tv Charlie Rose Bloomberg November 25, 2015 10:00pm-11:01pm EST
>> from our studios in new york city, this is "charlie rose." charlie: mike morell is here, the former director of the central intelligence agency. a global travel alert was issued for u.s. citizens. the alert warned that isil, boko haram, and other terrorist groups may attack. today, turkey down a warplane, vladimir putin called it a stab in the back. in washington, president obama
met with french president francois hollande, and obama said the united states would stand united against its fight against isis. pres. obama: we are here today to declare that the united states and france stand united in delivering justice to these terrorists and those who send them, and to defend our nations. >> it is necessary that we offer full cooperation in terms of intelligence. attacks generate a lot of emotion, but that is not enough. compassion, solidarity -- we must act. charlie: president hollande will meet with german chancellor angela merkel on wednesday and president putin on thursday to further discuss a coalition against isis. i am pleased to have mike at the
table to talk about all of this. mr. morell: thank you, charlie. charlie: let me start with the question we have talked about, where do we stand after paris? mr. morell: paris was obviously a very significant event. i think it is a game changer, and it is a game changer in the following way -- before paris, we had a strategy which by the president's admission would take a number of years to show success. i think before paris, that was acceptable. i think the real change because of paris is that it is no longer acceptable for this to take years. we know face a time dimension that we did not face before. we can't take years because there will be further attacks in europe and possibly the united states. there is now a sense of urgency that there was not before. charlie: which has to be both defensive end offenses. mr. morell: absolutely. charlie: what is the offense of ive component? mr. morell: we have learned two key lessons in the fight against al qaeda.
lesson number one, you have to take away their second. -- safe haven. safe havens provide a secondary advantage to a terrorist agreed in terms of planning and capabilities. and in terms of recruitment. across the board. the other is to put pressure on their leadership. best case, to remove their leadership, worst case, simply make them think about their security everyday rather than doing their job, which is plotting attacks. charlie: what is the status on the ground today of isis in both iraq and syria? mr. morell: great question. what has really happened since we started this war against isis? it is absolutely true that the amount of territory that they controlled in iraq and syria is about 20% to 25% less than it was when we started this.
so we have shrunk the size of the safe haven, and they have not made the safe haven any bigger, so that is on the plus side. charlie: that's what the president meant when he said we contained them. mr. morell: that's exactly what i think he meant. on the downside, they solidified their position in the safe haven, so it is not unfair to say that they are the equivalent of a state in their safe haven. they are a state in every respect of the word except one, which is they don't have any foreign recognition or relations. but in every other regard, in terms of how they govern, in terms of having a military, having a police force, having a judiciary, collecting taxes, running schools, running hospitals, taking care of the poor, all of that they do within their safe haven. charlie: do they do that with the consent or fear of the governed? mr. morell: both.
people are not happy living under this north korean-style regime. where the rules are very difficult. there are a lot of things you can't do. but at the same time, there is no corruption, the laws are enforced fairly. you know exactly what is going to happen if you do something you shouldn't do. and your boys are safe going to school, and your kids playing outside are relatively safe. it cuts both ways. charlie: there is a certain religious test. mr. morell: absolutely, you have to meet certain standards and behave certain ways, and if you don't you are in big trouble. charlie: is that the governing model in mosul? mr. morell: yes. another thing to say, general petraeus on your show was
getting at this, for a lot of moderate sunnis, they see isis as protecting them from the shia, from the shia in iraq, in the iranian backed shia militia, and they see them protecting them from assad regime. there are pluses and minuses if you happen to live inside that safe haven. charlie: but here is the point, everybody you talk to, the key in iraq and somewhat in syria are the sunnis. if they feel like isis is better than the maliki government, then what do we do to ensure them -- assure them that that is not true and give them incentive to fight isis? mr. morell: charlie, when i think about what has to happen,
we know what the two pieces are, shrink the safe haven and shrink the leadership. to shrink the leadership, i know how to do. shrinking the safe haven is more difficult. you have to do four things at the same time. you have to have a military solution in iraq, you have to have a military solution in syria, you have to have a political solution in iraq, and a political solution in syria. the political parts are more important than the military parts. in syria, i can actually envision a political solution. the solution i can envision is some sort of transition away from assad and a transition to something that looks like the government in lebanon, where
each of the groups, the different players in syria get a say in how they are governed, a guaranteed say not taken away from them by election. charlie: including hezbollah. mr. morell: everybody would have a governing role here except for isis and al nusra. assad would stay around until that transition of power occurred. but once you have a new government in syria that everybody can agree to, then the most effective fighting force in syria, which happens to be the syrian army and military, can focus all their efforts on isis supported by all the international players. charlie: it is simple to say, give me a new leader in syria and all our problems begin to end. mr. morell: simpler to say that when we have a government that all of the players in syria can agree is the new government going forward, and you can only have that if assad is not part of it.
i think that -- there have been very significant differences among the players about assad. the united states position is that he has to go now, that is the position of the gulf arab states. on the part of the u.s.. i will come back to that in a second. certainly, that is turkey's position. the position of the turks, the gulf arabs, and the europeans. for the russians, it is, no, he should be able to stand in new elections, and for the iranians, it is he should be able to stand in new elections. i think there is a potential compromise emerging between the united states, europeans, and russia. i believe that potential compromise is assad can stay around until you get to new elections. he can't stand in those new elections.
i think secretary kerry has hinted at that in recent weeks. the russian foreign minister hinted at that just yesterday, that the russians would be open to some sort of transition where assad is part of it up until the election. i think the parties who are on the outside of this potential agreement at the moment are the saudis, who believe he has to go right now, and the iranians, who believe he should stand in an election and if elected be able to serve again. the other day, i said assad may be part of the solution here, and that's what i meant. he probably needs to stay around until that transition is complete because what we don't want is a situation in syria where assad leads to same before -- too soon before there is a new government set up and the institutions of the syrian government begin to collapse like they did in iraq and libya. charlie: that is exactly what
putin fears too, worrying about the absence of the government and the anarchy that comes after the absence of government has happened in libya. but are you convinced from all that you know that the russians are prepared to make that kind of deal with the united states and the west in order to have a ssad lead? we know they are not committed to him. mr. morell: they are not committed to him, they are committed to having their interests protected. they have two fundamental interests. one is making sure that islamic extremism gets brought under control so that it doesn't go into the caucuses and into russia and become a serious problem for the russians. that is russian interests number one. russian interest number two is to continue to have a military base in syria and continue to have influence in the middle east by virtue of having that physical presence. if they can be convinced that they can have that with this new
government that i described, then absolutely i think they are willing to assad go. charlie: is it possible to convince the iranians? mr. morell: i think the only thing possible to convince the iranians is russians twisting their arm. charlie: and we have seen more and more relationship between the russians and the iranians. mr. morell: right. one thing putin will do to compromise with assad is negotiate the pressure that the west has put on him in terms of ukraine. we have to fight that. his interests are strong enough in a good outcome in syria that we should not have to given and -- give in and remove the sanctions. we should fight that. charlie: but what deal should we accept to remove the sanctions in ukraine?
mr. morell: i don't know the answer to that question. clearly stopping support to the separatists. i don't know if we would go so far as to say -- charlie: back to what happens on the ground, here is what i don't understand. everybody understands there has to be a transition from assad out, and clearly everybody says you have to have a central government. what are the steps -- we go here, we go here, and we go here -- you saw in the paper other day, it comes to urgency, act now. what is act now? mr. morell: act now is, let's get an agreement on the future government of syria. secretary kerry is working on that. the first thing that has to happen is an agreement between the europeans, the united states, gulf allies, and russia. charlie: diplomacy before military. mr. morell: absolutely. you can't have a military
solution in syria that works without a political solution. charlie: what did you think of the president's press conference and what he said today after his meeting with hollande in terms of how he views this struggle? mr. morell: he showed more emotion today about dealing with isis than he has shown. but what i think has to happen now is, within his national security team, there needs to be a conversation about, let's take a look at our strategy, let's take a look at every piece of our strategy and look at what is working and not working. one of the conversations that has to happen, charlie, i have talked about this, one of the conversations that has to happen is, let's have a conversation in the situation room at the white house on the national security
team in which we ask two questions. the first question is, what would our policy toward isis be the day after a paris-style attack in new york or washington? the second russian is, if that is different from what our policy is today, and i think it would be, if the american people would demand it be different, why isn't that our policy today? charlie: what is the policy they would demand if there had been an attack on washington, d.c.? what is the policy, other than the political elements we have just talked about? mr. morell: there are things to do in the military side as you are waiting for the ultimate military answer, which is the syrian army. there are things you can do on the military side. you can significantly increase the number of special forces in the country. you can push them closer to the
front lines in terms of advising and assisting the people who are actually doing the fighting. you can put what are called forward air controllers on the ground, close to the fighting, to deal with the precision airstrikes. you can relax somewhat with the rules of engagement, which are quite restrictive now in terms of what collateral damage is acceptable, both in terms of human life and environmental damage. there are a number of things you can do on the military side, some of which the administration is talking about, so while you are pursuing this, there are more aggressive military steps that can be taken. charlie: do you think he is getting conflicting advice? mr. morell: i don't think i was ever at a national security meeting at the white house where the was not a difference of opinion. charlie: between soldiers and intelligence people and political people? mr. morell: absolutely, it is the nature of making policy.
the difficult thing is to sit at the head of the table and take all that advise and sort it out and make a decision. charlie: let's just go through, one, he has to change the rules of engagement. what are the other decisions for him to make? mr. morell: the number of special forces. charlie: what is that vary between? mr. morell: i don't know the number now, but when he made the decision to put 50 in northern syria, that is a pretty small number. so a larger number, and more importantly where they are. now they are pretty far back in the chain of command. they need to be closer to the front line so they can provide strategic and tactical advice to the guys doing the fighting. charlie: in the meantime, what is happening as this is going on with al qaeda? al qaeda in asia, al qaeda in africa, al qaeda in the arab states? mr. morell: that is a great question.
we are all, as a government, as a media, as a public, focused on isis, and rightfully so. but as we are focused on isis, it turns out that al qaeda is on the rebound. it's on the rebound in two places. the first is in yemen, the most dangerous al qaeda affiliates on the planet. we talked about that special bomb maker there many times. this is the group that has tried to attack the united states a number of times. they were somewhat degraded by yemeni military operations and u.s. counterterrorism operations up until the civil war started. once the yemeni civil war started -- i think we talked
about this around this table when it was happening -- when the yemeni civil war started, it was a boon to al qaeda. there was a vacuum that they were able to fill. so al qaeda in yemen now has more land than it ever had before under its control, and has more fighters, it has more weapons, and it has more money than it ever had before because of this vacuum. that will make them much more dangerous as a terrorist organization, more of a threat to the united states of america. at the same time that is happening, there is something even more worrisome and disappointing happening, that is the beginning rebirth of al qaeda in afghanistan. so what we saw -- charlie: which is? mr. morell: which is the original al qaeda leadership group.
they were under so much pressure from the united states of america that they were hunkering down and withstanding the onslaught. they are now moving back to afghanistan for the first time. there is the building of al qaeda training camps in southeastern afghanistan for the first time since before 9/11, so we are beginning to see the rebirth. the united states of america and afghan forces recently raided a couple of places. few people know that, but it happened. it is because of concern over those camps. a significant rebound in yemen and beginning rebound in afghanistan. charlie: and it is happening in mali right now. mr. morell: what you are seeing in mali is a long-standing al qaeda affiliate.
they have been very active there and took over it when there was a civil war going on, and the french had to come force them out with the french army, so yeah, absolutely. charlie: vladimir putin. the president today said he is an outlier, he has a coalition with iran and is not part of the u.s. coalition. are we saying to him that we are not interested in working with you, and cooperating with you to defeat isis? i thought that the administration's position before had been, we are prepared to see you attack isis, we just on what don't want to attacking people to overthrow assad. mr. morell: i am not a fan of vladimir putin. he is a thug and a bully. he is the worst kind of leader in my view, but unfortunately we don't have any choice but to
cooperate with him, because he is backing assad. he is preventing this transition to this new government which is necessary to solve the problem. same with the iranians. we have to come to some understanding with the iranians in order to get them to push aside. charlie: what is the deal? mr. morell: i think the deal is leave ukraine off the table. i don't think you go there. he is going to want to, but i don't think you go there. the deal is that isis is more dangerous to you, vladimir, than he is to us. let's work together to solve this problem. charlie: that is a decision you think this government is prepared to make? mr. morell: based on what secretary kerry has said in recent days, yes. ♪
and that made things more , complicated there. to divert attention to that, they had a global strategy of attacking the airplane, attacking paris, going off in lebanon as well. mr. morell: i don't buy that at all. charlie: it was not a diversion to attract attention because things were not well on the ground in iraq and syria. mr. morell: i don't believe that. here is why. one is, most of this 20% to 25% of the isis territory that had been taken away from it was taken away from it a year go. it really has not lost anything over the last nine to 12 months. they are really not under much pressure today. two, isis told us that once they establish the caliphate, they would come to attack us. that's exactly what they are doing. charlie: simply the global strategy now is just a forward motion of what they would do. first the ground, then the caliphate, then attacking cause problems for all the people. mr. morell: exactly. one of the important lessons of national security and foreign affairs is that sometimes you're
-- your adversaries tell you exactly what to do. al qaeda did that, isis did that. charlie: when you look at the sophistication of isis, we hear there is a fighting force in terms of the weapons they have, in terms of the organization they have, in terms of command structure. we hear it has been influenced by some of saddam's former army of people who went over to them because they were sunnis and found them more attractive than dealing with the shia government in baghdad. you hear that. what is the judgment of the cia about their effectiveness on the ground as a military group? mr. morell: i don't know what the judgment is but i can give you my judgment -- they are pretty good. they fight well. if you have had a lot of practice fighting, you tend to be a pretty good fighter. they had a lot of practice fighting in iraq during the post-saddam years, and they had a lot of practice fighting in
syria when they were fighting a ssad regime. they had a lot of weapons that they got from assad's military stockpiles. we know they have a lot of money, tens of millions of dollars a month in revenue, so they are pretty good. the other thing that makes them good, and one of the reasons this will be difficult compared to forcing al qaeda out of afghanistan, they are embedded in this. they can use all the advantages of being a state, access to resources, access to people, as they conduct military operations and try to protect themselves, they can use all the resources of being a state. charlie: so part of that is
revenue from oil, including to assad? mr. morell: yes. charlie: part of it is robbing banks on the takeover territory. mr. morell: yes, but they have not done it in a while. and part of it is taxes. charlie: forcing people to pay. how do we attack that, the funding that they have, the ability to sell the oil? we see a tax on that oil transfer taking place now after paris that did not take place before paris, which is your original question. mr. morell: this is one of the collateral damage questions. prior to paris, there seemed to be a judgment that, look, we don't want to destroy these oil tankers because that's infrastructure that is going to be necessary to support the people when isis is not there anymore.
and it is going to create environmental damage. we did not go after oil wells that isis controls because we did not want to do environmental damage. so now we are hitting oil and trucks. maybe we get to the point where we have to also hit oil wells. those are the tough decisions we have to make. charlie: what is your mindset about rules of engagement? you seem to think that they are too restrictive now. do you think they are too restrictive? mr. morell: i think so. the only reason i am pausing, charlie, is because i understand why you want them to be restrictive. you want them to be restrictive because the less restrictive they are, and the more collateral damage, particularly
in terms of human life, particularly in terms of women and children, the more future terrorists you make. the more you radicalize other people. it is a trade-off between that and effectiveness. you are always judging how much collateral damage is too much and how much more can we stomach given that we want to be more effective? charlie: and sometimes, urgent circumstances will give you more of a willingness to risk more collateral damage? are we in that circumstance now? mr. morell: my own view is that, it should be situation specific. in other words, if i have a middle level isis guy who is not that particularly important, and i've got him in my sights, am i going to kill any women and children to get him? i don't think so.
but if i have a leader, and he is surrounded by 30 of his relatives, should i take them out? yeah, probably. i think collateral damage should not be one set of standards, it should be situation specific. charlie: what did you think of hillary clinton's speech at the council on foreign relations? mr. morell: i thought it was good. charlie: but did you see any light between where she is and where the president is? one area is no-fly zones. what is the argument for and against no-fly zones? mr. morell: the argument for no-fly zones is, let's create a place where refugees can feel safe and where the fighters who are taking on isis and the assad government can organize themselves and train and equip. that is the argument for. the argument against is really that doing so is a major
military operation, much less so now than it was three years ago, but is a major military operation, it is taking on the syrian military, going to war with them in a serious way. that is the argument against. there is a new argument against, which is, how do you do a no-fly zone in the face of russian aircraft flying all over the place? are you going to say it is ok for russians to fly, or are you going to say to the russians, you can't fly? in which case, the russians will say, yes we will. charlie: because we have come here at the invitation of his -- assad. mr. morell: correct. so when you look at what happened between turkey and russia today, it is important to keep this in mind, there are two consequences, two things to think about when you think about what happens. one is that it will make the resolution of the assad problem
more difficult because turkey is on one side of the question and russia is on the other, so that will make the negotiation harder. the other thing it makes you think about is, are we at risk of a power confrontation in iraq and syria? what i mean by power confrontation is, are we at risk of turkey and russia going at each other? are we and the russians going at each other? charlie: no matter how much communication there is, to make sure -- and sometimes -- to make sure that they are trying to avoid it. mr. morell: most war starts from mistake. you have to be careful to not create situations that create the possibility of that happen. charlie: is there any consensus that the only people who can be boots on the ground are sunni arabs?
mr. morell: i believe the best outcome there is -- charlie: syrians in syria, iraqis in iraq. mr. morell: yes, that is by far the best outcome. charlie: but it is not the only outcome, is it? mr. morell: the kurds are only going to go so far in protecting sunni areas and taking back territory from them. charlie: but i am asking the same question -- we do come back, but if there has to be with air power forces on the ground, you can have advisors from other places, but you have to have fighters. you have to have people who move forward, gain territory, and defeat the enemy in concert with the air power. the only place they are going to
come from are sunni arabs. in iraq, iraqis, in syria, syrians. when you ask the saudi's, they say we are busy in yemen. mr. morell: a little differently, i would say in syria it has to be the syrian army. there is not anybody else. it just happens that 85% of that country is sunni. in iraq, it would not be acceptable to the sunnis and the sunni triangle and anbar province to have the shia throw off isis. they would not be acceptable. charlie: explain that to me. it would not be acceptable to have the shia -- the majority of the iraqi army is shia. they can't defeat isis? mr. morell: they could if they were retrained and the whole nine yards, but the sunnis in iraq do not want the shia on sunni land. so the only answer in iraq is to get the sunni tribes to fight
against isis. the only way that happens, now we are talking about politics in iraq, the only way the sunni tribes fight is if they believe that once they fight and get rid of isis, they will have the say in the iraqi government. charlie: so somebody has to promise them they will have a say. who can make that promise? is the prime minsister prepared? mr. morell: he does not have the political clout to deliver on anything. he is extremely weak. charlie: with the iranians allow him to make that promise? mr. morell: i think it is in iran's interest to maintain the territorial integrity of iraq. i think it is in iran's interest for isis to be defeated by the sunni tribes. we probably need to have that conversation with them, we are not. i think that is the way iran views it.
what has to happen, i think the political solution in iraq is a good dose of federalism, so a decentralization of power -- charlie: less power in baghdad, more power in the provinces. kurds, shia, and sunni. mr. morell: right, and the only way that works is if there is a flow of revenue into the sunni areas, because they have no natural resources of their own. charlie: this is bob gates and david petraeus talking about the rules of engagement in the last several days on the show. roll the tape. >> i think we need to loosen the rules of engagement for our forces already in iraq. >> i think you also have to look at the rules of engagement. by many reports, they are so strict that there is an approval process that requires it is not the kind of streamlined effort that is necessary, certainly no
one wants to see civilians killed or collateral damage, but this is war. charlie: ash carter said to morning joe, we are prepared to change the rules of engagement, we change the tactics as we just did in the fuel trucks as you noticed. clearly they are prepared to lose some of the rules of engagement. on the other hand, it is a much more difficult thing to change the behavior of the sunnis. mr. morell: right, and the sunnis in iraq rose up once because we asked them to. that was during the civil war that flourished in the aftermath of saddam. we asked them to stand up and take on al qaeda and the insurgency, and we promised them that if they did that it would be a role for then in iraqi politics, and maliki to get away -- took it away from them.
very difficult situation. the momentum was not running against him, his own people were talking about the end being near. the iranians came in early 2013, and a very significant way brought shia militia they had trained in iraq, brought hezbollah in from lebanon, they propped him up any significant way, so they have been his savior. in iraq, the shia militia there have been the most effective fighting force in protecting baghdad and shia areas, and taking back shia areas that isis had taken. they are not going to go any further than that. charlie: gates said on this
program, one of the things i have not heard anybody talk about is the potential for what the western services, including the cia, could do on the ground in terms of infiltrating, sabotage, and other activities to make life harder for isis. there are a lot of things we can do without sending more troops in there, without aggravating the situation in terms of turning people on the ground against us because we are back in there. make sense to you? mr. morell: it does make sense with one caveat. it is the same caveat, which is -- charlie: this is an old cia guy. mr. morell: yes, i know. a former director, and one i have a great admiration for. if you went into isis controlled areas in syria or iraq and tried to do exactly what the secretary is suggesting, you still need people who want to work with you, people who are going to be your operatives on the ground,
who are going to make things blow up, and you are going to find the leadership and take them out. they are only going to do that if they trust you. they are only going to trust you if they believe that when all the smoke clears, they have a future. charlie: back to my original question as to what history will say about paris and what paris changed, do you think in the end it will be looped as a mistake by isis to attack paris, because there is now these coalitions, and nations are saying in many cases, enough. russia was already there before paris. they already made their decision because they saw a power vacuum, a chance to say we are back, relevant, and we are going to play a role. mr. morell: they saw assad flipping again, so let's propped him up. charlie: but will paris say to history that isis made a big mistake?
would you say they lost more than they gained by attacking paris? mr. morell: that is a great question. i believe that if you asked osama bin laden, was it a mistake to attack the united states that they came to afghanistan with real military power and threw you out? i think you would probably say yes. charlie: it was a mistake. mr. morell: yeah. charlie: and so isis might look on this, even though it does not measure up to 9/11, as a turning point. that is what paris may have changed. mr. morell: it is a little bit different too in that isis has this apocalyptic view of the world that al qaeda really did not have. it is a tough question. charlie: they also have many recruiting mechanisms, via social media or otherwise. mr. morell: that is a reflection of the state of social media today.
it was not as robust as it is today back in 2001. the other is that all these western recruits, thousands of guys from western europe, hundreds of guys from the u.s., canada, australia, going to fight with isis, those guys came with considerable i.t. skills, some of them. they took advantage of that. the other is back to this state idea, charlie, which is that if you own that state, and if you have hold on resources in the states, including people and their skill sets, and some of those people have i.t. skill sets. the other thing important to mention is that president hollande learned that isis is pursuing chemical and biological weapons.
and u.s. officials, off the record, confirmed that he is indeed pursuing chemical weapons, isis is pursuing chemical weapons, that should be a concerning matter to all of us. when you have a safe haven, you can do things like experimenting with chemical and biological weapons. that is exactly what al qaeda did in their safe haven, afghanistan. that should be a wake-up call here, because isis has said if we get them, we will use them, and they have said we have religious justification for doing so. that is something we need to pay attention to. charlie: in the end, what do we know about their objectives? you are part of the conversation.
mr. morell: their objective is not just a caliphate where it is today, or not just a caliphate in the middle east, their objective is a global caliphate. including here in the united states, including in western europe, where we would live under their draconian religious roles. our girls cannot go to school, we would all have to claim we are muslim or be killed. all of those rules they operate in iraq and syria by, we would have to operate here. but that is their goal. charlie: is it also their goal to draw the west into battle against them so that there would be some clash of civilizations, so all muslims might then rally to their side?
mr. morell: that was al qaeda's view. charlie: but al qaeda was against a caliphate. osama bin laden did not believe that isis was on the right track. mr. morell: here is the difference between the two. isis wants a global caliphate, and isis believes that they should establish the beginnings of that caliphate in the middle east before they attack the west. what al qaeda believed was, we want a caliphate in the historical lands that belonged to muslims. that's where they wanted a caliphate. al qaeda also believed that in order to even achieve the beginnings of that, they had to
drive the united states and the west out of the middle east. al qaeda was, attack the west to drive them out, then establish the caliphate. isis's view is establish the caliphate, then attack the west. charlie: i have had many conversations about this, a range of people, and it all seems to me to come down to several big questions. number one, is assad in or out, and when. two, can you get a change in rules of engagement if you want to mount an effective attack? number three is getting the sunnis involved against isis. number four is changing the attitude of the baghdad government in respect to sunnis, so they would not be so shia in their attitudes towards sunnis. number five, how do you deal
with the fact that you have the possibility of violence against people who normally are on the same side, even though divided over the question of assad? that means turkey shoots down a russian plane, and how dangerous is that possibility of people from different countries moving around with different kinds of armament? mr. morell: great question. i agree with a lot of what you just said. here is how i would sum it up. you need a viable fighting force in both places, iraq and syria. you get one in iraq by having a political solution in baghdad that gives the sunnis a future stake in their country. once you have that, sunni tribes will fight for us against isis. and they will be effective. in syria, the fighting force is the syrian army.
we need to get them focused on fighting isis. the way you do that -- charlie: you've got to take off the head. mr. morell: you have to take off the head and resolve the assad problem, although he may need to stick around while you make that transition. on the military front, and you could start this even beforehand, relaxing rules of engagement. more special forces on the ground to provide advice, forward air controllers on the frontline to call in precision airstrikes. charlie: advisers embedded at the battalion level? mr. morell: mm-hmm. charlie: but how do you convince the iranians, the russians, the turks, the saudi's all to come together with some idea that this has to stop? the other possibility is, what surprises me is that with so much at stake for the country,
patriotic syrians, not just the people who of been the victims, patriotic syrians who are part of the power structure have watched their country and culture be destroyed year-by-year, not to speak of 4 million refugees and over 250,000 casualties, and the destruction of their culture. i am surprised that no one from the army has stepped forward. i may not understand the fear that exists, if you even have the thought. mr. morell: on that question, my view is that in the early days of the civil war, there were many defections of people around assad. the army is half that size because of so many defections of people.
the ones that are left will be considered war criminals at the end of this as well, so they have no incentive to end this thing. they are in the same boat with assad. back to your fundamental question, the one common thing we all have, americans, studies, turks, russians, iranians, is that isis is a very significant threat to stability in the middle east and to our way of life. we can all agree on that. that's what we should build a coalition around. charlie: but i assume you should agree with this, we should build a coalition not losing sight of our values, not losing sight for respect to individual weiss -- individual rights and civil rights, and not losing respect for the fact that we are in this planet, and people of no pledge of their owner being thrown out at the mercy of whatever. mr. morell: and there are two
ways this plays out. one way is that we lead in the defense of those people and the protection of them, and in going after isis, who is enslaving those people, we lead. the other way is with the rules of engagement, we only go as far as we have to to make ourselves effective. charlie: finally, there is this. it is the notion of the perception of american leadership, the strongest country in the world militarily, economically, and in other ways, people want the united states to lead. for whatever reason, they are asking the question, where is the united states? mr. morell: i think sometimes leadership is as simple as standing up and saying, we all agree that we need to defeat isis, we have a plan. here's the plan. here's what we are going to do. here's what we want you to do, russians.
here's what we want you to do, saudis, turks, iranians. charlie: we want to do what you want to do, but we realize it is better to do it together. mr. morell: and we put together a plan and say, here. charlie: thank you. mr. morell: always a pleasure. charlie: mike morell for the hour. thank you for joining us. see you next time. ♪