under control, hundreds of other children are suffering from malnutrition. the health crisis has put the spotlight on a region closed off to journalists for decades, and revealed serious government failings. russian investigators are searching snow—covered fields south of moscow for the wreckage of an airliner which crashed on sunday, killing all 71 people on board. and this story is trending on bbc.com. at the pyeongchang winter olympics, red gerard snatched a dramatic victory in the men's slope—style to win the united states‘ first gold of the games. the 17—year—old said "i cannot believe whatjust happened." "it's insane." that's all from me now. stay with bbc world news. now on bbc news, it's time for hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk, i'm stephen sackur.
in the spirit of marking his own homework, president trump has already declared his foreign policy and outstanding success. so—called islamic state vanquished, iran put on notice, the middle east reminded that america sticks by its friends and stands up to enemies. my guest today is andrew peek, deputy assistant secretary of state, with responsibility for iran and iraq. is the trump presidency really changing the rules of the game in the middle east? andrew peek in washington, dc, welcome to hardtalk.
thank you so much. it's great to be here. if i may, i'm going to begin with some words of yours, written right after donald trump's extraordinary election win back in november 2016. you said, "america's role in the world will be fundamentally altered by this election and in the middle east, most of all." well, now that you are inside the state department, do you stand by that and in what way do you think this fundamental alteration has happened? oh, i think there is a lot of common threads that run through american foreign policy from one administration to another. i think one of the alterations we saw was that in 2016 there was a fundamental choice between a more hawkish foreign policy, that for the first time, really in a long time, was offered by the democrats. and a more restrained foreign policy that was offered by donald trump, who sought to conserve american resources while still accomplishing a vital aims, kind of in the wake of the excesses of the iraq war
in 2003 and perhaps, the libyan and syrian interventions and nonintervention you know, respectively in 2011. i think there's been a different approach to the region. i think there has also been a reassurance of our traditional allies, israel and the sunni gulf countries, of their security and america's commitment to regional stability. and also, i think there is a genuine focus on perhaps strengthening some of the holes or the, you know, challenges that are inherent in the iranian nuclear deal that the 0bama administration left behind. 0k, well there's plenty to unpack there. i'm just very struck by another turn of phrase of yours, you said, "we are going to see the end of america as a crusader and the return of america as a great power." what exactly did you mean by that? well, i think this goes back to
2001, where in the republican party there's always been these two competing poles. there's been the kind of 1990s america as a great nation with a unique moral message, but not necessarily a proselytiser. and then i think after 2001, there was a definite shift to america the proselytiser, and america the country that spread democracy while wearing combat boots. which was a turn of phrase which in the last bush administration, was quite common. and i think that really the election of trump and some of the people that he's brought into office on the foreign policy side, reflect that slightly older republican tradition, the 1990s, the h w bush.
america the realist, not necessarily america the evangelist. but you can't be a great power if the rest of the world doesn't really understand what you're doing. so let's get into your areas of responsibility and talk in some detail. iran, first of all. i think it is fair to say the rest of the world is somewhat confused and indeed alarmed by your policy, that is us policy, towards iran today. can you try and assure me that you know what you are doing? i'm not sure i would make that general statement. i'm not sure that when you say the rest of the world, i know who you are talking about. ok, i will be clearer, fair point, i will be clear. the european union, the russians, even the iaea, the nuclear watchdog authority, all believe the us is mistaken, fundamentally mistaken in its current approach to the nuclear deal with iran, which of course was struck by the 0bama administration, amongst the other great powers with iran and which donald trump now seems intent upon tearing up. well, let me offer that in the countries that
i most often deal with, israel, the sunni gulf countries, saudi arabia, the emirates and others, there's no confusion at all. in fact, they are greatly reassured by this administration's approach to iran, because they are living at the front line with the challenges that iran and its regional behaviour plays. from my interactions with the european union and western european countries, i would say that i have found great interest in trying to address some of the challenges of the iranians nuclear deal. if i may interrupt for a second, surely what matters most is the thinking in those partner countries that you did the deal with iran with. of course, that is the europeans, the russians and to quote the eu foreign affairs spokeswoman, federica mogherini, she says the deal is working, it is delivering on its main goal, which means keeping the iranians nuclear programme in check. and as i said, the iaea, which is the watchdog
authority overseeing it says, "i can quite clearly state that iran is implementing its nuclear related commitments." the views of these people matter, don't they? they sure do. i'mnot sure that i would be so bold as to say the views of the countries on the front line of iran matter less than the countries in western europe. i think that would be a strong thing to say. i would bet that israel and saudi arabia have very, very strong feelings about the iranians nuclear deal. indeed, i know they do, because i have talked to them. i know they do to because i read what they say, but nonetheless the point of that deal was to try to rein in iran's nuclear programme. all of the experts who are given the responsibility of monitoring it, say it is working. i just want to figure out what you think donald trump is going to do next, because again, in terms of my point about confusing signals,
we've had mike pence recently indicate that as far as he's concerned, the trump administration is going to trash the deal. the deal is pretty much over. but we've had other members of the trump team suggesting, rex tillerson, the secretary of state is one of them, suggesting there is much more talking to be done. so what is going on right now? well, i think the president has been reasonably clear. i think he wants, by may 12th, an agreement with the europeans that will address some of the weaknesses that are inherentjcpoa, the iran deal, that we inherited from the 0bama administration. these are weaknesses like the linkage between sanctions and inspections. how quickly sanctions come back on if iran doesn't comply or doesn't comply fully, or pushes back on inspections. 0r on icbms, why does a country make icbms, if not to carry a nuclear weapon? thus, shouldn't icbms be considered part of a nuclear programme? that's a question we're working on with the europeans also. and lastly, this issue...
the iranians with their... i'm sorry, hang on one second... the iranians, on the intercontinental ballistic missiles, the iranians aren't going to give ground on that, they've made that quite plain. they are not interested in giving new assurances on permanent restrictions on uranium enrichment. so there's really no wriggle room here and donald trump has put himself in the position where he says he won't certify the deal again. he has basically asked the europeans to do the impossible and if they can't do the impossible, ijust wonder, are you clear, is the united states clear, come may, sanctions will be reintroduced and as far as the us is concerned, the deal is over? again, there's a couple of different areas that we're working on. a third one is the
sunset clause, right? i think there's broad agreement that it's concerning that some of these safeguards begin to be lost after years eight, ten and so forth. i will say, with the europeans, that there has been great interest in working to strengthen elements of the deal. the president has said, as you know, he's not going to waive sanctions again, he wants a follow on agreement with the e3. and i think that's pretty clear. itjust comes to my point about the united states being a great power. if you are truly a great power, you would be showing the sort of leadership on this issue that would have your partner countries come with you. but they are not coming with you. in the end, it could well be a humiliating situation where the us is out on its own on this issue? but i think it is being a great power because other countries are greatly reassured by car approach to this issue. and the fact that one administration has a slightly different policy focus, or a greatly different policy focus,
as in the case of this administration than the past administration, being a great power doesn't mean consistently doing exactly what was done the administration before. these are real concerns we have that are broadly shared by a lot of americans. they broadly shared by a lot of the international community. and the fact the iranians don't like them, i don't think mitigates the fact that we need address them. again, i am just wondering what you mean, or what donald trump means by some of the words he uses. for example, during the recent spate of street protests in iran, which mostly seem to be about issues of costs of living, but they became deeply political. some people calling even for the end of the islamic regime. donald trump said in his tweets, "the world is watching", he said, "it is time for change." so what is the united states doing in terms of engineering change and what sort of change do you realistically expect to see? you know, i thought the protests that broke out in iran were so interesting.
they were fundamentally different than in 2009. this was a different demographic, it was many working—class iranians, more regional. they broke out in iran's most conservative, or one of its most conservative cities, in mashhad. you know, i would say that we want to see a change in iran's behaviour. i think some of the economic hardships that are faced by iranians, which contributed to the unrest in iran, came from sanctions and responses by the international community to iran's destabilising behaviour and i think reinforcing that link on behalf of the us is something we are quite committed to. you saw protesters chanting, "no to lebanon", "yes to iran". that sort of thing is a real undercurrent in iran. yeah.
in addition to do basic weaknesses of the regime and the economic structure that it's trying to impose on its people. we want... interesting that... yeah, go ahead. sorry, interesting that in your iran policy, and you mentioned it in this interview, working and feeling that you are echoing the feelings of allies in the region like saudi arabia and egypt. egypt being described by many independent human rights organisations as more repressive now than at any time in its recent history. you are lining up with extremely repressive authoritarian regimes against a country where frankly, at least protesters feel they‘ re able to take to the streets and voice their concerns. i am struggling again to see what values are principles the trump administration is applying here. well, what i would offer to you is that as it has in the past, the us makes its feelings on democracy, on pluralistic government, on basic rights, well—known across the board. this is not an iran specific issue, this is regional. hang on a second, please.
with respect, if we're talking egypt and president sisi, the united states is signally silent and there is no condemnation. in some cases where we have a good relationship with countries, we do it in private. in other countries, we do it in public. there is not a one size fits all to how we make our concerns about human rights known. simply, that would be untenable, we would have a galaxy of different hues of relationships with these countries. we address this issue differently in many cases. a final point on iran and then we will move on. the former uk ambassador in the country and one of the uk negotiators involved in the iran deal says of donald trump's interventions, rhetorical interventions in iran, he said, "to try to insert yourself into the middle by too overt and too activist an approach, actuallyjust plays into the hands of the hardliners in iran." it's counter—productive. yeah, well look, this is an argument that has been made in the foreign
policy community since the 1970s, since the helsinki act, right? i mean, how do you encourage the growth of freedoms in autocratic countries? i remember we had this exact same discussion under the reagan administration and in the late years of the carter administration. how do you engage with those countries? do you engage through their government with the thought of improving the rights of the people? or do you engage through civic society, which has traditionally been the us platform? so i think this is a continual policy debate in this town. this administration has chosen to differentiate itself from the 0bama administration by siding loudly and vocally with the people who are on the streets getting beat up. ok, that's your template, "we are doing things differently from the 0bama administration". let's leave iran for a while and look at other parts
of the region. you are responsible for iraq. donald trump made it plain that whether it be iraq, afghanistan, syria, he didn't want to see us troops on the ground any more in these foreign entanglements. so literally, specifically, how many us military personnel, trainers and whatever are in iraq right now? gosh, you know, for specific operational issues i would urge you to bring a defence department person in here. you know, i am happy to talk about the foreign policy aspect, i am happy to talk... it is definitely part of foreign policy if you've got boots on the ground in iraq. several thousand. that will do, a ballpark, several thousand. we now learn you are going to keep 2000 boots on the ground or pairs of boots on the ground in syria too and we understand that more than 15,000 us military personnel are either already in or going to be deployed to afghanistan. so coming back to your opening point about the difference between 0bama and trump when it comes to these
difficult foreign policy issues, the difference ain't so great after all, is it? well, in fact, i think there is a lot of difference. trump is halving at least the amount of people that we are going to be having in iraq. in afghanistan, there is a recommendation from the commander on the ground, nick nicholson, with whom i served when i was deployed there, that they needed to reinforce the existing train, advise and assist structure, to give the afghan government a better grip on the country as it moves forward over the next two or three years. hang on, donald trump tweeted literally dozens of times saying that the afghan policy was a huge mistake, the troops should never have been sent and if he were president, those troops would be coming home right now. he's completely changed his policy. again, this is my understanding, it was a request directly from nick nicholson
to the president. afghanistan is not my area of writ. having served there myself, i can tell you it is a multifaceted problem set. john allen, my old commander, used to call it the ph.d. 0f warfare and so it's a decision that the white house is constantly looking at. i understand that afghanistan is not your specific bag and indeed neither is syria, but because iraq is, i am sure you take a great interest in syria because they are neighbouring countries and some of the issues cross the border, not least the fight against so—called is and america's military strategy in both countries. 0bviously, they are interlinked. and in syria in particular, again it seems to me you have a massive problem because you have backed kurdish forces in northern syria, partly to eradicate remnants of islamic state and the turks are now calling the force you've worked with, funded and trained, a terrorist army and mr erdogan in turkey is sending his
forces in to fight them. turkey of course, a fellow member of nato. the united states in syria is in a very big mess right now. well, listen, we are constantly reinforcing to the turks that we want whatever is happening in afrin right now, their operations, 0peration 0live branch to limit civilian casualties, to be proportional and to be restrained. we are constantly reinforcing to the ypg not to provoke the turks, not to step outside of their boundaries and to concentrate on the fight that we all agree on against isis... your nato partners in turkey are accusing you of funding and training a terrorist army on their border. again, we are constantly engaging with the turks on this issue. we are constantly engaging the ypg
to de—conflict this and keep the focus on isis. i mean, that is the core of us policy, that is what we are doing. it takes a little bit of time sometimes, but we are constantly engaged on this. the country you are specifically responsible for as well as iran, is iraq. there are supposed to be elections in iraq in may. do you have full confidence in prime minister abadi, are you backing him and you want to see him succeed in those elections? oh gosh, the iraqi elections are really interesting. we are not backing abadi specifically. we think his leadership has been extremely positive for iraq, not least of which pulling it back from the brink in 2014. what i would offer is, i think it is a reflection on the progress that has been achieved in iraq, that it is one of the few countries in the region where we genuinely don't know who is going to lead the country after may.
there is a couple of main shia candidates. whoever wins will likely amalgamate a list with several, probably several smaller ethnic parties. but we think abadi's leadership has been positive for iraq, that goes without saying. interesting that just a very short time ago, mr abadi tried to bring in an iranian—backed shia militia into his governing coalition. it failed in the end, but it was an intent that he had and certainly if one looks at syria, the iranians' influence is huge, long—running and military and political. so going back to your point that you see iran as an overarching threat in the region, things really aren't going that well are they, for the united states, if that is your overarching concern? well, i was encouraged by the fact that the iranians backed group you mentioned that tried to join with abadi, engaged in an electoral coalition with him for a grand total of 20 hours, before withdrawing.
so from that perspective, i was greatly encourage. the reality iraq faces, as you know, it is adjacent to iran. it will be next to iran for the rest of the time that there is an iraq and iran. so it's going to have some kind of relationship with that country and thus, iranian backed candidates like amiri will, are allowed to participate in the elections. now, we think that hahram amiri is genuinely a negative force. but, you know, iraq is a sovereign country, we cannot force the prime minister to enter into electoral coalitions with people we don't like. all right, we must end soon, but before we do, a more general point.
you have made a point to me of saying, you know what, we are rebuilding ourfriendships and partnerships with long—time allies in the region. how does that square with the fallout from donald trump's very personal decision to move the us embassy in israel from tel aviv to jerusalem, recognising jerusalem as the capital of israel? the fallout from that has been profoundly negative, not least in some of countries like saudi arabia that you've cited to me as your staunchest partners. for you, it makes yourjob so much more difficult, doesn't it? you know, i would say that saudis recognise that decision as one element in our relationship. i would say that the president was simply carrying out a law that had been on the books for over ten years, in doing that. and by the way, a campaign promise of his from 2016. so i think all of those countries that i referenced, see the us regional relationship as composed of many things and aren't going to tank it over any single one of them.
well, you may be confident, many others aren't. relevant to this, he wasn'tjust making a pointjust about the move of the embassy in israel, but he was making a point about the way in which donald trump's foreign policy has become so controversial in so many countries with his global approval rating, according to gallup, down at historic lows, much lower than barack 0bama's. in a response to all of that, it has to be said, conservative commentator, max boot, wrote this, he said, "trump has proved to be the worst salesman that america has ever had. far from winning over other countries, he's actively repelling and repulsing them." again, makes yourjob awfully difficult, doesn't it? not at all, i think the region has been greatly encouraged by donald trump's election. i can't stress that to you enough. the sunni gulf allies and israel. all right, we'll leave it there.
andrew peek, i thank you very much forjoining me on hardtalk. thanks so much, great to be here. hello there. sunday was a better, brighter, sunnier day for many of us than we saw on saturday but there were some pretty hefty hail and snow showers around. now, for the upcoming week, it's going to be fairly unsettled. i think there's going to be a lot of rain, maybe disruptive snow at times. it'll be quite windy too. and then signs of something a bit milder moving into the south to end the week. the satellite picture from the last 12 hours. you can see those showers — the speckles indicate those snow
and hail showers pushing into the north and west of the country. we start monday morning off on a really cold note. widespread frost and a risk of some ice, particularly where we have the showers. for monday itself, we are in between weather systems. a ridge of high pressure building in, so actually, it should be fine and dry for many of us before this system moves in for monday night, bringing us rain, sleet and snow. so it's a cold start to monday. there will be that frost around, some ice to watch out for, but plenty of sunshine around. a few wintry showers across the north and the west of the country but apart from that, most places should be dry. but it's going to be another chilly one — temperatures generally between five to seven or eight degrees. the winds will pick up across northern ireland by the end of the day ahead of this weather system. rain, sleet and snow will push in across northern ireland, initially, giving some accumulations of snow here, and then move on into much of western britain. now, we're looking at some pretty disruptive snow, in fact, the high ground of wales, certainly for northern england and for central southern scotland, so a pretty treacherous morning commute on tuesday across central
southern scotland, northern england. watch out for the snow and for the ice. this weather front will slowly move its way eastwards through the course of the day, becoming confined to eastern areas. a mix of rain and sleet i think further south. further west, though, it brightens up into the afternoon. we should see sunshine and wintry showers returning. most of these wintry showers falling across western scotland. then we see another weather system moving in for wednesday — we do it all again basically! this will bring another spell of gale force winds as it moves up to the south—west and rain, sleet and snow. but it looks like the snow will be confined to the hills of central and northern parts of the uk, whereas further south, it should be largely of rain — that's because we're starting to see slightly less cold air moving in so i think wednesday afternoon, although it's going to be drab, cloudy and wet for most of us, see a little bit of milder air pushing into the south and the south—west but still cold in the north. then into thursday, that weather front moves away and we are into a westerly wind regime. that will feed in plenty of showers to northern and western parts
of the country. again, wintry in the north. further south, there'll be mainly rain as it is going to be a little less cold in the south — temperatures in double figures here. i'm rico hizon in singapore. the headlines: papua's starving children. as the indonesian authorities say an outbreak of measles is now under control, malnutrition is killing some of the most vulnerable. rescuers search through the snow for bodies after a russian airliner crashes near moscow, killing all 71 people on board. also in the programme. the sister of the north korean leader, kim jong—un, leaves south korea — but was her visit a propaganda coup for pyongyang? and one of india's most expensive films ever made and one of the most controversial. we speak to the star of the bollywood movie padmaavat about why the cast are getting death threats.