Return to Transcripts main page
FAREED ZAKARIA GPS
Doubts on Rouhani, Obama Being Able to Make a Deal; Interview with Susan Rice; Interview with President of Somalia; Interview with Abdullah Gul
Aired September 29, 2013 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: This is GPS, the Global Public Square. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I am Fareed Zakaria. We have a very important show for you, with two presidents and Iran's only Jewish member of parliament. We'll start with an exclusive interview with President Obama's national security adviser, Susan Rice, on Iran, Syria, the Middle East and more. Then, the terror attack in Kenya. A Somalia-based terror group carried it out. I will talk to that country's president, who says Al Shabab isn't just a threat to Somalia or Africa, but the entire world. Then to Syria. I will talk to one of the most concerned parties, President Gul of Turkey, which is, of course, Syria's neighbor.
And you might of heard that in Iran's delegation to the U.N. was the only Jewish member of parliament. We tracked him down and I talked to him.
But before we get to all that, here's my take. Hassan Rouhani presents himself as a striking contrast to his predecessor. For the past several years, the president of Iran has held a breakfast meeting with a small group of journalists during the U.N. General Assembly.
In recent years, the event had become a depressing routine. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, dressed in his trademark shabby suit, would saunter in, ramble and rant about the dangers of U.S. hegemony, deny the Holocaust and taunt us, his invited guests.
Rouhani, by contrast, arrived punctually, elegantly attired in flowing clerical robes, and spoke intelligently and precisely about every topic discussed.
The meeting was off the record, but we were allowed to share some observations. I was struck by Rouhani's optimism on the nuclear issue which he said, "Could be resolved in a very short time."
"The world wants to be assured that our program is peaceful," he said, "And we want to help them gain that confidence. Rouhani also admitted that the economic sanctions against his country have taken a heavy toll, denying people food and medicine.
He suggested that both the United States and Iran have made miscalculations but that he said, "was in the past." He was hopeful about better relations. I came away willing to believe that Rouhani is a pragmatist. He wants to end his country's isolation. But it remains unclear whether he has the authority to act on behalf of his government.
Consider what happened on Tuesday, when the Iranians turned down a White House offer of a brief meeting with President Obama. Rouhani explained that he had no problem "in principle" with a handshake but said that this is a "sensitive issue" and it would have been the first such meeting in 35 years, so steps have to be taken with proper preparation.
One still has to wonder if Rouhani does not have the freedom to shake Obama's hand, does he have the freedom to negotiate a nuclear deal with him?
The Tehran government remember has another side, made up of the Revolutionary Guard, the special force whose political influence has grown over the past decade. These people are hawkish on all foreign- policy issues.
They also profit from the sanctions because their businesses have become the only paths for trade and smuggling.
American doubts about Rouhani's power can be addressed only over time and through Iranian actions. But Iranians probably also have doubts about Obama's power.
After all, the new Iranian president appears willing to cooperate on the nuclear issue in return for a relaxing of the sanctions crippling his country. But can President Obama provide any such relief?
Iran has dozens of sanctions arrayed against it. Some are based on U.N. Security Council resolutions, others are decisions by the European Union, others are acts of Congress and still others are executive orders by the U.S. president.
Obama can unilaterally lift only the latter, which are the least burdensome. The most onerous by far are the sanctions passed through acts of Congress, and those will be the most difficult to lift.
In theory, it's possible to devise a rational process that requires concrete actions from Iran, verifiable checks by inspectors and then a reciprocal easing of sanctions by the United States.
But that would require Congress to behave in a rational manner, which is clearly a fantasy today. The most likely scenario is that any agreement with Iran, almost regardless of its content, would instantly be denounced by Republicans as a sell out.
The Obama administration is conscious of the other side of American government. Much of the macho rhetoric emanating from the administration about Iran has seemed designed to inoculate it from the charges of being soft.
The reality is that it remains unclear whether Iran can say yes to a nuclear deal and it remains equally unclear whether the United States could say yes as well.
Rouhani and Obama are probably each looking at the other and thinking the same thing. Can he deliver?
For more, go to cnn.com/fareed and read my Washington Post column this week and let's get started.
Joining me is President Obama's National Security Advisor Susan Rice. Welcome, Ambassador Rice.
SUSAN RICE, UNITED STATES NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Thank you, Fareed, good to be with you.
ZAKARIA: So, the president has now spoken to President Rouhani. John Kerry has met with his counterpart. Do you think the Iranians are negotiating seriously?
RICE: Well it's too soon to know that, Fareed. What happened earlier this week is that Secretary Kerry, joined by the foreign ministers of Russia and China, the U.K., France and Germany, met -- and, of course, the E.U. Chief Negotiator Cathy Ashton, met for the first time at the foreign minister level with the new Iranian Foreign Minister.
That was a constructive discussion, but it really was a scene- setter in which the Iranian's underscored their commitment not to pursue a nuclear weapon, but peaceful nuclear energy where we and others underscored that Iran had to meet its international obligations under Security Council Resolutions and that the sanctions would remain until those obligations were satisfied.
And, yet, both sides also committed to continue the diplomacy, this month -- next month, rather, in mid October in Geneva, where the negotiations will begin in earnest and the sides will have the opportunity to pick up where they left off some months ago.
Hopefully, with a new Iranian negotiating position and one that is consistent with the message that President Rouhani delivered across New York this week which is that they sense a degree of urgency to resolving this, that they are, indeed, committed to doing so at the negotiating table and that they only seek nuclear power for peaceful purposes.
Obviously, we and others in the international community have every reason to be skeptical of that and we need to test it. And any agreement must be fully verifiable and enforceable.
ZAKARIA: The president said, both in his U.N. speech and in the remarks on Friday, that he respected -- the United States respects Iran's right to "access peaceful nuclear energy."
The wording made me think that it's not clear that he is saying that he respects their right to actually enrich uranium which is part of -- which could be part of a peaceful nuclear energy program.
Is it the position that the United States that Iran cannot enrich uranium?
RICE: Well, Fareed, those words were chosen very deliberately. The United States has not spoken about a right of Iran to enrich. We have said that, as a member of the NPT, in the context of Iran meeting its international obligations.
That means fulfilling it's responsibilities under the IAEA resolutions as well as the U.N. Security Council resolutions, that once it's done that, we would recognize that it, like every other nation, as a good standing member of the NPT has a right to the use of peaceful nuclear energy.
Now, that is obviously a very long-held position and it's not a new position expressed by the United States or by others. But we're some distance from that being achievable obviously because right now Iran remains in noncompliance with its obligations under the Security Council resolutions.
ZAKARIA: Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel set out conditions that he believed Iran would have to fulfill for the sanctions to be lifted. Are those conditions also the United States'? Are they similar?
RICE: Obviously, we are in constant contact and communication with our Israeli allies and other key allies in this process. And we have been largely united in agreeing on the process going forward and on what it necessary to give us a shared degree of confidence.
And when I say us I mean all of us in the international community a shared degree of confidence that, at the end of this process, Iran's nuclear program, if there is to be one, is only for peaceful purposes.
I'm not going to get into the contours of a negotiation that really hasn't gotten under way in any meaningful way, but rather to say that we have been on the same page in the P5-Plus-1 and with Israel and other partners in the region and, indeed, within the entire international community as enshrined in Security Council resolutions on insisting on the steps that need to be taken.
ZAKARIA: One of the things the president talked about on Friday was also the obstinacy of Congress in dealing with some issues. Can -- wouldn't it be fair for the Iranians to look at all this and say even if we were to comply, the Iranians, President Obama will not be able to get Congress to lift the sanctions.
There are 10 Acts of Congress and those are the most harsh sanctions on Iran. Will Congress lift the sanctions if President Obama says Iran has moved and negotiated in good faith?
RICE: Well look, Fareed, we've worked in good collaboration with Congress on the issue of Iran over the course of many years. There are many layers of sanctions, as you know.
There are the multilateral sanctions that we worked very hard to achieve and achieved an unprecedented degree of pressure in the United Nations Security Council. There's sanctions that the European Union has imposed and there's sanctions that we have taken on a national basis, legislated by Congress, but also a number that have been taken on the basis of executive action.
So, we would obviously be working very closely with Congress through the course of any negotiation. And if it were to bear fruit, we would be working to bring Congress along with us.
The goals have always been the same. The goals of our national sanctions, as well as the multilateral sanctions, are not to be an end in themselves, but to supply sufficient pressure so that Iran feels compelled to give up its nuclear program and any ambition for nuclear weapons at the negotiating table.
And I would think that if that goal were achieved in a verifiable and sustainable manner, that Congress would be able to see that it had contributed very significantly towards getting to that place.
ZAKARIA: Susan, a quick question before we go to our break. Is this just a nuclear deal with Iran or is there a prospect of actual normalization of relations between the United States and Iran.
RICE: Well, Fareed, I really wouldn't want to get too far out in front. We've had, you know, just on Friday the first conversation between President Obama and the new president of Iran, the first communication in almost 35 years.
Secretary Kerry met with his counterpart, first meaningful exchange at that level in the same period of time. And the negotiations really at the P5-Plus-1 have not even begun in a substantive way under the new leadership in Iran.
So, it's way too soon to presume either the prospect of an agreement on the nuclear program which we hope to be able to achieve, but we're quite sober about the potential for that.
And that, obviously, would need to be a first step before going on to discuss other aspects of the U.S.-Iranian relationship which has a long way to go to get to the state of normalization.
But, obviously, ultimately if we could get there, that would be in the interest of the Iranian people, whom the United States and the American people have had long-standing respect for.
It's a very talented group of people in a country with a rich history and if we could have a peaceful resolution of the nuclear program and an end to Iran's support for terrorism and other behavior that has concerned us over many years, then we could begin a serious discussion about the future.
ZAKARIA: Susan Rice, stay right there. We will be right back in a moment to talk about Syria and what's going to happen there.
Later in the show, two exclusives with two presidents from Turkey and Somalia. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
ZAKARIA: And we are back with Susan Rich, President Obama's National Security Advisor.
Ambassador Rice, the president said that if Syria does not comply with the U.N. resolution about chemical weapons, there will be consequences. But there are no consequences mapped out in the resolution. That was something the Russians did not agree to.
So, does that mean the United States would take unilateral military action if Syria does not comply?
RICE: It means certainly that we reserve that option, Fareed, to take whatever enforcement action we deem appropriate, whether military or otherwise.
But I think it's important for people to understand what this resolution accomplishes. In fact, it does say, in very clear-cut terms, that if there is noncompliance on the part of the Syrians, there will be action taken under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter.
Chapter 7 is the only chapter of the charter that calls for and allows for enforcement action.
And, obviously, in any circumstance, we would need to come back to the Security Council if we sought multilateral endorsement of such enforcement action. And, in the circumstances, have a negotiation about what that action ought to be.
But it's very significant that this strong and binding resolution which holds Syria to the obligations that the United States and Russia negotiated in Geneva will, in fact, envision, very explicitly, further consequences in the case of noncompliance.
That was a very strong element of the resolution that was negotiated by Secretary Kerry with the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov going back to Geneva a couple weeks ago.
ZAKARIA: In the -- inherent in this resolution is the necessity for President Assad to be a kind of partner in the sense that he will have to implement this resolution and cooperate with the U.N. inspectors.
And, yet, the position of the United States government, as expressed by the president, is regime change, Assad has to go. How can you do both at the same time, partner with him to destroy the chemical weapons and, at the same time, be trying to get rid of him?
RICE: Well, first of all, Fareed, the position of the United States has been and remains very clear, and that is that Assad must go. He has lost his legitimacy. He has gassed his own people. He has inflicted horrific violence on his country that's spilled over into the region. So, our strong view is that there isn't a viable future for Syria that is governed by Assad.
Now, the resolution and the agreement doesn't speak about Assad as an individual. It speaks about the requirements and the obligations of the Syrian government and it's an important distinction.
Whatever Syrian government is there near-term or in the future will have the same obligation to implement these commitments and this resolution faithfully. So, this is not specific to Assad. It's specific to what is now the Syrian regime and those obligations would redound to any successor government.
ZAKARIA: There was a report -- there have been several reports that some of the key rebel groups in Syria, one led by Mohammed al- Najjar which is just quite a large one, have broken ties with the moderate political opposition, the opposition in exile, and have cast their lot with the al-Qaeda affiliates.
Do you -- does the administration still believe that the vast majority of the Syrian rebels are moderates and democrats even as some of these groups are announcing the need for an Islamic state?
RICE: Well, Fareed, there have long been very significant divisions within the opposition, as you well know. There have been those that are moderate, in our judgment, those that are extremists and those that are somewhere in between and that remains the case.
The U.S. policy has long been to support moderate opposition and we are ramping our support, political, economic and otherwise, to that moderate opposition including its military component on the ground.
We've been very careful to try to avoid in any way strengthening the extremist element of the opposition.
And while the fragmentation that we're seeing adds to the complexity of the situation on the ground, in some respects is clarifying and in some respects it makes it easier for the United States to ensure that the support we're providing is going exactly to those people that we intend it to go.
ZAKARIA: If Assad does not comply and if Congress does not pass an authorization or approve a resolution approving of the strike, as seemed likely the last time around, would the president still use his powers as Commander-In-Chief to authorize a strike?
RICE: The president has been very clear that we remain postured to act if the choice is taken by him and if the necessity arises. We're not taking any options off the table.
And the president has been very clear that, as Commander-In-Chief he has the authority to act in the interest of the United States and to use force if necessary.
ZAKARIA: Ambassador Susan Rice, thank you so much for joining us.
RICE: Thank you.
ZAKARIA: The National Security Advisor to the President.
RICE: Thank you, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: Lots more ahead on GPS. We have two exclusive interviews with two presidents from Turkey and Somalia.
But, up right next, a unique perspective on Iran. I caught up with the only Jewish member of Iran's parliament. What are his politics? And what is life like for a Jew in Iran? Right back.
ZAKARIA: Now, for our What in the World segment. This is usually the part of the show where I offer a take or something that caught my eye. Well, we're going to do something different this week.
It's an interview and that's because the thing that caught my eye this week was a person who accompanied Iran's president to the United Nations. He's the only Jewish member of parliament in Iran.
You remember that Iran's last president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad famously denied that the Holocaust never happened. So, what is life like for Jewish people in Iran? I asked Ciamak Morsadegh.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: Pleasure to have you on.
CIAMAK MORSADEGH, JEWISH MP, MAJLIS OF IRAN; DIRECTOR, TEHRAN JEWISH COMMUNITY: It's really nice to be here.
ZAKARIA: So, let me start by asking you do you have any concerns that President Rouhani does not acknowledge the Holocaust or is, in some way, hostile to Jews?
MORSADEGH: Overall, there is no specific concern for Iranian Jew because you are part of Iranian nation and you are living in Iran for more than 30 centuries. We are Iranians such as other Iranian people and we are full citizens of Iran.
Of course, at the first day of questioning about Holocaust by President Ahmadinejad, there was some problems in Iranian Jewish society and some of us say at him that you are not in the correct way and you must change your dialogue and your ideas about Holocaust ...
ZAKARIA: And what did he say? What did he say?
MORSADEGH: And I think he changed step-by-step. In the early days, there were some problems in Iranian Jewish society, but, after that ...
ZAKARIA: The early days of Ahmadinejad's presidency.
MORSADEGH: Yes, but, after that, there was no problem and our day-to-day do not have a specific change during Ahmadinejad period.
ZAKARIA: Do you feel -- as a Jew in Iran, do you feel persecuted in any way?
MORSADEGH: Of course. Being a Jewish minority in a religious country has some problems. But after the revolution, step-by-step, our problems are being solved. Today, our condition is better than yesterday. And today, our condition is much better than 10 years or 20 years ago.
ZAKARIA: Are you allowed to worship freely, go to synagogue, observe religious days and occasions?
MORSADEGH: For religious freedom, Iran is one of the most free countries. You can go to synagogue. We can have our ceremonies. We have kosher butchery. In Tehran, there is more than 10 kosher butcheries, five kosher restaurants. We have our specific school. There is today more than five Jewish schools in Tehran, and our children are completely free to go to Jewish school or public school.
ZAKARIA: Do you believe that the Jews need and are entitled to their own state, the State of Israel?
MORSADEGH: I think that there is a difference between a region and race. And I think that all countries in the world must be in a democratic way selected by people of the country.
If most of the people are Jew and they want to have a Jewish country, there is no specific problem. But having a Jewish state must respect the right of other people to have a country for themselves and live in a peaceful condition.
ZAKARIA: So, what does that mean? You know, if you were asked the question, are you a Zionist, how would you answer?
MORSADEGH: No, I'm not a Zionist. It means that I am not (inaudible) direction of what Israel regime and Israel army do. Many Jew in different part of the world has similar critiques to the behavior of Israel regime and Israel army and there are some problems with the behavior of Zionists.
ZAKARIA: But do you believe Israel has a right to exist?
MORSADEGH: I think that every country in the world must follow the way of democracy and democratic procedure and every country that goes in a human rights behavior has the right to exist.
ZAKARIA: What do you think of the Israeli government's attitude towards Iran? There are -- there is talk that Israel might attack Iran's nuclear facilities.
MORESADEGH: I think that every man and every political man who have complete voice does not want to start a war. Because everyone who starts a war in the Middle East, cannot finish it. Starting a war is an unwise procedure. You see, in Iran and Iraq war, all of the Iranian people participated in the war for defending their country. For example, myself was the volunteer for more than 80 months in Iran- Iraq war. And I'm sure that if anyone want to attack my country, I am ready to donate my blood for my country.
ZAKARIA: Finally, do you have a message for Jews in America and around the world about Iran and its Jews?
MORESADEGH: It's my message for all of the Jew in the world, is that we -- all of us as the followers of Moses and believers in Torah, must do in the right way that Torah says, and the most important point of Judaism is the specific sentence, which says, "Ve-a-hav-tah-le-rey- an-khaka-moh-kha." It means that you must like your brother and your sister such as yourself. And we must like each other in the world and each human kind such as ourselves.
ZAKARIA: Thank you so much. Pleasure to have you on.
MORESADEGH: It was pleasure to be here.
ZAKARIA: Iran's population is about 75 million according to the latest census. 99.4 percent are Muslim. Less than 9,000 Iranians, that is .012 percent of the total, are Jewish. Lots more ahead on the show today. Two more exclusives with two presidents. Turkey's Abdullah Gul on the conflict next door. His country shares a 500-mile border with Syria. He tells us what his government is doing to stop the civil war there.
But up right next, the president of Somalia. He tells us about a terror group that was born in his country and is now a threat to the entire world. The al Shabab group. Stay with us for both of these exclusives.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Candy Crowley in Washington with a check of the headlines. The U.S. appears headed for a government shutdown. House Republicans push through a bill early this morning to keep the government open, but it also delay implementation of Obamacare. That makes the measure a nonstarter for the Senate and the White House. If a deal is not reached by midnight tomorrow, parts of the federal government will close Tuesday.
Syria's President Bashar al Assad says he will abide by an agreement to relinquish his country's chemical weapons. In an interview on Italian TV, al Assad also said, he's committed to finding a political solution to Syria's civil war.
Friday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution urging Syria to eliminate its chemical weapons.
Authorities in India say they now know what caused a deadly building collapse in the city of Mumbai. Police had charged a decorator with homicide for removing the building's central wall and supporting beams without permission. 66 people were killed in Friday's building collapse.
New and disturbing details are emerging about last week's terrorist attack in the shopping mall in Kenya. Some of the hostages were tortured. Military doctor says militants severed hands and in some cases hanged victims. Kenya's cabinet and defense officials were also warned a year ago about the possibility of an attack of the jihadist group al Shabab, which has claimed responsibility for the siege. Those are your top stories. "Reliable Sources" is at the top of the hour. Now back to "Fareed Zakaria GPS."
ZAKARIA: The world watched in horror this week as an upscale Kenyan shopping mall became a war zone. On regular Saturday afternoon militants stormed Nairobi's Westgate shopping center spraying restaurants and shops with bullets. Dozens were killed, many more were injured. The group that claimed responsibility was an al Qaeda offshoot al Shabab from neighboring Somalia. I have a unique perspective on what happened. Joining me now is the president of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud. Welcome.
HASSAN SHEIKH MOHAMOUD, PRESIDENT OF SOMALIA: Thank you.
ZAKARIA: First, let me ask you about your own background. And you have -- you were a human rights activist, you have -- within 48 hours of your becoming president you have survived an assassination attempt and there have been several more. Were these all by al Shabab?
MOHAMOUD: Yes. These were all by al Shabab. And, you see, what they do usually is to always to try to stop any hope that's coming within the society so that their center for attraction will be moved from away, and they were seeing us someone who's taking that center of attraction from the society towards the state building and the new beginning of Somalia which we initiated.
ZAKARIA: People had thought that al Shabab, this movement, was losing ground in Somalia, that the army with the help of some African Union forces had pushed them back and in fact there were Kenyan forces as part of this. Were we wrong? Did we misunderstand the strength of al Shabab?
MOHAMOUD: No, you did not. And the world did not. Al Shabab has lost the military front, but the major -- their native (ph) is such way that when they lost militarily, they melted on into the society and then they started from there simply watching behind (inaudible) and watching the people and the vulnerability, and then they attack.
ZAKARIA: What is its appeal? Why does it grow?
MOHAMOUD: This is -- and it's not a local agenda. Shabab and their agenda is not local, this is an international jihadist agenda, which claims that they want one big universal Islamic state, all over the world, not only Somalia, not the Horn of Africa, but they are talking about the renaissance of Islam, and they do not recognize Somali state, they do not recognize borders. They do not recognize sovereign on anything. (inaudible). So, it's not a local agenda. It only happened that because of the circumstances in Somalia supporting them to have a root, and foot in Somalia.
ZAKARIA: The circumstances meaning just a poverty and ...
MOHAMOUD: Poverty and on top of that, the most important one was lack of function of the state in place that controls the territory.
ZAKARIA: Why do they have some support?
MOHAMOUD: Let me give you one -- a little example. A boy that was five years old in the 1990, today is 28 years old. And most probably, he got a wife and kids (ph). And he's one of those lost generations who have no -- the tools of life (inaudible) as additional (ph) and other option. Frustrated, saying they cannot offer a cup of milk to his kids. So he'd become very vulnerable to be attracted by al Shabab or the piracies, so that at the end of the month you get maybe $70, $80, $100, so the bulk of the forces that are fighting for al Shabab is these desperate boys. It's not ideological. The top leadership, they are ideologically motivated people that have been brainwashed outside Somalia or inside Somalia. These are the major source of al Shabab for recruiting the local young boys. This does not mean that they have a support, but the -- the grand comparative, the displation (ph) of those young boys compared to adventure into the sea, compared to adventure into al Shabab, this is one major reason.
ZAKARIA: And you believe that they're a threat to the world?
MOHAMOUD: They are a threat to the world, of course. And they prove that they are a threat to the world. They claim it with what's happening today in (inaudible) can many more fans in different parts of the world what is happening. So, they are not a threat to Somalia only, not to the region only but worldwide. The ideology is the what's threatening the world.
ZAKARIA: How are you handling this? How will you deal with this?
MOHAMOUD: Now, the war against the Shabab is -- faces the one we are now come to the closer is the military one deliberating the territories they control. Then that will be followed by preparing the ground for those defectors working with community leaders, the civil society to call back those boys so that we're preparing for them and rehabilitation and retraining so that they will have -- they can be even today in Somalia, there is employment opportunities. Many of these boys, they are not employable, because they lack skills, so the government is working on that. And on top of that, a functioning state in place that controls the territory is prerequisite for the elimination of Shabab. Without a state that controls the Somali territory, it will be very, very difficult to defeat completely Shabab.
ZAKARIA: Are you getting the kind of support from Washington that you want?
MOHAMOUD: Yes, we did. I came here to Washington in January, the beginning of this year, I met with President Obama and Secretary of State of that day Ms. Clinton and others, they promised that there would be support in Somali and they really delivered their promises. So, we come with a new momentum and new plans to the United States government and the reaction is -- the response we receive are very positive and very promising.
ZAKARIA: Best of luck. Thank you. God knows you need it.
MOHAMOUD: Thank you, thank you very much, Fareed. It's a pleasure.
ZAKARIA: Up next, the president of a country that shares a 500- mile border with Syria. Turkey's Abdullah Gul on the conflict next door.
ZAKARIA: When it comes to Syria, one country has been arguing for military action for a long time. Turkey. It's a country, which shares a 500-mile border with Syria and has had to absorb an influx of half a million refugees from that country. Some neighboring states accuse Turkey of allowing Jihadists to run rampant in Syria. This week, I sat down with the president of Turkey Abdullah Gul. We talked about Syria, of course, but also about the recent turmoil inside Turkey. In June the country was convulsed by days of protests. What started as the demonstration against plans to build a shopping mall in a public park, grew to a much broader protest involving tens of thousands. The government responded with force, about which I asked the president did they go too far. You'll be fascinated by Abdullah Gul's answer. Listen in to our conversation.
Mr. President, welcome.
ABDULLAH GUL, PRESIDENT OF TURKEY: Thank you.
ZAKARIA: We have to start with Syria. Are you disappointed that President Obama has chosen not to do some kind -- take some kind of military action in Syria? Your government has been urging military action for a long time.
GUL: No, it's not the military action. In fact, of course, the military action is the last resort, but we insisted there should be a comprehensive political strategy first. I think this is missing from the very beginning.
ZAKARIA: But a lot of people look at Turkey's policy, which has been support for the rebels, very tough against Assad, urging that he leave and say you have not been able to help create a real political opposition, unify the rebels, find the moderates that while for two years this has been the effort, there's not that much to show for it.
GUL: Yeah, I think I have to remind first that at the beginning we work hard to find the peaceful solution for this. At least six months we worked hard. We visited several times. And unfortunately there was no response. There was no real response that time. It's not the problem of Turkey, first of all, but we are the neighbor, so what's happening in Syria is having consequences that -- immediate consequences on Turkey. Therefore Turkey is very active in this issue and this should not be misunderstood that Turkey wish war or Turkey wish to attack on Syria. No, that's not correct. What we want to see that this situation should not continue like this. ZAKARIA: But you want Assad gone? You ...
GUL: We want -- we want a very sound, well calculated political solution for there.
ZAKARIA: Do you think that these current efforts for Assad to get rid of his chemical weapons, will they work? Do you think there needs to be the threat of military force to implement these agreements?
GUL: We should not fool ourselves. Is it really going to be real cleaning or not? If it's going to be real cleaning, that will be wonderful, it will be good for everyone. But if it is going to be some time, and at the end still there will be some chemical weapons there, so that it would be a loss of time.
ZAKARIA: I have to ask you a few questions on Turkish politics. There are many people who say that Turkey is somewhere lost the bid for the Olympics because of the way the government used force in the protests in Gezi Park and that this was part of the mishandling that resulted in Istanbul, which was the favorite to lose the Olympics to Tokyo.
GUL: I don't think that was the only reason.
ZAKARIA: The demonstrations?
GUL: Well, demonstrations, I mean, you see the demonstration in everybody -- You see it's not changing the life, you see. And at the end, the demonstrations -- you can see the same kind of demonstrations in London, in Washington, in developed countries, so ...
ZAKARIA: But you don't see as much force used against the demonstrators.
GUL: At the beginning -- at the beginning what we saw there, there were similarities with the developed countries' problems. So the people were -- I mean they were criticizing some projects and then the government got the message at the end, you see. But later on some radical groups hijacked this and definitely, I mean, the police has to protect the life of the others. There were some overreaction. Our legal system is going through that. And those, they reacted, hat made an overreaction, they are going to be punished definitely.
ZAKARIA: Mr. President, pleasure to have you on.
Up next, how to write a new constitution. The Founding Fathers would have loved this new online project.
ZAKARIA: With the 68th session of the U.N. General Assembly in full swing, world leaders have been giving back-to-back speeches which brings me to my question of the week. Who delivered the longest speech ever at the United Nations? Was it, a, India's Krishna Menon? B, Cuba's Fidel Castro? C, Libya's Moammar Gadhafi? Or D, America's own Bill Clinton? Stay tuned. We'll tell you the correct answer.
This week's book of the week is Kenneth Pollack's "Unthinkable: Iran, the Bomb and American Strategy." If you wonder how we should deal with Iran and its nuclear program, this is the most careful, thoughtful and intelligent book on the subject. I hope people in Washington are reading it. Now for the last look. Egyptian lawmakers have announced that a final draft of their new constitution will be ready by November. That's actually quite quick. After all, you can't just Google how to write a constitution and get the answer. Or can you?
Google launched a new website called "Constitute" this week with the comparative constitution project. The site is a digital archive of constitutions and other founding documents from more than 175 countries. One of its goals is to assist countries like Egypt that are emerging from political crisis to amend or replace their constitutions. There's more demand for this kind of thing than you will think. Every year approximately five new constitutions are written and as many as 30 are amended or revised. More than 900 have been written since 1789. If you want to read all of the constitutions in full, you can. But additionally passages of each constitution have been tagged with a topic. Interested in freedom of religion? Looks like you have 167 choices. The right to bear arms, many fewer options. That's where America is exceptional.
The correct answer to our "GPS Challenge" question was, A, India's envoy to the United Nations, Krishna Menon. In 1957, Menon delivered the longest rambling diatribe ever at the U.N. before the Security Council. The speech defended India's position on Kashmir and lasted eight hours. Menon actually collapsed during the speech and had to go to the hospital. Don't worry. He returned and continued speaking all the while being monitored by a doctor. Cuba's President Fidel Castro's debut speech at the U.N. in 1960 was the longest ever before the General Assembly. Four hours and 29 minutes. And other fun fact, Castro does perhaps win for weirdest travel habit. He reportedly kept live chickens in his hotel room that year.
Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week. Stay tuned for "Reliable Sources."