CNN speaks with Fareed about the Nairobi attack, reports that attackers singled out non-Muslims as infidels for slaughter, and a suicide bombing at a church in Pakistan that killed 81 people.
What's going on here with these attacks on Christians? Now, there are reports in Kenya, a slaughter of Christians in Pakistan. We know Coptic Christians in Egypt have been targeted, including at their church. Give us some perspective.
It’s a very serious and tragic situation. Remember, many of these groups have always had this kind of very strong, violent attitude towards what they regard as heretics, any non-Muslims. What's interesting here is in most cases, these terror groups are now attacking locals because they have despaired of the prospect of doing the kind of large attacks on Americans, on American military installations.
In al-Shabaab’s case, they have been driven back in Somalia very effectively. But it’s always possible to attack civilians. It’s always possible to do terrorism. So, where they are failing to advance politically and even militarily in places like Somalia, in Pakistan, they then turn to these more spectacular acts of terrorism as a way of getting attention.
But underlying it is, of course, a very hateful ideology. It is at some level a sign of their weakness, but it’s also a sign of this incredibly warped agenda they have. You know, it has happened quietly for years now. The Christians in Iraq have fled in droves. There used to be, I think, close to a million Christians in Iraq. They’re down to a few hundred thousand.
Egypt is having the same problems. In Syria, many of the Syrian Christians fear that these jihadi groups are going to do the same thing to them and they have begun to flee. This is one of the great cancers at the heart of the Muslim world.
On the other subject that's big here at the U.N. this week, the possible meeting between President Obama and the new Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani. I know there are pros and cons and we're hearing from U.S. officials no final decision has been made. Where do you think this decision should be?
I certainly think that the secretary of state should meet with President Rouhani, if that's possible. I know that's not quite at the same level, but often that does happen. Whether the president should meet with him, I think, would depend on whether or not they got some really encouraging signs out of the Iranians.
I would be hesitant about a presidential meeting. That's a prize that the Iranians probably want and it's probably worth delaying that until there are some actual achievements on the ground. But what is coming out of Iran right now, it’s just all quite encouraging. There has been a consistent pattern. It has come out of the mouth of the president, the foreign minister and the supreme leader.
Perhaps the most encouraging thing was last week, when the supreme leader talked about the importance of flexibility in negotiations. He talked about how Iran had no intention of ever having a nuclear weapon, that this was not something it was doing to please the Americans, that it was un-Islamic. He also said crucially to the revolutionary guard – the hard line elements of Iran – he said your job is to defend the republic, not to be involved in public policy and foreign policy.
That was a way of telling them, let the president take the lead role here. So all of this is very encouraging. It has to be tested, but you know how do you test it? So, I would say at least John Kerry should begin some kind of process of human contact. Remember, we have not had any contact with Iran in any meaningful sense since 1979.