CNN’s New Day speaks with Fareed Zakaria about the advances made by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. This is an edited version of the transcript. For analysis of the latest developments, watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.
If Iraq falls, what happens?
If Iraq falls, you have a catastrophe because you would have this very, very extreme jihadi group that would be in control of vast not just territory, but one of the five or six largest oil-producing countries in the world with access to revenues in the tens of billions of dollars.
But let's focus on the part that's most threatened right now, which is Kurdistan. The United States, since 1991, in collaboration with Britain and France established a no-fly zone to protect the Kurds. Since then, it has been a bipartisan foreign policy supported by a large part of the international community that the Kurds should be protected. So I think there’s a humanitarian issue here, but there's also a strategic issue.
The Kurds are an extraordinarily vibrant, independent-minded, quite democratic force in the region. They're extremely pro-American, pro- Western. I think there’s a strategic interest making sure that the Kurds do not fall to ISIS.
But that looks like what's happening right now, because they're outgunned. So do you train them? Do you arm them? And, if so, why isn’t it being done?
I believe we need to get more ambitious here, because we've been stymied, we've been stopped in terms of our involvement because of the fact that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is a sectarian Shiite who is not creating a national unity government. He's pissing off the Sunnis, but that's not true with the Kurds.
Historically, the United States has succeeded in its interventions abroad when the locals are legitimate and want to fight. Think of South Korea, where that was true, versus South Vietnam, where the locals didn't want to fight. The Kurds are authentic, they're independent. As I said, they're fierce fighters and they're very pro-Western. We should tie our policy in the region to the idea that we're going to make a much more ambitious effort to ensure that Kurdistan survives as an independent entity.
And just to make the stakes clear to the audience, this group ISIS – or now they're calling themselves the Caliphate because they want, again, to create an extremist religious state and they want to rule it, which makes them different from terror threats of the past – they are trying to hunt down and kill these Christians and other minorities. Make no bones about it, that is their goal and it will happen if they're not stopped, true?
Absolutely. Understand the depth of the tragedy. Christian life in this part of the world has existed from the time of the Bible. Part of the tragedy is that, because of this highly sectarian government in Baghdad, Christians have been fleeing anyway, hundreds of thousands even before this, but what ISIS would do would be to literally extinguish Christian life in its original lands.
So where is everybody? We always talk about what the bar is that triggers international action. We haven't seen it in Syria. We haven't seen it in the Middle East. But what about this? What about the United States? Where is the outrage here?
Well, I think that in the short term, nobody can act but the United States.
Why? Why can't India come in? Why can't the U.N. come in?
Nobody has the kind of military capacity the United States has to do something. In a humanitarian sense, in terms of aid, they can. But I do think that the next item on the agenda for the Obama administration, god knows this is complicated, should be to assemble an international coalition.
Because you're absolutely right. If you think about it strategically, as I say the position of the Kurds, if you think about it in humanitarian terms, the extinction of Christian life in Iraq, are important enough goals that you should be able to assemble an international coalition. We're going to have to do the heavy lifting.
A military source says to me the humanitarian part gets everybody's heart going, but if you don't do anything else, you're just fattening people up to be slaughtered.
Absolutely true. I think that's why I favor a more ambitious strategy. You know, Napoleon once said if you're going to take Vienna, take Vienna. In other words, if you're getting involved in a fight, fight to win. And so I would like to see more aid drop. Because if your goal is to defeat ISIS and protect the Kurdish people and these Christians, you’ve got to do something to make sure that happens.