January 13th, 2016
06:57 PM ET

King Abdullah II of Jordan on Syrian refugees: "We can't ignore them and just keep refugees isolated."

Wolf Blitzer

CNN's Wolf Blitzer sits down with King Abdullah II of Jordan to discuss Donald Trump, Iran, and the threat of ISIS. Please see below for a full rushed transcript.

 

MANDATORY CREDIT // The Situation Room

Additional information: The Situation Room: http://www.cnn.com/shows/situation-room

 

Text highlights:

 

King Abdullah II on Donald Trump’s proposed Muslim ban: “Well, I think that's the same challenge that we're being pushed to at the moment with, with the group that we're talking about… We are trying to bring people in, but we're trying to make sure that the mechanisms are put in place.  Make sure - it's never going to be foolproof, but we're going to try and make it as, as sterile as possible. But we're accepting 50 to 100 every day from an area that we know is a major danger.  Obviously, it's those that are ill, the elderly, women and children. I know some people can be callous and say let all the women in.  But as we saw in California and as we've seen in Paris recently, women unfortunately have been part in terms of organization of terror strikes.  But we can't ignore them and just keep refugees isolated.  So you've just got to be smart and you've got to, you've got to think of the heart.”

 

King Abdullah II on the global war against ISIS and extremism: “I said that the war against the hawadi, the outlaws of Islam, is a third World War by other means, which is probably slightly different- It's not just ISIS.  All these groups, whether they're from the Philippines, or in Indonesia, all the way to Tenali, these all the same, whether it's ISIS, Boko Haram, Al-Shabaad, Al- Nusra, wherever you find them around the world.  And, again, as I said, from Asia all the way to the African continent, there is either a full out war or counter insurgency warfare.  This is a global struggle… the global war - what I call the third World War by other means - is, is one that is a generational one.”

 

King Abdullah II on Russia’s role against ISIS: “My discussions with President Putin is we need to move the political process forward as quickly as possible.  Obviously, there are those countries that say that Bashar has to leave today, and the Russians who say not before 18 months.  And also about this from our point of view because obviously we have the Free Syrian Army in the south, and we're working with the Russians about creating a cease fire with armed forces in the south.  And I specifically I have discussed this Putin.  You can't expect to put their arms down, and, and abide by a cease fire if there's movement on, on, on the political process in Vienna.  They're not going to sit there and for two months, and not expect something to happen.  So the Russians are fully aware that sooner rather than later we have to have a mechanism that allows the process to move forward.  And I think we all understand that that does mean the departure of Bashar.”

 

King Abdullah II on the tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia: “Well, we are in coordination with the Saudis.  We took a firm position against what the Iranians did.  We fully support our Saudi friends, and we took the position that we took.  We went to the Iranian ambassador and expressed our displeasure.  This was done in coordination with our Saudi allies.  We have any amazing strong relationship with, with our Saudi brethren. Our relationship with his majesty, the crowned prince, the king, is extremely strong. And this was the position that we had worked out between ourselves.  And, again, don't forget that we are part of the Vienna talks when it comes to Syria…But more importantly what I think that the Saudis are looking at the higher moral ground don't want this to escalate into a regional Shia-Sunni conflict.”


FULL TRANSCRIPT:

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

 

Part 1- 5p airing

WOLF BLITZER, CNN LEAD POLITICAL ANCHOR AND HOST OF THE SITUATION ROOM: What's your reaction to Donald Trump saying that there should be a temporary ban on Muslims coming into the United States until the U.S. can figure out what's going on?

KING ABDULLAH II OF JORDAN:  Well, I think that's the same challenge that we're being pushed to at the moment with, with the group that we're talking about.  We're saying to those, you know, we've had this comment given to us by the United States, that we need to allow these refugees into the country.  So we're going back to the United States, where these comments have been made, saying we understand.  We are trying to bring people in, but we're trying to make sure that the mechanisms are put in place.  Make sure - it's never going to be foolproof, but we're going to try and make it as, as sterile as possible. but we're accepting 50 to 100 every day from an area that we know is a major danger.  Obviously, it's those that are ill, the elderly, women and children.  I know some people can be callous and say let all the women in.  But as we saw in California and as we've seen in Paris recently, women unfortunately have been part in terms of organization of terror strikes.  But we can't ignore them and just keep refugees isolated.  So you've just got to be smart and you've got to, you've got to think of the heart.

BLITZER:  Because Donald Trump isn't just talking about refugees.  He's talking about all the Muslims on a temporary basis not being allowed to come into the United States.  You're the leader, you're a Muslim, you're a major Muslim leader from a Muslim country, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.  You hear these comments, your reaction?

ABDULLAH:  You're into an election cycle, so I don't think it's fair for you to ask a foreign leader to, to express his opinion on candidates in your country running for election.

BLITZER:  In President Obama's State of the Union address, he said that the fight against ISIS should not be labeled another World War III because that, he said, plays into the hands of ISIS propaganda.  You called this war against ISIS almost like a World War III. Do you, do you see this war against ISIS now as World War III?

ABDULLAH:  I said that the war against the hawadi, the outlaws of Islam, is a third World War by other means, which is probably slightly different- It's not just ISIS.  All these groups, whether they're from the Philippines, or in Indonesia, all the way to Tenali, these all the same, whether it's ISIS, Boko Haram, Al-Shabaad, Al- Nusra, wherever you find them around the world.  And, again, as I said, from Asia all the way to the African continent, there is either a full out war or counter insurgency warfare.  This is a global struggle-

BLITZER:  The Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, says ISIS can be defeated this year.  In the President's State of the Union address, he said that this is a war that's going to go on, it's going to be a generational war.  What's your assessment?

ABDULLAH:  Well, again, let's make the differentiation where we say ISIS, Syria Iraq, or we say this global war against the outlaws of Islam. And so ISIS in Syria and Iraq can be defeated very quickly, but the global war - what I call the third World War by other means - is, is one that is a generational one.  Hopefully, the military security aspect is a short term, or the military part is a short term.  The mid-term is going to be the intelligence and security aspect.  The long-term is the ideological one and the educational one.

BLITZER:  And that's a generational war?

ABDULLAH:  That's the generational one that only inside Islam as we regain, we as Muslims, we regain the supremacy against the crazies, the outlaws, of our religion.  But also reaching out to other religions that Islam is not what they have seen being perpetuated by 0.1 percent of our religion.

WOLF: The U.S. says that most of the air strikes against ISIS, of the U.S. air strikes coalition, other countries, whether the Europeans, Jordan, the UAE, Saudis, maybe six percent of the air strikes, basic - the suggestion is you, the coalition, is not doing enough.
ABDULLAH:  I could tell the - I know the tickers of the amount air strikes that we did, not counting the amount of air patrols and reconnaissance flights that we did, we've been hitting tremendous amounts of our targets.  We've always wanted to hit more.  And I think that having a good relationship with the Secretary of Defense and there's a couple of generals in the Pentagon now that I think want to to go over the parapet.  I think that you'll see an increase tempo.  There, there's been, there's been some good operations.  I can say that, from a Jordanian perspective, we want to see a bit more, and that's one of the reasons why I visited D.C.  And it comes down to this issue of synchronization.  How do we bring it all together?  Now this is something that's been discussed over the past several months, and this is what we're trying to do now.  Now where does - so what is Jordan's new maximum effort?  What can we do to really close the circle?  What do the Iraqis do, what do the Kurds do, what do the Kurds do in coordination with the rest of the coalition?  And, again, Vienna is very important because how do we deal with the Russians?  In my view, if we could get the Russians to be part of this synchronization, it would be even better.  But, but that's the problem between Moscow and Washington.

BLITZER:  Do you believe that Russian and Iran given the future of Syria, might abandon Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian leader, and allow him to sort of abdicate and go away?

ABDULLAH:  My discussions with President Putin is we need to move the political process forward as quickly as possible.  Obviously, there are those countries that say that Bashar has to leave today, and the Russians who say not before 18 months.  And also about this from our point of view because obviously we have the Free Syrian Army in the south, and we're working with the Russians about creating a cease fire with armed forces in the south.  And I specifically I have discussed this Putin.  You can't expect to put their arms down, and, and abide by a cease fire if there's movement on, on, on the political process in Vienna.  They're not going to sit there and for two months, and not expect something to happen.  So the Russians are fully aware that sooner rather than later we have to have a mechanism that allows the process to move forward.  And I think we all understand that that does mean the departure of Bashar.

Part 2- 6p airing 

BLITZER:  Republican presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz has called allowing Syrian refugees into the United States lunacy. Donald Trump, the Republican presidential frontrunner now, says taking in Syrian refugees could be a Trojan horse in the United States.  When you hear these comments, what's your reaction?
ABDULLAH:  Well, you know, all countries, including us, as I pointed out the problems that we're facing now with these 12,000, there are Trojan horses in there.  We definitely know that, and so you have to be careful about the screening.  But at the same time, we can't let probably the 80 percent of the other refugees, or the 90 percent of the other refugees, suffer at the same time.  So it's always going to be a balance of your moral code of being able to look after people that are in flight to the balance of security.  But this is something that we've always had to do.

BLITZER:  How many Syrian refugees has Jordan accepted?

ABDULLAH:  Well, more - we have about 1.2, 1.3 million refugees at the moment.  But obviously we've accepted more than that because some have come, some have gone back into Syria, and some have gone to other countries

BLITZER:  Because, as you know, here in the United States there's a big debate on allowing Syrian refugees into the United States.  About 1,500 so far have been accepted.  The administration said that 10,000 will be able to come in.  Do you believe the U.S. is doing enough to help Syrian refugees?

ABDULLAH:  Well, we have been challenged recently because there's 12,000 or 14,000 refugees across our border on the eastern side that have not been allowed to come in except for very strict screening.  Part of the problem is they come from the north of Syria, from Raqqa and Hasakah.  And Hasakeh is the heartland of where ISIS is, as we know that there are ISIS members inside those camps.  And we have tremendous pressure from NGOs and other countries that keep telling us that we have to let them in.  We vet about 50 to 100 every day, and we do have our government, our military, and our hospitals, as well as NGOs on the other side looking after them.  But the pressure we get from the international community saying, look, you've only got 1.2.  So from a- a humanitarian point of view and a moral point of view, you can't question our, our determination.  But these, this particular group has a major red flag when it comes to our security.  And so we're being very, very careful on that.  And so I tend to understand when other countries are concerned.  But at the same time, we can't ignore the plight of refugees, and we have to let people in.

BLITZER:  What's your reaction to Donald Trump saying that there should be a temporary ban on Muslims coming into the United States until the U.S. can figure out what's going on?
ABDULLAH:  Well, I think that's the same challenge that we're being pushed to at the moment with, with the group that we're talking about.  We're saying to those, you know, we've had this comment given to us by the United States, that we need to allow these refugees into the country.  So we're going back to the United States, where these comments have been made, saying we understand.  We are trying to bring people in, but we're trying to make sure that the mechanisms are put in place.  Make sure - it's never going to be foolproof, but we're going to try and make it as, as sterile as possible.  And, like I said, we're accepting 50 to 100 every day from an area that we know is a major danger.  Obviously, it's those that are ill, the elderly, women and children.  I know some people can be callous and say let all the women in.  But as we saw in California and as we've seen in Paris recently, women unfortunately have been part in terms of organization of terror strikes.  But we can't ignore them and just keep refugees isolated.  So you've just got to be smart and you've got to, you've got to think of the heart.

BLITZER:  Because Donald Trump isn't just talking about refugees.  He's talking about all the Muslims on a temporary basis not being allowed to come into the United States.  You're the leader, you're a Muslim, you're a major Muslim leader from a Muslim country, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.  You hear these comments, your reaction?

ABDULLAH:  You're into an election cycle, so I don't think it's fair for you to ask a foreign leader to, to express his opinion on candidates in your country running for election.

BLITZER:  The Saudis, as you know, executed a Shia cleric and others accused of terrorism.  In response the Saudi embassy in Tehran was burned, ransacked.  The Saudis severed diplomatic relations.  Other Sunni Arab countries, the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar downgraded or severed relations.  Jordan didn't.  Why?

ABDULLAH:  Well, we are in coordination with the Saudis.  We took a firm position against what the Iranians did.  We fully support our Saudi friends, and we took the position that we took.  We went to the Iranian ambassador and expressed our displeasure.  This was done in coordination with our Saudi allies.  We have any amazing strong relationship with, with our Saudi brethren. Our relationship with his majesty, the crowned prince, the king, is extremely strong. And this was the position that we had worked out between ourselves.  And, again, don't forget that we are part of the Vienna talks when it comes to Syria.  And so it was thought that having us in a bit more of a flexible position at the talks is probably more prudent at this stage.  And obviously there is now a heightened tension between the Saudis and, and the Iranians.  That is going to play out in the Vienna talks.  But more importantly what I think that the Saudis are looking at the higher moral ground don't want this to escalate into a regional Shia-Sunni conflict.  So I think if everybody tries to make sure that it calms down, and focus on what needs to be done especially at the Vienna talks table.

BLITZER: Did you have a problem with their execution, the beheadings of these, of these terrorists?

ABDULLAH:  No, they told us about this beforehand.  This is an internal issue, and we respect obviously their decisions and their internal decisions cycle and as we said we fully supported what they had to do.

BLITZER:  Your Majesty, you've been very generous with your time.  Thank you so much.  Welcome to Washington.

ABDULLAH:  Thank you. Good to see you.

 

 

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