Like many of her CNN colleagues, CNN International and PBS host Christane Amanpour didn’t exactly have jubilant reactions Friday morning to the news that Iranian military leader and terrorist Qasem Soleimani was killed in a U.S. airstrike.
Instead, Amanpour did everything she could to rhetorically dismiss, question, and undercut the operation, taking shots at the U.S., hailing the French of possessing foreign policy chops, and tossing aside the killing of Osama bin Laden as inconsequential because bin Laden “was a forgotten, you know, nothingburger.”
Amanpour first joined the parade of pro-Iranian regime voices with a hit on New Day, arguing the Trump administration tragically doesn’t have a plan and that Iranians will “draw some” American “blood in response” because he was “so well known” and “beloved.” Yuck.
Amanpour also seemed to criticize the decision because Soleimani was someone who helped lead Islamic forces in Iraq to stop ISIS.
Ah, so the “blood of many Americans” weighs out to what he did with ISIS?
She then had the bizarre audacity to praise the French as foreign policy sages and dismiss the successful U.S. raids that killed bin Laden and ISIS leader Abu Bakar al-Baghdadi (click “expand”):
Well, you know, you heard Secretary Pompeo say to John that the French are wrong. I mean, he categorically said that. Remember that some — you know, on the eve of the Iraq War — the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March of 2003, then-President Chirac said the United States was going to open a can of worms and France did not go along with this action and wanted more time to figure out what exactly was the intelligence with the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and, President Chirac was proved right. I think the French have a huge history in that region; so do the British. So do many other people who not only have a history and a diplomatic history but also have people and personnel in the region, so that is going to be, again, something to watch because as everybody has said, it's unlikely that Iran would take on the United States in any effort at symmetrical warfare.
It's very, very unlikely. It hasn't happened in the past, it's unlikely to happen now, but the asymmetrical — the ability to lash out in many parts of that region is clear and present and it is the reason — or at least one of the main reasons why successive U.S. presidents, from George W. Bush to Barack Obama, and up until now, President Obama have not — sorry, President Trump — have not taken this massive escalatory step and remember, Qasem Soleimani was at the height of his power when he was taken out, unlike Osama bin Laden, who was a forgotten, you know, nothingburger sort of hiding in a, you know, villa in Pakistan, but, it's not the person you take out, it's what they leave behind, and the tentacles, and who comes next. Al-Qaeda terrorism did not end with the sidelining of Osama bin Laden. ISIS has not ended with the killing of al-Baghdadi. So if you're trying to end whatever is happening, this is a major escalation and we need to see what the plan is.
This being Jeffrey Zucker’s CNN in which division and anti-Trump views are almost a pre-requisite for being a guest, Amanpour came back just over three hours later on At This Hour.
Speaking to Wolf Blitzer, Amanpour began with quite the understatement, asserting that on “this side of the pond away from where you are, the reaction is very different than it is in the United States where a huge amount of defense of this action is being weighed.”
She continued pouring on the positive sentiments, boasting that, in Iran, “he was such a legendary figure, raised not only in terms of what he did, but mythologically, always spoken of by name by the Americans, weirdly, Qasem Soleimani suddenly became sort of a mythical figure in a sort of the way even the United States was talking about him.”
Describing the Trump administration’s approach, Amanpour condemned it as a “tit for tat, cat and mouse situation” since the U.S. left the Iran nuclear deal in favor of “this strategy of maximum pressure” that “it didn't work in the way that the U.S. wanted it to work.”
She concluded by boasting that, in death, the U.S. could have achieved one of Soleimani’s top goals by killing him, which would be Iraq ordering “U.S. forces out of Iraq.”
To see the relevant CNN transcripts from January 3, click “expand.”
CNN’s New Day
January 3, 2020
7:53 a.m. Eastern
JOHN BERMAN: Joining us now is CNN's chief international anchor, Christiane Amanpour. Christiane, the secretary would not go into details and obviously, those details matter here. The American people, particularly after the Iraq War in 2003, do not trust the idea that there was an imminent threat unless we see exactly what it was. He wouldn't tell us what it was. He said that might be coming. What do you see going on here?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Well, I think it's going to be very hard to expect the administration to suddenly deliver all this information. I think what was more interesting is what he said to you and it was quite, in my view, somewhat conflicting. It was, was it — this just about security —
POPPY HARLOW: Right.
AMANPOUR: — or was it about trying to have a regime change in Iran and get the Iraqis to throw the Iranians out there and all the rest of it? Was it both? And that also leads to the next question. What is the strategy? And I think that that's the most important question that we have going forward. It is absolutely clear that Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Quds Force of the Islamic — of the Islamic — Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp was, all we've all been saying all morning since this happened, the second, if not the most important person in Iran who was the major arm of Iran’s foreign policy abroad and who has networks and tentacles and huge influence across that region — Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen. You name it, Qasem Soleimani's footprint, his handprints are all over that place. He was so well-known and, in some quarters, beloved in that region that they are going to have to take some kind of action. As one expert said to me, maybe draw some blood in response. How, we don't know. We've been watching and listening to those massive live demonstrations and taped demonstrations on — inside Tehran. We have to wait to see what happens around places like Iraq, Lebanon, and et cetera, but what they're already saying — because I'm trying to listen to the words of the speakers underneath — is this was the pride of Islam and we have to avenge his death and they've used the word Jihad and other such things. So the question is really, honestly and truthfully, what is the strategy? Is this going to be an accidental slouch into a war in the Middle East or are all parties — not just the United States, which has said that they want to deescalate, but all the leaders of the Shiite Islamic factions, which are backed by Iran in that region, not to mention Iran itself — are they going to try to deescalate this? And yes, Qasem Soleimani is and does have the blood — the blood of many Americans on his hands from what happened in Iraq in the early days of the Iraq — the U.S. war there, but also, remember that Qasem Soleimani was the only person with his militias who stood between ISIS and Baghdad when ISIS took over a lot of Iraq back in 2014.
AMANPOUR: So it's a very, very mixed bag and a mixed picture, and it's really hard to see which way this is going right now.
HARLOW: Christiane, give us the global perspective on where this leaves America this morning and our allies because Benjamin Netanyahu, fully supportive, of Israel — fully behind the U.S. on this. But, France — the French government, this morning, says the world is now a more dangerous place.
AMANPOUR: Well, you know, you heard Secretary Pompeo say to John that the French are wrong. I mean, he categorically said that. Remember that some — you know, on the eve of the Iraq War — the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March of 2003, then-President Chirac said the United States was going to open a can of worms and France did not go along with this action and wanted more time to figure out what exactly was the intelligence with the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and, President Chirac was proved right. I think the French have a huge history in that region; so do the British. So do many other people who not only have a history and a diplomatic history but also have people and personnel in the region, so that is going to be, again, something to watch because as everybody has said, it's unlikely that Iran would take on the United States in any effort at symmetrical warfare. It's very, very unlikely. It hasn't happened in the past, it's unlikely to happen now, but the asymmetrical — the ability to lash out in many parts of that region is clear and present and it is the reason — or at least one of the main reasons why successive U.S. presidents, from George W. Bush to Barack Obama, and up until now, President Obama have not — sorry, President Trump — have not taken this massive escalatory step and remember, Qasem Soleimani was at the height of his power when he was taken out, unlike Osama bin Laden, who was a forgotten, you know, nothingburger sort of hiding in a, you know, villa in Pakistan, but, it's not the person you take out, it's what they leave behind, and the tentacles, and who comes next. Al-Qaeda terrorism did not end with the sidelining of Osama bin Laden. ISIS has not ended with the killing of al-Baghdadi. So if you're trying to end whatever is happening, this is a major escalation and we need to see what the plan is.
BERMAN: And also another note. Obviously, Soleimani, for better for worse — and this isn't a value judgment — he was a government official. That's what differentiates him from bin Laden as well. So you are killing a government official with this and that has different implications. Christiane, we have to let you go in about 20 seconds. The U.S. relationship with Iraq — the Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi condemned this action. It’s a violation of the U.S. agreement to station troops in Iraq. What will this do to the U.S. presence there?
AMANPOUR: Well, overnight, the U.S. missile attacks on the al Qutb, the Hezbollah al Qutb base, changed the U.S.-Iraq relationship. Iraq suddenly went — and this is what experts are telling me — from, you know, demonstrating against the Iranian presence and others to demonstrating against the United States. Did the United States expect its embassy in Iraq, one of the most guarded embassies in the world, to be breached by pro-Iranian militias in Baghdad? Did the United States expect that when it retaliated for the killing of that American contractor? And now, the government of Iraq is under massive pressure. We'll see how it plays out and whether these Shiite militias, whether it's Muqtada al-Sadr in Iraq, whether it's Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah in Lebanon — you know, what is the pressure from the streets? And, of course, what will Iran do? I mean, the idea of Iran wanting now to do that famous photo op that President Trump wanted back in September at the U.N., it's over.
BERMAN: Oh, yeah.
AMANPOUR: They're talking about revenge now and so we just simply don't know what's going to happen and remember, the French are saying it's more dangerous because Emmanuel Macron was the mediator between President Trump and Hassan Rouhani, trying to get that relationship back on track.
AMANPOUR: But the U.S. have gone from maximum economic pressure to now, military action.
BERMAN: Christiane Amanpour, great to have you with us this morning. Thank you very much.
HARLOW: Such an important voice. Christiane, thank you.
CNN’s At This Hour
January 3, 2020
11:12 a.m. Eastern
WOLF BLITZER: General Soleimani’s role in expanding Iran's reach and influence was certainly enormous over these past two decades. Now that he's been killed by the United States, there's great anxiety over what will happen next. Let's go to our chief international anchor, Christian Amanpour. She’s joining us from London right now. So, Christiane, first of all, explain the significance of General Soleimani's death.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Well, Wolf, you can imagine, this side of the pond away from where you are, the reaction is very different than it is in the United States. Where a huge amount of defense of this action is being weighed. Now, over here, people are not shedding any tears for Qasem Soleimani. They know that he has been the main military arm and the foreign policy strategist, if you like, of an adversarial regime, whether it is what they did to prop up severely the government of Bashar al-Assad and prevent him from falling to the popular resistance in Syria, whether it is supporting Hezbollah in Lebanon, whether it’s the Houthis in Yemen. Wherever it might be, including of course, in Iraq with those Shiite-dominated militias, which have so much direction from Qasem Soleimani. They know that he has played a very major Iranian nationalistic role. And that also happens to be against the United States for the most part. They also know that it was Qasem Soleimani who mobilized in the absence of any other Iraqi resistance and given the entire U.S. military presence had withdrawn under President Obama, it was Qasem Soleimani who mobilized the defense of Iraq from ISIS back in 2014 and as many have said was the only thing standing between ISIS when it took over Mosul in the north and Baghdad. So it is a really, really difficult situation that the United States has got itself into right now and that Iraq is facing right now, as well because there will be these mass funerals. You already heard Ramin in Tehran, Arwa in — in Iraq and you’ve heard the response to what’s going on in the region. The national security council of Iran has just finished its meetings. And because he was such a legendary figure, raised not only in terms of what he did, but mythologically, always spoken of by name by the Americans, weirdly, Qasem Soleimani suddenly became sort of a mythical figurine sort of the way even the United States was talking about him, they have to avenge his death. And as everybody has said, we will wait to see what that looks like. But you and I know, Wolf as we've been in that region for many a time, many a time and covered many a war out there, that the Iranians and particularly the Quds Force that he led have their tentacles and their very powerful networks all over the region and the United States and U.S. allies have their troops and interests and bases also spread over that exact region. So this is, you know, a collision that we'll wait to see what the impact of it might be.
BLITZER: Christiane, what do you make of Secretary of State Pompeo saying on CNN just a little while ago this morning that this was all about saving American lives, the U.S. decision to send those drones into the Baghdad International Airport and kill Soleimani?
AMANPOUR: Well, look, CNN is coming out with its own reporting on this. You've been talking about Jim Sciutto, Dana Bash and the others who have Pentagon sources and others telling them perhaps even congressional sources what evidence that they have been briefed on and CNN is saying, according to the source that they discovered, the Americans, that Soleimani and the Quds force were planning quite elaborate potential attacks against U.S. interests in the region. The thing about this is, is that this has been going on in a sort of — I mean, for want of a better word, tit for tat, cat and mouse situation between the United States and Iran ever since President Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal and he and his administration, Mike Pompeo, John Bolton, crafted this strategy of maximum pressure. That was initially an economic strategy and it didn't work in the way that the U.S. wanted it to work. They hoped that the regime would fall or they hoped that it would reign in the regime's foreign policy actions. It didn't and so now they've moved from this economic targeting of Iran to a military targeting of Iran and I think it's important to remember that. This is not an attack on one man, no matter how that’s being portrayed. It is an attack on the nation of Iran and as Arwa said, to extent, on the nation of Iraq. Iraq being an ally, Iran being an adversary. This is not like killing Osama bin laden who, by the way, was on his last leg when he was a non-state actor. Al-Baghdad, the chief of ISIS, a non-state actor. This is escalating against one of the most powerful members of — of a regime. So it's a decision and the question is is it proportionate? And I think every question that should be put to President Trump, Secretary Pompeo, Secretary Esper, every single American official including the congresspeople is, what is the plan? What is your strategy? What is the plan? What's your strategy? It has to be asked over and over again. Because you saw that with the retaliation against the Kataib Hezbollah force in response to the killing of that one American private contractor, you saw the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad being breached. Was the U.S. administration prepared for that? Did they imagine that would happen? And then you see in the consequences that an ally, Iraq, has now been potentially forced or we'll see what the street dictates, to put through parliament a complete reversal of the relationship with the United States to potentially get the U.S. forces, at least to be ordered out of the United States, whether it happens out of Iraq, whether it happens or not, we'll see. If it does happen, that was Soleimani's goal, to get U.S. forces out of Iraq and out of the region. So, you know, we — we are some somewhat difficult unchartered territory and President Trump who is very, very unwilling to start a war in the Middle East will wait to see if this action is something that is considered a casus belli and whether it escalates or de-escalates.
BLITZER: And we'll wait to see if he makes a public statement at some point in the coming hours. Christian Amanpour, as usual, thank you very, very much.