier, thank you so much indeed.

VANIER: Bless you and be well --

AMANPOUR: Thank you.

VANIER: -- and thank you for being there.

AMANPOUR: Such an important and timely message of compassion and empathy at the end of another vexing (ph) week. And that is 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.