Return to Transcripts main page


Iran Threatens Israel After Exchange of Fire; U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem Set Open Monday; Some Past Presidents Remain Critical of Trump's World View; Looking at Prince Harry's & Meghan Markle's Past 1 Week Before Wedding. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired May 11, 2018 - 13:30   ET



[13:33:56] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: A threat from Iran. The leader of Friday prayers in Tehran saying, quote, "We are increasing our missile capability so that Israel cannot sleep well. If she gets crazy, we'll turn Tel Aviv and Haifa to dust."

That threat coming after an exchange of fire between Iranian forces in Syria and Israeli forces in the Golan Heights.

Joining us from New York, the former Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak. He's the author of an important new book entitled, "My Country, My Life: Fighting for Israel, Searching for Peace."

Prime Minister, thanks so much for joining us. Congratulations on the new book.

There are several issues I want to get to. But, first, the threats coming from Iran, the tensions clearly escalating. You were the defense minister under the current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu says Iran is crossing a red line. In your opinion, Prime Minister, is war coming?

EHUD BARAK, FORMER ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: I wish it's not coming and I hope it's not coming, but its determination will keep moving the determination to block the Iranians from deploying in Syria very close to our border. I think, in spite of all of the rhetoric, as long as they understand the Europeans are still in the deal, the Iranians will behave cautiously. They are basically suspicious that with Pompeo on one side and Bolton Trump on the other side the president might be looking for the slightest mistake they might make in order to consider moving further, probably even to surgical attack. They are suspecting that's what's happened. I believe it will drive them to be more cautious at least in actions.

[13:35:43] BLITZER: President Trump's decision to pull the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal, do you believe that's to blame for the latest escalation in tensions between Israel and Iran?

BARAK: No, it's not. The clash about the deployment began months ago, beginning far from the public eye, when they exposed our operations, but it seems certain points from two months ago, it surfaced, and everyone seen it. What happened two days ago was the response for previous attacks and we responded very forcefully to send a clear signal. But Israel doesn't have any interest in a major war. We are not afraid. We are the strongest power. Israel can decimate any neighbor or combination of neighbors. But we have no interest in Israel -- (INAUDIBLE) -- vast intervals between, Wolf.

BLITZER: Did President Trump make the right decision, from your perspective, Prime Minister, in withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal?

BARAK: I thought that there are other ways to deal with Europeans, together with missiles, insurgency, whatever. But once he made his decision, it's a new reality. It doesn't make sense to discuss the previous reality.

BLITZER: But let me press you on that. A lot of people are wondering, the Europeans, for example, France, Germany, the U.K., they didn't want him to do it. What is your position?

BARAK: I thought it was a bad deal. But once President Obama signed it, it became reality. I saw that it could be treated the whole new issues, missiles, terrible insurgency, which are out of the agreement, could be treated outside the agreement. In a way, the decision to pull out, on one hand, in the short term, it creates a kind of more cautiousness on behalf of the Iranians. In the longer term, even vis a vis the North Koreans. It's a problem. I'll argue this next month. What is the sense of making an agreement with the American president if you can wake up with the next president just cancelling it?

BLITZER: Do you believe the Iranians were fully complying with the specific terms of the Iran nuclear deal? The International Atomic Energy Agency, France, Germany, the U.K., they were all saying that Iran was in full compliance. Was it?

BARAK: Basically, they were in full compliance. I think the very impressive operation there our Mossad made in Tehran, bringing out a thousand pounds of documents and so on. Whenever you dig into it more and more, you'll find there is no slightest evidence of any violation after 2015, and basically, all the information, however impressive, that was found there was already known here in Washington and Tel Aviv and in Vienna.

BLITZER: What do you anticipate will happen on Monday when the U.S. formerly opens up its embassy in Jerusalem, moving the embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem? I know there's a lot of concern. They're bracing for some violent reaction. What do you anticipate?

BARAK: First of all, we are all kind of very grateful for the president for making this decision, the Israelis, so both sides of the political eye welcoming this decision. Of course, it alienates the Palestinians, probably for no reason, because it does not exclude the possibility that when they, hopefully, will need somewhere to stay, they will have a capital and American embassy as well. But it might cause an eruption of violence, both in Judaea area and more so in Gaza. We tried to prepare. I hope it won't end up with a lot of fatalities, which can only raise the tension. But it could happen, especially with these massive demonstrations that are predicted to happen in Gaza on May 15th.

[13:39:54] BLITZER: The new book by Ehud Barak is entitled, "My Country, My Life: Fighting for Israel, Searching for Peace."

I know you've done that your entire life, fighting for Israel, searching for peace.

Thank you, Prime Minister, for joining us.

BARAK: Thank you for having me.

BLITZER: Coming up, a subtle shot across the bow from one president to another. Details on George W. Bush's warning of isolationism and the current state of America's diplomacy.

And live picture coming in from the White House right now where we're expecting to hear from the president. Stay with CNN for live coverage.


[13:44:54] BLITZER: The president has often touted his America First policies, but increasingly he's finding himself on the global stage. In what's been a pivotal foreign policy week, President Trump is now front and center in negotiations with North Korea and with Iran. But some past presidents remain critical of President Trump's world view. Listen to this.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The only way for peace was through partnership and engagement. If we are together, nothing is impossible. If we are divided, all will fail.

The dangers of isolation loom. The price of greatness is responsibilities. One cannot rise to be in many ways the leading community in the civilized world without being involved in its problems. People of the United States cannot escape world responsibility.


BLITZER: Let's bring in former national security adviser for President Obama, Tom Donilon, who is joining us.

Tom, thank you for joining us.

What did you think of President Bush saying there is danger of isolationism? That seems to be, at least, an indirect criticism of the current administration.

TOM DONILON, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Yes. I think it was meant that way by President Bush. The Trump administration has brought a tremendous amount of uncertainty and volatility to international affairs, really challenging the core pillars of the world order that the United States put together and led since World War II based on allies and international institutions, economic relations. There's been a lot of tearing down and it's not clear what's going to replace it. That's been the fundamental challenge here. You have a tearing down that the approach the United States had for 70 years, which, by the way, has brought the United States unparalleled security and prosperity. It's not clear what it's going to be replaced with. There are some opportunities for President Trump, but there's a lot of work here. One last thing I'll say on this, the reaction around the world has been quite negative. We've seen a diminution in support for the United States around the world --


BLITZER: But he does have a summit coming up with Kim Jong-Un and the three American detainees have now been freed.

DONILON: I think the North Korea situation is an opportunity for him. He was told in the transition by President Obama that this would be the biggest challenge he would have. He made it a priority. The United States put in place a pressure campaign. China has been supportive of the pressure campaign. Importantly, North Korea, I think, also went on a diplomatic offensive. You have these things coming together providing an opportunity. He's got an opportunity with this summit. But there are real challenges, too. My advice would be there needs to be a lot of discipline, preparation, a plan, coordination with allies. Be extremely skeptical with anything the North Koreans say. What they've been saying about demilitarization, as you know, Wolf, is similar to what they've said many times since 1972. You need to put in place, as I said, a plan here for denuclearization. You're going to need -- it's far more complicated, by the way, than the Iranian situation. The Iranian complex is much smaller than North Korea's.

BLITZER: The North Korean summit, President Trump, Kim Jong-Un, June 12th in Singapore. What about the president's decision to withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear deal? What do you think of that?

DONILON: My view is that's the worst decision the United States has made in the Middle East since the Iraq War. As Prime Minister Ehud Barak said to you in your prior interview, there was a way to go forward here to address each of the issues, which are very important, the ballistic missile threat, the maligned conduct of Iran throughout the region, terrorism. And I think the appropriate approach and the far better approach would have been to hold the Iranians to their obligations under the deal and then proceed with the rest of the world in pressuring them on these other things. There was no an emergency here, by the way, to cause President Trump to move out of the deal. The result is, of course, we're isolated, it's more difficult to address these challenges, we really split very sharply from our allies, particularly in Europe. I think it was unnecessary. We've increased tension in the region and we're seeing that, and I think it makes the North Korea negotiations more difficult.

BLITZER: He says, the president, including last night in a speech in Indiana, that he's moving away from the weakness the Obama administration had in global affairs. Listen to this. DONILON: Yes.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They were saying, he's going to get us into a nuclear war. He's going to get us into a nuclear war.


TRUMP: And you know what gets you into nuclear wars, and you know what gets you into other wars? Weakness! Weakness.



BLITZER: What's your reaction?

DONILON: Well, part of American strength has been, again, for the past half century and more, has been working with others, having the best military in the world, having the strongest economy in the world. That's what brings us our strength. It's not about rhetoric. I fear that challenging these core pillars of what has brought us strength. When you reflect on what did make America great, we're moving away from that in some disturbing ways. So I think that the Iran situation is an example of this, right, where we kind of pull back from working with other nations where we have a successful effort under way to cap the program in Iran. By the way, the criticism of the Trump administration, which was that it wasn't changing Iranian behavior across the board, that wasn't the purpose of the deal. That was an arms-control transactional deal that was working and provided a platform on which we could have gone forward.

[13:50:15] BLITZER: Very quickly, to move the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, it unfolds this coming Monday, what do you think?

DONILON: I think the problem I see with that is that I'm not sure that it was part of a strategy. How is that going to advance what the Trump administration said is one of their highest priorities, which is Middle East Peace? I don't think it advances Middle East peace. As David Brock said earlier, there will be some serious challenges next week as you come to the 70th anniversary of the founding of Israel and moving the embassy at the same time.

BLITZER: Tom Donilon, thanks so much for coming in.

DONILON: Nice to be here.

BLITZER: Any minute now, the White House set to respond to the rather crude remark an aide made about Senator John McCain. And now the former Vice President Joe Biden says, "Decency just hit rock bottom." We'll have live coverage coming in from the White House.

Plus, with the royal wedding just a week away, CNN goes inside Prince Harry's and Meghan Markle's past just ahead of the big day. That and more coming up.


[13:55:26] BLITZER: In just one week, the world will tune in for the royal wedding. Until then, CNN is taking an inside look at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's lives, their romance, and how they'll redefine Britain's most famous family. Watch this.



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY" (voice-over): In 2007, a secret deployment to Afghanistan gives Harry a taste of the front lines.

PRINCE HARRY: As far as I'm concerned, I'm out here as a normal person the ground and not Prince Harry. It's nice to be a normal person for one. It's as normal as I'm ever going to get.

GEN. LORD RICHARD DANNATT, FORMER CHIEF OF GENERAL STAFF, BRITISH ARMY: It was pretty much a turning point in his life. But I think he realized the seriousness of life, and really rose to the responsibilities.

CAMEROTA: But after 10 weeks on the ground, his mission is leaked, and Harry is immediately evacuated.

PENNY JUNOR, ROYAL BIOGRAPHER: He was very angry. To use the words of his private secretary, he was boiling mad. He sort of headed for the gutter.


CAMEROTA (on camera): What did that look like?

JUNOR: He started drinking very heavily. He was fed up with who he was.

DANNATT: When he came to see me, he sort of sat slumped in the chair and say I can't be like a normal young man but that time in Iraq had given him time to be a normal young man. And he accepted. And his private secretary accepted. Probably the only way he'd go back was within the anonymity of a helicopter and he'd have to learn to fly a helicopter.

CAMEROTA (voice-over): After two years of training, Harry not only becomes an Apache pilot, he is a Top Gun on his weapons course.

JUNOR: He got it on his own. It wasn't because he was a prince. He had to fight hard for it. It was one of the top Apache attack helicopter pilots.

CAMEROTA: Harry returns to Afghanistan in September of 2012. JUNOR: I believe his success on that Apache aircraft was the making

of Harry. I think Harry, who had spent all his life being second best to his brother, being the spare, suddenly found something that he could do and could do better than anybody else. And that gave him confidence that he had never, ever had before.


BLITZER: "NEW DAY" anchor, Alisyn Camerota, is the host of the CNN documentary, "A ROYAL MATCH." She's joining us now. She will be in London for the festivities next weekend.

Alisyn just learned a little bit about Prince Harry's past. But what about Meghan? She's had her own struggles.

CAMEROTA: She has. She has a fascinating past, Wolf. It could appear she had a charmed life from where we all sit now, but it has not been handed to her on a silver platter. She was the daughter of divorce. Her parents divorced when she was very young. She herself is divorced. She had a first marriage that only lasted a couple of years. And she's been quite candid about how challenging it was to grow up bi-racial and she said she never knew where she fit in and which box to check. And that was a challenge in Hollywood and beyond. We talked to all sorts of people who knew her when, back in her childhood and in her college career and in her professional career. Everyone will know more about Meghan Markle tomorrow night.

BLITZER: We're looking forward to it.

Here's the key question. Fascinator, no Fascinator? Who will you be wearing?

CAMEROTA: Wolf, you're a slave to fashion. Yes, Fascinator, of course. That's part the fun.

I'm giving you a sneak preview right now --


CAMEROTA: -- of the Fascinator that was specially made for moi. This is from Suzanne's Couture, in New York City. This is the Fascinator.


BLITZER: You can see it's a beautiful raspberry. I don't know much about how to put these on but I'm told I have to put it on so it goes beneath my eye, like this. You can see this bow --


BLITZER: Does it obstruct your vision a little bit?

CAMEROTA: A little bit it does, but I think it's worth it, don't you?

BLITZER: Definitely. I think it looks great.

CAMEROTA: Fantastic. I'm not going to wear it the whole time. That might be too much fabulousness.

BLITZER: You could steal the show over there with that Fascinator. I think you might.

CAMEROTA: That's kind, Wolf. I'm not sure Meghan Markle is in any danger. But I'm going to work on this and you'll see this matching my fabulous raspberry dress.

BLITZER: We can't wait.

An important note to our viewers. The CNN special report, "A ROYAL MATCH," tomorrow night, 8:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific, only here on CNN.

All right we're standing by for multiple live events. Any minute now, the White House will face reporters after one of President Trump's --