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tv   Charlie Rose  Bloomberg  October 3, 2015 10:00pm-11:01pm EDT

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>> from our studios in new york city, this is "charlie rose." charlie: we begin with the latest of elements in syria. russia carried out new strikes. moscow said it was waging a campaign against islamic state, but the report indicates that the strike hit other groups that oppose president bashir al-assad. >> if it walks like a terrorist, then it is a terrorist, right?
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we are always going to fight isil and other terrorists. this is the position the u.s. is taking. charlie: russia and the united states are said to hold talks to avoid conflicts between their forces. joining me is mike morel, deputy director from 2010-2013. he is a colleague on cbs. i'm pleased to have him back. let me begin with basics. president putin telegraphed what he was going to do, that he was going to increase his military presence with equipment and advisers and he began building up to that point. and then he launched airstrikes against moderate forces, and in some stories, that they may have been against some people that the cia was engaged with.
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tell me what he is trying to do, and would he deliberately -- why would not he hit isis to prove his presence, even though he said most recently to me, i am there to prop up assad because i think they need a central government with isis? mike: charlie, there are a number of reasons he is doing what he is doing. the most important reason is that he believes at president assad needs to be propped up so that isis does not take over the entire country. president putin believes that president assad were to depart the scene, there would be even
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more instability in syria, and with that greater instability isis would have more running room and you could end up with isis in damascus. that is the primary reason he is doing what he is doing. the question is, why does he not just attacked isis? because president assad is under attack from a variety of different groups. isis is one. al mr. up is one. the moderate opposition is another. in order to prop up assad, to keep him in control, to make sure you don't have more instability, he wants to attack all of those groups. the fundamental focus is on isis. charlie: so we should believe his fundamental opponent is isis, and the reason is there to prop up a sod because he believes that they are needed to
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defeat isis. mike: i believe that. russia has had its own islamic extremists problem in the caucuses, dagestan. there were times where there were terrorist attacks throughout russia, including in moscow. isis and al nusra are on his continent. they can go more northward easier than to the united states. i think that is the primary reason he is there, but he will attack these other groups because he needs to prop up assad. reason number two is because at some point, the syrian situation will turn towards negotiation, and having forces on the ground, being a bigger player there, will give putin a bigger say
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around that negotiating table. the third reason he is there, and i think you saw this clearly in your interview with him, is that russia in general, and prudent in particular, want to be big players on the global stage. particularly, they want to be big players in the middle east. it has been a long-standing desire of theirs. he has now achieved it. one way to think about the big player on stage is what happened yesterday. russian combat operations in the middle east. what happened yesterday is the first time we have had russian combat operations in the middle east since the end of world war ii. charlie: what you think when on in the meeting between barack obama and vladimir putin? mike: i will speculate. i think what went on is that president putin explained his perspective. he explained that he is concerned that if assad goes, that isis is going to have more
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running room and we are going to have bigger problems in syria. i think president obama probably gave his perspective. his perspective is that, yeah, you're probably right that if assad goes with no government following him, we will be any worse situation. but if we were to have a transition from assad to another government that everyone can agree on, and we will actually have more stability in syria. i think the president probably argued that as long as assad is around, he is a magnet for fighters to join isis, to join al nusra to fight assad, and that you can't ultimately defeat isis and al nusra without getting rid of president assad. they probably talked right past each other, charlie. charlie: there is a question as to how strong the moderate forces are.
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the historical question of whether they should have been given more support or not. how strong are they, and why did the russians attacked them today if they were not part of significant opposition assad? mike: good question. the moderate opposition is not particularly strong. the strongest groups are isis, al nusra, and the moderates in that order. two questions.
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why did the russians do this now? the reason they did it now is because president assad is at his weakest point, under pressure from all of those groups, is at his weakest point cents the fall of 2012 when iranians came in in a major way to prop him up. why did he go after the moderate opposition? because they are the closest in two assad and his forces. al nusra is further to the south. isis is further to the east. they will eventually deal with isis and al nusra, but they will face the moderates first. they have to explain the timing. that explains the strikes. charlie: did they know exactly what they were doing? did they have sufficient intelligence to know exactly who
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they were striking? mike: i think that they had enough intelligence probably given to them by the syrians. this is not their own intelligence. they had enough intelligence to tell them that they were shooting at opponents to assad, people fighting syrian military. i don't believe they had enough intelligence to tell them that they were fighting u.s.-backed rebels, right? i don't think they had that. i don't think that is what attracted russian fire. i think the fact the group was fighting assad attracted the fire and nothing else. charlie: the cia is well known for having profiles on foreign leaders. what is the u.s. assessment of vladimir putin for his intelligence, strategic sense, his need to surprise, his ability to think beyond tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow? mike: i will tell you what i think of this guy. first, i think bob gates was right when he said, when you look at putin's eyes, ec kgb, kgb, kgb. by that, i mean this guy is a thug, this guy is a bully.
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second point i make is that he only understands relative power. who was got more power, who's got less power. that is how he thinks about relationships. i will tell you that he tries to create the image that he is this great strategic thinker. he is not at all. he is a very good tactician, very good reacting to situations, taking advantage, but not particularly good at thinking them through. i think he is the biggest loser over the long-term in the ukraine crisis and i think yes miscalculated what he is doing in syria now. i do not think he is this great strategic thinker. the other thing i say is he is entrepreneurial and he is a
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risk-taker, but he is a particularly dangerous risk-taker. when vladimir putin takes a risk and it pays off, he often times is willing to take an even bigger risk. he takes a risk, something goes well, he will take a bigger risk. that is why during the ukraine crisis, i was worried he might have done something similar in the balkans. while the west may not have been willing to go to war over ukraine, we were certainly willing to go to war over the baltics. i thought that was a play he might miscalculate. i think it is possible that what you see him doing in syria today is he thinks he won ukraine. he think he came out on the top and, as the top guy. that is the portrait i have of the guy in my mind. everything i see, including your good interview, reinforces that to me. ♪
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agent, wise it by definition that you are a thug and bully? mike: because that is the way they operate, right they rough people up. they take negative approaches to recruiting people. negative incentives, blackmailing people.
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that is the way they are. that is the way they do things. i found this interesting in your interview. he doesn't like people referring to him as former kgb. why? because the kgb does not have a great reputation in russia. just for all the reasons we just talked about. roughing people up, putting people in jail without trial. all sorts of things. he does not like that association to be made domestically. maybe internationally, but not domestically. he wants to walk away from that part of his life because the kgb is not popular in russia. charlie: when you look at the united states is, what should be our response? mike: that is a really good question. let me first answer by saying, what are the implications of him doing what he is doing? i think the most important implication of what he is doing is that he is complicating a
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political solution to this problem. in my mind, charlie, the only way ahead in syria is the following -- to get all of the key players together at the table, and the key players are everyone with the exception of isis and al nusra. united states, western europe, turkey, the arab states, iran, russia, all of those people have to come together and assad has to be at the table, too. all of those people have to come together and agree on a transition. from assad to a new government. that new government needs to be inclusive of all the different groups in syria. including the alawites. everyone has to have a role.
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it is almost the way in lebanon, where everyone is guaranteed a significant role in the government no matter what the voting. everyone has a particular job that goes to them. that is the way the outcome in syria will have to be. a transition from assad to that. once you have an agreement on what that looks like, and you can take syrian military, with everyone helping, with the united states, arabs, western europe, everyone helping, and you can go after and defeat isis and al nusra. until you have that political settlement, nothing else can happen. they are working across purposes. one thing that absolutely has to be true for that political negotiation to work is for assad to be weak enough that he will be willing to come to the table. if assad feels that he is strong, if assad feels that he can win this thing, he has no incentive to go to the table.
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the fundamental implication of what the russians are doing is they are propping him up and they are making it less likely that he is going to be willing to come to the table and have a serious negotiation. that is the main problem. charlie: and making sure they have a vote when they choose a new leadership. is it possible that iran, russia, saudi arabia, and the united states, and people in syria can come together on what ought to be the next government, which would have to have the support and confidence of the syrian people? mike: i think the answer to that is yes. the question is, what are the circumstances that have to exist in order for that to happen. i think there are two. the first circumstance is that most of the players are war-weary.
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most of the players are tired of the fighting and tired of the dying. that is largely the way insurgencies end. i don't see that today in isis and al nusra, and i don't see it in assad. most insurgencies, charlie, go on for 10, 12, 15 years. we are only four to five years into this. this is short by historic standards of insurgencies. people tend to come together when they are war weary. that is what happened in august. the other thing that has to be true is that assad has to be willing to come to the table and had a serious discussion. the only way that will happen is that he feels he could lose this thing. charlie: is there any way to convince the russians that -- can you convince the russians that they have a way to represent their interests without it being assad?
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mike: i think that is what we have to do diplomatically. we have to say to the russians, we have to convince the russians of two things. the first thing we have to convince the russians of is that you can't successfully deal with isis and al nusra without assad going away. we have to convince them of that. we really believe that. we really believe that he is a magnet drawing people to isis and al nusra and that people will continue to be drawn to them until he goes away. charlie: mike, i raised that point. i said, look. the argument against assad is that he is a recruiting tool for isis. mike: right. the second thing we have to convince him of is the people he
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is back for a long time, the alawites, will have a future in syria. if you look at iraq and the people who used to run iraq, the sunnis, and how they are seen today, it will take some convincing that the alawites will have a future. that is why we need a lebanese-style government. the president is one group, prime minister another, head of military a third. charlie: charlie: looking at this moment, is isis winning or losing? mike: the way i think about it,
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charlie, if you look at what isis said its goals were to have an islamic caliphate in a large chunk of the middle east, parts of jordan, israel, saudi arabia. they're great expansion from a year and a half ago, the great expansion has been stopped. they are no longer expanding. they been stopped by the shia militia. they have been stopped by the kurds. they have been stopped by american air power. their expansion has been stopped. we have not pushed them back significantly. their expansion has stopped but we have not pushed them back. i think we are at a stalemate, charlie. they are not gaining, we are not gaining sufficiently, and the problem with that is that they continue to radicalize both militant groups outside of the middle east -- there are now
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militant groups, charlie, in 20 countries who now say they are aligned with isis and the number continues to grow. of course, there is the radicalization of individuals in western europe, australia, canada, the united states. while we are at stalemate, the radicalization process continues. stalemate, while not allowing them to get to where they ultimately want to be, they are still doing pretty well, and they are still dangerous in terms of this radicalization if i had to take win or lose, i would pick winning because they are not losing enough. charlie: you believe russia genuinely wants to cooperate with the united states? mike: no, i don't. what i think vladimir putin's fundamental goal in life, what he wants his legacy to be, and he plans on being the leader of russia for a long, long time,
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what he wants his legacy to be is the reestablishment of the russian empire. if he was here with us and the cameras were not running and he trusted us, that is what he would say to that. this is not an analytic construct. that is what he says to his closest friends. what does that mean, reestablish the russian empire? he would say direct control over or significant influence in all of those parts of the former russian empire, which, by the way, just happened to match up nicely to the former states of the soviet union. that is what he wants more than anything else, the reestablishment of the glory of the russian state. charlie: the word is influence rather than retaking territory.
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mike: he does not need to have territory back. he needs to have control of or significant influences. charlie: does he have a point when he says these are russians, speaking russians, cut off from russia? mike: he certainly has a point that there are russians, slavs who are russians that live in those places because they spread of there during the soviet union. charlie: john kerry and sergey lavrov would try to de-conflict. mike: when two militaries are operating in the same area, you have to de-conflict. the way it works in practice, when you do serious
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de-confliction, you meet every single morning, and you say we are flying here today, and they say they are flying there today, and if they are to close, you adjust. that has to happen every single day. that is what nato does. that is what we are doing with the coalition in iraq. that is what we did with the coalition in libya. i don't know what the russians are of for that or not. charlie: you think it would be a perfect way to be shown they are equals. do we want to suggest to them that we hear them and that we want to treat them as equals? do we want to communicate that to them or not? mike: charlie, i had a boss at the agency i learned a lot from.
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i walked into his office one day and said, dave, we had a problem. he said michael, michael, there is no such thing as a problem, only opportunities. i think there might be an opportunity for the united states right now. what is that opportunity? the opportunity that is because of the refugee crisis and because of what the russians are doing and the great international focus on this, we have an opportunity to say to the players that it is time to come together and have a conversation about doing what is in the best interest of the future of syria. if i were secretary kerry, i would think about making that offer to everyone, including the iranians and the russians. the place for that russian sense of power and purpose, to invite them to the table. i would do that right now and try to begin that diplomatic conversation that is so important to ultimately ending
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this. charlie: this has been enormously helpful, michael. thank you so much. this is an unfolding crisis, and as your friend dave said to you, perhaps, because in the darkest night comes the morning light, perhaps there is some way that we can come and see there is enough crisis here on the table to demand coming together. that nation has suffered enough. michael morel from washington, thank you. we will be right back with the foreign minister of france. stay with us. ♪
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charlie: what could go wrong? f.m. fabius: you mean -- charlie: in paris with respect to -- f.m. fabius: first, it is very difficult to convince 196 countries, and it can be decided only by consensus. charlie: our france and the united states on the same page? f.m. fabius: yeah. charlie: are france and china on the same page? f.m. fabius: yes. we have to convince some of the countries. if you explain to oil producers that in the future there will have to be less carbon producing, it is not easy. charlie: that is the bottom line as they see it. f.m. fabius: i am pretty optimistic. charlie: let me turn to the iran your deal. you are given credit, and your other foreign ministers, for having to deal, because evidently you and your foreign ministers came to washington, talked to members of the senate about why you were on board or this deal, and that was the convincing argument that has been recorded.
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f.m. fabius: it's true. before that, france is said to have been tough and negotiation. charlie: often, it is said, tougher than america. f.m. fabius: i will not compare. but, it is true. i think is true. charlie: what is true? that you had influence with the democrat caucus? f.m. fabius: we were tough. charlie: but why? f.m. fabius: the outcome was not only to prevent iran from getting the bomb, but the idea was to convince the region that our agreement would be efficient.
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you know, we could sign anything. any of the countries, saudis, turks, other guys, if we sign something, but it is not real, they would become nuclear as well. it would have been a catastrophe because the region would become nuclear. we think it is necessary, but we have to be tough in order to convince people. obviously it was a catching behavior, and i think it has been helpful. charlie: do you believe the saudis are supporting it, or are they giving you lip service? f.m. fabius: we have a good relationship with saudis. i think they are convinced for the next 10 years, it is safe. afterwards, it is more open. charlie: are they right? that is one of the concerns, what happens after 10 or 15 years? f.m. fabius: yes, i know. but today --
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charlie: is the argument right? f.m. fabius: what we call the breakout time, it is the time that is necessary if the iranians wanted to get the bomb, to get the bomb. charlie: it will be a year under the agreement. f.m. fabius: over 10 years, which makes a difference. afterwards, according to international relationships, doing in between, it will get back three months, four months. but this was a great advance. all in all, it was a necessity. we have quantum mechanics. snapback. there are inspections by iae, which are very serious. charlie: it is said that the verification procedures, both in terms of technology and within the agreement, is stronger than any verification procedure that has ever been in this arena.
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f.m. fabius: that's right. charlie: it is also said that it was convincing for many of the democratic senators, the argument that you are others in the foreign minister group, convinced the democratic senators that if this agreement was not confirmed, there would be no possibility of putting the coalition at sanctions. f.m. fabius: very true. not only speaking about france, but imagine if it was turned down, you imagine that russians or the chinese would come back? charlie: russia would have never agreed to sanction again. f.m. fabius: you think they would come back and say, we are repeating?
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charlie: president obama has said the russians were very helpful. f.m. fabius: in that conversation. charlie: what did they do that was helpful? f.m. fabius: they were positive. it was a general tone. what was very important, because we were six on one side and one, iran, on the other. they decided that the six were united. if we were not united, it would be difficult to discuss.
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they had been united. the russians played a positive role. the chinese as well. let me tell you an anecdote. 20 years ago, it was france and france was in anger because what was discussed was not serious. at times, they said, if it is like that, i will go away.
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i stand up and go away. my chinese colleague said, if i were you, i would sit down. and you are feeling, in the back of this man, 1.3 billion people. they have been very helpful. it is a collective agreement. charlie: the last time you were here, you said we would not be engaged in airstrikes in syria. what changed? f.m. fabius: we are not in syria.
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that is russia. charlie: but what changed? f.m. fabius: there has been some shift in this particular point, and you are very clever. up to the recent months, we said we are committed in iraq with airplanes, but in syria it is a different story because in iraq, were called by the government. in syria, it is not the same way, and we were not present in syria. but, as you know, there have been a lot of terrorist attacks in france and we had precise information showing that some elements were coming from syria. from syria. charlie: some of the terrorist elements had connections? f.m. fabius: yes, and organizations, and all that. the french president, and i thought was completely right, decided to send planes to know what to take place on the ground. he said a few weeks ago, if we see that daesh is preparing things, we will strike. we have done it sunday. charlie: one strike? it is a new turn of events for france, too. you are joining a coalition. f.m. fabius: no, no. charlie: you are doing is independently. f.m. fabius: we are acting in the framework of self-defense.
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when you know there are people who are preparing to kill french people, you cannot sit like that. that is the reason we have this shift, and it is right. charlie: president putin says have a general agreement. charlie: also, we want to prop up the government, f.m. fabius: f.m. fabius: too. that is a different story. but the idea is that gentlemen, joining us, because everyone must be together against daesh.
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if you believe that, it is a good idea. when it comes to reality, the strikes today are much more on the opponents, not terrorists. charlie: help us understand that. you have access to intelligence. f.m. fabius: sure. charlie: i don't. who are they striking? who are these airstrikes to directed against? second question, the you think they have enough intelligence about what is happening on the ground to be choosing to only strike so-called rebels and moderate rebels? f.m. fabius: i will try to answer this. they have a lot of information, either directly or through their syrian friends. we have information, direct information, on their targets. when we had these targets, and
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hopefully it will change, targets are mainly rebels. not daesh. charlie: islamists, or jihadists? f.m. fabius: no, moderate opposition. they consider everyone who is against mr. bashir assad a terrorist. no. and therefore our point as far as france's concerns -- and other countries as well, say that if it is against daesh and al qaeda, it is ok. we ourselves are against daesh and al qaeda. but if it is, how can i put it, some sort of pretense to fight against the opposition and reinforce assad, that is another story. charlie: who said assad has to be the future of syria? charlie: iran. f.m. fabius: when you discuss that with russia, they say, we
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will see. what are they doing today? reinforcing him. charlie: they say that. the russians say that. they say they are there to prevent assad from being overthrown because they think they need him. f.m. fabius: the argument is very good. to avoid chaos is not to maintain assad for eternity. it is not a matter of person, i have to be clear. imagine you are a syrian. your family has been destroyed assad. it is the situation of more than 50% of the population, and you say to this family, ok, assad is the one. no. it is not possible. they want to go to daesh. we want to beat daesh. we need americans, russians, arabs, everybody to beat daesh.
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russia, it is a contradiction. charlie: i don't understand what your policy is on the ground, militarily. f.m. fabius: we don't go on the ground. it is very clear. charlie: in terms of strike. are you saying the french government is prepared, if you think this bad of assad, and everyone in the world seems to have that view, and the iranians have that view, and there has been terrible damage done to the state of syria. my point is, how do you say we want to get rid of assad and we want to get rid of daesh. how do you do it at the same time? f.m. fabius: you have to have a military action for daesh.
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it is not a problem that will be solved in the soviet military. it is a good one. charlie: everyone would join up. f.m. fabius: as far as the future of the regime is concerned, that is diplomacy. we have to talk. charlie: take british airstrikes and american airstrikes and soviet airstrikes against daesh, and overhears the assad government. f.m. fabius: assad government is capable of acting with the russian military. capable of acting if the russians and iranians are some wording him. charlie: is there military action against assad now? f.m. fabius: no. we are not concentrating on assad. we have to concentrate on daesh and al qaeda. we must have diplomatic action in order to prepare the transition. charlie: mr. assad, we would like to engage in diplomatic transition and figure out where you would go? f.m. fabius: those of the elements of diplomacy. it will be friday in paris,
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because we have to discuss ukraine and syria as well. charlie: do you believe they have an interest in convincing you, as a representative of the french government, and secretary kerry, that they want to eliminate isis and that they are prepared to strike isis? f.m. fabius: sure, sure. charlie: you say to them, what? show me? f.m. fabius: we said to them, show us, and now we are not going in that direction. we should be very happy the -- if the realities are according to what you said at the beginning. realities are, according to what let's join together in order to fight daesh. it is not the opposition to
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assad, moderate opposition. they are different guys. charlie: does the moderate opposition have any strength at all? f.m. fabius: yes, they have, but when i say moderate opposition, it is not only military. my guess is that most people in syria are victims obviously, they are living in terrible circumstances and we have to organize things so they can have a future. i want to add another thing which is important. it is very likely that it will be coming up. one of the greatest dangers would be if all that turned to sectarian conflict with sunnis, shiites -- charlie: which happened in iraq. f.m. fabius: yes. we have to pay attention to that. all of us, russians as well.
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it is not their interest. charlie: the world of the west, french, british government, american governments, others, have shown enough urgency about the fight against isis, to show what the threat was, and have you organized efficiently enough to stop them? you can't stop them without ground troops. f.m. fabius: first, when we discussed in geneva in -- when was it, 2012? june 2012. there was no terrorists in syria. charlie: when was this? f.m. fabius: june 2012. no terrorists in syria. charlie: no al nusra? f.m. fabius: it was my first as minister. june 2012. charlie: three years ago.
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f.m. fabius: we're discussing the good formula to have new government. at that time, i think a lot of time has been wasted afterwards one year, two years later, you had al nusra, daesh, and all that stuff. in the beginning, as far as daesh is concerned, they were -- i think, honestly, a lot of time has some weight. afterwards when daesh is more powerful, they had the international coalition, but it is not enough. we have to be more coordinated. we have to tackle the different elements. there is military. there is violence. there is this and that. there was a lot of good will. well, maybe it is changing.
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it is an enormous commitment. we french are committed to fight. we and many other people. charlie: you need a sense of urgency and priority. f.m. fabius: what i would like to convince you is to say the solution is assad, it is contradictory. obviously, we have to fight very fiercely, daesh, because they murder people, and al qaeda, and so on, but we have to find a political solution which would help them and not put into the arms of daesh, the population. charlie: let me turn to one last question. help us understand the migration of the refugee issue in europe and the responsibility of governments there, germany, france, the responsibility of the united states, the responsibility of the vatican.
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f.m. fabius: it has obviously a close link with what we are discussing. not all the refugees are coming from syria, but different places. it is true that the numbers are very high. therefore, europe is in a difficult position. we are not accustomed to that. it could be a long debate, but our view is that so far as political refugees are concerned, we have a duty. it is a tradition in europe. as far as immigration is concerned, it is a different story because we cannot welcome everybody. we have obviously made our utmost to solve the syrian problem. if you're only at the consequence -- charlie: do you worry that most of the people are coming for reasons of political persecution, but some may come because they want to use this as
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a covert way to -- f.m. fabius: there are different people in different situations. charlie: how do you separate them? f.m. fabius: we have what we call hotspots at the entrance. people are in charge of checking people going through. -- checking who is who. it's a difficult job, it is necessary. charlie: it is a pleasure to have you again. f.m. fabius: thank you so much. charlie: laurent fabius, foreign minister france. thank you for joining us. see you next time. ♪
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