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.
“In this country, we feel that citizen pressure may have pushed our government to become more aggressive at a much earlier point in time, which may or may not have helped Jim and the other American and British, I feel, heroes and the hostages.”
ISIS is believed to be holding several Western hostages and its latest beheading video threatened the life of U.S. aid worker Peter Kassig.
“I think in the future we would look to - enable the press to be a more cohesive force in aiding families such as ours, to exert pressure on our government to use any and all means at their disposal to try to obtain the release of these young aid workers and journalists who are fighting to protect the freedom of speech as well as mitigate unspeakable pain and suffering in these war-torn areas,” John Foley said.
While some Western governments will often pay ransoms to bring hostages home, it is U.S. policy that the government does not engage in such deals with terrorists. Foley believes that an international dialogue must be developed.
“This is not a United States problem or a British problem. This is a world community problem. And I'm well aware of the risks taken by men and women in our armed forces to bring these people home. But in the end, I feel that the small amount, relative small amount of money involved in a ransom certainly is justifiable to bring these wonderful people home.”
As ISIS commits terrible crimes in the name of Islam, Christiane Amanpour speaks with two experts on the religion.
Click above to watch.
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.
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.”
By Mick Krever, CNN
Iran has “good experience” fighting terrorists, and came to the aid of Iraqis against ISIS, the speaker of the Iranian parliament told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, saying that U.S.-led airstrikes alone would not be enough to destroy the militants.
“I think it is very unlikely to destroy guerilla fighters by just dropping bombs on their heads,” Ali Larijani said through an interpreter.
Along with the president, Hassan Rouhani, and Supreme Leader, Ali Khamanei, he is one of the most powerful people in the country.
“Us, I mean Iran, went to the side of the Iraqis very early when the crisis broke out. We don't really want to broadcast it; we don't want to go to the media and talk about what we did for the Iraqis. But in practice, we defended them.”
The head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani, has even been photographed on the ground in Iraq.
“Terrorists cannot be destroyed by bombing them. You cannot solve terrorism by occupation. And in order to fight them effectively, you have to choose another method. And you know that we have good experience in that, because we have actually fought against them.”
By Mick Krever, CNN
Countering the assessment of the Obama Administration, a key Iraqi parliamentarian on Monday told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that the fight against ISIS could last “five to ten years.”
Mowaffak al-Rubaie represents Baghdad in parliament and is a former national security adviser to then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
“I do not agree with the White House assessment that three years is enough to destroy ISIS from Iraq and Syria. I believe this is a long war, and we have to prepare ourselves in a political, social, and ideological challenge as well, as well as the security challenge.”
By Mick Krever, CNN
By waging war only on ISIS in Syria, and not Bashar al-Assad, the U.S. has an incomplete military strategy that plays into Assad’s hands, Bassma Kodmani, an adviser to the Syrian opposition coalition, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday.
“He has basically been the pyromaniac fireman who now comes as the fireman to say I will be the one to help in fighting these groups on the ground.”
“I think he has been waiting for this moment, he has prepared for it.”
U.S President Barack Obama says that Assad long ago lost the legitimacy to rule, but has nonetheless made clear that he is not the priority right now.
America’s war on ISIS in Syria lays bare the Middle East’s complex web of alliances and foes; ISIS is a bitter enemy of Assad’s as well, and as America goes after the group, Assad is able to concentrate on battling non-Islamic opposition groups.
“These strikes are allowing him to come to the other areas where the Free Syrian Army is, where the rebellion is, and to strike there. He has not stopped one day his strikes with barrel bombs and the population continues to die.”
By Mick Krever, CNN
The fall of the Syrian city of Kobani to ISIS militants would put the security of the whole region at risk, Syrian Kurdish leader Saleh Moslem Mohamed told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday.
“This brutal organization called Da’esh, or ISIS, they don’t know the border,” he said. “They were in Mosul, against the Kurds, they were in Sinjar, and now they are in Kobani. So what’s the next step?”
If the Kurds in Kobani are defeated, “I don’t want to think of it even, because…it means the victory of ISIS, which ISIS at that time could go to Istanbul…could go to anywhere.”
“We are going step by step to another genocide or maybe massacre, because those people are refusing to give up, insisting on defending their land and defending their homes and defending their dignity.”
WEB EXTRA: Richards says the world cannot take its foot off the pedal in Afghanistan.
By Mick Krever, CNN
The former head of the British military, General David Richards, said on Wednesday that the international fight against ISIS needed boots on the ground.
"I think you’ve got to make sure that your aerial campaign is accurately delivered, and that probably means some special forces up front," he told CNN's Christiane Amanpour.
Experienced Western armies must play some role in the war, he said, if there is hope for victory.
“I’m not saying they have to be on the frontline, but they have to be deeply involved in the logistics, which is what often discriminates proper armies from amateur armies.”
An air campaign alone, he said, "cannot possibly" succeed.
"Clearly a lot of jockeying and hard bargaining going on re Turkey entering the fight.
"You may have seen what the PM told me about their red lines: No-fly zone and safe haven … think U.S. and allied no-fly zone over Kurds in Northern Iraq and Shiites in Southern Iraq from 1991-2003!"
What she’s referencing: On Sunday, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told Christiane that his country was willing to join the fight against ISIS in Syria, even put boots on the ground, but only “if others do their part.”
“We want to have a no-fly zone,” he said. “We want to have a safe haven on our border. Otherwise, all these burdens will continue to go on the shoulder of Turkey and other neighboring countries.”
"The administration source’s so called “de-facto” no-fly zone over Kobani is localized and temporary at best. But the Turks want a much more permanent zone, since they have 1.6 million refugees from Assad war and hundreds of thousands coming from Kobani.
"They tell me until Assad goes, they’ll need those no-flys … just like in Iraq until Saddam went."
What she’s referencing: A U.S. Administration Official told CNN Senior White House Correspondent Jim Acosta that there is already a de-facto no-fly zone over eastern Syria, so from the American point of view, the Turks’ demands for a no-fly zone over Turkey does not pass muster.
"Hence Turkey’s second condition: They’ll only send their ground forces into the fight – the only plausible ground forces right now – if strategy shifts to topple Assad too."
What she’s referencing: Turkey has long wanted to see the ouster of Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad, and Prime Minister Davutoglu told Christiane that America must go after Assad, not just ISIS, in Syria.
"We said chemical weapons are the red line. He used chemical weapons. What happened to him?"
"We didn't do anything."
"And now, because of these crimes, there was no reaction, these radical organizations - I mean ISIS - misused this atmosphere and told these people the international community doesn't defend you. Nobody defends you. Only I can defend you by my own means. This was the source of ISIS."
"P.S. – goes without saying that if TURKEY is attacked in any shape or form, they will defend themselves by all means necessary."
What she’s referencing: Prime Minister Davutoglu made clear in their interview that any attacks on Turkey would be a game-changer; or any attack on “Turkish territory” inside Syria. A national tomb dating back to the Ottoman Empire is guarded by Turkish special forces inside Syria. If they are attacked or taken hostage by ISIS, that too would be a game-changer.
“If there is there any threat against our national security, we will take all the measures – all the measures,” he said.