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tv   Charlie Rose  PBS  November 20, 2015 12:00am-1:01am PST

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>> rose: welcome to the program. this evening we focus on paris and the aftermath, and we take a look at isis, how it began, how it grew, and what its strategy is today. we talk to will mccants, graeme wood, and ian fisher. >> islamic state has a two-word slogan-- enduring and expanding. both of those have to do with the control of territory and survival. they have staked everything on their ability to build a state and maintain the caliphate. the ideological fight in this war is an actual fight. it is not going to be a war of words. isis is not trying to win over broad muslim appeal to its cause pup don't burn a sunni pilot if you want to win over the masses. they're going for a very narrow segment of society, and it's their political success thatas
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attracted the recruit. >> it's also important to note that there was a kind of ideological framework that had been laid before isis ever came into being. there was a sense that there was need for a muslim government in a particular form that was answered by the construction of a caliphate. so i have spoken to many people who have been supportive of the group, some of of who have gone to the group to fight, and they would say that the idea of a caliphate, a unified government for all sunni muslims, was something they had wanted for a long time, and it answered a kind of deep longing, especially for the foreign fighter element of this, i think it's important to see that this was in some ways a long time coming. it was satisfying something they'd been thinking about and that they had in some cases been intellectually developing for a long time. and that also, and it's important also to note, was a revival of a kind of practice of political islam that really was left behind by many of the
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jihadist movements that had come before it, too. >> they take owl the garbage. they fill bottles. they do, in fact. i think that's one of the interesting things. i mean, one of the interesting challenges when they went to palmyra, the old roman city to the southeast. it was a test of could they really govern? i don't know the answer to that. i think the fact they started blowing antiquities up meant it wasn't entirely successful. they had to expand not only in cruelty but in what do you bring to me as a government? >> rose: for the hour, an analysis of isis. >> rose: funding for "charlie rose" has been provided by: >> and by bloomberg, a provider of multimedia news and information services worldwide.
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captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. >> rose: we begin this evening with our continuing coverage of the paris attacks. paris prosecutor confirmed today that abdelhamid abaaoud, the alleged ringleader was killed in yesterday's raid in the paris suburb of saint-denis. authorities said they used fingerprint analysis to identify his impact-riddled body. he was known to have traveled to syria in 2014. officials have learned he returned to europe through greece. abaaoud was a belgian national who grew up in molenbeek air, district in brussels that has emerged as a hot bed of extremism. several of the suspects involved in the attack were based there. brussels police arrested nine people in brussels today, seven of them linked to a man who
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detonate aid suicide vest near a soccer stadium in paris on friday. they continue to look for at least two other fugitives. many questions remain as authorities persist in their investigation, among them, whether isis is planning more attacks outside of syria and iraq. french prime minister manuel valls described the threat in a speech this morning. >> ( translated ): what's new is the modus operandi, the way of carrying out an attack, of killing, is constantly evolving. the macabre imagination of the ringleaders is endless-- assault weapons, beheadings, human bombs, stabbings, or all of these together, carried on by individuals or, in this case, particularly, organized commandos. today, nothing can be excluded from the ringleader's imagination, and i say this, of course, with all the necessary precautions, but we know it, and we have it in mind. there is also the risk of chemical or biological weapons.
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>> rose: new york city mayor bill keblawzio, and police commissioner bill bratton have advised an isis video threatening attacks on manhattan is not credible. >> as you know, a video was released earlier todd by isis portraying scenes of new york city, portraying scenes of times square, where we are now, and herald square in an obvious attempt to intimidate the people of new york city. it's important to note that there is no credible and specific threat against new york city. >> rose: joining me now is will mccants. he is director of the project on u.s. relations with the islamic world at the brookings institution. his new book is called "the isis apocalypse." graeme wood is a fellow of council oil foreign relations and contributing editor to "the atlantic." atlantic. ian fisher leads the investigation department at the "new york times."
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his article today focuses on the rise of isis. it says in the rise of isis many strands of blame but no single miskey to groups terrifying and complex puzzle. let's just begin there with the rise of isis. take us to how this group began and how they have grown. >> well, i think you have to look at two different moments. i think the first moment is-- and this will be a little troafl-- is 2003. i mean, the american military came in to baghdad. some of our early decisions were-- and, you know, didn't have a lot of experience there, so it's difficult to cast deep blame-- but, you know, we immediately marginalized the regime of saddam hussein. so a lot of very talented people-- talented, able people in the military and bureaucracy as well had no place to go. the shia were empowered. we supported the shia, and people very quickly, and abu
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zukardwa, a militant was smart enough to see that, he anticipated the sort of invasion and was very clever to realize these people were going to be marginalized, and he ended up organizing them very quickly. i recall, in preparation to come here, i recall talking to an insurgent back in 2003, and it was very clear he was a sunni, lost his job, talked about religion, talked about tribalism. and so, anyway, you know as the story of america's fight with the insurgents there is well known, i think, now. it took us a long time. and by the end i think most people agree, even people who disagree with the invasion would say that the american military aligned with sunni tribesmen did a pretty good job of tamping down the al qaeda, you know, sunni insurgency in the north -- >> the so-called awake i think. >> correct.
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the who of them together. i think they did-- i did some reporting up there at the time, and, you know, from what they were trying to do, i think they did a good job. but there were a lot of problems involved, among them was-- and this was very clear when i did some reporting back in 2009 and 2010, the shi'a-controlled government made a lot of promises to the sunnis. they said, "we'll give you jobs,", you know, "we'll pay you salaries,," you know, your families. it's very tribalist, take care of everybody, you'll be integrated into this. and they weren't. there was huge disaffection among sunnis there. if i can make a broader point, really it's difficult to cast blame, you know-- there's a lot things to talk about. but, you know, where did the sunnis have to go, really is it there's a shia state, and there's no question about that. in some ways, i feel like at the end we can talk about isis a
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lot, but i think you have to talk about where can the sunnis go? and they've been very isolated. >> rose: and many people say the sunnis today are key to some effort to defeat isis. >> some are, yes, that's true. >> rose: what would you add to that? >> i think it's also important to note there was a kind of ideological framework that had been laid before isis ever came into being. there was a sense tha that thers need for a muslim government in a particular form that was answered by the construction of a caliphate. so i've spoken to many people who have been supportive of the group, some who have gone to the group to fight, and they would say the idea of a caliphate, a unified government for all sunni muslims, was something they had wanted for a long time and it answer answered a kind of deep longing, especially for the foreign fighter element of this. i think it's important to see that this was in some ways a longtime coming. it was satisfying, something they'd been thinking about, and that they had in some cases been intellectually developing for a long time.
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and it's important also to note was a revival of a kind of practice of political islam that really was left behind by many of the jihaddist movements that had come before it, too. >> rose: tell me if i'm wrong, but my recollection was that osama bin laden had canceled against trying to create a state because he thought it would bring too many problems. >> yes, it's a very ambitious thing to create a whole new state. and, you know, it's something that if you-- if you put down a flag and say, "this is where we are going to really to, this is where you can attack if you want to attack us," then you make yourself vulnerable to all sorts of things. >> rose: the middle east is full of that. >> yes. and it's also something you can rally to, of course. as ian was saying, if you do have a place where there is enough chaos, where there is enough disaffection, and there wherethere is simply a vacuum of power then you actually have a
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great opportunity to put down that flag and be fairly sure that no one is going to come there and attack you and take it away. >> rose: the maliki government turned out to be much worse than everybody expected it to be, including the americans, who supported it. how does that tie in? and who is al baghdadi daddy? >> al baghdadi daddy is from the northern part of the iraq. he grew up in a pious household. his nickname growing was was "the believer" because he was known for his devotion to religious text but also he had a penchant for telling people off, for not adhearing to his strict understanding of islamic law. and throughout his life, he gravitated towards more and more extreme forms and ultraconservative forms of islam until in the year 2000 he became what call a jihaddist. at the same time, he was also getting his graduate degree.
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he eed up getting a ph.d. in koranic studies in 2007 while he was fighting an insurgency. and he was very clever in navigating the cutthroat politics of the islamic state and rose through its ranges to become its leader in 2010. >> rose: he was also in prison for a while. >> he was. the americans detained him in early 2004. he was at the wrong place at the wrong time. he was only there for nine months, but he made some very important connections in prison. he served as a spiritual already, oh, imam, working with other jihaddists and former members of hussein's regime, many radicalized during their time in prison. he kept those connections and many came up in the ranks with him in the islamic state glu have this leader, you have this disaffection among potential followers. help me understand how that came together to emerge as the beginnings of what we see today. >> so in 2006, they proclaimed their islamic state over the --
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>> 2006. >> 2006. >> rose: nine years ago. >> nine years ago. over the objections of bin laden. they didn't feel timing was right to do it and other jihaddists laughed at them because they controlled no territory. it was really the american withdrawal in iraq and the civil war in syria that gave them room to operate. they had been pushed underground as a terrorist organization but they took advantage of the chaos and the political disaffection among the sunnis to begin state building. they assassinated people they thought would resist them. they carried out intense campaigns of proselytizing, and then they moved in troops and took over towns and built the state that you see today. their problem is they're also prosecuting a war which puts their state-building enterprise at risk. >> rose: having a state benefits them not only because it's territory but because it serves as a recruitment that this is real, this is serious, and we have a place. >> oh, that's right. and as graeme said, it is the biggest attraction to other young muslims who are of not
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only are looking for a sunni homeland but they're looking for the return of god's kingdom on earth, which disappeared in the middle ages, and they claim to have recreated it, the so-called caliphate, and they say it is a fulfillment of prophecy and heralds the end of time. >> rose: what about the recruits and those people who are joining them? who are they? where are they coming from? what can we say about them? ian? >> it seems to me we can say they're from everywhere. >> rose: around the world. >> around the world. and what most concerns people, the recruits from the west, europe especially, because they feel as if we've create aid democracy. why don't you like our democracy? and what's wrong with it? what would make you go back into what is essentially a medieval caliphate? i think it tend to be a mixture of people. and, please, you all know way more about this than i do-- but it seems to be people who are very devout religiously. and it tend to attract people
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who are very much searching in life, who tend to be a little bit lost and who are looking for meaning. you all can pick up-- >> i found people with a wide diversity of backgrounds, and there are some who i would say are shockingly learned, people who are really incredible readers of texts, people who know their tradition very well. they have a very skewed, very interesting reading of that tradition. but i've also met people who a few years before they became supporter ps of the islamic state were simply criminals. they had no idea about any of the things that harry now spouting about for any-- for anyone who will listen. it's a very wide diversity of people. >> rose: and tell me if this is wrong again, but my impression is of abdelhamid abaaoud, he was one of those. he was not a learned, religious fanatic. he was very much of a criminal. >> he flunked out of school. he-- i believe he had run-ins with the law. he was certainly in the category
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of people who found the islamic state to be almost a kind of redemption after a life of really of sin. and that also seems to be a very common trope. people, they do find sincere belief, but it's after a long period of lacking any kind of belief at all. >> this is consistent through the formation of isis. xiao carry was in fact a thief, a reformed drinker and drug addict who found reswrevmention in religion, the idea of a state. it's not surprising we would have other people like that finding the state attractive. >> rose: there are those in america who find redemption in particular. >> true. xiao carrie you mentioned again, he is really considered to be the founding father? >> yeah. he's the intellectual father of the islamic state project. he concvs the idea of founding
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the islamic state after he flees afghanistan when we bomb it, and he's hiding out in iran. he's thinking about where to go next. he sees that the americans are going to go to iraq, and he decides to preposition his network of terrorists before the americans arrive in order to create chaos because he believes he can capitalize on it to found an islamic state. >> rose: at that point, before he was killed by the american special forces dhe make the association with all those ex-iraqi generals? >> yes. from the early days of the insurgency he made those connections. >> rose: and they provided military-- sort of a midlevel military. >> they did. and a number of them joined up with his organization. >> rose: and what do we know about al baghdad al baghdadi das ability as a leader, as a military strategist, and was it he who originated the idea or enhanced the idea of beheadline joos no, it was zarkawy who
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pioneered that and he marched out his hostages in the same orange outfits and beheaded them, and the act horrified his bosses in al qaeda. they told him to stop. they believed it was tarnishing their brand. but it's become a calling card for them. and it is really emblematic of their more brutal form of insurgency. >> rose: was that an attraction to young people they were recruiting? >> some of them get off on horrific acts of violence. but for others, particularly in the west, it creates a question about whether the islamic state is truly islamic or not. traditional scholars come out and say, no, no, this couldn't be. this has nothing to do with islam and with islamic state coming out with chapter and verse it creates a question in the minds of.
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>> rose: you didn't write the headline. >> i did not, but it's your story. >> yes. >> rose: tell me about those two points. strands of blame, and no single miskey. when you look at the many strands, if we had not invaded iraq ting would be a question of whether or not isis would exist. the invasion of iraq and the way we go it it gave zarkowy a clears path. there were many inflection points of getting the sunni and shia affect. it didn't happen overnight. then there's the question of, you know, president obama and a lot of people say, "well, you know, the withdrawal from iraq, you know, we had them down. that's the real sort of--." >> rose: we left no troops there. >> exactly, we left no troops there. the iraqis didn't want us there
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but the question of could we have pushed hard tore get the people there? i don't have the answer to that. could we have continued to keep pressure on that? would we have moved into syria after that? terms of the-- i have a lot of questions in my own brain about there's a lot of talk of should we have armed the moderate anti-assad groups in syria? was that a big mistake of obama's? and i don't know the answer to that. i mean, arms tend to go into the hands of bad guys. had we gone-- i'm sorry? >> rose: some of the arms we sent in, did go into the hands of al-nusra. >> that's the point i'm making. i think what's very clear is that i think that we underestimated isis. and that, you know, there is a cost to action, there's a cost to inaction. when you underestimate someone you can't make a really clear sort of equation about what is the cost of inaction versus the cost of action. >> rose: let's talk about the
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reality today. al baghdadal baghdadi dad we thn raqqa, and, they would risk collateral damage for him, i'm sure. they don't know exactly where he is. raqqa is a town of, what, 200,000? >> just about. and he's very good at operational security. he was known for showing up at meetings and keeping a veil on his face so no one would know who he is. he survived in that organization. >> rose: he did make that one appearance at a moscow on friday and spoke. >> and announced himself the caliph. >> rose: if you look at it today, before paris and lebanon and the sinai and the the russian plane, were they winning or losing? because the administration argues that they were shrinking
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the territory in iraq and syria of the caliphate. >> yeah, that's true. they were shrinking the territory. they've lost something like 25% of the territory. they've lost tens of thousands of fighters. the problem is -- >> and key people have been taken out. >> and key peep have been taken out, but they have been able to expand into other areas which gives them a lot of strategic depth, which is the reason they were able to carry out that attack on the russian airliner in egypt because they have a powering insurgent group that pledged an oath of allegiance to them. there are so many more places they can go. >> they have a three-fold strategy of expansion. the first one is conquest. they got pretty much to the margins of what they could accomplish in iraq and syria. they got to the edges of shia-held areas, shia-dominated areas and they simply can't hold that territory. as will was saying, they also have this ability to craw in allegiance from other groups and also to capitalize on chaos in other regions such as libya and
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northern liberia. and those second two strategies are still very much alive and they're putting a lot of empscizz on getting allegiance from groups like al shabaab and somalia and others. they're not finished. although in iraq and syria, there's no question they've had defeat after defeat after defeat. it's the last one in a long string of defeet that they've had, that have happened slowly but surely. >> rose: do you see in terms of the three things recently, you know, a change in strategy tactics, a global reach, that they want to achieve new objectives by attacking the west or russia and different places? >> so on the one hand, they've been saying over and over again that we are going to attack the west. they've showed pictures of the eiffel tower, pictures of the white house in flames. so they've always endorsed this, but it's usually been in a model of inspiration.
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they've been telling the people who are allied with them or sympathetic to them that they should mount these attacks. what's really new about these new ones, especially sinai, especially paris, is they seem to be such large attacks, so organized, that there is a real possibility that they were planned and provisioned from inside the islamic state. >> rose: two things they have is money and the threat of violence, in terms of, for example, being able to, i assume, get some access to a plane. if you can threaten somebody in a way nobody will know or if you have enough money, yes? >> yes, totally. my big question is why now. on the global business. i mean, they had distinguished themselves from al qaeda in, you know, being, you know, as they say the near enemy. they would look to who-- including rival shia groups. they would take territory and fight on the ground next to them. like, what is the moment-- why did they decide to go global now? and i don't know the answer to that.
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>> rose: what are the three or four answers that might be? >> i'll defer. >> here's one possibility. one is they believe themselves to be extremely strong, that they can withstand an attack and even if there is a coalition, including france, russia, the united states, that the result will be in their favor. i think that's, first of all, unlikely to be true. but also, there are other possibilities. there's one-- one possibility is that we don't really know yet exactly what the association is between syria and paris, between syria and sinai. it's not actually cloar that it was exactly planned from raqqa. >> that's a good point. >> there are aspects to the way it was announced, for example, that suggest the bombing of the russian airliner and paris in this a way took them by surprise. >> rose: this is isis leadership in raqqa? >> at least their p.r. department. they've always tried to
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capitalize as much as possible on the most spectacular atrocities they commit. if you look at the most recent issue of their official magazine, as a magazine person i can look at that and tell there was a cover that was torn up so that they could put paris on the cover instead. there was at least some unit of their p.r. apparatus that didn't know this was happening and was not prepared to have a magazine that fully exploited and glorified it. >> rose: there may be an easy answer to this, but how did they get so smart in using technology? >> they seem to know about layout. >> rose: social media. >> social media, certainly. >> rose: a compelling marrative? >> and they have people who were clearly trained, people who could make a living as copy editors. >> rose: an advertising agency. >> yes, if they ever repent from isis then they might have a job at "the atlantic." >> rose: let's talk about the name. americans are confused. on the one hand we use the word isis. everybody in the government seems to use isil, and yo you hr
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john kerry and others use the term daesh. >> they're all designating the same thing and it comes from the name of the organization two years ago when tifs known as something else. and i think it's fine whatever they decide to call it. the idea has gone around that daesh is a particular pejorative that the islamic state doesn't like. i don't think that's really true. i don't think they get that worked up about it. >> rose: what you call them? >> yeah. they don't really worry about it. they call themselves the islamic state. i personally have no problem doing it. but the president is very careful not to do it because he believes that by calling them islamic you're justifying their religious identity and by calling them a state you are recognizing them as a state. >> gl i'm assuming it offends a lot of other muslim states. >> yes. that's the idea. but in fact it is a state, and whether it's islamic or not is
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something for muslims to weigh i don't think it's for the president to pronounce whether they are muslim or not. >> rose: wherever they've gone, they've taken over american equipment and given it to the iraqis, correct? >> yes. >> rose: they don't have an air force, as far as we know. how strong can they be militarily? and what is the evidence of their military strength? >> well, i think they are strong enough to take the territory that they have taken. they have -- >> like mosul? >> like mosul. but what makes them work so well is not necessarily the arms that they have captured. what makes them work so well is their careful preparation of the battlefield. everything that they do in terms of psychological operations and infiltration, before they even send the first man in, they have completely penetrated a town. they will assassinate all the chief rivals-- they'll know who to assassinate. >> rose: somebody inside a mole. >> they will circulate videos of
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what they have done to people who have stood geens them in other towns so when they roll in the local security forces are out of them. >> rose: leave severed heads on stakes. >> that's right. >> if i may i'll go back to the ideas that isis may not be able to exist were it not for the fact that the sunnis need a place to go. they are not-- it's not like america going in to iraq. this is sunni muslims going into sunni muslim areas. and i think, you know, they probably don't welcome isis, but they look at the alternatives, and they say well, you know, maybe it's all right for now. >> rose: assuming that you want-- you want to degrade or erode or eliminate isis, how do you go about convincing the sunnis in those territories, anbar province, for example, "you're make a terrible mistake and these guys are not people you want to be associated with, even though you share sunni islam?" >> i think it's a very, very difficult case for, you know,
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the iraq government, for the americans to make. i mean, you know, the americans have been on the ground since 2003. i mean, the tensions between the shia and the shiite go back forever during saddam hussein's era. it wasn't as if the shiite were treated particularly well. in fact, just the opposite. i don't know how you make that awrpt. i really don't. i mean-- >> i think one part of the argument is just to show that they are losing. right now, isis has this narrative of being an inexorably expanding caliphate, that it's -- >> they're on the march. >> they're winners. they're going to reach rome. if they're not even going to reach erbil, then they don't look nearly as exciting. i think when some of the sunni tribal leaders see that isis is really being pushed back, assuming they are, then there will be a-- it will be a much easier task to convince sign arabs in iraq in particular to sign on to the fight against them. >> and they are the key here, the sunni tribe leaders.
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>> rose: the tribal leader. >> correct, tribal leaders. will pointed out very well that one of the early reasons isis in fact succeeded was the fact they were able to convince the tribal leaderes after the americans left in fact they should come over to their side. and i think that's a real key here. >> rose: but a lot of those leaders and tribal leaders have to be-- they have to know of the tactics of isis, yes? and not approve of them, or in fact fear them. "what happens if they turn on us in? >> right. and the islamic state rules by fear but it's also been very clever with the tribes. it looks for clans in the tribes that are willing to work with it it. it will give them a share of the spoils and then it will make sure to go after the other clans that resist them and execute them en mass. and because there's no major military on the ground to resist it, they get away with it, with impunity. >> rose: and where-- what's the opinion today of al-zawahiri
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and osama bin laden's lute, and the al qaeda leadership about isis? >> they don't consider its caliphate to be legitimate. alzawahiri has a distaste for al baghdadi. >> rose: where does that come from, the ipsubordination. >> right. and so there's a lot of bad blood between them figuratively and literally. they have been fighting skirmishes against one another. zawahiri has said i will never recognize your caliphate but i am willing to work with you on the ground and it's not inconceivable there could be an encroachment between the two groups. >> at this point it's not clear how much that would matter. zawahiri is consistently referred to and described by isis as being a doddering old man irrelevant to jihad today. >> rose: hiding somewhere in
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pakistan. >> right. it doesn't make him look great if al baghdadi is felt to be on the front fighting where zawahiri is in some cave somewhere or watching a big screen tv. >> rose: as osama bin laden was doing. >> yeah. >> rose: there is also this, though, in terms of libya, for example. what are they doing there and how strong are they in what is essentially a failed state? with nuclear weapons. >> well, they have territory in libya. >> rose: not nuclear weapons but the technology. >> their footprint in libya is not huge, but it is probably of all of peripheral territories of isis, the islamic state, the one that has most fit the model of what they've been doing in iraq and syria. i think one of the things that we have to understand about what they've done in raqqa is to create a kind of model for what
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they can do elsewhere and in libya, it's very clear that we have replicated your model. and we've signed on to your project. they would love to have others do the same. >> rose: do they in places that they control offer services of a pullly functioning state? >> they do, in fact. they take out the garbage. they fill potholes. they do, in fact. i think that's one of the interesting things. i mean, one of the interesting challenges when they went to palmyra, for example, the old roman city to the southeast, i mean, you know, it was a test of could they really govern? i don't know the answer to that. i think the fact they started blowing antiquities up meant is wasn't entirely successful. they had to expand not own in cruelty but in what do you brung to me as a government? >> rose: so where are all the other muslim states? we know there's enormous hatred on the part of the iranians,
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enormous hatred on the part of the alawites in syria. but the sunni states like saudi arab, jord, egypt, where are they? >> they are absent, with the exception of jordan. >> rose: that's part of the problem for everybody else, if they're absent-- >> that is right right. that is right. with the exception of jordan every other state has a hir priority -- >> iran? >> certainly, well, for the saudis it is, for the emirates-- for turkey, of course, it's the kurds. they're more worried about the kurds than the destruction of isis. >> rose: so basically, each of those states says let's take out-- before you take out isis let's take out assad because assad is committed to being supported by shia from iran or from hezbollah in lebanon, right? >> that's right. so they have been free riding on the united states. president obama gets a lot of criticism for not taking the fight to isis. the united states is one of the few countries that has taken the fight to isis.
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all of our supposed partners have been free riding on what we've been doing. >> rose: when we began to ratchet up our strikes, others began to decline. >> that's exactly right. >> rose: what's their argument with the president when they say to the president, "you allowed assad to cross a red line and you didn't do anything and you didn't come in and support moderate troops against assad" when they're doing nothing. >> that's right. and i think president obama rightly rolled his eyes when they come with those talking points. >> it's easy to say you should do something. it's very difficult to say what precisely you should do because all options are bad. his critics, particularly on the right. you know, bomb them. boots on the ground. really? how? >> rose: that's exactly what he says, he said, as he did in a press conference from turkey, if you have a better plan tell me what it is. i haven't seen a better plan. i haven't seen a better plan from my military help i haven't seen a better plan from anybody in the state department yet. >> and the republican candidates haven't come up with a better
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plan, either. >> rose, them-- >> bomb them. >> take them out, take them out, take them out. >> it's difficult the invasion of iraq showed that. you can go in with all the force in the world and stay for all of years you want but it's hard to win. >> rose: what should the urgency be? i'm asking questions that obviously political people have no answer yet. some, depending on their ideological bent will suggest one thing or the other. ought this-- is this now the biggest threat to america's national security? >> not in the homeland. we're more worried about lone wolf attacks here. but i think we should be very worried about the kind of attack we saw on the russian airliner. there are a lot of smaller airports around the world that are exposed in the way that sharm al-sheikh was supposed, and that will be my great fear that i will mobilize one of their operatives in the middle east to carry out that kind of attack on an american airliner. >> rose: go ahead. >> i think the lone wolf attack
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-- >> describe what a lone wolf attack is? >> it would be a one-off -- >> paris was not that. paris was an organizational thing. >> exactly. for-- tragically, we in america have, you know, something of a plot line for that, and that is somebody buyaise gun and they go and shoot a lot of people in a theater or stay school or something like that. i mean, that frightens me. that said, i mean, my hat's off to america's military-- skews me, america's police and intelligence. i mean, it's been a lot of years when that could happen. the opportunities have been there. hasn't. they've done an extraordinary job, an extraordinary job. >> rose: in terms of? >> preventing this sort of thing. >> rose: people used to say this at this table ever since 9/11, since 9/11 they have said at this table, sat here, 10 years ago, five years ago, last week, and said, "i'm surprised there has not been a major
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attack," and we know they've turned back attacks here in new york. they acknowledged them. four of them, i think john miller said to me the other night. >> it is incredible. it's amazing, and a fully operational attack would happen in paris all this coordination would be very difficult. one person with a gun going in and doing something in the name of the islamic state would not. and the fact what that hasn't happened is amaze displg miller and bratten this morning on the cbs show said the response time by the u.s. in terms of how they're equipped to do that is much smaller. much quicker. >> and i think that's one thing that we need to say about lone wolf attacks. isis has encouraged these in the past, and they've happened. garland, texas, would be an example of this. the distinguishing characteristic is they haven't killed very many people. they've been perpetrated by people who are extremely low functioning and the number of lives claimed per attack is usually on want average one or two. which is why paris matters so
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much if it does actually show a change in strategy and tactics for isis. if isis is saying now, "you should focus on these kinds of attacks," then we won't just get people who are ineffective, low-functioning. it will be perhaps more like the paris model. whereas before, isis was just saying, "if you can make it to syria, you should do that. if you can't, then perpetrate an attack," which only leaves a few people behind, really. >> rose: french president francois hollande has declared war. france has declared war against isis after these horrendous attacks. has the united states declared war against isis? >> clearly not. >> rose: and gone to congress for the declaration of war. >> no the president has been very clear -- >> that he doesn't want to do that. >> that he does not. >> rose: because? >> i think he's very much-- i think he was elected kind of on the idea that he does not want to put americans in harm's way. i think he's a very cautious president.
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i think he also asked the question, well, what after? you can start bombing. you can put troops on the ground, but then what do you do. >> rose: he said his foreign policy is based in part on don't do student stuff. >> correct. >> rose: they have had some success in knock off leaders, the finance chief, and other people, part of the isis leadership. if they somehow were able to buy their way, in fig outer a way to get some intelligence operating inside isis and could have al baghdadi dad, would that stop them? it would not hurt them organizationally. they have many capable people waiting iwaiting inwaiting in tn that government and prosecute a war, and many of them are his advisers. but what baghdadi will do is remove a very powerful recruitment symbol. nobody that i can think of has led a jihaddist organization, much less a jihaddist government, that has had his
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religious credentials, his lineage from the prophet mohammed. >> rose: he has serious religious credentials. >> oh, yeah. >> rose: as a student of religion. >> he has a ph.d. in koranic studies and a lineage from the prophet mohammed that matters an awful lot. >> rose: do you know anybody who has written about knowing him? >> personally? yes. but it tend to be former friends. his current friends are keeping awful quiet, and they're staying rather close to him and closed lip. >> rose: talk about the russians in syria. it's going to make it much more complicated. i personally welcome the russians taking the fight to isis. but i worry that it takes attention off the assad regime. the assad regime has been fueling this conflict from its earliest days, they released the jihaddists from prison so they could radicalize the protests against assad. and he has had a mode u.s.
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vivendi with the islamic state where they haven't gone after him and he hasn't gone after them. they prioritize state building in the sunni hinterland and the other rebel groups want to overthrow hem in damascus. if you're assad, you're going to worry about the guys coming after you in damascus. that's why there was an overlap. >> rose: he's worried more about al-nusra and others than he is about isis. >> right. >> it's also a symbolic thing because isis was so cruel assad could make the case, "i'm fighting this awful insurgency. i'm the person who is against real terror when really it's in his interest largely to be on isis' side i think. >> rose: what about the use of intelligence. bob gates said to me yesterday-- he was talking about the larger war, "one of the things we haven't talked about or i haven't heard anyone talk about is the potential for what the western intelligence services, including the c.i.a. could do on the ground in terms of infiltrating, sabotage, to make life harder for isis.
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so i think there are a number of things like this we can do without sending a lot more troops in there without aggravating the situation, if you will, in terms of turning people on the ground against us because we're back in there." >> it's not a very leaky ship, unfortunately. the isis regime is one that not a lot of information-- it's hard to infiltrate. information doesn't escape. humans don't escape. when they try to leave, they are killed. so it's not a simple matter to get information out, to get agents in and infiltrating. so i'm not stecialy shocked that we've had such little success. >> they will be able to spot this kind of subterfuge when it's being used against them. >> rose: so do you have a judgment about how well the president has done in the fight against isis? >> personally, i think he has played the best hand he possibly could with the cards that he was dealt. given that our other arab allies have other priorities -- >> everybody has a different priority. >> everybody has a different priority than the destruction of the islamic state, i think he
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has done what he has been able to do given the circumstances and given the deep political dysfunction in syria and iraq. i mean, the disaffection of the sunnis, that's not going away any time soon. and there's very little that the americans can do about it from the outside. >> rose: and the russians are back and assad has a bit more strength and gaining some territory. >> rose: i don't understand why he used barrel bombs against his own people. i mean, that just seems... maddening to me. >> well, i think to some degree, he -- >> he doesn't care is one thing. >> i think, you know, it's crude. he doesn't have to waste his money on regular bombs. he wants to kill as many people as possible. it scares the bejesus out of everyone. i mean, you know, he has shown no hesitancy about killing enormous numbers of people. he's killed tens of thousands of his own people. i mean, a barely bomb, it's just
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mere effectiveness. i don't know. >> rose: in places like aleppo. >> exactly. >> and his whole strategy has been to make life terrible. it's to make syria so bad, that everyone would agree that they prefer is like it was before when bashar al-assad ruled every inch of the country like a tyrant. >> rose: tell me what i'm missing in this conversation about isis. what have i not brought up that you think is important to understand who they are and where they might want to go or how to stop them. >> one thing you haven't mentioned is their use of these grotesque videos on social media. i mean . >> rose: to recruit or to scare. >> to recruit and to scare. they want to scare their enemies but they also want to attract the kind of people that like those kind of videos. they're prosecuting a very brutal insurgency and governing brutally. they want the kind of person that looks at a burning of of a pilot and says, "yes, i want to be on board."
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>> i think one issue that has been difficult to wrest welis two whattent are they pagmatic ba'athists and to what extent are they religiously based? to what extent are they iraqi, to what extent are they syrian? to what extent are they representative of sunni aspirations? i think it's a mix of all of these things and people want to put it into different barrels, but i don't know the sort of percentage of each there, and i'd love to see that sort of, you know, parceled out and teased out a little bit before. >> rose: what about this debate about radical islam and all of that. the notion of the fact that most seem to-- arguing that they find everything they are doing in the koran, yet, at the same time,
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moderate arab leaders like king of jordan, some of the saudis, and others say that's crazy. they're not even-- by saying what they say doesn't make them islamic. >> right. well, they clearly come out of the wahabi tradition. it's not much different from the kind of islam you find in saudi arabia. and they are very careful to document and explain and justify what they do with reference to scripture. what interests me is the times that they depart from scripture. because sometimes there are things in scripture that cut against them. there are many restrictions, for example, on how you are supposed to wage war. they find clever ways to get around those because it's inconvenient for their form of insurgency. >> rose: so in other words if somebody is from within the faith points out they have an argument to get around that
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argument. >> that's right. >> and the burning of the jordanian pilot might be one good example of this. >> rose: muzz lups killing muslim. >> also using fire. fires fire is something that is supposed to be reserved as a punt of punishment that god uses. many muslims objected-- in addition to the other reasons to object-- they were using something that was specifically reserved for god. in their videos and statements they came up with a loophole. they said, "apparently we're permitted to use reciprocal punishment. so if this guy burned civilians in raqqa because he had dropped bombs from his jet, then we can burn him." so there is a contradiction. un, this is a-- it's a religious tradition that's going to have many different interpretations, many contradictory interpretations, and they in that case find one and very carefully lay out the case. you know, you could take a vote
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among muslims, but that is not really going to settle which one is correct, which one is not. it's a really good question. what we can say for sure when they are looking for justifications, they're looking within the islamic tradition. >> rose: is this going tieb long twilight struggle? >> i think it is. i don't see any. >> rose: easy answers. >> i don't see any easy answer. i don't see anything around the corner that suggests this is over. one of the difficulties is say what you will about the difference between isis and al qaeda. it is inspirational. there are a the loof people around the world who can pick up this idea and move it elsewhere without a lot of resources. >> rose: and the argument used to be made, look, that they were people who had no job, had no connections in life, had no real sense of identity and this gave them identity, and they all came from poverty, and my impression studies have shown that that is not quite true. >> no, the links between poverty
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and terrorism are very weak, if nonexistent. i mean, people join organizations like this for many different motives. for the islamic state it was enough to build the state in order to attract all of these different people. >> rose: that does raise this question. how can those who oppose isis win the war of ideas? how do they do that? >> the islamic state has a two-word slogan-- "enduring and expanding." both of those have to do with the control of territory and survival. they have staked everything on their ability to build a state and maintain the caliphate. the ideological fight in this war is an actual fight. it is not going to be a war of words. isis is not trying to win over broad muslim appeal to its cause. you don't burn a sunni pilot if you want to win over the masses. they're going for a very narrow segment of the society, and it's their political success that has attracted the recruits. >> rose: that segment of
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society, i assume you mean sign muslims. plays a predominant life in the middle east. >> right. >> rose: plays a predominant role. >> that's right. but they're going for a very small sliver of it that would be excited by their political project but also their extreme form of violence. >> rose: but there's no limit to their ambition. >> no. they want to reconstitute the early islamic empire which covered all the muslim majority countries in the world, and then going up into spain and elsewhere. and eventually, they want to conquer the world. so it's limitless, in their minds. >> rose: do i hear you saying that economics or education is not the answer in other words, to stem the recruitments that replenish those that may be killed by drones or military attack? >> i think this has been proven since the very beginning of sort of political islam. alkatube came to the west and did not like what he saw. he was very educated and smart man. this was the egyptian considered sort of intellectual father of
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fundamentalist jihadi. he specifically came and said, "i don't like this. i don't think that you can give money or sort of western ideas or education and say that's the answer." it's a rejection -- >> the point seems not so much they have to believe in western ideas. the point is that you literally need people that they know and come from the same place to convince them of an alternative, and does-- and what would that argument be? >> i don't know that-- is northern iraq a particularly poor place? i mean, do the sort of tribal lands of iraq and syria, is that considered to be-- deprived in any way? i don't think so. >> rose: let's talk about it. we talked about here the awakening and the surge. and part of that, the awakening was the fact that the sunnis turned on al qaeda, correct? >> right. >> rose: so i guess the question is, we discussed already, what would it take for the sunnis to turn on-- if the sunnis in a large way, sunni
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tribes in iraq and syria, would turn on isis, that would be the beginning of the end. >> it would, but i think we have been under misapprehension because of the success of the surge in the iraq war and the awakening, that groups like the islamic state collapse because of their br brutality. they're terrible to people and the people rise up and drive them out. that is not necessarily true. we allied the fact that there was a very large military on the ground that was working with those tribes. if you want a good analogy, look at the taliban. the taliban would still, us today, and it was terrible at governing and it fought a brutal insurgency, its misstep was antag niegz a powerful foreign nation. it is not why it governed badly. >> and they're coming back because we're leaving. ing. >> rose: on that note, thank you. pleasure to have you here. very much. thank you. a great piece today. thank you for joining us.
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see you next time. captioning sponsored by rose communications captioned by media access group at wgbh
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