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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to “Amanpour and Company.” Here’s what’s coming up.
We speak to the man of the very heart of Venezuela’s fight for democracy, National Assembly President Juan Guaido.
Plus, China and the U.S. on a collision course over trade. Our interview with the businesswoman who builds Beijing, Xhang Xin.
And why is President Trump turning on his own intelligence chiefs, we speak to a colonel who’s been in the room where it happens.
Also, as U.S. talks move forward with the Taliban in Afghanistan, are women there paying the price for peace? An Afghan politician and women’s rights
activist joins me.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I’m Christiane Amanpour in London.
Tense times in Venezuela and the world is taking sides. The European Union parliament today became the latest to recognize Juan Guaido as the interim
president of Venezuela. It’s a significant addition to more than a dozen countries that have already declared support for the National Assembly
president. Including, of course, the vital backing of the United States. President Trump personally calling Guaido earlier this week.
But Russia, China, Iran and Cuba have forcefully thrown their support behind President Nicolas Maduro, who’s 2018 election was condemned
electoral fraud, and his cracked down on recent protests has seen some 850 people arrested.
At the heart of all of this is Juan Guaido who is continuing his campaign to ratchet up pressure on Maduro at the Central University in Caracas
today. He joins me to talk about what he’ll be doing next and he spoke in his native Spanish, although I did ask him to briefly address the American
people in English.
Mr. Guaido, I wonder whether you can, in English, give a message to the American people about your goals for Venezuela. What would you like the
American people to know about what is happening there?
JUAN GUAIDO, PRESIDENT OF VENEZUELAN NATIONAL ASSEMBLY: Well, I want to thank you for this interview. I want to talk to all American people who
want to help us to recover our democracy our liberty. And I know maybe you know some Venezuelan people in your country, you know all that would —
they are good people, we are, and we want to reconstruct our country, our liberty.
AMANPOUR: Mr. Guaido, but the whole world is watching and waiting to see what is the plan for removing President Maduro. Do you rely on the
military? How can you persuade the military? Tell me what the plan is?
GUAIDO (through translator): We have determined three phases. We understand we are in a dictatorship then we have the worst crisis here
within Venezuela in terms of the large migration that’s leaving this country and what we need to be able to remove Maduro from power and have
this transitional government which will then reconstruct all of the institutional basis for a free country.
In order to do this, we have to pressure through political means to a dictator. Because in that manner, it is — his character is the way that –
– Maduro is characterized throughout the world.
So, in this sense, we have to take away all of the support that he has at the moment through the military forces and to give amnesty to all of those
militaries to be on the side of the constitution. This is an incentive, particularly for the armed forces.
For example, although the functionaries that — who have (INAUDIBLE) Maduro, who have asked, who are still, at this moment, with Maduro, offer
them an incentive to be able to remove themselves from that power and are ordering them yet to be able to remain not — to be able to take care of
the interests of this country.
Mr. Guaido, you have received direct support from President Trump of the United States, you have spoken to him on the telephone. Can you tell us
the substance of your talks? What has he pledged to you and to the people of Venezuela?
GUAIDO (through translator): Look, I’ve had an opportunity to speak with President Trump which I’m most appreciative. And it’s very clear what is
happening here in Venezuela in terms of the commitment with the liberty and democracy.
Inclusively, we have democracy but we’ve lost it. And all of the institutions which value — which are a Federal and Republican within this
country now, I think, the proper (INAUDIBLE) would be the Federal law.
Now, I’ve also spoken with the president and other presidents as well in terms of being the president in charge here in Venezuela and other
executive branches in Europe, Australia, Japan, Israel, and they are all supporting the potential of our country and in terms of the humanitarian —
the most severe humanitarian crisis, which has been suffered here, one of the most severe within the world.
So, I appreciate those conversations and all of the backing (ph) that we’ve had in terms of democratic Venezuela.
AMANPOUR: You must have been watching the whole debate about whether the United States might intervene militarily, there’s been that very same this
yellow pad that John Bolton, the national security adviser, was seen carrying, talking about U.S. troops to Colombia.
Where do you stand and have you also the president of the United States for any military support in your struggle?
GUAIDO (through translator): In terms of taking decisions, even though this is a dictatorship, the Venezuelan people want to advance with whatever
pressure is needed so that we can finally end the dictatorship at this moment.
AMANPOUR: So, I just want you to tell me whether you would support a U.S. military intervention if Maduro does not leave peacefully.
GUAIDO (through translator): We are in Venezuela — here, we, in Venezuela, we’re doing everything to be able to put as much pressure as
possible so that we do not get into that kind of a scenario in which nobody would wish to have.
AMANPOUR: Are you having any talks, any negotiations with Nicolas Maduro?
GUAIDO (through translator): No.
AMANPOUR: What do you think will be the impact of the U.S. sanctions on the Venezuelan oil company, PDVSA? And are you concerned that if oil sales
and oil exports stop, that will make life even harder for the people of Venezuela?
GUAIDO (through translator): That’s an important question, very important, because as well as the inflation and the contract with PDVSA, the
Venezuelan petroleum company, at this moment, what we’re doing is we are demanding as a legislative power to be able to protect the interest of
Venezuela in terms of this regimen has invested.
No one has invested more in terms of the oil industry, only Russia, the United States and Venezuela, all of those have received almost 10 million
barrels a day. Venezuela has produced 3 million barrels a day and incrementing their production after having $300,000 to be able to invest in
petroleum, you know that that money has been stolen in terms of the oil industry here in this country.
So, what we’re doing is trying to reactivate this industry and so, there will be no usurping action by the way of Maduro in keeping this money and
that the production of petroleum will be on behalf of Venezuela.
AMANPOUR: Mr. Guaido, you say there are no conversations between you and Mr. Maduro, are you worried that there might be a bloodbath if he stays? I
say that because the pope himself, who’s been in Central America, has said that he’s very concerned about the safety of Venezuelan people amid this
GUAIDO (through translator): The bloodbath is happening in one week in which we’ve initiated the protests which are the strongest and there was —
yesterday, there was a protest. Almost 5,000 people protested and there was a group, a commando of the — a group of the military forces called
SAES, S-A-E-S. They have tried to create a lot of fear and they have detained 700 people, almost 70 or 80 of those are underaged between 11 and
17 years of age. They have been tortured to be able to generate fear in terms of those areas that are in the worst shape because there is no
medicine, there is no food.
AMANPOUR: Mr. Guaido, what is your reaction? What is your answer to Maduro who says that the United States, through you, is organizing a coup
GUAIDO (through translator): We’re asking that the armed forces on the side of the constitution, which is — it’s very different that it would be
a coup here in Venezuela. Some of the people in the countries in Europe are backing this process here in Venezuela.
And so, we are making a calling to all of them, to all the countries to be able to solve this crisis here and to be able to restore the constitution,
to be able to reestablish, to be able to help, to be able to bring back this facet of what is happening where Maduro is usurping this country. And
a government of resistance to be able to tent to the best interest of the people and work towards prosperity and the wellbeing, the social being of
the people here in this country.
AMANPOUR: Now, very finally, I want to ask you, where did you come from Mr. Guaido? All of a sudden you are the new leader of the National
Assembly and the interim leader, as many countries have recognized you, of Venezuela. But how did you come to this activism? I think you were very
young when Hugo Chavez first came to power.
GUAIDO (through translator): Yes, I was barely 15 years old who have never stopped believing in our country and our generation. And we have gone
through a lot with this dictatorship, through a lot of sacrifices, a lot of loss because of this security that we live here in this country.
We have always remained constant and this is a moment of — we have — many have gone through a lot of sacrifice for many parties to reconstruction of
a country. And it is our goal to reconstruct our country. And particularly, all of that effort that we are going through the way of
starting here to be able to restore Venezuela as it was.
AMANPOUR: Juan Guaido, thank you so much for joining us from Caracas in Venezuela today. Thank you.
It is clear the Maduro regime is trying to intimidate him. Having earlier this week seized his assets and barred him from leaving the country. Just
now, after our interview, security forces visited Guaido’s home where his wife and daughter live. We continue to reach out to Mr. Maduro and his
officials for comment, they have not responded.
Turning now to a looming March deadline. No, it is not Brexit but rather the U.S.-China trade deal. China’s top trade negotiator, Vice President
Li, is meeting President Trump today in Washington. And if a trade deal is not made by March 1st, President Trump is threatening to increase tariffs
on $2000 billion worth of Chinese imports.
Our next guest says President Trump needs to tone down the rhetoric and get the deal done. Known as the woman who built Beijing, Xhang Xin is a self-
made billionaire and CEO of SOHO China. It’s a real estate empire and a world away from her poverty-stricken childhood. And with business
interests around the world, she does have the ear of leaders in both Washington and Beijing. And she told our Walter Isaacson, this is the
worst she’s ever seen U.S.-China relations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALTER ISAACSON: Thank you so much for joining us.
You grew up as a factory girl and then became a multibillionaire and you were born during the Cultural Revolution. How does that happen?
ZHANG XIN, SOHO China CEO: You know, my generation in China, we all were born during Cultural Revolution, when there was really nothing.
Materially, there was nothing. And politically, it was under socialism.
And so, the minute that China’s door opened to the outside world, which is in the late 70s, and I went with my mother to Hong Kong in 1980. I was 14.
We had nowhere — you know, we didn’t know how to start life there other than just being from the very basic, which is to get a job in the factory.
So, I worked in the factory for five years in Hong Kong.
You know, Hong Kong than was a manufacturing center in Asia. And, you know, I would work from floor to floor, because it — these factories are
in high rise buildings. One floor would be the one that does collar, the other floor would do zipper, the other floor would do — put the sleeves
together. So, I would just do it from factory to factory, whoever pays $1 more, I’d go to that factory. So, I did that for five years. And,
obviously, I was desperate to leave.
Hong Kong then was the English colony. So, the obvious place to go was to go to England. I had saved a little bit money. I had saved about 3,000
English pound, that was enough to get to England. But I didn’t speak any English. So, I had to go to an English language school. So, I started
language school, then went to high school, then to college and to graduate school, all of that in England.
ISAACSON: And so, you ended up, after leaving Cambridge, working for places like Barrington, Goldman Sachs. When did you sort of realize, “I
should go back to China now, there’s an opportunity to do something big in China”?
XIN: I always wanted to go to China — go back to China. It was — you know, going to Goldman was a temporary, you know, detour from what I wanted
to do. Because even at Cambridge when I was writing my thesis it was about China’s privatization. I was — China at the time in the 80s was already
become very, you know, exciting with all the talks of the reforms and economic reforms and opened doors, and I just wanted to go back, to be part
But, you know, I couldn’t really get a job immediately back to China because I did not know how to do that. It happens to be the investment
banks who came to Cambridge to recruit, and that’s how I got a job. But from the very beginning, when I went to Wall Street working in Hong Kong,
I’d always wanted to go back to China.
ISAACSON: And how big was this entrepreneurial explosion in China in the late 80s and 90s that you were able to tap into?
XIN: Oh, tremendous, tremendous. I mean, like no one had an idea how to do anything right. Like no one knew how to do a building right. I didn’t
either. But one thing is — I remember I was always getting into a fight with my husband, I said, “Look, I’ve seen buildings better than this. I
can do better than this.” So, I was like — I took on the job as working with the architects to do the designs and thinking about how the buildings
should be built. So, that’s like every single industry started that way in China, back in the 80s.
Today, when you see theses state of the art buildings got build and — just imagine — you know, just remember like 25 years ago, 30 years ago there
ISAACSON: You are known as the builder of Beijing because that’s where the billions came from, that you and your husband did when you did real estate.
Tell me about starting SOHO.
XIN: Back in 2000, year 2000, there was a dot-com boom, boom and bust. And I remember, I as a developer, was thinking that, you know, people who
are thinking about change, right, nobody — everyone is going to be working in the garage, no one’s going to go to the office, people are going to
dress casual and life in the world is about to change.
So, I was thinking so what does that mean to a developer, we’re going to be building different homes, different office, different people are going to
work and live differently. So, with that, we came with this idea of Small Office Home Office, therefor SOHO.
And so, essentially, it’s a duplex of — you know, on the top is the home and the lower part is an office. So, you can work and live together. It
was very popular. That product got sold like this, you know, everyone was like got this dot-com buzz and wanted to have something to do with that.
But we — after — you know, after 2000, after the bust of the dot-com era, we went back to just building traditional office buildings and, you know,
focus on architecture and creativity and no longer doing this SOHOs.
ISAACSON: Some of the Chinese investment overseas, including like you, I think, put a billion dollars or so into the General Motors building just a
few blocks away. It’s starting to come back, people — bringing that money back to China. Are you doing that and is that important for the economy?
XIN: I think it’s not the money been brought back to China, it is the money has been stopped coming because China, a few years ago, started a
capital control program, which is you cannot really get the money freely out of China. So, you’re seeing a drastic decline of Chinese investment
coming to the U.S. because of that.
ISAACSON: Is that a bad thing for the U.S.? Is it a bad thing for China?
XIN: Well, I think bad thing for the U.S., you know, because you always welcome, you know, investment, right, the more the better, right, there’s
never a limit. For China, I think, the Chinese government have to do it because otherwise, you know, they don’t want to see the capital flight and
they have to put a gate and say, “You can’t get the money out,” and that’s the only way. And so, that’s what they — what they are doing.
ISAACSON: How harmful is this trade war and talk of trade war between the U.S. and China?
XIN: This is bad, this is really bad. I mean, it’s — you can see that here in the U.S., it sends that jitter to the market and China is the same,
like, you know, even more so I think, you know, China — because people are — this one trade war thing, it really captures everybody’s attention.
On top of that, you have this very political — well, at least, it’s interpreted in the very political way by Chinese media and public that the
arrest of the Huawei CFO, you know, most Chinese believe that’s a political and she’s been held hostage in order to advance the trade talks. So, that
So, this — the Chinese are all watching it and then I’ve been watching it, it seems like the last two days really been bad news coming out from this.
Let’s hope that it’s going to change and get better.
ISAACSON: But aren’t there serious charges against her?
XIN: I just don’t know the details, maybe this. But you still need to think about the timing, you still need to think about what’s the right way
of doing it, and it seem to be — I don’t understand this, it seems to be the Chinese delegation arriving the day before that, this was officially —
send out the official notice, it seemed just to be to — if it is not at all designed, it seemed to be too much of a coincidence.
ISAACSON: Does Donald Trump have some point though that perhaps we have to rebalance and recalibrate our economic relationship with China?
XIN: I mean, Trump is very focused on trade deficit, right, and I don’t know this trade deficit can be resolved this way. Some jobs left United
States for a reason that these jobs are just — things are done cheaper in other countries, and that’s not just China, it’s like if you’re producing a
mug that’s cheaper to produce in Indonesia, you know, at half the prize, you as a manufacturer would do that.
ISAACSON: What can you do to bridge the gap then between the U.S. and China, which seems to have become very aggravated recently?
XIN: Well, I think this is the worst time I’ve seen, you know, in my — how long — I mean, since, you know, 1980 I left China to Hong Kong to now,
this is the worst time I’ve seen the U.S.-China relations. And it’s worrisome. And I think someone like me who has always prided myself as
part of the bridge, bridging China to the rest of the world and U.S.-China relations is one of the most important relationship. And yet, we’re
seeing, you know, the tension and build up to this level. And I think the more communication, the better it is.
ISAACSON: What advice would you give the American leadership of what to do to help bring down the temperature of this trade war?
XIN: Well, the thing is, I think Chinese culture and American culture are so different, right. And Americans are used to being an aggressive
negotiator. Chinese are different. Chinese are always like we should create a friendship first and then it’s easy to get the business done.
That’s a very different approach.
ISAACSON: Suppose Donald Trump is watching this show right now what would you say to him?
XIN: I think tone down the rhetoric and get the deal done.
ISAACSON: And suppose the Chinese leadership were listening right now, what would you say to them?
XIN: Also, you know, just make sure that you get the deal done. It’s important to get deal done, you know, billions of people dependent on this.
Trade wars are just — no one wins out of this. And, you know, you put tariffs, they put tariffs and you put more tariffs. And ultimately, what,
the consumer is going to suffer.
ISAACSON: You have on the Chinese equivalent of Twitter more than 10 million followers. Wow. That’s — I mean, making $3 billion 10 million
followers. How did you do that?
XIN: Well, for a while, the Chinese Twitter called Weibo was very, very, very active, you know, like tons, tons of the like hundreds of millions of
people on that every day and very vibrant. And so, I was just tweeting a lot, you know, I was always tweeting about my work, my life, you know, my
running, my interviews, my travel around the world and people just find it interesting.
But now, that is not as vibrant, you know, Chinese Twitter has been heavily censored. So, it’s not as vibrant. I don’t tweet as much now.
ISAACSON: Do you worry sometimes about the censorship of the internet and social media in China?
XIN: I do. I mean, I do. I think any constraints and controls is inevitably affects the entrepreneurship which needs a free environment and
it needs to give people the freedom to imagine, to do things. Yes, I do worry about that.
ISAACSON: Would China be wise to just open up to American social media, to Google, to the Facebooks and Twitters as well as to its homegrown social
media instead of making more restrictions on it?
XIN: Well, that’s — well, I think when social media was invented, that was the whole idea, right, you connect everyone around the globe. But I
think, inevitably, you would hit some stumbling blocks because some countries want to control Twitter, and that’s the case with China.
So, China has its own system, its own social media. It’s not small, it still got hundreds, millions of people there. But it is not connecting
with the rest of the world. So, it’s not like connecting — if you — if you’re on Facebook, you have Twitter, you’re connecting with everyone
around the world. China is only connecting with the Chinese, that system. And that, so far, the system and I don’t see how this is going to change
ISAACSON: And as a billionaire businesswoman in Beijing, are you sort of the inspiration for many, many other young people in China saying, “I can
aspire to be that”?
XIN: Well, I get invited to speak to students, you know, a lot, and I love it, I really love speaking to students. And if anything, I always
encourage them to go out, study and, you know, be the bridge and connect with the world and, you know, the more adventures the better it is.
ISAACSON: And did that help inform your philanthropy that you’re doing these days, this need to help kids that don’t have privilege to get a great
XIN: Oh, definitely, because I look back, the game changer in my life was education. Had I stayed as a factory girl, I wouldn’t have captured the
opportunities later in life. And so, when I have the means to help the others, the one thing that’s very close to my heart is the financial aid
program because it wasn’t at somebodies generosity to sponsor me to go to college, eventually go to Cambridge, I would never be able to do what I do.
So, I — a few years ago, my husband and I started a SOHO China scholarship program, which is to provide financial aid to Chinese students coming to
America to study. This year we have over 40 SOHO scholars at Harvard and Yale, and these are fantastically bright kids. Different from the days
when I was a student, I couldn’t speak any English or very little English after, you know, language school, but these kids all speak fantastic
English. That’s how much China has changed.
ISAACSON: Tell me, you have stories about some of these students coming from rural areas and yet speaking English and you get to meet them, what
inspires you about them? Give me one of those stories.
XIN: So, I — you know, I make a point of meeting them every year multiple times, right. So — and then I host this forum every year in the fall,
some of the older scholars will be in there, like a couple of years and some of the new scholars just came in, and I would, you know, always try to
learn their stories.
One of the girls really stood up and she’s from a small town in China called Jinjiang (ph). This is a town that produces vinegars. So, we all
know this place is a vinegar producer. And I said to her, “You speak fantastic English. Where did you learn that from?” And she said, “By
listening to Taylor Swift’s music.” I thought, “Oh, my God. That was amazing that someone could learn English through listening to songs of
ISAACSON: Thank you for being with us.
XIN: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, while President Trump tries to nail a trade deal with China, his key European allies, France, Germany and the U.K., are trying to ensure
they can continue trading with Iran, setting up a mechanism to try to bypass U.S. sanctions penalties and shore up the Iran nuclear deal.
And this week, his own intelligence community contradicted several of the president’s key foreign policy beliefs on Iran and North Korea. For
instance, the president has just said he disagrees with them and that “time will prove him right.”
Now, a stalwart ally in Congress, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is also piling on, by leading a proposal to keep troops in Syria and
So, let’s dig down into the disconnect with Former Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, Larry Wilkerson.
Mr. Wilkerson, welcome to the program.
LAWRENCE WILKERSON, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO COLIN POWELL: Thanks for having me.
AMANPOUR: So, so there’s obviously a lot to discuss. Let’s just start by picking up where the last interview ended and the idea that, right now,
President Trump is meeting with the Chinese Vice Premier and they’re trying to get some deal by the deadline of March 1st.
Do you think there will be a deal? What do you think the risks of continuing this trade war if there’s no deal?
WILKERSON: Let me say first that Xhang Xin is a fascinating woman and that was a great interview. I think she’s right too, kill the rhetoric and get
on with the deal.
And I think that’s ultimately what’s going to happen. It’s just too important a relationship. I saw that in the first Bush administration when
George W. Bush reluctant to let Powell have a lot of portfolios, essentially gave him the China portfolio almost exclusively and put Richard
Cheney, the vice president, in the closet over it.
And Powell ran that relationship for four years and ran it quite well. It’s just too important to mess it up.
AMANPOUR: So we’ll see how it — how it — how it all boils down. But let me also ask you about Venezuela, which was the lead story and has been for
a long time. And it’s pretty incredible that, you know, the president of the United States has reached out to this young opposition leader.
And let’s face it, even Juan Guaido, I mean it’s not like he’s from the president’s own political party. He’s more aligned with the labor party
here in the United Kingdom. And yet, the president is giving the support. What do you think motivates that policy from the United States?
WILKERSON: I think it’s the age old (ph) — it’s nothing new with Trump, it’s the age old, (foreign language), The Giant of the North’s view of
Latin America and it’s prerogatives in Latin America. They haven’t changed for 150 years, particularly the last 70 years.
So I’m very concerned and the — the person behind Juan Guaido is Leopoldo Lopez and those who represent the interest in Venezuela despite their party
affiliations and names of those whom we throughout the years have most supported, the 5 percent of the most wealthy people in Venezuela.
So I’m very concerned that we don’t mess this up by allowing ourselves too much interest in it. The Venezuelan people need to settle this issue.
It’s going to be, probably very difficult to do so because look what happened with Shavez (ph).
Shavez (ph) managed; despite his thuggery, corruption, and Maduro’s deepening and making it even more profound; despite all that he gave power
to people from the barrios, people who had never had power in Venezuela before; they’ve tasted that power now.
The military is split over that power. So we could have a civil war in Venezuela that would be quite bloody. So the United States needs to be
very, very careful about exercising it’s more or less traditional policy with regard to Latin America, in this case of Venezuela.
AMANPOUR: I mean we’ve all been watching Venezuela very closely and it has been unraveling in a really dramatic way and the big losers of the people,
3 million have had to flee and there’s a famous Maduro diet.
We’re told the average Venezuelan has lost 19 pounds of body weight since this crisis. I mean they just don’t have enough to eat. And there is .
WILKERSON: And almost — almost no one else — almost no one else will take the Venezuelans in South America. Columbia feels a debt to them
because during their many problems with the (inaudible), Venezuela took Columbians. So Columbia is taking millions of Venezuelans and this is very
AMANPOUR: Right. And — and — and let’s face it, Juan Guaido is the first to have really got out there and mounted a very, very serious
challenge that the rest of the world, including the U.S., is paying attention to. You talk about a potential civil war, do you think — I mean
what do you make of the famous Bolton yellow pad with that scroll, 5,000 troops to Columbia.
WILKERSON: It was John thinking out loud as it were or it was John very carefully trying to orchestrate a — a leverage point. And that would fit
in really well with the transactional president we have right now, Donald Trump.
But I don’t think it means anything and I certainly hope it doesn’t mean anything because the worst thing we could possibly do would be to deploy
U.S. forces into what is a very volatile situation and that the Venezuelans themselves, thank you very much, ought to be able to take care of.
AMANPOUR: One last question on Venezuela. You know you recently admitted that part of the reason for the war in Iraq was about the oil reserves, the
oil money, the oil. And if you — you know that already Maduro and those who are against Juan Guaido and against the U.S. support for him are
accusing the U.S. of staging a coo just to get the oil. What’s your view on that?
WILKERSON: We are the biggest buyer of that oil because it’s got such high sulfur content and it — it requires a lot of money to get it out of the
ground even though they’re sitting on possibly the largest oil reserves in the world. So that is Venezuela’s future.
And without that oil and without the U.S. ability to process it, refine it, and so forth and ultimately to buy it at all that is a problem for
Venezuela. So to sanction that, which is the main source of Venezuela’s income, probably is going to wind up as sanctions often do, hurting the
Venezuelan people more than anyone else.
I understand why they’re trying to keep the money away from Maduro, but if there really is going to be a reconciliation, and Maduro’s going to be
asked to leave and somebody else to take over. Then they need to restore that very, very quickly — I wouldn’t take it away at all if it were me.
The best (inaudible) here in that regard are probably Obrador from Mexico, maybe Vazquez (ph) and maybe Pope Francis — we don’t need people who
aren’t interested in the best interest of the Venezuelan people being intermediaries here. And I hate to say this but I include us in that in
terms of honest, balanced negotiations.
AMANPOUR: Well it looks like Juan Guaido is looking most definitely for support from the United States and hoping that it will be an honest broker.
In any event (ph), let’s just move on, because there also does seem to be a bit of a row between President Trump and his Intelligence Community, again.
So the whole group of members of the various different branches of the Intelligence Community have come up with certain facts. Dan Coats, the
Director of the National Intelligence had an assessment that he testified in the Senate about and this is what he said about ISIS, about North Korea,
Iran, et cetera — let’s just listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN COATS, U.S. DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: ISIS is intent, and resurging, and still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria. We
currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production
capabilities. We assess that foreign actors will view the 2020 U.S. elections as an opportunity to advance their interests.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So Dan Coats laying out three or four key findings. He did also add that while he saw North Korea giving no indication of giving up their
nukes, that Iran was showing no indication of developing any nuclear weapons. So this directly contradicts the President, and he had this to
say in the Oval Office today — listen to the President.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you still have confidence in Gina Haspel and Dan Coats to give you good advice?
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: No I disagree with certain things that they said — I think I’m right, I will prove that — time will prove me right,
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So from your vantage point and having been at the State Department in a pretty, pretty difficult era, the Iraq War era — what do
you make of, “here we go again.” You know, National Intelligence, the President — I mean in this instance they’re on different sides?
WILKERSON: Well you know I’m not fan of the U.S. Intelligence Community, particularly with regard to Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. But at the
same I time I think — I think DNI Coats is pretty level-headed, he gave a presentation that didn’t break really any new ground.
Most of my colleagues, most of the experts on the Korea — particularly North Korea believe that Kim Jong-un will not give up his nuclear weapons.
I think at the end of the day Donald Trump knows that too, but he’s got some plans about how he might finesse that. Japan might not like that very
With regard to ISIS I just read an assessment this morning, the caliphate may be down but ISIS is still alive and well, they’re even in the southern
Philippines killing people. With regard to Iran, Donald Trump’s remark to Coats’ remark about “oh they just shot off some rockets,” shows that he’s a
little bit detached from reality on that one — which doesn’t surprise me that much, that’s a detail the president probably wouldn’t be apprised (ph)
The reason Iranians are shooting rockets off is basically because that’s their principle form of military defense because we have sold billions —
tens of billions of dollars worth of weaponry to Saudi Arabia, their principle enemy across the straight, so that’s very understandable and it
really has nothing to do with their nuclear program which the Intelligence Community even agreed in the last part of the Bush administration they were
not trying to do.
They had once wanted to develop (ph) a nuclear weapon, they made a decision sometime around the 2000’s — mid-2000’s that they weren’t going to go for
a nuclear weapon for cost reasons, for international relations reasons and so forth. The fear I have is that the United States violation — not
abandonment of — violation of, the Nuclear Agreement — a U.N. Security Council codified (ph) agreement.
Our violation of that agreement might ultimately compel Iran to change its mind and to develop a nuclear weapon which would be exactly the opposite of
what we, Europe and probably the rest of the world wants.
AMANPOUR: So you would support then, the Europeans taking any means necessary to try to keep this deal in place? For instance they have now
come up with some kind of mechanism that will finesse payments for Iran’s oil and other things I suppose, as enshrined in that U.N. encoded nuclear
deal to avoid U.S. sanctions and punitive measures? You would — you would support that?
WILKERSON: Actually, the special vehicle, as I understand it, and I read Frederica Mogherini and others’ comments on in this morning, the special
vehicle is mostly for humanitarian aid and food. So I’m all for that. That we are enforcing our baking sanctions to the extent that we’re hurting
humanitarian assistance and food from getting the Iranian people simply is nonsense. It makes no sense. It’s too brutal. So I’m for it in that
sense. I — here’s where I’m alarmed, Christiane. I think this is the beginning of Europe’s developing a — an identity, a self-identity, if you
will, that does not include in a major way as it has for the past half century, since World War II, the United States.
And I think President Trump’s remarks about NATO, his remarks about people not pulling their weight and so forth, while they had some validity, they
were so undiplomatic. And this comes along, a violation of this agreement that was agreed to by all the countries involved. That is beginning to
make the rest of the world think the United States is not quite as trustworthy as it used to be. And sanctions add to that in a sense that
makes them want to do something about our ability to be so effective with sanctions, which means eventually an attack on our currency.
That’s really going to be dangerous for us.
AMANPOUR: So let me ask you whether you were surprised to see a, as we described, stalwart ally of the president’s, the Senate Majority Mitch
McConnell, also sort of, you know, piling on, you know, supporting the foreign policy establishment, basically, you know, not disapproving of the
president saying he’s going to withdraw, you know, U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan. This is what McConnell said just yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY: So what we must remember, Mr. President, is how hard won these gains have been. Our response to this
progress must not be to take our foot off the gas pedal but rather to keep up those strategies that are clearly working. Our partnership with Iraqi
Security Forces and the Syrian Democratic Forces have stripped ISIS of much territory in those two nations. But we’ve not yet defeated ISIS. We have
not yet defeated Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So I mean, he’s — he’s making those facts clear but clearly President Trump has a base that would like to see these troops come home.
I mean, the polls are very, very clear on that. So how does the president sort of straddle that popular belief versus what it seems the foreign
policy establishment is worried about now?
WILKERSON: Well, I’m glad the senate majority leader finally found a voice. However, I don’t necessarily agree with much of what he said. I
happen to be a fan of President Trump’s desire to get the U.S. forces on the ground out of Syria. There are only 2,000 some odd forces there.
There are over 4 million men and women under arms and professional militaries from Iraq to Egypt to Syria to Saudi Arabia. There are plenty
of people to handle the remnants of ISIS and if they can’t, then I’m not sure the American taxpayer ought to be forking over dollars to help them
So it’s not a real tragedy that we’re bringing some 2,000 troops home. The air power will still be there, we have the largest air force base in the
world in Qatar, so there will be plenty of U.S. power there. The idea that we’re pulling out is simply nonsense. Mr. McConnell doesn’t know the force
laydown very well. So I’m — I’m a fan of his bringing some of these troops home. That said, I’m not a fan of how discordant, disconcerted and
disorganized our Middle East policy is in general. I really would like to see that gotten together and a chapeau put over it so we knew what the heck
we’re trying to do in the Middle East.
I think the American people deserve that.
AMANPOUR: Well, I mean you obviously speak from experience because you were in an administration that thought it knew what to do in the Middle
East and clearly didn’t. And you know, we witnessed the — the — the principal ministers, secretaries around President Bush basically be in lock
step about the war with Iraq. So having said that, I want to know your views now of the president having a whole number of very important
positions filled by people who agree with him, people who are more inclined to agree with his — you know, his — his ideas on the Middle East and
elsewhere. Whether it’s Pompeo and Bolton, who’ve replaced Mattis, McMaster and the others.
What are you — are you concerned about that? Do you think there’s enough sort of different DNA in the room when the president is forced to make
WILKERSON: You make a good point. By and large you want a team that’s trusted, that can work together collegially, like for example I saw with
H.W. Bush and Brent Scowcroft and Jim Baker and so forth. You want a team that can get things done for you but at the same time, you want people like
Jim Breaker and Brent Scowcroft who will tell you when you’ve got no clothes on, who’ll tell you when you’re making as a mistake and their view
and so forth. I — I think you’re right that Donald Trump has reduced his administration to a group of sycophants and people who think the way he
does with the possible exception of the national security adviser whom I know quite well and who might be dangerous in that regard.
Because he sees the president’s inattention to detail as developing profound gaps into which he can wade and cause things to happen. And at
the end of the day, I’m alarmed over what he Gideon Levy said a number of times in Haaretz and elsewhere. And that is that U.S. Middle East policy
is not made in Washington, it’s made in Tel Aviv, now Jerusalem. There’s a lot of truth to that. And I see a neglectful president of that policy
giving too much leeway to now an extremely right wing leader in Israel, Bibi Netanyahu, who might just at any moment conjure up a war with Iran
He seems to be very intent on doing that, attacking targets over and over again. And Iran’s going to respond sooner or later and then the United
States is going to find itself in a bind with a country that is arguably its principal ally in the world, Israel.
AMANPOUR: Well that raises a whole new spectrum out there and we’re going to have to discuss it another time. And of course the much vaunted peace
proposal that President Trump talked about is not yet on table either. We’re going to wait and see what — what develops down there. But thanks
for your heads-up, thanks for the warning. Larry Wilkerson, thank you very much indeed for joining us today.
WILKERSON: Thanks for having me.
AMANPOUR: So let’s drill down a little bit further on Afghanistan. It is of course America’s longest war, about 17-plus years and counting. But
this week there has been a lot of chatter about a possible breakthrough as the United States and the Taliban agreed to the outlines of a peace deal.
This immediately worried Afghan women, who have been fighting for their rights against this is religious patriarchy, the Taliban. They fear being
left out of the peace process and thus ending up the major losers. Of course, under the Taliban, you remember, women couldn’t work, they couldn’t
go to school, they couldn’t even live their — leave their homes alone.
And President Trump has just said that he will pull out troops if there is a deal. So let’s discuss with — joining me now is the Afghan M.P. and
women’s rights activist, Fawzia Koofi. She’s in Geneva attending a human rights committee meeting at the inter-parliamentary union. Fawzia Koofi,
welcome to the program.
FAWZIA KOOFI, WOMEN’S RIGHTS ACTIVIST, PARLIAMENT MEMBER, KABUL: Thank you, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: So Fawzia, tell me something, what did you make — I want to know your views as an Afghan, as a member of the Afghan parliament and as a
woman to the — to the increasing talk about possibly there being a deal emerging, a peace deal with the Taliban.
KOOFI: You know, Christiane, I think what makes current situation different is there is a kind of consensus on the urgency for a peace in
Afghanistan. And we would like to finally end this 40 years of war which we have had enough of it. And you were here during the Taliban, so you
know how the pain people of Afghanistan went through. However, there are two different views. One different — one is the current president of
Afghanistan who oppose the peace process and he has his own agenda because he will be running for presidential election and he sees his kind of power
and, you know, continuity of his job at risk.
But then there is another discussion at the Afghan political elites and — and people and especially women and civil activists and civil society level
(ph) about, you know, the future of their engagement if a political deal is to be made. Because you know, I lived all my life in Afghanistan during —
including during the Taliban time and we all know what it means. Taliban basically during their time, woman presence was reduced to minimum and they
were basically invisible. And then I think the position of Taliban in these peace talks are that they don’t want to talk to the Afghans, they
don’t want to talk to the Afghan women and they want an Islamic rights for women.
As somebody who left during Taliban and I know what their interpretation is. We’re very much worried, especially that we have gained so much over
the past 18 years. And the society in Afghanistan has transformed to the level that it will be very difficult to bring it back to the town where we
started in 2000–
KOOFI: — when the Taliban government were just withdrawn. So I think yes, we want peace, but that inclusive peace where the public and of course
sustainable where the public, especially the women voices are heard and they are part of the process.
KOOFI: — the issues that we have achieved and gained should be regarded as nonnegotiable issues.
AMANPOUR: So, how do you make sure that happens because right now it seems to be a process between the United States and the Taliban? As you have
said, the Afghan government is not included yet. And women are not included around the peace table.
And at the same time, President Trump says that he will pull out the forces if there is a sustainable peace deal. And he’s — the American people want
the forces back. What is the risk to you right now, do you think?
KOOFI: I understand there are many perhaps anti-Afghanistan war who want the troops to be pulled out. However, I think we need to understand that
the international community was in Afghanistan for a right cause, not only to protect Afghan people from terrorism that was basically killing us
everyday and continue to kill us.
But also to protect the American security. So, the troops in Afghanistan were for the mutual security and trust of the two countries. And I think
eventually we will perhaps agree to an agreement — to a withdrawal. But that has to be in a way that the security and trust of the two countries
are not at risk.
Plus, we need to understand and realize that the Taliban are not the only violent extremist group in Afghanistan. There are other groups including
ISIS. In facet, 18 terrorists groups are functioning in Afghanistan. So what if Taliban, there is peace temporarily or in a (inaudible) peace deal
But then we don’t look at the other — the threats that Afghanistan might face with out terrorists groups, including the one that I named you. So, I
think — yes, it’s important that we make a peace deal. But I don’t think Taliban will actually leave violent because they are never ready to talk
with people of Afghanistan.
The ones that have problems with them and the ones that continue to have (inaudible) problems. In peace talks, basically you talk to the people
that you have problem. So, I think it’s important that we are included. It’s important that the people of Afghanistan legitimate concerns and
demands are heard too.
It’s important that we take the peace process out of the hands of individual, in this case the Afghan politicians. But make it basically a
national issue. I understand President Trump perhaps wants kind of considering the domestic politics to pull out the troops. But they are
there for a right cause.
Also, I would like to call on these feminist groups. I would like to call on first lady, Laura Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Secretary Condoleezza Rice,
Hilary Clinton, the current first lady Melania Trump, Ivanka Trump to look at the situation of Afghan women as a human rights issue. We cannot have
double standard, Christiane.
I think we have discussed this in my previous talks with you. We cannot have double standards. If you look at the other peace processes in the
world, it only sustains when you actually include the whole walks of life people.
And it becomes — there should be some level of justice. There should be some level of tolerance. And some level of compromise.
KOOFI: So, we are happy to compromise to some extent. But when it comes to the basic rights, I think it’s too late perhaps to go to the compromise.
AMANPOUR: Well, we are going to keep an eye on that. Fawzia Koofi with the view from the Afghan women. Thank you very much indeed.
And just a note before we go, the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad has been found liable for the targeted killing of the legendary American war
reporter Marie Colvin whose heroics were documented in the film, A Private War, starring Rosamund Pike.
Colvin was killed in home Syria, in 2012 in a rocket attack. Now, a U.S. court has ordered the Assad regime to pay $300 million in punitive damages
to Colvin’s family. And you can watch my interview with Rosmund Pike who played Marie in that film online at Amanpour.com. You can also go to find
my interviews with Colvin’s family.
Tomorrow, join us for a special show on the scourge of anti-semitism. I speak to Hilda Schram. She’s the daughter of Adolf Hitler’s favorite
architect Albert Speer. And she has dedicated her entire life to fighting against racism and intolerance of any kind.
That’s it for our program tonight.
Thanks for watching Amanpour and Company on PBS and join us again tomorrow.