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Iraqi Deputy PM: Fight against ISIS entering a new phase

December 17th, 2014
01:08 PM ET

By Madalena Araujo, CNN

The fight against ISIS is entering a new phase, Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister Rowsch Nuri Shaways told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday.

“The fight against ISIS and the other terrorists in Iraq is now going through a stage which is different from previous stages. In the past, the terrorists were able to accomplish some successes, particularly in Ramadi and other areas.”

“But now after the allies started the aerial bombardment, particularly the United States, the situation has changed.”

“And now the battle is turning into a new phase,” Shaways said, adding that “the fighters have started now – the fighters who are fighting against terrorism – are now advancing and accomplishing victories against terrorists.”

Last month, Iraq’s armed forces had their first major victory against the militants with the recapturing of the Baiji Oil Refinery, the country’s largest refinery which fell to ISIS in June following the Iraqi army’s near collapse.

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Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Iraq • Latest Episode

Hagel resignation unrelated to Iraq policy, says Pentagon

November 24th, 2014
03:11 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s decision to resign on Monday was not because of policy disagreements over Iraq, where the U.S. is waging a war against ISIS, Pentagon Spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby insisted in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.

“The Secretary’s decision to resign has nothing to do with Iraq policy,” he said.

Some have speculated that Hagel and U.S. President Barack Obama disagreed over ISIS policy.

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Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Iraq • Latest Episode

Sunni cleric: ISIS chief al-Baghdadi ‘is going to hell’

November 17th, 2014
03:30 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

A prominent Syrian Sunni cleric on Monday condemned the ISIS killing of the American Peter Kassig and said that ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi “is going to hell.”

“We have to speak loud and very clear that Muslims and Islam have nothing to do with this,” Shaykh Muhammad al-Yaqoubi told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.

“ISIS has no nationality. Its nationality is terror, savagery, and hatred.”

He expressed his “deepest condolences” to Kassig’s family, as well as to the families of the “many Syrians” who have been killed. (Kassig converted to Islam in captivity; his parents now refer to him as Abdul-Rahman.)

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Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Iraq • Latest Episode • Syria

Not all foreign fighters in Syria are the same, pleads father whose sons are waging jihad

November 11th, 2014
10:16 AM ET

By Madalena Araujo, CNN

The British government should differentiate between the different types of Western men and women who decide to take up arms and join extremist groups, the father of two British jihadists killed fighting in Syria and terror expert Peter Neumann told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday.

Abubaker Deghayes, whose two teenage sons were killed while fighting for the Al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, wants “to try to talk to our government and tell them that don't put everybody in one basket” as “there are different types of people who go there.”

A third son of his is still fighting in Syria.

Peter Neumann, Director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College London, agreed with Deghayes.

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Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Iraq • Latest Episode • Syria

U.S. senior envoy for Iraq: every time we've engaged with local forces we’ve succeeded in defeating ISIS

November 4th, 2014
04:00 PM ET

By Madalena Araujo, CNN

The U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS has succeeded in defeating the terrorist organization every time it has worked with local forces on the ground, Brett McGurk, the U.S. Deputy Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday.

"What I can say is that every single time we have worked with a local force on the ground and we have coordinated with them with our special forces who are in the field, and we have coordinated with them with our air coalition above, we have succeeded in defeating ISIL, not only defeating ISIL, but actually routing them in some major battles,” he said.

McGurk described the operation against the terrorist group, which has recently seized vast swathes of Iraq and Syria and executed hundreds of religious minorities, as “very much a fight to the death.”

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Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Iraq • Latest Episode • Syria

New documentary explores perfect storm that allowed ISIS to grow

October 29th, 2014
01:18 PM ET

By Madalena Araujo, CNN

A new documentary from producer and journalist Martin Smith gives insight into the series of failures and unheeded warning signs that allowed ISIS to grow into one of most brutal terrorist groups in the world.

The Rise of ISIS, by PBS’s FRONTLINE, draws on numerous interviews with both Iraqi politicians and U.S. decision makers. It points to Syria’s bloody civil war as the organization’s main breeding ground.

“Maliki's crackdown [on Sunnis] was a factor. But without Syria, I don't think ISIS would have become ISIS,” Smith told CNN’s Michael Holmes, in for Christiane Amanpour, on Tuesday.

Smith added that it was around 2011 that “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of then Al Qaeda in Iraq, the precursor to ISIS, sent a few men over into Syria and guerrilla movements need sanctuary and they need open spaces where they can exploit, grow.”

Some former Obama administration officials have criticized the President for not supporting moderate rebels earlier, so that extreme jihadi militants would not gain strength.

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Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Iraq • Latest Episode • Syria

Saudi Arabia could aid talks with ISIS in hostage situations, says veteran negotiator

October 22nd, 2014
02:22 PM ET

By Madalena Araujo, CNN

Saudi Arabia could have a role in hostage negotiations with ISIS militants, former U.N. hostage negotiator Giandomenico Picco told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday.

Picco conducted many high-profile negotiations in Lebanon that led to the release of several Western hostages in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

He told Amanpour that if asked to engage in open talks with the terrorist group, he would have a “conversation… with somebody in Saudi Arabia”.

The veteran diplomat also stressed that it was equally important to open a channel of communication with “a military arm in ISIS which is actually led by the deputy of President Saddam.”

He said he would attempt to focus negotiating efforts on that wing of the group rather than on the ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who “may have been able to catch the hostages, but may be unable to negotiate their release.”

Governments tend to ask desperate families to stay quiet and trust them to get their loved ones back, but John Foley, whose son U.S. journalist James Foley was brutally murdered by ISIS in August, told Amanpour that he and his wife Diane Foley regret having remained silent.

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Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Iraq • Journalism • Latest Episode • Syria

Confronting religious extremism

October 21st, 2014
10:06 AM ET

As ISIS commits terrible crimes in the name of Islam, Christiane Amanpour speaks with two experts on the religion.

Click above to watch.


Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Iraq • Islam • Latest Episode • Syria

Using comedy to counter ISIS

October 20th, 2014
02:47 PM ET

The fight against ISIS is not only being fought on the battleground - it is also being waged through comedy, on Iraqi TV. Click above to watch.


Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Imagine a World • Iraq • Latest Episode • Syria

Saudi extremist funding ‘has been stopped completely,’ claims Prince Alwaleed

October 20th, 2014
02:31 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

With the scrutiny of the world on ISIS’s alleged Gulf funders, billionaire Saudi businessman Alwaleed Bin Talal insisted in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday that his country has completely clamped down on the practice.

“Yes, we had a weakness over there, whereby some unfortunately some extremists in Saudi Arabia…did fund certain extremist elements in Syria. But Saudi Arabia has taken very strict rules to stop that from happening. And yes, right now all this has been stopped completely,” he said.

Qatar has come under the most scrutiny in its alleged funding of extremists like ISIS, as Amanpour discussed with that country’s emir last month.

But wealthy patrons in Saudi Arabia have also been under the spotlight, especially now that the country (along with Qatar and several other Gulf nations) have joined the American coalition against ISIS.

The clampdown, Alwaleed said, is “better late than never.”

“I think we are hopefully doing some good and positive by halting at least the ISIS move now into northern border, the border of Syria.”

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Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Iraq • Latest Episode • Saudi Arabia • Syria
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