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tv   Tavis Smiley  PBS  November 7, 2017 6:00am-6:31am PST

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>> good evening from las vegas, i'm starve is smiley. president trump marks the anniversary of his election this week. the white house is tying to solve a nuclear problem. trump is working to unravel the iran nuclear deal. my guest takes us deep inside the highest level of diplomatic deal making. we're glad you've joined us.
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the president of the national iranian council, a nonpartisan, nonprofit group, advocating dialogue. his latest text i called losing an enemy. it's good to have you back on this program.
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>> with the president in asia, so much to talk about tonight. we'll get to all of that tonight. after we talk about what the president himself cannot avoid. this is horrific news out of texas. 's fascinating you happen to be our guest tonight, in part because every time we have a conversation, it's about the muslim ban, terrorism, international terrorism. and here again, another conversation we have to have tonight about domestic terrorism. what do you make of what happened in texas? >> i'm heart broken as everyone else here. i grew up in europe, i have to tell you, i have a hard time understanding why it is we believe the right to bare arms is above the right for children to live? >> and yet this conversation about this second amendment is as difficult, impossible a conversation to have as is the conversation about the u.s. and asia. >> if you go back to what you said early on.
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there is so much that appears to be done in orr to defend against terrorism. there is an expectation we can get that down to zero. i think that's a nice goal. we're doing a lot of things. take a look at what happened in new york. gentleman in new york who did that horrificrime in new york was from uzbekistan. more over, that person was like any ordo meftic terrorist who has done things in connection with isis. he was not radical and came here and then committed a crime. he is from here and became radicalized. it is happening with greater frequency. we're not doing much at all. >> do you think that these
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conversations about iran and iraq and north korea and the travban, the countries on the list. do you think that conversation is overshadowing or somehow keeping us, blocking us, preventing us from having the kind of conversation about domestic terror we ought to be having? >> i think absolutely. what laps is that media decides to focus on this issue, making people think that is a significant threat. in fact making them believe it's a far greater threat than it is. it has to be seen in proportion, whereas we're not doing that with some of the domestic issues. we immediately explain that away saying, it's because of a mental disorder or this was a lonewolf thing. and we're downplaying what often times appears to be a greater risk than what is happening, coming in from the outside. this is not a subject we need to
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neglect. one than the other.ion given to the reason why it's counter productive is because it's focusing on the wrong thing. we're taking our eye away from issues that should be focusing on and preventing these type of terrorism -- >> while we seem to make muslims the boogy man you have here again white males walking into churches killing people, dylann roof in south carolina, this most recent one over texas. >> is there something that makes us uncomfortable, we seem to go overboard in a fear of muslims. >> what is done when we put
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someone in the category of other. we see that person as an individual we believe he probably had some problems -- >> lone wolf. >> we go down that path. we don't do that when it comes to others. i think this is a significant problem. we're essentially assuming that a whole category of people are responsible for these types of things. which is not the case, of course. we're not able to resolve it if we can pursue that collective punishment type of approach. >> you mention you grew up in europe. we want ask a question before we move on. i wonder whether or not you think the conversation about guns in this country is going to -- the needle is ever going to move because one day it's new york, the next day it's vegas, the next day it's vegas. the needle doesn't seem to move in this conversation.
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>> for someone who also has the outside perspective, because i grew up there, i can tell you the rest of the world is dumbfounded looking at the united states. we see if a problem arises, we move to some sort of solution there's a reason we have seat belts in cars, et cetera, et cetera. i think sandy hook was a bit of a -- what's the best word to use here. one of the things that could be resolved through the regular political process in the united states. when something that horrible happens and we didn't manage to get any more sensible laws on the books, i think a lot of people from the outside had a great difficulty understanding why the united states is stuck in this. >> i'm one of those persons. if we didn't get serious when they killed white babies in sandy hook, and we're not serious after they shoot up a
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church in north carolina, i don't know what it's going to take to get sear yes, sir on this discussion. >> do you have high expectations, low expectations or no expectations at all? from this trip? >> i have very low expectations. i think what we have seen so far, this is a white house that's at the top of it, at the helm does not understand international relations. does not understand complexity, what actually diplomacy means, and as a result is not capable of playing that leadership role of the united states. not only has played, but many allies in the region. all of them are eagerly seeking american leadership. they don't have the capacity to be able to handle --
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>> the language that trump is using is only ratcheting things up his threats, his way of using twitter to be able to conduct this, produces a tremendous amount of anxiety. they're the ones that are going to be vetted if there is a nuclear disaster taking place. >> putin was in iran last week, it seems to me that the way the president is playing the iran nuclear treaty issue has left an opening for putin in russia. >> it has left an opening for almost -- here we had a deal, i would call it a triumph of diplomacy, it was tremendous. difficult to get, it was a very big sk because almost no one believed, except for some people in the white house had some supporting organizations, that there was diplomatic path here. we managed to essentially prevent what was very clearly --
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we managed to resolve what was a national crisis, to resolve it peacefully through diplomacy without a single shot being fired. without a single angry infantile tweet being sent off. now we're taking that, and turning that triumph into a disaster by the president certifying this deal, which is causing all the other countries part of this deal. russia was there, france, germany, england, china, they're all now joining with the iranians, and the united states is being isolated. so putin's response to trump dessecertifying the deal, he go to tehran and signs $30 billion of investment contracts. the french who have been tough on iran just announced a day or two after trump decertified the iran deal, that macron is going to be making a visit to iran next spring.
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this will be the first president going to iran since 1976. >> what do you make of the fact that the president did decertify it, he didn't completely implode it. he kicks it off to congress to do something about it, what do you expect to happen there? >> it's interesting you mention that, a lot of people expected he was going to implode right away. he is imploding, he's doing it in two steps rather than one step. he's kicking it off to congress to make sure he can share the blame for the ensuing disaste with congress, or blame the whole thing on congress. what he's done right now, this is important for the public to understand. gone to congress, and working with congressmen -- with senators, to what they call fixing the deal. the reality is, they're trying to unilaterally change the terms of this mlateral agreement.
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no one single country can on its own, change the terms of an agreement that seven countries negotiated over the course of several years. imagine if the iranians, if their parliament passed a law and said, all of the commitments iran has, we're not going to honor them until the united states leaves iraq. stops selling arms to saudi arabia. that would be a clear violation of the deal, that is what is being prepared in the senate right now, to complaining the terms of the deal. this will cause the deal to collapse, even though it's not that type of an immediate effort to collapse the deal. and that's tremendously dangerous, no other country in the security council or the cntries that are part of his deal are in agreement with this. >> you mentioned north korea earlier in this conversation. how do you read what the president has said of le about north korea. >> again, i think there's a problem there, which is that i
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think trump believes can bluff his way to a solution here. that's just simply not the way this thing works. there's a certain parallel to what was going on with iran, in which i believe the united states adopted unrealistic positions early on, and then had to walk them back. that is a problem, they ended up in some ways costing the u.s. in a better solution. precisely because they had taken exaggerated positions. in the case of iran, it wan an enrichment objective. they're never going to be able to have nuclear weapons, despite the fact that they do. as long as we stick to those positions, we're not going to see this solution -- any solution to what's going on in north korea right now. on top of that the president kills the iran deal why would north korea or any other country for that matter, strike a deal or a compromise with the united states when the u.s. has proven
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itself not to be trustworthy. eight times now, the atomic international agency has confirmed the iranians are living up to their bargain. still, trump is employed why would they send anyone else, particularly to north korea. >> ishe president going to be successful in getting china where he wants to be -- >> that credibility that is needed in order to be able to get the north koreans to move as they did the chinese to move. >> simply not there right now. you take a look at if he's going to try to pursuedy ploem agency with iran. he first recognized, i have to help create an atmosphere that is conducive to diplomacy. that meant a much different language when he was talking about iran.
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there's no more options on the able opinion he took away terms that didn't translate well to persians. because he wanted to signal, i am actually serious about diplomacy. we're seeing the opposite every time donald trump is tweeting about this. we're doing the exact opposite. moving further and further and furtherway from any chance of real diplomacy. >> to the text losing an enemy, you just -- you referenced it a moment ago, to the extent that obama's diplomacy worked on iran, what made it work? >> more than anything else, i would say a tremendous political will and dedication to see this come to a solution. diploma is not easy, diplomacy with iran is not easy. if one was willing to give up
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after the first bump in the road, it would never work. they had to have grit to make something like this would work. toward his second term, obama showed that dedication. i have to say a lot of people were quite surprised. previous attempts at diplomacy had been abandoned within the first three months. there are reasons why it was different. the president had come to the conclusion correctly that unless we found a diplomatic solution on this issue, the united states would either have to cse between accepting a de facto nuclear iran or go to war with iran, and war with iran would be an absolute disaster. the only chance of preventing that from happening was to really double down and show diplomacy that iran orhe united states had never shown. >> let me ask this question, the
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inverse. what does iran make of donald trump. we know what trump thinks of iran. if there is a prevailing viewpoint about donald trump inside iran right now, what is that? >> i would say that what their view of trump right now is, that they believe that he is way over his head, he's incompetent, he's not capable, but in some ways, makes him more dangerous, because he's impulsive, he doesn't have the capacity to look at complex problems from several different angles before making a decision. at the same time, iranians are currently benefiting. because donald trump is isolating the united states. he is achieving the next to impossible task of making the iranians look good and reasonable. he takes a look at donald trump's speech at the u.n. he was threatening to obliterate north korea, making all of these kinds of threats, you have the iranian president's speech the day after. usually the opposite.
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usually the iranian president would be upset. now it's reverse, the iranian president gave a modest speech. and they're actually enjoying this moment at this point. not saying they're going to be comfortable in the long run. but so far, they have actually come out strung out of the things. >>. >> i don't think it has anything to do -- when we have -- the conversation in washington is whether tillerson did or did not call the president of the united states a moron, rest assured the secretary of state of the united states, does not have any credibili on the international
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scene. >> that's -- >> it's not a judgment of him, there may not be anyway around, but that's scary. >> so far the iranians have been benefiting from what trump has been doing. >> politically, inside of iran, how do you expect them to take advantage of that. they're benefiting at the moment. how do you expect they'll take advantage of that. >> far, the political balance has not shifted dramatically, in the sense that rouhani is still there. if the europeans cave and they go along with the u.s. position, which so far they are resisting oth and nail, then ultimately, that will have a very negative impact for the forces responsible to make sure this deal will come abut that risks
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bringing about the situation which is a much more hardline elements -- we all remember the problems ahmadinejad created with the aggressive and belligerent -- >> there's also a deeper problem. you have right now in which a lot of young people in iran were tremendously supportive of this deal. they want to make sure that they can be part of globalization, and we know from any other country they are yearning from this. this was so critical for them, it reduced the risk of war. it brought about the promise of the u.s. and iran losing each other as enemies. that's been reversed. it's not been reversed because of hardliners, it's been reversed because of what trump hasdone. and this has had -- and probably
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will have a negative effect going-forward. these young people tended to be skeptical of th iranian hardliners. we don't want to have a negotiation with the u.s., we don't trust the u.s., the u.s. will never honor its word, they were skeptical, the hardliners, now, in their view, the hard line narrative have started to be vindicated, because it is donald trump. the hdliners see it in many the eyes of young iranians who were positive about the united states, who wanted to be friends with the united states. who believed that most of the problem was actually on the irn side, not the american side. these are people, they're running tech companies in iran -- iran has its own uber. i can assure you if you go to their offices, there are not pictures of any hardline ayatollahs on their walls, there's pictures of steve jobs on their walls.
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these are people we risk losing. >> if trump is emboldening the hardliners, potentially inside the country and to your point about the young people in a healthy sense of skepticism, i guess the question is, what happens when that skepticism turns to cynicism. >> that will be dangerous that will have turned away from the united states. this is significant loss for both iran and the united states. part of the reason my book is called losing an enemy. because it paved the way for a path in which they could lose each other as enemies, if they continued on the path of diplomacy. when is the last time the u.s. lost an enemy.
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we may be able to resurrect that opportunity, but we necessitate and honor the deal. >> a chess game, checkers always much more complicated. it's a chess game. how significant a piece in the middle east is the relationship with iran? >> it is quite central, i would say. it's very clear now iran's influence in the region has been growing. mainly as a result of critics of the nuclear deal. the real thing that unleashed iran's power in the region is the iraq war. the united states moved in, took out saddam hussein, lethal enemy of iran, took out the taliban in afghanistan, also, a lethal enemy of afghanistan. then the united states failed to stabilize these two countries which further gave the iranians leverage. right now they're in a much more
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powerful position than they were before. i think the obama administration, came to the conclusion that at the end of the day despite the many problems the u.s. and iran have we have to find a way to work and reach deals and agreements with them. they're too big of a player in the region to be able to ignore or indefinitely contain. in fact, containment tends to make them more problematic than less. can we contain china on a global scale. on a regional scale, iran is the china of the middle east. >> is it possible to get back to losing iran as an enemy. >> i think it's possible, but we're running out of time. we need to make sure this deal good not collapse.
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we need new sanctions or measures that would change the terms of the deal. in my opinion, it's the same as george bush giving congress the ability to use military force in iraq. >> losing an enemy, obama, iran and the change of diplomacy. as president trump makes his way through asia. >> that's our show tonight. thanks for watching. as always, keep the faith. for more information on today's show, visit tavissmil tavissmiley@pbs.orlg. join me next time for a conversation with the co-founder of yes! magazine. and also the author of the book, the revolution where you live. that's next time, see you then.
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and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
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good evening from los angeles. i'm tavis smiley. tonight a conversation with author and scholar reza aslan. he has spent a career asking difficult questions about the role of religion in our lives. his previous best-selling books explore the origins of islam and the life and times of jesus. his latest text applies the same rich story telling to the subject of god, aptly titled "god: a human history." we're glad you've joined us for a conversation with author and scholar reza aslan, coming up right now. ♪

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