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tv   Charlie Rose  PBS  September 24, 2013 12:00pm-1:01pm PDT

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>> rose: welcome to the program. we begin tonight with the president of colombia president juan manuel santos calderon. >> the potential that you find in that america for the u.s. is enormous and vice versa. and we can work together more closely on joint ventures developing the potential that we have and how we can work together like, i say one is the strategic importance of the u.s. in afghanistan. >> rose: right. >> there is a strategic importance in -- >> would you make the argument you have more strategic more reason for strategic relationship with colombia than afghanistan. >> oh by far by far. >> rose: we continue with a look at al schbab with eli lake. >> i would say al shabaab-- they
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have prochb gruesome in the ability to cause mass casualty attacks. we saw similar things from al shabaab in uganda in 2010 but they failed to translate that into a program where they could participate nay coalition government or even govern their own territory particularly well. >> rose: we conclude with dexter filkins without has a story about an iranian general called the most powerful op rattive in the middle east. what made you want to do the piece. >> his name kept coming up everywhere. and i didn't know who it was. and so i was if beirut and hi dinner with a politician there. and he was expressing frustration with hezbollah an armed group also political party. and he said hezbollah doesn't decide gassim suleimani decides. >> and i thought who's that. and then -- and then earlier this year when i was report a piece on syria somebody in the pentagon said to me this is the guy whose's running the war in syria. he's got a command post in
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damascus. he's got you know hezbollah at his disposal. >> rose: the president of colombia looking at al shabaab and dexter filkins when we continue. >> funding for charlie rose was provided by the following. >> from our studios in new york city this is charlie captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. >> rose: the president of colombia juan manuel santos
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calderon is here. hewas elected in 2010 with 69% of the vote. he occupied an important positions in his government's cabinet before assuming the presidency. he served as colombia's minister of foreign trade as well as minister of finance and minister of defense. santos has waged a successful campaign against the rego-- regon most potent ebb rebel army now greatly diminished in strength. the government is holding peace conference with the rebels. at home he faces challenges. colombia has seen a series of riots as farmers protest his government's agriculture policies. the riots have escalated into one of the largest national strikes in the country's history this week he will address the united nation's general assembly in new york. i'm pleased to have him here at this table for the first time. welcome. >> thank you. i'm very pleased to be here with you. >> rose: tell me what you are going say to the general assembly when you address them? what is it you want them to know about you and about your country and about this time in history. >> we're going to mention
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three points. first, the peace process that-- with the fark. we want the international community to support it. and we want the international community to allow a country like colombia after 50 years of conflict to decide on how to make peace. don't put any obstacles in the way. don't put any conditions. simply allow us to negotiate our peace. second we have been proposing a new approach to the problem of drug trafficking. we have stimulated a discussion at the oes. there's a study that has been made. and we think that the world should evaluate if this war on drugs that was launched from the united nations 50 years ago has worked or not. in my view and i say this come approximating from the country that has probably made the biggest sacrifice
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in the war on drugs, the war has not been won. and so we need to evaluate if there are better ways to fight this drug trafficking. and third we promoted the discussion in the environmental summit of rio plus 20 on sustainable government goals. and we want to stimulate the united nations to address this issue because the world has a tremendous challenge with climate change and the environment and what is going to replace the millennium goals we hope that a sustainable goals would be the replacement. >> rose: define how you see column-- colombia's relationship to latin america. >> well we are in a way a third way, i am a third way man. >> rose: yes, you have argued that. and what does that mean? >> that means that we are
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not neither at the extreme left or extreme right. we are the center. we play a role of trying to unite a continent which has a lot of differences. and we also play a role-- . >> rose: and diverse governments. >> absolutely. and we also play a role of like a bridge with the united states. we are proud to say we are a good ally of the united states. friends with the united states and we try to promote the rest of the region also has good relations. >> rose: a quick note about your background. your family is fascinating. they owned a great newspaper. and you described other kinds of media properties. then you sold it but you were the editor of the newspaper. >> right. >> rose: is journalism a good training for government? >> yes i think it is a good training for government. especially good training to understand when you're on the other side how the journalists behalf. when are you in government you hate journalists because
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of how they treat you. but if you have been there you can understand them better. >> rose: you understand journalists because you've been a journalist. you were the editor of the paper. >> absolutely. >> rose: at the same time as president you can understand -- >> the role of journalism. >> rose: it may not be exactly as all of us here see it. >> will w the role of journalism it's very important for any government. >> rose: right. >> and i say it's like a cold shower every day. the criticism it's stimulating and it forces you to be more in connection with reality. >> rose: you were friends with hugo chavez. >> well yes. i had a good relation with him. >> rose: was it casual though or would he and you both have defined it as a friendship? >> we were very acid enemies. and i wrote about him the worst things. and he said the worst things about me. when i was elected i decide listen he's the head of state of the venezuelaans and i'm the head of state of
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the colombians, we have 2,200 kilometers of live border, very important border. we can't continue insulting each other. so i called him. i said let's get together. and we sat down like you and i are sitting down. and i said to him listen you and i have our completely opposite in many ways. but let's agree to disagree. let's respect our differences. because we have a responsibility with our own people. and i think we would serve those people better if we stop fighting and we try to work on what we can work together. >> rose: find areas of common ground rather than areas of conflict. >> and he said yes. >> rose: he did. >> and since the 10th of august of 2010 until he died we worked very well together. even though he knew that i was not a marxist or bolivarrian revolutionary and i knew he was to the going to become a liberal democrat.
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but we worked together very well. and i think to the benefit of both countries. >> rose: if you could change one thing about the relationship of the united states, what would it be? >>. >> rose: or two if you would like. >> more attention from the u.s. towards latin america. >> rose: towards all of latin america. >> yes. i say that the future of the u.s. is more south of rio grande than any other area in the world. we are-- . >> rose: north and south, wouldn't you say, canada and the united states canada and latin america. >> but you have a very good relation with canada. very-- . >> rose: largest trading partner. >> and with the-- with latin america, in a way latin america has been neglected by the u.s. for many many years. >> rose: and so if they paid attention what would you want them to know. i'm talking about the leaders in washington, both
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the presidency and the congress? >> the potential that you find in latin america for the u.s. is enormous and vicea versa. and we can work together more closely on joint ventures developing the potentials that we have and how we can work together like i say one is the strategic importance of the u.s. in afghanistan. >> right. there is a strategic importance in-- . >> rose: you would make the argument that you have more strategic-- more reasons for strategic relationship with colombia than with afghanistan. >> oh, by far by far. >> rose: where is-- looking at the different governments for several years now we looked at brazil. as an emerging nation, so the so-called countries that were emerging and had economic growth rates vary up to 6 to 7 percent. they have come down to 1 or
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2% now. where is the economic success in latin america today? >> i would say that it's in the so-called pacific alliance. poor countries. mexico chili peru and colombia. these are the best performing countries in the whole of latin america. >> rose: and why is that? >> we have made an alliance. but this is not the reason why we are performing well. because it's newly created alliance. we share the same way of visiting development free market or maybe third way a third way approach. we think that the economy should be stimulated through the market until the-- until it's needed until it's
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necessary. that type of combination is something that is working for us working for mexico working for peru working for chili. and we think we have put in place a long-term development plan the four countries which is better than other alternatives. >> rose: tell me because i what is-- was there recently. what's going on in cuba as you see it? >> well cuba is a country that i think it's evolving towards -- >> some new model for the economy. >> more realistic approach to economics. they are aware that this is a step that they have to take. but they are very cautious and they take it slowly. but they are evolving. >> rose: to what though in your judgement. >> i would say a vietnam
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type of scheme. >> rose: the vietnam economy is doing very well. >> very well. >> rose: but that's asia. >> that's asia, yes. >> rose: now is your long-term dream that somehow latin america can, like china and asia have the same kind of economic growth that has been experienced there, so much so that the president of the united states says we're going to pivot from the middle east towards asia? >> latin america, for example, these countries colombia, i will give you has a rate of growth in the last three years average almost 5%. >> rose: 6 or 7. >> mexico also chili is the best performer of all. peru is doing extremely well 6, 7%. so we are getting into a high growth level, these four countries. brazil is doing quite well even though in the last year it's come down. and latin america has a
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young population. many many people are going out of poverty. there are potential consumers. and so i think the potential for latin america is enormous. asia you are seeing that in many countries they're sort of reaching a platteau. >> rose: platteauing. >> so we hope that the future will give us the opportunity of going even at a faster rate. >> rose: you have said you think the 21st century belongs to south america. >> absolutely. i think-- i said that this is the next decade and this decade belongs to latin america and i think we are seeing that in many ways it is. >> rose: there is also been this that has developed over the last year because of edward snowden some reports that the nsa was spying on brazil, for example. the president of brazil cancelled a trip to washington. what do you make of this? >> well i imagine that she
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did not get the necessary explanations. and she cancelled. it's unfortunate. >> rose: do you think there is spy on colombia? >> the situation with colombia is different because we work together intelligence. >> stephen: . >> rose: you share intelligence with america. >> very much. and to the benefit of both countries. and the plan colombia which has helped us tremendously is probably the most successful bipartisan foreign policy initiative that the u.s. has launched in many, many years. and we are proud to be partners there. and so in that respect we are not worried because we did the intelligence sharing together. >> rose: your predecessors back in government. >> my predecessor wants to be elected senator. >> rose: wants to be a senator. he saying he has not been all together complimentary.
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>> no, he hasn't, no. >> rose: what's that about? >> well i really don't understand why he is so such a critic because the main areas where he was working i've been working on the same areas, and improved them tremendously. security there's nobody who has hit the terrorism and hit the park as hard as i've done. the investors confidence what he says it's his second most important policy, well the investment in colombia has gone up in the last three years more than any era of our history. and he invested not only foreign investment but local investment and the third is social cohesion. what he calls social cohesion. in our case social end yate-- indicators we have been the country that has decreased poverty more than any other country in latin
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america with the exception of peru. we have been the country who have decreased inequality more than any other country with the exception of ecuador. we have been the country that created more jobs than any country in latin america. so this is a personal grudge that maybe for reasons which are really marginal that i named people the cabinet. or that made piece with chavez, or that i'm speaking with the farq. >> rose: that's what i am hearing. >> but he wanted to speak to the farq for the last eight years. they didn't want to speak to him. but he he sought them. he asked them to go to the table. why is he now criticizing me for doing what he wanted to do? that's something i don't understand. >> rose: the other question is why are they speaking to you when they wouldn't speak to him? >> because they're speaking to me because they believe that i'm not going to betray,
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if we reach an agreement. they didn't believe in him. that's the reason why they say-- . >> rose: why should they stop now after being at it for so long? >> because they're weak. because they're losing more and more people every day. because they have no way out. because they know that if they continue the leaders will end up in a grave or in jail. >> rose: is bet ancourt coming back to colombia? >> i don't think so in the fear near future. i have spoken to her a couple of times and i don't think that she is going to come back in the near future. >> rose: she's in france and other places i guess. >> that's it and we -- i is was minister of defense when we-- it was a very fraught
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and audacious intelligent move that we liberated three americans, and 11 people. >> rose: and so people know that, she wrote a book and she was on this program at the time. and i've seen her several times. so what made it so successful that you were able to rescue her? >> because it was a rescue without one drop of blood being spilled. not one shot being fired. it was purely intelligence operation. of something that people thought was absolutely impossible to do. and i remember somebody saying it was the most fantastic military intelligence operation in recent history. and i think it was. >> rose: but if you had failed you would have been in trouble. >> i would have been sit-- wouldn't be sitting here right now. >> rose: no, we would have invited you. but it was that-- that was the risk. if you failed it would end your political career. >> absolutely. i had no doubt whatsoever. >> rose: and did it, the
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fact that you succeeded did it enhance your political career. >> yes did did. yes. because not only that we started because of different moves on the intelligence we started hitting the high-- targets and we were very successful in the military aspect. and that has, of course helped me in my political career. >> rose: what's the economic base of colombia's future? >> today we are quite strong economically. our growth is, as i said, almost 5%. and our variables are in good conditions. i would say that we need to divert more towards technology towards manufacturing and less qualities, oil, minerals. >> rose: less natural resources. >> yes. >> rose: a because of a limited supply or -- >> and more innovation
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increased productivity. all the asian countries have grown at high rates and at least half of their growth has been explained by higher productivity. >> rose: so that's a very interesting idea. i mean you need your own silicon valley. >> exactly. >> rose: how do dow that? >> in the case of colombia we have 1,200 municipalities. we are connecting every single municipality with fibre-optic and broadband. and we are distributing 2 million computers and tablets. we are building more than 5,000 what we call digital centers in order to give especially the poor people access to technology. the same access to internet and information that somebody, a rich person in new york or in paris or in tokyo. >> rose: access to the same information. >> and this i think will have a tremendous impact positive impact in our
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productivity and our development. >> rose: and in the education of your citizens. >> absolutely. >> rose: that would be a transformational kind of thing. >> you can imagine people i had an experience with-- a person who-- . >> rose: at m.i.t.. >> media lab at m.i.t. we did an experiment. we sent a very remote town very small town that didn't even have a satellite or television. and we gave a small computer to each kid and sent some teachers there. i had to build a military antenna. and he and i went about two months later. and it was amazing scenario. the kids took over the town. and the parents were behind the kids asking the kids temp me this, teach me that. it was a great experice.
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and that's where i got the idea of connecting the whole of the country with broadband. >> rose: it's an interesting story. in my home town a small town in north carolina you know they have a community centre and they have computers and you can come in and use after work. the kids bring the parents. >> that's exactly what happened in this town. they took over the town. >> rose: the power of technology. and the power of access to information. >> access to information. and this stimulates the whole mind and the whole society. >> rose: yeah. >> so if you come back to this table a year from now. >> yes. >> rose: how do we measure your success? from september 2013 to september 2014. >> what should i-- what would be the measurement? >> i hope that if i come here next year i will say we have colombia in peace. we have reached an agreement with the farq and we have
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changed the future of colombia for the better. that would be a great success. >> rose: you're invited back. >> thank you. >> rose: thank you very much. >> thank you. >> rose: back in a moment. stay with us. >> rose: the world has been watching the terrorist attack on a shopping mall in ken why's capitol of nairobi. an estimated 62 people have been killed and 150 injured in the attack. there are fears the deaths toll could rise further. the heavily armed terrorists stormed the upscale westgate mall on saturday. on monday evening as of this taping kenyan security forces were still working to clear the building. al shabaab says the raid was a response to the presence of kenyan military forces in some olia. it is the worst terror attack in kenya since the deadly bombing of the u.s. embassy in nairobi in 1998. joining me there washington eli lake senior national security reporter for "newsweek" and daily beast. here new york jendayi frazer. currently a professor the
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carnegie mellon university and fellow for after can studies. also here journalist jeremy scahill, he reported on al shabaab for the nation magazine also the book dirty wars. i am pleased to have all of them here. let's begin with you. tell us who al shabaab is. >> and what is whatting to them. >> al shabaab is a group that started in 2006 with the foremation of the islamic course union in mogadishu somalia. >> rose: '96. i'm sorry n 2006. essentially a failed state in somalia and islamic course union came to govern. and then this is a more radical wing. the more militant armed wing. when the al shabaab started there was also east africa al qaeda cell which was hiding, the ones who were responsible for the '98 bombings of our embassies in nairobi and tanzania. they were basically
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undercover hiding in somalia. and they lifted their head i would say essentially hijacked the al shabaab movement. so the islamic course union always had moderate elements civil society element, and more radical and extreme elements and these became the militant military wing of it. >> rose: what would you add to that eli? >> well, i would say that at this point what we know is that al shabaab has followed the pattern of a loll of al qaeda related groups. which is that they have proven gruesome in the ability to cause these mass casualty attacks. we saw similar kind of thing from al shabaab in uganda in 2010. but they have failed to translate that into a program where they could participate in a coalition government or even govern their own territory particularly well. they came under enormous scrutiny for exacerbating the famine in somalia in 2011. i think that lost them a lot of sport among somalies but at the same time they have proven that they are are capable of recruiting people in minnesota and in the united states and canada in europe.
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and this attack is reminiscent sadly, of the 2 008 massacre in mumbai that was practiced by a pakistani group. >> does this indicate a kind of resurgence or change in tactics or anything like that? >> i think first of all we've hit a point where there is not just one al shabaab. the group sort of fractured after the african union forces backed by the united states and other western powers purged them from mogadishu. i was in the capitol of somalia when this was going on and traveled with militias working on the side of the african union forces. and one of the leaders of the al qaeda organization in east africa many believed him to be the head of it was killed when i was in east africa. and among the papers found were letters between him and al zawahiri, now its current head of al qaeda at large. and what he was saying was that he thought it was a mistake on the part of al shabaab to try to govern, to try to take power within somalia. and that they should return to the core idea of al qaeda
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which is the management of savagery. meaning they would do suicide bombings spectacular attacks. and i think that what we are seeing unfolding in nairobi right now is a product of that mentality. where they know they will not be able to win hearts and minds or control territory but they want to make it impossible for governance to happen in somalia. but also to make kenya pay a price for having sent its troops in as part of the purge and war against al shabaab. >> rose: so where do, i'm asking all of you in terms of the last thing you know as to what is happening on the ground in nairobi at the mall as we speak? >> there's been reporting that most of the if not all of the hostages have been released now. but i think that you know firps reports are always suspect. so i'm sure it's still a very fluid situation on the ground. >> rose: you can add anything to that el ni? >> well, one of the things that has really i'm still trying to confirm and i talked to people in the u.s. intelligence community today, and they have not been able
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to confirm it but al shabaab said that there were three americans that participated in this attack on the westgate mall. so that is something that is really interesting to find out. we know i've heard the number about up to 50 americans have been recruited by al shabaab. if they participated in this or if they were in some sort of leadership role that's extremely important it shows that potentially there could be a migration back to the united states if they were not caught along the way. but i would stress at this point that i have not been able to get any kind of confirmation from the u.s. intelligence community at this point that they believe the public release of information from al shabaab. >> rose: do you know anything about that? >> i thought the number was six that al shabaab put out of american citizens but if you look at the list and a agree with eli. what we don't know at this point we don't know. but they were saying people from sweden, syria britain canada -- >> 50 total, i should say. >> but i'm talking about in the actual-- i was referring to in the actual siege
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force. i mean i will say also from having covered it also from the other side in somalia and talked to people that are sympathetic with al shabaab and others. i do think that part of the role the u.s. has played the sort for the kenyan forces in 2060 and 7 support for the ethiopian military when it invaded some allia. the u.s. has done drone strikes and targeted killing inside the borders have allowed schbab to have a propaganda victory. to say to americans of somali descent this is a crusader war, and your obligation as a muslim is to join us in the struggle against what with the united states that is how it is portrayed about al shabaab it is not about ethiopia or kenya at the end of the day it's really about the united states. kenya is viewed as a proxy force forth united states. >> but its problem with that perspective is that al shabaab will always use any type of propaganda. and so even before kenya became involved in the somali you know war against them in 2011 they
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were doing strikes in some-- in kenya. and so the fact that kenya have forces on the ground in somali is really immaterial to whether east africa al qaeda schbab were going to do attacks. they attacked the hotel in mom wasi. they tried to take down israeli jet airliner so they've been carrying out these type of strikes throughout the region. without that being a reason. so i think that we have to be careful, really of saying that we've given them a propaganda victory or we have actually somehow our response is the reason for the actions that they're taking. >> rose: i'm trying to characterize what the perspective and weight and massaging they are doing. that is why people like omar hamani was important because he could say i was born and raised in alabama and i see the wicked ways 6 my government so by using him in that way they are able to russell up that not just nationalist sentiment but this idea that there is a
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war against islam in the world. i think schbab has been semi effective at communicating this message. >> rose: this also raises the specter of whether some of these that may be recruited or attract are coming back to the united states for these kind of isolate add tacks that are not directed by anyone else but in a sense carried out by them wherever they are. >> this is something that eli has been reporting on. i spent time recently in the somali community in the twin cities in minnesota. and that's a community that i think very much feels like they're under surveillance right now because of the number of young somali americans that have ended up going over. and there have been raids against houses and groups that are being monitored. and i think that there is a real fear in that community that one of the impacts of more attention being paid to the role of somali americans is that they're going to be intensely scrutinized at large and not just sort inform a surgical way. >> rose: and it might radicalize some of their young? >> radicallization is a complicated subject. i think i think radicallization is a reality
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and i any that people will try to mimic this. and who those people will be i don't exactly know but i think there will be copycatting of this operation because it has been success frfl a terrorist point of view. >> i would say i got a chance to go to puntland which is a province of somalia in 2012. and i interviewed somebody who was incarcerated who had kind of been an ex-member of al shabaab. and he is no more than he said he was 18 but he looked about 15. he said that listen the standard practice with al shabaab is that they really run their organization very much through fear and corporal punishment. and this is the true of many of these al qaeda groups. and that at a certain point when you have to enforce your ideology with violence in this particular way it's evidence that they don't have a wide popular amount of support for this particular ideology or for a lot of it. so i think people may end up going to somalia for what they think is a kind of romantic struggle of liberation and revolution and they become disenchanted with it for whatever reason.
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so in some ways you know they have to rely in some ways on these propaganda points. but those propaganda points in the end i think you know, barely conceal the paucity of their own ideology. >> rose: let me raise one more time the question of what their relationship to the al qaeda that we have known of al zawahiri and bin laden and all of the others. >> it's interesting. because if you go back and look at what happened during the infamous blackhawk down stint did and afterward bin laden tried to take credit for that. there were some groups within somalia at that time that were sympathetic to al qaeda. but al qaeda could never gain a very strong foothold in somalia for many, many years. it was really only after al shabaab started to rise after the ethiopian invasion and disintegration of the courts union that al qaeda was give then gift of an ability to sell its message. so you started to see exponentially more foreign fighters enter somalia, joining with the ranks of al shabaab and portraying
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themselves as the vanguard in this struggle against christian crusaders and occupiers from ethiopian and kennia. and i think the al shabaab of today is multiple al shabaab and some of them i think do still pledge some form of allegiance to the ideals of al qaeda central and osama bin laden but i do think there are splinters and factions and some i would imagine will integrate into the broader body politic of somalia for their own survival and control of their own fiefdoms. >> but again i would say that even prior to the ethiopians having a massive incursion into mogadishu at the request of the transitional federal government which was the government there, that was based in-- it was-- it was based in bi doa which is in somalia, it is not just mogadishu. and those islamic course unions in the military wing had made incursions trying to attack that government. so they also attract the ethiopians. >> i guess i would just say this. that on the one hand i think
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jeremy's point is that when the united states intervenes whether covertly or overtly in these places in the world t does create a kind of propaganda recruitment value for al qaeda that urges foreigners to come fight the great satan. at the same time i think we also have evidence that when the united states leaves or neglects or allows for ungoverned spaces to expand that has also become its own kind of magnet for al qaeda. and at some point i think that it shows that when the kenyans intervened in somalia and others tried to help build up a competent kind of forces for that transitional government t ended up being that al shabaab was driven out of the country for the most part and is sadly a potent terrorist organization but is not really a challenge any kind of serious political sense. >> i think that is a bit of an oversimplification and it ignores the sort of local politics of who some of these figures are. i have met with people that were part of the islamic courts union and senior
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officials within that government. who then were supporting al shabaab. and then they started going on thette jobbian payroll and a lot of the somali war lords or leaders of various factions are concerned with protecting their own territory and if al shabaab gives that support and they do smuggling operations and keep their operations running, they will do it if the u.s. is a more convenient ally, they will do it, as americans we tend to view everything through the lens of our own politics. but in somalia and i know jendayi knows this better than anyone on the show there is inkreably complex clan iss thats are driving force. >> i'm not doubting any of that. i'm not disputing that. >> i think that's why you have to stick with the issue about where are american interests here. and it's that virulent jihadist, mujahideen global terrorist faction that has sort of you know, as you said hijacked the local politics for its own agenda. that is our core interest.
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an i think that's where working with kenya and the attack on kenya kenya is on the front line of a global war on terror that we didn't start. so we do have to response to it. we have had decades of neglect in somalia and i think it goes to eli dorb -- eli's point which is those years of neglect actually allowed interest to be marshaled that were counter to america's fundamental long-term interests and national security interests. that's why we are now talking about al shabaab. >> we cuting in our cities in minnesota. and beyond there. >> i think on the dip lo-- diplomatic side there was a lot of neglect but on the para military side the cia was putting people on the payroll. i think you condition remove that from the equation is how did we end up where we are now. i think the brutality of the cia backed war lords helped to give rise to the forces that you are now condemning. >> so where do we go from
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here? >> well, at this point we're going to see how the crisis situation ends but you have to watch and look at what al shabaab takes learns from this, and i still think it's an open question. was this in some ways connected to a broader kind of al qaeda o fechbsive. i mean we've seen a string of attacks in the last week from a new offensive from the al qaeda linked rebels in syria to attacks horrific attack on sunday in pakistan to car bombing in yemen and attacks in iraq. and i think the question is are these connected. are they just isolated instances. and does this suggest that there is a broader kind of strategy going on right now on the part of al qaeda. >> rose: thank you, thank you all pleasure. >> thank you. >> we'll be right back. stay with us. >> rose: we turn now to iran. hopes are high for a new diplomatic initiative
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following messages between iran new president and president obama. both 4r50eders are expected to be in new york this week forth u.n. general assembly there are rumors the two could even meet face-to-face. but we continue to learn new things about the extent of iran's troubling links to syria dexter filkins is here. his feature in the latest issue of "the new yorker" magazine is called the shadow commando. it takes a close look at major general qassim suleimani a key op rattive in iran special force, the. the u.s. department of treasury santiond him for his role in abetting terrorism and aiding the assad regime in syria. as a former cia officer told dexter filkins for his article suleimani is the single most powerful op rattive in the middle east today and no one ever heard of him. i'm pleased to have dexter filkins back at this table. welcome. >> thanks. >> rose: this is something. now i knew about him only because you know david petraeus when he was in iraq had some communication with him. they exchanged e-mails through third parties or something.
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>> yeah, yeah it's amazing. he is the man behind the mask. >> rose: who is he? >> he s you know, i think to put it in a broader context in iran right now there is obviously a big power struggle going on inside the government. you have the new president ra hani who appears to be a reformer, kind of relatively liberal minded. but then-- . >> rose: in irannian terms. >> yes. and then on the other side i think you have the hard-liners. and qassim sul mani is right in the middle of -- suleimani is right in the mid of elf that. he is in charge of the qud force basically he is in charge of what iran does in the middle east. as i discovered in my piece that is an awful lot. they are everywhere. >> rose: you agree with the cia forces that he is the most powerful op rattive in the middle east. >> it's unbelievable. as i reported this piece, i didn't know any of this when i started. >> rose: what made you want to do the piece? >> his name kept coming up everywhere. you know i was in-- i didn't know who it was.
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and so i was in beirut and hi dinner with a politician there. and he was expressing frustration with hezbollah. an armed group also political party. and he said hezbollah doesn't decide. was imsuleimani decides. and i thought you know w who is that. and then and then earlier this year when i was reporting a piece on syria somebody in the pentagon said to me this is the guy who is running the war in syria. he's got a command post in damascus. he's got hezbollah at his disposal. he's got his own revolutionary guards. flown in from iran. he's got-- . >> rose: flown in to be on the battlefield or other purses-- purposesness both. >> rose: he has iraqi shiite militia the ones they were supporting in their efforts to kill americans. >> rose: so shii-- shi'a militias are supporting the the efforts. >> the assad government. so he is sort of running this whole, he's running the
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war for assad in syria. and so as i started you know asking questions yeah he just came up everywhere. so if you just look at, i mean i kind of imagine this as a sort of a secretary res history of the last 15 years. >> rose: does he give speeches. does he do interviews has he been-- -- . >> it's all pretty carefully scripted. he doesn't give interviews. i tried. >> rose: what did they say? >> i never backed but i met a lot of people who know him. and particularly iraqi politicians who have been flying in and out of tehran for instructions to make deals for years. the the messages went in and nothing ever came out. >> rose: here is what is interesting among the other things you say. he reports to the ayatollah. >> yes yes. >> rose: in person. >> yes. and that-- that removes him
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reminded him to kind of stay above the real knife fight that is domestic politics right now. >> rose: so what does he want? >> i think that sul me mani is i-- suleimani the formative experience in his life is the iran-iraq war a million dead. horrendous war went on for eight years. >> rose: gas. >> gag interestingly as i reported for then the iran iraq war was not the iran iraq war, it was iran versus the west. they were ensierk-- encircled by enemies. the poison gas came from the west. >> rose: they assumed saddam was simply a tool for the west. >> yes and they assume i think there is, there is evidence, of course that the west, for example the united states gave targeting information to saddam that was used in chemical weapons attacks. i think he got some stuff from the europeans but by and large there were iraqi chemical weapons. but i think it's a worldview
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which is, you know we are encircled by enemies and we have to act. and so you have this kind of 15 year program of asymmetrical warfare. >> rose: and his relationship to the revolutionary guards. >> he's part of the revolutionary guards on paper. and the revolutionary guards are the guys that protect the revolution. but his job, he does not reach into domestic politics the way the revolutionary guard does. the revolutionary guards are involved in everything. they own businesses. they pick political candidates. they're corrupt. >> rose: and they issued a warning to rouhani saying don't go too far. >> yeah, and suleimani is definitely of that milieu but he, he deals with he looks outward so in a way he doesn't, for example, as far as i could tell he's not involved in discussions about the nuclear program about elections that kind of stuff. he's basically focused on iran and what it does abroad.
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but they are as i discovered they are incredibly aggressive. i mean they are everywhere. so every kind of stone that he i picked up, about events in the past, whether it was you know getting the americans out of iraq. making sure that there were no u.s. troops there. whether it was killing americans in iraq whether it was the her iri assassination. >> rose: he was hine the what requirei assassination. >> the evidence suggests that the iranian played a pretty key role in killing hariri the billionaire prime minister. that is what the evidence shows. sow was he was every wrm. he really was. >> rose: so he acted at the behest of the assad regime in killing hariri. >> it aer pass. the evidence is overwhelming that assad and hezbollah killed hariri because he was trying to take lebanon away out of the syrian iran orbit. and so i think the evidence
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of lez hez and syria were involved. the big question as i want in whether were the iranians were involved and i think the evidence is pretty compelling. >> rose: in a sense a secret history of the middle east to know him. >> it is. it is amazing the degree to which, the iranians have been involved in every significant event in the middle east. east of the med train yun you know, in the past 15 years basically. >> rose: and the ambitions are what? >> his ambitions, their ambitions. >> i think their ambitions are-- they're hard to discern but i think they are to dominate the middle east. they see themselves as an intense rivalry not just with the united states but with say the monarchyes that the united states. >> rose: that is why-- hezbollah and -- >> yeah they support anybody who is willing to take on the saudis or take on the bahrainees. >> rose: al qaeda? >> tas's the amazing thing. is that you know you have a shiite majority country.
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a shiite regime. and wow think given what we know from the iraq war that al qaeda would be the mortal enemies. and what we-- what i think has become clear is that even that suleimani will essentially do he's very pragmatic. will essentially use whatever tool can to further his vision and that means using al qaeda. and using al qaeda against the united states. >> rose: the supreme leader has referred to him as a living martyr of the revolution. >> yeah. i mean he's a pretty amazing guy. like he's apparently very short but he's one of these guys. we've all met people like this the door swings open and he walks in the room and everybody stops talking. all the oxygen goes out. i think he's a pretty commanding presence. and he's famous for he has a nick name from the iran iraq war. he's known as the goat thief because he used to go behind enemy lines and he would return with a goat which his
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men would then slaughter and cook and eat. so he's-- . >> rose: he brought the goat back simply to serve his men or -- >> yeah and kind of but that's the legend you know. the legend of suleimani. he's fearless aggressive and kind of everywhere all the time. >> rose: and what does he think of rahani. >> we don't know. the evidence is as far as we can tell that suleimani is a hard-liner with enormous power because he answers directly to the supreme leader. and we can imagine and i think the evidence as you mentioned, there is an intense suspicion and probably hostility among the hard-liners for the reformers in people like rahani and we've kind of seen this movie before a few times 2005. we've had moderates and relatively liberal people come to power before in iran. and they haven't prevailed.
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so i think the really fascinating question i think which i'm trying to raise here towards the end of the story is, what happens this time. you know, is it different this time. can the moderates prevail. and we don't know. you know we don't know. it's all ultimately going depend on the supreme leader. depending on who you talk to they will say the following. iran sunday extreme stress because of the sanctions that destroyed the middle class the government is under pressure there. and it may be that the supreme leader they're looking for a way out. what does that mean. practically it means maybe. they're looking for a deal. maybe on syria cut them lose. maybe they will be willing to deal-- it's not just the fact that he has been elected president and that he's been able to say the things he has but look who he has chosen as his foreign minister. >> these are relatively moderate people.
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>> and-- for a number of years it was sort of brought back to tehran because he thought it was too friendly with the americans. >> and i think that there is a section in my piece that talks about these secret or semi secret discussions that were going on between the americans and iranians right after september 11th. and they're absolutely amazing. >> well i mean ryan crocker who is one of the most experienced ambassadors american diplomats we have. he flew to geneva. we meet these iranian diplomats on the weekend. he told me how he said i would leave the office on friday and be back in the office by monday morning so nobody knew i was gone but we meet with the iranians after september 11th and basically the iranians who were answering said we want to help you destroy the taliban. we hate them. and there is one fantastic anecdote that ambassador crocker told me but they through him a map and said
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here's-- there's all the military installations for the taliban. we think you should hit him here, here and here. so they were you know there was a lot of cooperation going on. and then again it's an amazing scene. ambassador crocker is woken up in the middle of the night in late january 2002 do be fold that president bush had just given a speech in which he calls iran part of an axe is of evil. so crocker goes to meet his counterpart a couple of days later and they say you know you screwed us man. this is over. this is done. we took a risk for you. we stuck our neck out politically in iran. and you hurt us. you know, so it's over. so it's pretty interesting to contemplate. >> rose: words have power. >> and i think even to suggest that even somebody a hard-liner like sulee man syintensely pragmatic so who knows.
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has anybody gotten access to him? other than diplomats. i'm not thinking about journalists just people talk about him, i mean he sounds to me like he's a mack velia. >> yes. >> he's a power player. >> yes. >> patriot. >> yes. i think more than anything. i don't think he's terribly religious. he appears to occupy this very kind of rarefied space in the region where i call this is in the story but i called the former head of massad and as soon as i mentioned his name long pause on the phone. he said my friend. >> rose: meaning that he had dealing. >> kind of in a voice of weary. >> rose: oh recognition. >> kind of sort of a mix of hatred and add mirician i think. >> rose: what else did he say? >> well i think you know if say the israelis or saudis
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people that have been dealing closely with iran the stuff that i have reported in this piece, a lot of that stuff would not be terribly surprising to them, you know, they've been sort of connecting these dots. for a long time particularly the israelis. >> rose: the most powerful op rattive in the middle east for years secretive leader of iran's qud forces has shaped the region to tehran's advantage. now he is fighting to save assad in syria. i assume they want to save assad a because it gives them a link to hezbollah and gives them a link to lebanon. >> yes. i think the way they see the world is yeah this is sort of strategic. this is the spear of influence. >> rose: a shi'a crescent. >> absolutely. i mean it's like iran iraq moving from east to west iran iraq syria, lebanon t goes all the way to the mediterranean and those r if not friendly governments then they have a group like
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hezbollah. and they built that. that is 30 years in the making. and if syria goes down you know it certainly looked like they were going to go down eight months ago you know then hezbollah would probably hezbollah would be in deep trouble maybe mall aki would be too in iraq. so i think they're all in. so this is a regime. iran which is under extreme economic stress and they are pouring everything they can into syria despite that. >> rose: again, "the new yorker" just out the most powerful op rattive in the middle east, thank you for joining us. see you next time. captioning sponsored by rose communications captioned by media access group at wgbh
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a kqed television production. like old fisherman's wharf. reminds me of old san francisco. like jean val jean. >> theeries and cholesterol and -- calories and cholesterol and heart attack. >> like an adventure. >> it remind me of oatmeal with a touch of wet dog. >> i did inhale it.