CNN International and PBS host Christiane Amanpour opened Tuesday’s joint program (airing live in the afternoon on the former then late-night on PBS) with two interviews in which she couldn’t have been more stark, going softer on an Iranian vice president than U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. In other words, it was par for the course with Amanpour.
Amanpour led with Esper and first stated that CNN sources were arguing that the justification to strike Soleimani based on a threat to American forces “may be razor thin and the chatter was nothing out of the ordinary.”
She then demanded that he look to “the world down the barrel of this camera straight in the eye and say that there was a ticking time bomb evidence.”
As he would do repeatedly throughout the interview, Esper schooled the liberal host, telling her “that it's more than razor thin, and it's persuasive” with Solemani looking “to synchronize and plan additional attacks on American forces, diplomats or facilities.”
Her second question poured on the fluff for Iran, stating that there’s “not just an outpouring of grief from the people there and rallying around a regime that had been unpopular, but that it's also a message” that they’ll retaliate.
After questions wondering if the Soleimani strike might achieve his dream of having U.S. forces kicked out of Iraq and the debate about hypothetical strikes on Iranian culture sites, Amanpour turned the heat back up and, again, Esper was ready (click “expand,” emphasis mine):
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you what you make of even your allies, even those who are let's say anti-Iranian, like the Saudis, like the others, like the Israelis — many, many allies in the region have told you publicly, privately — and the Saudi deputy defense minister's been meeting with you, meeting with other high officials, to call for restraint. Your other allies — the British, the Germans, the French, NATO allies — are calling on you and Iran to de-escalate. You are being put in the same boat as Iran. I don't recall this ever happening before, where the United States and a nation like Iran, are both being put in the same boat, both being asked to de-escalate. How does that make you feel?
ESPER: Well, I guess I disagree with your premise, Christiane. I will tell you — and I've talked to all these allies and partners — the ones in the region are fully, 100 percent supportive of what we've done and what we're prepared to do. They see the removal of Soleimani, this known terrorist and head of a terrorist organization, his removal from the battlefield as a great victory and they know what it means — and it's a game changer for the region.
AMANPOUR: With respect, Mr. Secretary, senior Americans have told me that intelligence officials in — you know, your own intelligence officials — predicted precisely this kind of Iranian escalation after the maximum pressure campaign that followed the withdrawal from the nuclear deal. They predicted attacks on shipping in the Gulf — it happened. They predicted attacks on Saudi Arabia — it happened. They suggested it might happen against U.S. bases, U.S. targets — it did happen. You talk about Soleimani, but what is the strategy here? I mean, you knew that this was possibly going to happen. Was it wise — you talk about Soleimani — nobody is claiming that he was a good guy, no — none of your allies are — and everybody knows what his role in the region was, but by the same token, previous U.S. administrations, when they could, did not take him out. Israel, when it could, did not take him out, for fear of the consequences. I guess I want to ask you, do you regret putting that extreme option on the table for the President? Wouldn't some of the other options have sufficed in this period to send a very strong message of deterrence?
ESPER: Well, Christiane, I would say many experts, going back a few years now, predicted and were proven true, that in the wake of the JCPOA, which did not cover ballistic missiles, which did not cover Iran's hostage-taking, which did not cover Iran's malign behavior, that such activities would pick up — particularly when we opened up the economic spigots and we returned to them tens of billions of dollars — we saw this activity pick up across the region, again, spanning from Africa, through the Middle East to Afghanistan and what's happened in the last few years, in Iraq in particular, in the last 12 months, is just a manifestation of an Iranian regime that is bent on exporting its revolutionary beliefs[.]
Amanpour pivoted to Iranian VP for women and family affairs Massoumeh Ebtekar and failed to note to viewers that she was a spokeswoman for the 1979 hostage-takers during the Iranian revolution that seized 52 Americans.
Her first question was simply wondering whether Iran would “respond” to American “call[s] for descalation.” Ebtekar took that question and offered a long-winded answer that gushed over CNN showing “millions who are marching in support and in commemoration of...the Commander of the Hearts” against the Americans having “taken a terrorist action” in “assassinat[ing]” Soleimani.
She added that the Trump administration’s sanctions were also “a terrorist action” robbing children of medicine
Amanpour eventually got another question in, trumpeting the “outpouring on the streets” and noting she found it “interesting” that Ebtekar dubbed it a “revival of the Islamic revolution.”
In this long-winded answer showing the radical nature of the American left and their media allies, Ebtekar gushed over what she called a “wave of awakening” in the U.S. on social media “understand[ing] very well what has happened and the terrible actions of the American government” by killing someone from a country of “freedom seekers” because he fought ISIS.
And yes, that’s quite the mouthful.
Even Amanpour’s lone hardball was blunted. Pointing out that “he was an enemy” in most of the world, Amanpour summarized Ebtekar’s infatuation with Soleimani as akin to Che Guevara or Robin Hood.
Here was Amanpour’s last question, which came across like a warm blanket (click “expand”):
I have heard that message coming out of Iran from the days since this targeted killing, that the final response should be from your perspective to remove American forces, but what I want to ask you is this because you were and are a committed revolutionary. You were very prominent during the early days of the Islamic revolution, but you became more of a reformist as well, and you supported the negotiations for the Iran nuclear deal, and diplomacy to, you know, settle some issues.
My question to you now is, is that completely out of the window? Are people like you and Foreign Minister Zarif, even President Rouhani, who took a gamble negotiating with the United States, are they sidelined? Is it now those who believe that America can never be discussed with, for want of a better word, hard-liners, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps? Are they more in the ascendancy? Is there any hope for any negotiations, very briefly, if you wouldn't mind?