March 14th, 2012
05:34 PM ET

Zakaria on Afghanistan, Iran and Syria

Editor's Note: The following is an edited transcript of Fareed Zakaria's discussion with Suzanne Malveaux on Afghanistan, Iran and Syria.

Afghan shooting fallout limited

Suzanne Malveaux: The United States is trying to play damage control after the massacre in Afghanistan. Over the weekend, a shooter went on a killing spree, mowing down 16 innocent Afghans, mostly women and children. Now the country is reeling.

Fareed, we saw the press conference with President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron. One of the things that the president made clear was that we would not be making, at this moment, a change in policy, in moving out U.S. troops. That timetable remains: 2014. Is there going to be fallout in Afghanistan, in the Middle East, if there's not some sort of movement here?

Fareed Zakaria: No, not really. What struck me about the reaction in Afghanistan is there was a stronger reaction to the Quran burning than to these killings. I think for most Afghans - and I'm speculating here - but I think the idea that there was some kind of policy decision made to destroy Qurans is something that struck at the very core of the issue of whether the United States respects the Afghan people, their customs and, of course, their religion. 

This shooting has been seen as a just a tragic case of one bad guy. It is not seen as something that was ordered by any command structure - that the United States military in any way condoned it. And I think that the administration's response was very forceful with President Obama saying that we take this as seriously as we would if these were Americans who were killed. I think that has gone some way in making people realize this wasn't some kind of policy.

Suzanne Malveaux: Do you think that there's any daylight between President Obama and the British Prime Minister? Because clearly the Brits don't want to be in Afghanistan another day.

Fareed Zakaria: I think that President Obama, if you woke him up in the middle of the night, would have a position not so different from David Cameron's. I think the United States wants to go in a way that is responsible and keeps the place stable. I think the Brits feel the same way. No, I don't think there's much difference.

Obama boxed himself in on Iran

Suzanne Malveaux: I want to turn to Iran, if we can. We heard from the Israeli prime minister, Netanyahu pretty tough talk making it very clear that they believe Iran has the capability to build a nuclear weapon, that they would certainly be willing to attack. President Obama is a bit different than that. They want to see if Iran is building a bomb. What do we make of the position of the United States right now in terms of being dragged into some sort of conflict with Iran? Do you think that the tone of the White House is appropriate?

Fareed Zakaria: Suzanne, that's a very smart question, but I think the White House has tried to play this in a way which may have been too clever by half. Their view, which I completely agree with, is they are taking the threat very seriously. They have mounted an international effort: Iran is more isolated and more weak. Its ally, Syria, is in trouble. The administration believes we should give this time to work and keep the pressure on. The Israelis are saying, 'No, we're not waiting for them to make a nuclear weapon. We're waiting for the capability to make a nuclear weapon' and that's, of course, an intangible issue. When do they have the capability? I think that President Obama went through a period of real tough talk, saying he was ruling out containment and he's not bluffing.

I think he may have boxed himself into a situation where he's given up a lot of his options. He's said, 'I won't do this, I won't do that,' and he has put himself on a path where, unless Iran surrenders (and what country has completely surrendered to foreign pressure?) he's left with no option but to engage in a preventive war. I think the White House recognizes that and has been trying to dial back, but I would much more comfortable if we have all options on the table.

A lot of international relations is a mixture of threats and promises and bluffs. You don't want to leave anything off the table.

Syria more complex than Libya

Suzanne Malveaux: Another hot spot is Syria. It's just an unbelievable situation that you have on the ground there. 8,000 people having been killed now. And there's this failed diplomatic mission starting with Kofi Annan and now President Obama is trying to at least convince folks that the United States is doing something. Here's what President Obama said earlier in the Rose Garden: "Assad will leave power. It's not a question of if, but when. To prepare for that day, we will continue to make plans to support the continued aspirations of the Syrian people."

Fareed, do you think the United States can act on its own or do they need to wait for the United Nations?

Fareed Zakaria: Well, the main problem is there's not a lot of military options. You raise the question of what would you do? Syria's opposition does not control any cities, any territory. It's not an easy country to supply. In Libya, you had the Mediterranean Sea and Egyptian border. The logistics of doing something in Syria are very complex and I think the president likely believes there's no point in failing in a noble endeavor.

If you're going to get involved, you need to get involved in a way that you will succeed. it's very difficult to see how that would happen in Syria. We have to hope that the Assad regime runs out of power and money. They are pushing the Russians hard to effectively cut Syria off. That might be a more useful strike than a few air strikes here or there.

Post by:
Topics: Afghanistan • From Fareed • Iran • Syria

soundoff (41 Responses)
  1. Janson

    Really, Obama hasn't got an Iran policy: He has become a tool of AIPAC and Netanyahu. He is pushing US into a new war by insisting that Iran should give up its NPT rights as a signatory. He penalizes Iran for legal enrichment activities. As a sovereign nation Iran cannot accept that. This is a receipt for war.

    March 14, 2012 at 6:23 pm | Reply
    • Wednesday

      Why leave Islam? “Understanding what the Quran is trying to convey and what the political Islam is doing, the inconsistencies, the hatred, the self pity, the blaming tactics, the refusal to look internally to see the rotten interior of the whole religious establishment, the constant persecution of the ‘conscientious’ and the ‘intellectuals’ within and the suppression of the common folks by the religious establishment.”

      March 14, 2012 at 8:42 pm | Reply
      • H57

        In plain English what did you just say???

        March 15, 2012 at 12:48 am |
      • Name*scott

        You might be haveing a stroke. Call 911

        March 15, 2012 at 8:13 am |
    • H57

      Where do you get your info???? From what I read you just made this stuff up.

      March 15, 2012 at 12:47 am | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      Indeed Cameron and Obama should focus more on a peaceful solution with Iran.
      During the above interview Fareed spoke about Afghanistan, Iran and Syria. Maybe he should take a look into the constructive role Iran could play in these two countries, as its dignified exit out of the nuclear issue.

      March 15, 2012 at 7:18 am | Reply
  2. t.................hats why we must attack syria

    all the world will be safe and happy syria will; fall in 2 weeks,we msut act now bashar al kalb killed 12, 000 he is a war criminal why is this silent,,SIELNT IS CRIME

    IRAN=SYRIA SHIA=IRAQ SHIIA= HEZBOLLAH-TERRORISTS

    ALL THOSE WHO SAYS IRAN WILL RAISE ISRAEL TO THE GROUND ARE WRONG. IRAN IS A PAPER TIGER, THERE ARE 45 OPPOSITION GROUPS READY TO FIGHT, MAKE SURE TO HELP MOJAHEDI KHALQ, HELP IRANIAN CHRISTIANS, HELP THE KURDISH IN IRAN MORE THAN 5 MILLION, HELP THE ARAB SUNNI ARABESTAN AND THE BELOOSH, HELP THE LURE AND STUDENT MOVEMENTS, HELP THE PERSIAN AND BAHII FAITH AND MANY OTHER MINORITIES ARE WAITING FOR USA TO ATTACK SOI THEY CAN FINISH THOSE VILLAGE IDIOTS CALLED MULLAS AND THERE SICJ CULT CALLED SHIIAZIM THOSE EVIL WILL BREAD EVIL WE MUST UNITE TO FINISH IRAN...ATTACK THEM NON STOP 24 HOURS WITH ALL THE MIGHT , DESTROY THE COMAND AND CONTROL THE SHIPS AND SUBMARIENS, THE NUYC SITES THE ARMY BASE AND ALL THE COMMUNICATIONS AND RADAR SOFT AND HARD TARGET, DESTROY QUM AND TEHRAN LEVEL THEM TO THE GROUND DONT WORRY ABOUT THE OIL, IF IRAN CUT THE OIL SAUDI AND THE GULF CAN PUMP 3 TIME MORE OIL TO COVER THE LOST, MAKE SURE TO ATTACK SHIIA IN IRAN SO THEY DONT ALLOW IRAN TO ENTER IRAQ. HELP THE SUNNI IN IRAQ TO ATTACK IRANIAN FORCES IN IRAQ, TURKEY WILL HELP USA FORCE IN AFGHANISTAN WILL HELP, THE SUNNI ARE WAITING TO FINISH THEM OFF ALONG WITH BASHAR AL KALB IN SYRIA. HELP THE KURD TO CONTROL THE NORTH.......IRAN MUST BE LEVELED TO THE GROUND. ARREST AND KICK ALL IRANIANS AND SHIIA FROM THE GULF STATES DONT HIRE THEM AND DONT ALLOW THEM TO COME HERE. RUSSIA HAS SYRIAN BLOOD ON THERE HANDS, RUSSIAN MUST BE ATTACKED AS THEY ARE HELPING KILLERS THUGS TO KILL OUR PEOPLE SO RUSSIA MUST BE A TARGET ANY WHERE ANY HOW

    March 14, 2012 at 6:52 pm | Reply
    • Roma

      Why 2 weeks? Why not 1 or 6?

      March 14, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Reply
    • .

      So if I understand you correctly, you'll be on your way to the nearest Marine recruitment office tomorrow morning.

      Or are you?

      March 14, 2012 at 8:19 pm | Reply
    • hanzman

      you do not understand foreign policy well, , the USA and western nation send the extremist muslim jihadist , and terrorist to syria the syrian force will "process them .." by agreement, it is very expensive to keep them in guatanamo, it is lot cheaper to do it this way , but ...heaven will be running out of HOURI " virgin woman very soon ,and they will not be available for the dead jihadist , you may need to harry up

      March 14, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Reply
    • Name*scott

      Help shia? Help sunni? Ehat about wahabbi? Turkomen?
      Persians and arabs are going to kill each other with guns or incessant inbreeding. Let's just sit back and watch. Popcorn anyone?

      March 15, 2012 at 8:20 am | Reply
  3. Zuni Lan

    Hey What about me my kids ( and I guess my ex-wife)

    UPPER GALLILEAN ISRAELI

    March 14, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Reply
  4. CHEMICAL WEAPONS TO HIZBOALLAH

    SYRIA=IRAN = EVIL= terrorists= russia=666
    WE SAY TONS AND TONS OF ARMS, CASH AND CHIMICAL WEAPONS PASSING FROM SYRIAN BOARDERS TO HIZBOALLAH,

    it is time to take stand aganist Iran terrorizim and aggression, and aganist syrian shiia thugs aggression and Iraqi shiia thugs killers those are helping hizboallah and all terror group with money and russia send the weapons to those shiia thugs from iran, iraq and syria to destroy lebanon, bahrain hamas iraqi sunni and syrian sunni today along those shiia thugs killed 150 women and children just because they are sunni , this is what shiia islam all about, and make no mistake when those shiia evil gets the nic weapoins they will use it, YOU HAVE TO UNDESTAND WHY,,,THE SHIIA WANT TO SEE WAR, CAIOUS , ADULTERY AND KILLING BECAUSE THEY BELIVE THAT AL MAHDI AL MONTADHAR WHAT SO CALLED SHIIA MASAIA WILL APPEAR WHEN THAT HAPPEN...THEY ARE PURE EVIL BEILEVE IN THIS EVIL MAN CALLED THE INVIBLE MASSAIA...

    March 14, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Reply
    • .

      When are you going to enlist?

      March 14, 2012 at 8:18 pm | Reply
  5. Travis

    The jerk who shot those Afghan people last Sunday needs to get a life term in one of our own stateside penententeries doing hard time. I guess that they'll find a way to get him out of it as they usually do!

    March 14, 2012 at 7:22 pm | Reply
    • .

      I wonder if his family knows by now?

      March 14, 2012 at 8:17 pm | Reply
    • Wednesday

      Islam has shown you judgment, fear and guilt.

      March 14, 2012 at 8:44 pm | Reply
  6. Bezboz

    So the Afghan went out in violent protests because they believed the Quran burning was a "policy decision"? Can't stop trying to polish the extremists' image? How stupid do you think people are? Oh, I get it I get it... you are addressing CNN kool-aid drinkers.

    Oh, and by the way, Syria is also on the Mediterranean Sea. Yeah, as an International policy expert, geography can come in handy.

    March 14, 2012 at 7:52 pm | Reply
  7. .

    Who cares? They all hate us anyhow. So let's drop the big one NOW.

    March 14, 2012 at 8:16 pm | Reply
    • Kerry

      Good grief, this right-wing fool above doesn't even have the guts to use a screen name! All these mindless right-wing fools ever think about is war and killing more people! This is what keeps the Military-Industrial-Complex in Washington D.C. happy as they get richer by the day!

      March 15, 2012 at 12:34 am | Reply
    • matt

      "Political Science" quote....nice!

      March 15, 2012 at 1:53 am | Reply
  8. Jen B

    While I am grateful that there was not another deadly protest over the whole shooting incident, I was kinda thinking the same thing: "These people will get into a bloody rampage over a pile of burnt books (which could easily be reprinted a hundred times over) but not a bunch of murdered innocent civilians? *face palm*"

    March 14, 2012 at 8:43 pm | Reply
  9. Fla Pete

    Civilians getting killed is collateral damage,that's war.Hundreds of thousands in WWII,Korean,Vietnam,Iraq and now Afghanistan,that's war.Weapons don't have detection devises that say enemy or civilian,that's a split second instint brought on by training and responsiveness.If your slow,you're dead,if you're too quick,O well.You kill a friendly or enemy ,your pick....That's survival of the fittest.Afghans have been warring for hundreds of years,they know those mountains and terrain better than anyone.Russia found out about these warriors,like we're doing right now.It's hard fighting your enemy in their backyard,they have a natural advantage.The people and the territory is on their side...Time to call it quits,save face and lives and come home,live to fight another day...We're getting nothing for this military action but death and destruction ,plus future threats from foriegn terrorists that live to repay a debt against us....

    March 14, 2012 at 9:12 pm | Reply
    • Kerry

      Well put, Fla Pete.

      March 15, 2012 at 12:36 am | Reply
  10. Peoplezzz

    This is f(u)cking disgusting , since when does America help Al Qaeda? Leave Syria alone stop helping those damn terrorists attack good people!
    I like Bashar and nothing you say can change that .. =( ....=P

    March 14, 2012 at 9:27 pm | Reply
  11. Peoplezzz

    Here is my problem....Why does CNN speak so positively about Terrorists? ....I mean , Cmon ...dont be stupid ...leave President Bashar alone jeez

    March 14, 2012 at 9:31 pm | Reply
  12. Peoplezzz

    Let him take care of those Retard's ...If their invading his country n causing a ruckus then maybe he should get his soldiers on them

    March 14, 2012 at 9:32 pm | Reply
  13. FredL

    Afghanistan – What haven't they released the American Soldiers name yet involved in the shooting? Is it because he is a Muzzy and he was paid off to stir things up?

    Iran – Nuke them before they nuke Israel

    Syria – The same as Egypt and Libya – The dictator will be removed and the people will elect a radical Moozy. Either way it is a lose-lose situation for the west...

    March 14, 2012 at 11:07 pm | Reply
  14. Sonny G

    They hate us helping them won't be understood as help, been there, Fla Pete has a point, our casulties and collateral damage will end up with a lot of killing anyway, time to sit this one out, haven't seen no way to rationalize with these countries

    March 14, 2012 at 11:53 pm | Reply
  15. mike_t

    Makes no diffference what we do or don't do. The next government will be run by the Muslim Brotherhood, not any faction the US might want. They are the most organized, best funded, and most respected of all the groups which fancy being the next government.

    Funny thing is, they also have a good chance of taking over in Saud Arabia when the Arab fall eventually gets there.

    March 14, 2012 at 11:55 pm | Reply
  16. Marek Pajak

    Syria is not Libya and Poland is not Slovekistan.

    We get the point.

    The truth is we have no idea how this will unfold. Even when Quaddafi was under siege in Libya the outcome was very much in doubt until the very last offensive when the loyalist forces collapsed.

    March 15, 2012 at 2:26 am | Reply
  17. steven

    who is this zakaria idiot from pakistan or india, this guy knows nothing about region why is he babbling at all? he offers no argument nothing of knowledge or solution jus tthe same old "syria is not libya" crap we hear from others who know just as little as this moron

    March 15, 2012 at 2:51 am | Reply
  18. Malfean

    He is right.... Syria is no Liyba. Syria doesn't have Oil reserves we can stick our straw into... therefore its people hold no importance to us, nor do the barbaric actions against them, incite us to action. Sad, but accurate. You think we'd allow this if we were talking about Saudi Arabia? the UAE? Kuwait? No. But Syria doesn't export more than a dribble of light, sweet crude... therefore, we'll drag our feet on the issue and so will everyone else.

    March 15, 2012 at 6:57 am | Reply
  19. Neut

    Fareed, are you saying the US should do anything about Syria because its not easy? Sounds more like the Balkans War and we certain did something about that. So if there is nothing to do Fareed just sit back and enjoy the show.

    March 15, 2012 at 7:46 am | Reply
  20. CNN a shill for obama

    Fareed is on the campaign trail for Obama. CNN ought to be ashamed of itself. Amazing how CNN says that Fox is biased....talk about a being hypocrites.....

    March 15, 2012 at 7:58 am | Reply
    • Willie12345

      Fareed was a consultant to the Obama White House. No conflict of interest there ?

      March 15, 2012 at 8:30 am | Reply
    • Bezboz

      Anyone with critical thinking figured that out a long time ago. They update their site often and allow commenting and that's why I come here at least once a day. Never clicked an ad before.

      March 15, 2012 at 11:24 am | Reply
  21. Name*scott

    One soldier went nuts. Nobody in Afghan history has ever done that? REALLY? Some COPIES OF COPIES OF COPIES.... Of a book were burned. SO what? Get over it muslims, grow food, educate your women, and stop playing the victim while acting the aggressor!

    March 15, 2012 at 8:10 am | Reply
  22. Willie12345

    Fareed is no Walt Cronkite.

    March 15, 2012 at 8:26 am | Reply
  23. Fares

    the syrians are not asking for air strikes Fareed .
    let me repeat what the SNC been saying all along .
    we need 1km and 5 km RPGs and stingers shoulder held stingers for helicopters ..the SNC are bying those anyway for the FSA..we are starting seeing those on the youtubes .
    as for the comparison between syria and lybia ,i think the situation in syria is much easier ,you have turkey and Jordan where you can enter everything .
    we dont need US Boots ...nor nofly zones
    we need the US to declare Assad a War criminal at least and stop sending envoys to him to extend his life .
    only in syria ,in today anniversary of the revolution ...the regime is having a pro-assad ralleys.
    the level of killing is reaching an unprecedented pictures in the history of humanity except the mongoles attackes ...while the international community lead by the US is watching and dividing the opposition and tighing their hands since one year later and 10000 dead they still dont have a recognition .
    we think that the US is trying to get concessions from Iran via Syria and my people in syria are paying the price as well for Nato renting an air base in russia .
    your analysis was on the shallow end my friend but i am still a fan .

    DR Raslan
    Syrian American
    Cleveland OHIO

    March 15, 2012 at 8:58 am | Reply
    • Bezboz

      Dr. Raslan, instead of saving lives, you are advocating for killing people? NICE!

      The last time the world took your advice, 50,000+ got killed in Libya. They are dividing the country, and thousands are missing or found dead since victory was declared. And guess what? That country's population is 1/5 the size of Syria's. So a conservative estimate would be half a million dead in Syria to accomplish your plan and save "your people". VERY NICE!

      March 15, 2012 at 11:36 am | Reply

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