tv Charlie Rose Bloomberg January 11, 2016 7:00pm-8:01pm EST
♪ from our studios in new york city, this is "charlie rose." charlie: in nine months, the country will elect the 45th president of the united dates. national security is dominating the campaign in a way we have seldom seen. many challenges are bound to the president's successor. mike morel has served as cia's deputy and acting director. he has served several presidential and vice president candidates. he has written a fascinating new book called "the great war of our time."
i am pleased to have him back at this table. welcome. mike: always great to be here. charlie: let me just talk about january 2017. from what we know now, and this will relate to the campaign underway in terms of the debate going on in the country, or the debate that should be going on, what does the new president face? i think, charlie, that on day one the president faces two very significant but very different challenges. the first is, what do you do about the middle east, and the second is, what do you do about china? two second-tier challenges. one of them is, what do you do about russia and vladimir putin, and the other is, what do you do about north korea? let's take the middle east first. isis, syria,cus on
iraq, libya. i think it's important, and i think it's important for the presidential candidates and for the new president to step back and look at the bigger dynamics going on in the region that are actually creating the problems that we see every day on the ground. those dynamics, if i could walk through them very quickly, those dynamics are three, not in any particular order. the first dynamic is the failure in several states of governance, a failure of governance to create a higher standard of living, the failure of forrnance to create hope parents that their kids are going to have a better life. that failure over a long period, that is what created the arab spring. those political movements in tunisia and egypt and yemen and syria have caused some of the
problems around the region. charlie: they have led to despair among the young who have become the soldiers of change. mike: absolutely, and drive them in one particular direction or the other. the second big dynamic is this cold war, this struggle between iran and saudi arabia. some people talk about it as a struggle for influence in the region. i see it differently. to beit as a push by iran the hegemonic power in the middle east, to call the shots, to have all the influence, and saudi arabia pushing back against that. that's the second dynamic. that plays out all around the region in terms of iranian support to insurgencies in yemen , in bahrain, in the eastern provinces of saudi arabia, and support their allies in places
like syria and lebanon. that's the second dynamic. the third dynamic is this rise of islamic extremism, which we have now seen for 20, 25, 30 years. what is that? that is a belief on the part of a large number of muslims that their religion is threatened by the modern world, threatened by modernization, and then the belief by a smaller number of muslims that it is actually the policy of the west and the united dates to destroy islam and destroy their religion, and the belief by many of those who think that it is appropriate, necessary to respond to that with violence. that is the fundamental definition of islamic extremism. those are the three big dynamics in the region. they play out in different places. there are two places where all three of them play out, in syria
and in yemen. charlie: what kind of strategy do you think we need? mike: i think it's going to be different for every one. let's take iran, for example. i think it's very important that the united states push back on iranian misbehavior in the region. what does that look like? shipow that the iranians arms, for example, to the houthis, a shia sect in yemen, and it's the group fighting the yemeni government. it's a civil war between the houthis and the legitimate government of yemen. the iranians are providing arms to those people. they put those arms on ships and send them to yemen. i think it's appropriate, i think it would be good policy for the united states to have the navy board those ships, and if there is weapons on them, turn them around and send them home.
it would send a powerful message to the iranians we are not going to let them get away with misbehavior, and it would send a powerful message to our allies in the region who think that we have abandoned them because we are not pushing back harder on iranian misbehavior. that's an example of what we need to do with the iran piece. charlie: with respect to iran, there has also been a nuclear deal. i'm quoting wendy sherman who was on the program this week. they have essentially met the schedule and complied. mike: yes. charlie: on the other hand, they are developing missiles that can deliver. mike: right. there's a lot of things, charlie, and we've talked about this before -- there's a lot of things the iranians do that are contrary to u.s. interests. one is, they are really the only state left in the world that actually practices terrorism as a tool of statecraft. an organization inside the government called the irgc kuds
force practices terrorism around the world against iran's enemies from their per spec. - their perspective. they provide support to international terror groups. hezbollah, for example. hezbollah could not exist without the support it gets from iran. three, iran provides support to insurgencies in the region designed to overthrow the sunni arab governments. charlie: that is what we call iranian behavior. what do you do about iranian behavior? it was not part of the iranian nuclear deal. mike: exactly. charlie: this admission -- administration has said, we are going to contest that behavior. mike: but we are not. we are not contesting it in my view. we have to stop ships? -- charlie: we have to stop ships? mike: when i look through the iran nuclear deal, i was amazed at what the iranians had given up. shocked. the nuclear deal on its own is a very good deal. it sets them back 10-15 years on
their nuclear weapons program. it pushes the breakout time from well over aths to year, and it makes it difficult for them to cheat and develop a weapon in secret. the nuclear deal all by its health is, in my view -- by itself, in my view, is a good deal. the problem comes with iranian behavior. the difference between how we treated the soviet union and the way we treat iran is this -- yes, we cut arms control agreements with the soviet union, but at the same time, we pushed back against their bad behavior everywhere in the world. you talked about missiles. charlie: you are saying, they didn't try? for what reason? if they thought they could of restricted behavior within the nuclear deal, they would have tried to do it, wouldn't they? mike: i don't know to what
extent they pushed. . was gone already it was absolutely true -- two things are true. the vast majority of the sanctions that were placed on working -- were because of the nuclear deal. [no audio] i think that's why they stayed away from other things. the one area they did go into was missiles. that was included. it was included in a 2010 security council resolution, and that resolution says, you cannot conduct any ballistic missile activity. the two tests of that the iranians did at the end of last year were a violation of that security council resolution. in the nuclear agreement with
them, the nuclear agreement says that that particular security council resolution will be replaced by another one that will have an eight-year restriction on ballistic missile activity. the iranians have violated both the current un security council resolution, and they violated the spirit of the new agreement. the question is, what do we do about it now? the right thing to do is to sanction them. the right thing to do is to send a powerful message that we are not going to let you get away with this.i think we are heading in that direction. at the end missed ration is days away from sectioning them. the administration is days away from sanctioning them. charlie: next is isis. what do we do about isis? mike: the iraqi government three weeks ago took ramadi back. charlie: with help from american airstrikes. mike: help from american
airstrikes, advice from american special forces. that was significant, and it was significant for two reasons. one was what they took, which lastamadi, which they lost may, which was a real embarrassment to them. it is 60 miles from baghdad. it's the capital of an bar province -- anbar province. it's on the main highway to syria. it's on the main highway to jordan. what was taken back was significant, but more importantly, it was who took it back. there has been a string of defeats in iraq for isis. sinjar, those were not taken back by the iraqi military. those were taken back by the kurds, and those were taken back by shia militia. time that the first the iraqi security services took back territory from isis. it was who did that the taking -- did the taking that was
significant. there are big steps ahead. the neck objective -- next objective will be fallujah. in some ways, it's going to be tougher because the public is much more supportive of isis. charlie: very symbolic. mike: very symbolic to these guys. the real prize is mosul. the real prize is iraq's second-largest city. that is the iraqi headquarters for isis. that will be much harder. its much larger. there are many, many more isis fighters, in the thousands, as opposed to a couple hundred in ramadi. what you are going to see on the iraq side is some military progress. i think there's going to be a lot less progress on the serious side. the new president, when they walk in the door, they are going to see isis that has lost territory in iraq, still not defeated, but no real progress in syria without a diplomatic solution, which does not look promising. to this which brings me
conflict between syria and saudi arabia, because it affects that. mike: iran and saudi arabia. charlie: how will that unfold, and what will be the issues facing the new president? mike: let's talk about this shia cleric who was executed that created this issue. what exactly this person did is not clear. they spoke out publicly against the regime. they called for regime change. they had some horrible things to say about some senior saudi royals. ornever called for violence overthrow. he said things ought to be better. mike: supported protests, shia protests. whether he did anything more than that, i don't know. i don't know what the facts are in this case. he was charged with sedition.
more important than all of the facts surrounding him is that he wasace in both for both -- a symbol for both iran and saudi arabia. four iran, he was a symbol of saudi repression of the shias andlive in saudi arabia, for saudi arabia, he was a of iranian meddling inside saudi arabia, iranian encouragement of the saudi shia to rise up and overthrow the saudi government. of iranian meddling inside saudihe was a symbol. that's why the iranian public reacted the way it did when he was executed, and that is what created this problem. charlie: there is also this. it is said that the united states urged them not to do it, and they went ahead and did it, and by that, they were sending a message to the united states. the saudi's are not happy about the relationship -- you know a lot about this. mike: i think they were sending
three messages. the first message was to the iranians. we are not going to let you meddle in our internal affairs without there being a cost. number two was a message to their own people and to their shia population about what you cannot get away with. three, it was a message to the united states absolutely. charlie: what was the message to the united states? mike: the gulf arab states, saudi arabia in particular, deeply frustrated with the united states over a number of issues. those issuesk what were. one, the redline in syria. two, the nuclear deal. three, mubarak. mike: those are the issues. let's take each of them in turn. seerak, it's really hard to
how u.s. policy could have been any different from what it was. we could not have saved mubarak if we wanted to. it would have been a strategic mistake to have how u.s. tried, in my view. two, the iran nuclear deal. we just said, it's a pretty good deal. i think there are two things that are missing from a saudi perspective. one was, we were conducted secret negotiations with the iranians -- conducting secret negotiations with the iranians, and we didn't tell the gulf arab states. they were deeply hurt by that.
charlie: what is it about the saudi's? they seem to have a very strong relationship from intelligence immunity to intelligence community. -- intelligence community to intelligence community. you and john brennan had a deep saudi history. on the other hand, the saudis represent an ally in the gulf. thirdly, there was the issue of energy and oil, which was always there, and that made them an important ally. less so now. there is a deep distrust and a on people on this show that the u.s. needs to rethink its relationship with saudi arabia. you have heard that? mike: yes, and the saudis hear
this. charlie: help us understand why this relationship is so important and why we don't have more influence with them. mike: it's a great question. initially,right which is that the bedrock of the saudis' importance to the united states is oil. that is less important. what is now more important is their willingness to stand up to reestablish the persian empire. saudi arabia is willing to stand up to that. that makes them a strategic ally of us in my mind. charlie: on the other hand, i've had people come to this table who you respect and say, 5, 10 years from now, we will have a better relationship with iran and we will saudi arabia. mike: i don't believe that.
they believed that iran is going to fundamentally change in the next 10 years. because a younger, reform-oriented group will get their way. mike: because the population is very young. the population is pro-united states. the hardliners are increasingly being -- there is increasing competition to the hardliners. that argument, and the reason i don't buy that argument is because when i look at the next generation of i seen leadership, what is that leadership coming from the iran-iraq war generation. if you go back to the iran-iraq war and the guys who were 20-25 years old, they are now in their early 60's, late 50's. these guys are the most -- that
is the most revolutionary generation. charlie: they were shaped by the iran-iraq war, and they know we supported iraq. mike: and they hate us for it. that is the oxygen a shot generation. he was young as president. charlie: and mayor of tehran. mike: he fought in the iran-iraq war. his hostility to the united states was shaped by that war. that is the next generation that is going to run this place. absolutely, there is a competition. i wouldn't call them moderate. i would call them less hardline. we didn't have influence in terms of what the saudis did with the cleric. we have had little influence in terms of them -- i will tell you one area where we have influence. people believe that they have
become much more anti-isis and anti-al qaeda because of pressure from us, because they were supporting, either through private foundations, or at itsng wahabi's him extreme form, and they are doing less of that, but there still is, it seems to many, an inability to influence them in the nature of their own place. best, much moremike: in the arw they were, as you hinted at earlier, very strong counterterrorism partners with america,d states of doing things that were in our interest that weren't directly in their own interest, helping us out. i think it's also important to look -- people talk about reform in iran. you also have to look at reform in saudi arabia. prince and the kings son and deputy crown
prince and defense minister are both reform-minded. they both believe that saudi arabia has to change in fundamental ways. charlie: how do you know that? mike: because i have talked his guys, and because i read what they say. charlie: they say their bitter -- their vision of saudi arabia is what? as a bulwark against iran and the spread of iranian influence in the region you go -- region? mike: i would say their division is threefold. this is not them talking. one is significant economic binrm that is being led by salman. charlie: he's young, too. mike: 30 years old. very aggressive economic reform plan, designed to clean them -- off their dependence
on oil and build a broader-based economy that is in our interest, our commercial interest. then there is political reform. they know that they have to give more rights to women. they know they have to give their population of greater voice. it's going to come in their own style and on their own terms. i don't think we want democracy tomorrow in saudi arabia. extremists have quite a bit of popularity among some of the public. the political reform will come in its own way and own time. third, to act as the bulwark against iran. charlie: here is the interesting question about iran. obviously, we have always known that there was a strong reform sentiment. a lot of it was support for president rouhani.
many people believe it represents a majority opinion. do you believe in a free election in which anybody, a ,egitimate candidate, could run would reformers win or not, or would the republican guard prevent them and the ayatollah would never let it happen? mike: mahmoud ahmadinejad's first election, free and fair. the second time, i don't think he would've made it. that was 2009. that was their own arab spring. protesters in the streets, people being shot -- charlie: a critical moment for the regime. and fairhani, free election. it depends on the state of their economy. it's just like here. true that thely
population is pro-u.s. in a cultural sense, but it is absolutely also true that across a wide spectrum of the iranian population, there is deep frustration with u.s. in the region and against iran. charlie: rouhani expresses that all the time. let me get to two points based on what you said. priority, isis. priority, iran. then there is north korea. mike: let me say one more thing about what is likely to change with isis over the next year. the affiliates, the isis affiliates around the world, are going to become more important, and libya is going to become a real story over the next 12 months, and the next president is likely to face a significant isis group with territory in
libya. there's an isis group there already. small city,ok one and for the first time, foreign fighters are flowing to libya. i think that is going to be another part of the story, the isis affiliates becoming a bigger part of the isis story than they are today. charlie: russia. has flattened or putin been successful in playing -- has vladimir putin been successful in playing a we can't -- a weak hand? mike: i think that's a great question. let me back up for one second, and then i will answer. let's back up to, what does he want? he wants to things really. he wants russia to be seen as a great power again, and he wants it to be seen as an equal of the united states. that's his strong desire. he wants to reestablish the russian empire, which basically
means he wants say in all of the in that territory. what kind of guy is this? he is a thug. he's a bully. he only understands relative power. he doesn't think there can be a winner in negotiations. he's going to face short-term costs for his long-term objectives. then you say, he has obviously done that in ukraine, and now he's done it in syria. doing inok, how is he terms of getting to his objectives? realistically, charlie, he's the loser in all of this in the end. charlie: because he does not have a dynamic economy and because he is involving himself in things that, while on the surface it looks like he is exerting leadership, but in the end, it's a difficult place.
mike: just take for example ukraine. the result of ukraine was sanctioned were put on him -- sanctions that were put on him hurting his economy, probably ending any hope of bringing together come integrating the russian economy with the west over the next 10-15 years. russiansian soldiers, who were fighting in ukraine, died. he has kept that from his people, but it is going to leak out slowly. what syria is costing him his millions of dollars. he can't afford that. the loser at the end of the day is the russian economy and the russian middle-class, and his base forhaving a power what he is trying to create. charlie: north korea, do you believe it was a hydrogen bomb
based on what you may have heard? mike: i would go with what the u.s. government is saying. it doesn't sound like that. what it may have been is one of these boosted fission weapons that they are calling a hydrogen bomb. charlie: let's assume if not now, maybe later -- what is the option of the united states? you saw south korea and the united states and japan rally. you also saw a failure of the chinese to come rushing to their defense. mike: yeah, so, i don't think this test, this fourth test -- this is the fourth test -- there was a test in 2006, 2009, 2013, 2015 -- i don't think this changes the threat picture from north korea at all. they became a nuclear weapons state in 2006. this hasn't changed that. charlie: with the help of the pakistanis. mike: with the help of the pakistanis. the other thing that happened over the past 10 years was the
advancement of their missile program, which is a concern. you've got a nuclear weapon and a missile. .aybe you can put them together including a missile called the -8, which in different configurations can either be a medium-range ballistic missile or an icbm capable of hitting the united states. they have deployed the missile. they've never tested it, but they have deployed it. the threat of north korea, nuclear weapons, a missile delivered to the united dates has been there for several -- united states has been there for several years. charlie: what do you tell the president about this threat? mike: what you tell him is that there is really only one way -- there are two ways to put pressure on north korea, and you have to put pressure on them. there has to be a cost to them for doing this. .hat's the only way they stop
that can come in two forms. the first form is very specific sanctions that are aimed at the leadership and aimed at the elite. the way that kim jong-un and his father and his grandfather maintained control was to give perks, including the nicest imported goods you can imagine, to the elite that supported them. if you can squeeze that and take that away from them, take that money -- the bush administration did this by sanctioning a small bank in asia. charlie: it's comparable to what we did with the iranians. mike: that's one thing we can do to squeeze them. in terms of generalized sanctions, the only way generalized sanctions work is to get the chinese to play ball. the chinese provide the bulk of what the north koreans need to survive everyday. charlie: and they are less close to them today. mike: here is the problem with
the chinese. there has been a major change in chinese thinking about north korea. china's primary objective of the korean peninsula is stability. .hey don't want instability they don't want hundreds of thousands of north koreans flowing forward. they are looking for stability. the big change in chinese thinking is this. up until a couple years ago, the chinese believed the united states was the biggest threat to stay ability -- to stability. now they believe it is north korea. you would think, get the chinese to do something. here is the problem. the chinese are afraid to use their leverage. why are they afraid to use their leverage, like pulling back on oil exports? they are afraid of causing the very instability they are trying to avoid. while we've got the chinese thinking about this, we haven't convinced them yet of taking steps to actually rein in kim jong-un.
charlie: what is interesting about our conversation so far, when we talk about the national security challenges, iran and isis, russia and north korea, we haven't talked about china, and they are going through deep economic issues right now, especially in terms of the markets, and they are trying to change their economy from an export economy to a domestic demand economy. at the same time, they are a more aggressive -- they are more aggressive than they have been, especially with respect to the islands, and they are also building carriers, which could project them forward as a military force. mike: in the last couple months, they have announced they are starting to build a second aircraft carrier. they did another anti-satellite missile test. announced ast complete reform of their military command structure to make it look much more like ours in terms of the joint chiefs, being very aggressive.
you heard me say it at the beginning -- charlie: and they have economic power and money to spread around. mike: you heard me say at the beginning that i thought the next president would face to huge challenges, what to do about the middle east and what to do about china. we framed the middle east with the three dynamics you've got to get your arms around. how you do that, that is what the next president has to figure out. the way to frame china is to say, this is a very important bilateral relationship between beijing and washington, important for the region and for the world. there is a spectrum of where our relationship with china could be, and it ranges from one end, cooperation, cooperating together to make the world a better place, and at the other end of the spectrum is war. it's not clear where on that spectrum we are going to fall. charlie: you raised the question of cyber. mike: yeah. we've got to come to terms with them on that.
the two things pulling us apart, charlie, and this is the most important one, is they are a rising power, and we are a status quo power. because they are a rising power, they want a greater say in the world around them, and guess who has that say now? charlie: we do. people have always said, it's not a zero-sum game. are you suggesting it is? as they rise, somebody has got to decline. mike: i think it is in some sense. charlie: that's a likelihood of the 21st century. mike: without a doubt. there is a strategic deal to be made with them, which is, we will give you greater room in east asia. we will give you greater room to influence greater say if you play by the rules of the international community. charlie: because a lot of the neighbors and friends of ours, like the vietnamese, are worried. mike: absolutely. in order to convince them that the strategic deal is in their
interest, we have to be seen as strong. the other thing pulling us apart is we both have large militaries in the same place on the planet, when you have large militaries in the same place, you have to prepare for war against each other. you have to equip your militaries for war, and you have to train for war against each other. both sides see that you that creates an inherent tension. a big job for the next president is to figure out how to manage that relationship. charlie: i think there is increasing contact between our military and their military. mike: i believe thatboth sides t creates an inherent tension. a big job for the next on the china question, the obama administration has set up the next president in about as good of a way as you can set them up for that conversation we need to have with them about, what is our relationship going to be going forward? charlie: thank you. mike: it's great to be here. charlie: the book is called,
states severed or downgraded relations with tehran to rejoining the is david ignatius a foreign affairs, columnist for "the washington post." let me begin with this. you listen to the interview i just did with mike morrell. i know you are enormously curious about some of the things we talked about. central to the conversation today about foreign policycurios we talked, saudi arabia and iran, sunnis and shias, the future of iraq and syria. tell me what you think about the question i raised with him about saudi arabia, the execution of this cleric, knowing it would and with theems, aftermath of all of that is. david: i think the saudis, because of their deep
insecurity, their anxiety about iranian pressure, their anxiety about isis, most of all their anxiety that their superpower friend and patron the united states is real -- is less reliable, they are making that decisions. executing this prominent shia cleric is something that they knew would be seen by shiites in saudi arabia and around the wasd as a direct assault not a good decision. it was predictable that it provoked the kind of backlash it did. the decision to cut diplomatic relationships with tehran was an unwise decision. there were other ways to show displeasure. the problem of climbing up a tree like this is, how do you climb back down? wen we look at saudi arabia, need to understand that this is a very insecure, vulnerable monarchy. they are not wrong to have these anxieties. as mike said, iran is a regional bully. the saudis are frustrated by the
american lack of action. morrell is right that we need to push back against iranian meddling in the region, so the saudis and others are less anxious, but the idea that we should write a blank check for saudi insecurity and the actions they take as they try to flail out against their enemies, i think that is a terrible mistake. it's gotten us in trouble for a generation. i don't think we should repeat that mistake. charlie: it is said by many that they were sending a message to us. what message should we be sending to them? david: the message they are sending to us is, we are going to take care of our own security because we don't trust you, and the message we need to send have at president obama's meeting at camp david with gulf leaders, and repeatedly and private messages, we are there. we do have your back. security, int to a terms of military assistance, in
terms of our declared policy, couldn't be clearer. president obama has said over and over again, among the things that the u.s. would use military force for is to protect our allies in the gulf region. the saudis don't believe us anymore, but we need to keep saying it. there is morrell said, a back channel relationship between saudi intelligence and u.s. intelligence that is very deep. john brennan was station chief in riyadh. he speaks arabic. he is in touch with saudi intelligence. i think that is important. another thing i have noted in the past few weeks is that the internal tension and friction within the saudi royal family, which was getting to the point that it were a people, seems to have called -- that it worried people, seems to have calm down. king solomon intervened to say to the crown prince and his own son, the deputy crown prince,
cool it. the two of you need to occupy this space in a way that preserves the royal family's integrity and stability. in that sense, they consolidated power in a way that is helpful. charlie: what was the conflict between the two of them? david: the conflict between these two, i think, came from young mohammed ben solomont, the deputy crown prince, 30 years old, smart, ambitious, pushing very hard against the person who was nominally his superior, mohammed bin nine of. the latter was fired from the saudi administration in a way that seemed like a direct shot at the crown prince by his deputy. he was seenn which as being under pressure, i think that has eased a little bit
himself. in terms of saudi stability, that is probably a good thing. fact the deputy crown prince a reformer, as michael morel suggested? david: he has big ideas about reform. his commission from mckinsey very ambitious plans for modernization of the kingdom. i have read through the details of some of those plans. they say all the right things. they talk about privatization of business in saudi arabia. he announced a plan to privatize the airports in the east. they announced plans to tax land that has been held essentially without any compensation to the state by senior princes. that is a good reform. he talks about moving saudi arabia away from its total dependence on oil exports, so it
is in better shape fiscally. those are all good things, and there are worse things in the world than to have a modernizing 30-year-old who wants to have power in this kingdom we have complained for so long is so conservative. that's not a terrible thing, to have him around. the problem is, he has created anxiety within the royal family. this is a country that is really used to stability, and that led to some bumps, and i think they have been reduced recently. charlie: let me ask you about iran and come back to this conflict between iran and saudi arabia. you have written about the elections coming up. what might we expect? david: iran on february 26 has to elections that matter in terms of future political shape of the country. the first is their parliamentary elections. there will be roughly 285 members elected.
the expectation is if public sentiment is accurately reflected in this pulling on february 26, the moderate forces aligned with president rouhani will gain strength. you might have a situation in which the moderates or pragmatists control not only the parliament -- the presidency but also the parliament. that would be a shift. in terms of the long-term governance of iran. the crucial body is called the assembly of experts, which picks the next supreme leader after the current supreme leader, khomeni, and that election has a number of candidates running who uhani view. ro the most interesting is the khomeni. of
his grandson, although he is running as an independent, is seen as a significant supporter of the kinds of reforms, uhanies, openings that rohan and his foreign minister supported. the fact that he is in this race is going to make it tough for the hardliners to kick him out. page, go to his facebook there are all these pictures of him with his grandfather. it's hard to attack the man who is a direct descendent of the imam and founder. charlie: there's also the case that people hope that the iran nuclear deal might lead to some kind of cooperation, some kind of confidence building, and some kind of encouragement of rapprochement between iran and the west. mike: i have become somewhat
more -- david: i have become somewhat more pessimistic about the speed at which that will happen. i think these elections are important. i think cementing the power of rouhani and his allies is important. the hardliners, the guard, are not going to go away. we have had an incident in the past few months that is a direct shot against this idea that iran is going to open up to influence from american investors, iranian-americans. they arrested and jailed a person who was very close to the reform group in iran, i think, as a direct shot against these people. believe it or not, you go to the world economic forum in doubles. the primary accusation against this iranian was that he was a member of the world economic forum young global leaders program. m, ands the dossier on hi
that's a sign that he is a figure of the great satan. it's a sign that the hardliners want to contain this process of opening a dialogue, and for a while, they won't be successful. charlie: let me close with this and talk about the conflict in syria and the conflict in iraq with isis. in terms of whether there will be any spillover from the thei-iranian conflict in battle against isis, and will there be any consequences for the effort to somehow find a route to, as the u.n. said, a political transition? david: it's important to remember in this week in which we had riots in tehran, a break in saudi arabian diplomatic relations, that just a month ago secretary of state john kerry
had succeeded in getting iran and saudi arabia to sit at the same negotiating table in vienna and discuss a process of transition, political transition in syria that could eventually lead to a cease-fire and stabilization there and a more unified effort to destroy isis and the al qaeda affiliate. that diplomacy, which i think has been surprisingly successful, is at risk. that is really the biggest problem with this explosion this week. the saudis and iranians don't like each other, and that's not going to go away anytime soon. they do know that the syrian war has ruined this for all of them, and secretary kerry was using that and making progress. we will have to see whether that has been blown to pieces. if that happened, it would be really tragic. i do think, even if that diplomacy goes forward, there are going to be new things
happening in 2016 that are going to get the u.s. more deeply involved in the war against isis than we've been. i would look for something like a safe zone in southern syria, which is an easier area for us to protect, next to jordan. the russian planes can't fly that far. i think the jordan -- jordan's king of the law is ready to make more of a commitment in southern so that you can surround in isis capital in raqqa eastern syria, not simply approach it from the north, as we are doing now, but have forces in the south of backed by maybe saudi arabia. that is what i see coming. i think we could hear talk of that in the next week. king abdallah is coming to the united states. charlie: is he coming here to brief a republican retreat? david: well, as always is the
case with king abdallah, he's going to see a bunch of different audiences. for many people, he is their favorite arab leader. he will be all over the place. the interesting point you sick test is, throughout -- you suggest is, throughout the arab world, people are looking to the next president. yes, you want to go to washington and see president obama, but you have your eye on the person who's going to take office in 2017. my fear is that the world is going to go into stall. it will be like the end of a basketball game. nothing will move because people don't want to do business with the obama administration. the world is in such a state of turmoil that the idea that people would hold off and not take action for a year, that would be quite dangerous. charlie: we have had a conversation about the opera called "the new prince," which i
think will premiere at the dutch national opera in 2017. you are the librettist. david: as unlikely as that sounds, i am indeed the librettist. [laughter] you are nice to mention it. it will premiere in march of 2017. the composer is writing the arias. the director is working on an abstract. it's an exciting project. as a journalist, it's the last thing in the world i ever imagined i would be doing, but it's fun. charlie: where did you find the talent to do this? as a journalist, it's the last thing in thedavid: i'm not suree talent. machiavelli has always fascinated me. he's a strange, interesting, complicated man. when the composer asked me if i would try to write an opera that brought him to life, brought the dilemmas that were embodied in his writing to life, it was a great challenge. charlie: it was a pleasure to have you back.
john: today we would rather listen to bow we. ♪ john: greetings from des moines, iowa. or ground control. we are three weeks out from the iowa caucuses, and democratic candidates are gathering here in the city tonight for the iowa brown and black for. -- brown and black forum. it is built on the oldest presidential forum focused on minority issues. we will talk to representatives from bernie sanders and hillary cl