CNN speaks with Fareed about a message on an ISIS social media account, which claims to be from the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, saying that the U.S.-led coalition is "terrified, weak and powerless." This is an edited version of the transcript.
What are your first impressions when you hear this message, supposedly from al-Baghdadi, using the words weak, powerless, failed and going as far as mentioning the additional 1,500 troops the president has announced?
This is an old tactic. Al Qaeda used to do it all the time. There’s always a lot of bluster and braggadocio. But I also think it's important to remember something I have often said. They are trying to set a bait – they want the United States more involved. It helps them recruit.
Remember, ISIS has gone from nothing to becoming the replacement for al Qaeda, the most well-known jihadi organization in the world. How? By taking on the 800-pound gorilla of the world, the United States of America.
How exactly then would that create recruitment for wannabe jihadis?
Because if you are one of the many jihadi organizations or one of the many radical Sunni organizations in Syria that is sort of struggling for market share and adherents, that's one thing. If you become the organization that battles the United States, the crusaders, the West – if you become the face of radical Islam that is up against this new crusade – now, all of a sudden, you are the place everyone wants to come to. You're the place everyone wants to send money to. There's a lot of this that has to do with fundraising.
We heard from a Republican senator earlier in the week, Rand Paul, warning over an illegal war. And then we heard from high-ranking Democrat essentially echoing the same thing on a panel. Now what? Because it seems like this issue is definitely unifying, but it's divisive as far as members of Congress go. So, where does this move?
It won't have any practical effect, because these kind of congressional complaints about the executive taking over the war-making function and foreign policy making function have existed for a long time. The executive always wins.
So, it's just complaints. That's all it is?
Look, the president gets to make foreign policy, which includes the waging of these limited interventions. We haven't declared war since Pearl Harbor. It's always been a kind of executive action that when the executive wants, he gets Congress to approve. But what you're pointing out I think, which is true, which is there are two very different political figures, and it shows you that the American public does not want a sustained, protracted, intense American military involvement in the Middle East. They view it as a hellhole. They want to be out of there. So, that's going to be the bigger problem.
What about Bashar al-Assad and his fate? Because the notion of President Obama and the United States wanting him out seems, that just seems a little farfetched.
I think I would put it this way. It's on the backburner now. The goal is to defeat and destroy ISIS. Destroying ISIS itself is a reach at this point. Degrading it might be the best we can do. But then to go on from that and also deal with al-Assad in Syria where we don't really have very strong ground forces, I would say it's on the backburner.