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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Turmoil in Iran; Rift Between Iranian Leaders Growing?
Aired June 21, 2009 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN GUEST HOST: Tonight, protests continued on the streets of Tehran: demonstrators defying even daring the thousands of riot police and militia who lie in the streets ready to strike.
Government control of the media is growing. More news organizations expelled from Iran today. But nothing has stopped pictures, eyewitness accounts and information about the crisis from reaching the world as the showdown in Iran shows no signs of ending next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Good evening to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer sitting in for Larry tonight.
Let's get right to it with our guests who can tell us firsthand what's going on inside Iran right now. Roger Cohen is a columnist with the "New York Times," he's in Tehran; and Jason Rezaian, is a correspondent with TehranBureau.com. He's an Iranian-American with duel citizenship. He was in Tehran until this morning. He's now reporting from Dubai. Both are joining us on the phone.
Roger, let me start with you. You're there in Tehran. How did this day go?
ROGER COHEN, "NEW YORK TIMES" (via telephone): Well, extreme tension in the city, Wolf. I was in the downtown area around Revolution Street; clusters of militia and of police in camouflage, in green uniforms, in black uniforms, in plain clothes, many of them wielding clubs, some with rifles.
And the killings of at least a dozen people the previous night kept most people off the street. But you can feel there are protesters as soon as it gets dark. The cry of "Allahu Akbar" God is Great goes-up.
I think what the opposition movement is looking for above all right now and maybe lacking at this minute is leadership and direction. There are a lot of people who are extremely angry still. They're just waiting to know which way to move next.
BLITZER: Roger, when we hear those chants among those demonstrators, "Death to the dictators," specifically who do they have in mind as far as the dictator is concerned?
COHEN: Well that is not generally clarified. I think certainly at the beginning of this what supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi, the opposition leader, officially defeated resoundingly defeated officially in the election or widely regarded as fraudulent just over a week ago, what they wanted was the unseating of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president.
There is much more nuance now to that, there's much more anger and there's anger at the whole system. And that, of course, is headed by the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
So there's ambiguity there. And what there is, is anger at the absence of any kind of pluralism. This was a system that was an authoritarian system. But one in which Iranians thought that every four years they had some little say in the direction the country took.
And what they discovered last week was that that was absolutely not the case, that this was a dictatorship; so hence that cry.
BLITZER: Jason, you just left Tehran. You're now in Dubai. Where is this thing heading based on everything you've seen and heard?
JASON REZAIAN, TEHRAN BUREAU.COM (via telephone): Well, I think Roger might agree with me. It's really hard to say. About two weeks ago when people were almost parading up and down the streets of Tehran, a kind of celebratory mood, there was so much hope and excitement about this election.
I arrived in Tehran a month ago, a month ago today. And at that point there was absolutely no talk of the election at all. It wasn't even something of that importance to people.
So it's just taken so many twists and turns. And I think to echo what Roger was saying, there is so much anger and resentment towards the regime at this point.
I even spoke with a couple of people today before I left that had voted for Ahmadinejad that said, "Even we're upset because, you know, the results seem so farfetched. Do they think that we're idiots; do they think we're children? This is ridiculous."
BLITZER: There's -- these images -- this image of this young woman named Neda, who was killed in one of these demonstrations. And I want to show our viewers what's going on with this picture that we have. We have a warning for our viewers.
Octavia Nasr filed this report for us. This report contains extremely graphic video that is very disturbing. In addition, parents may decide it is inappropriate for children. But it's important that we see this. Here is Octavia's report.
OCTAVIA NASR, CNN'S SENIOR EDITOR, MIDDLE EAST AFFAIRS: Her name is Neda, the facts surrounding her life and her death, difficult to verify. She appears to have been a young student who joined thousands of her countrymen to voice her disapproval of Iran's election results.
Eyewitnesses say Basij militiamen hiding on a building roof top shot Neda in her chest, silencing her forever. A man who appears to be her father, desperately calling on her to open her eyes. A stranger begging her to stay awake, "Don't be afraid. Don't be afraid, Neda," the man says, but Neda doesn't respond.
She dies right there on the streets, another protester.
Neda which means "the calling," is now on millions of clips across the globe, on the Internet in specially designed avatars. A young life cut-down in its prime.
One woman's gripping story speaking volumes, a grim reminder of the price Iranians could pay for freedom.
BLITZER: Roger, Roger Cohen in Tehran, there is no doubt this image is now being seen by millions, probably tens of millions of people all over the world. But is it seen inside Iran?
COHEN: Yes, it's seen. And it's known about. And, of course, martyrdom in the Shia branch of Islam is a very powerful thing as it was in the revolution of 1979 where the martyrdom of some protesters in 1978 and '79 echoed and people are mourned for three days. They're mourned again after 40 days. It's quite a cycle.
So at least I think these images feed the anger that is out there. And I think the fundamental shift that we've seen here, is that a lot of people didn't like this system much.
But at least until the election, they have made their own compromises with it. They were prepared to live with it. Millions of people have made a fundamental shift, and they -- a way from reluctant acceptance toward outright opposition. I don't know how that plays out but it's a fundamental shift and it's going to affect this country for a long time.
BLITZER: Jason, based on what you saw and based on what you know, will the police -- the police -- the regular Iranian police have the stomach, the determination to go out there and kill fellow Iranians?
REZAIAN: I think Wolf, less and less. I met many police officers over the last week or so that wanted to have nothing to do with it. You have to remember that -- that a lot of the police in Tehran specifically are military constables and they're serving two years of mandatory service to the country. And, you know, the last thing they want to do is turn on their fellow citizens.
Now the case would be -- the members of the Iranian -- the Revolutionary Guard as well as the Basij is very different. But normal police, no, I think that they will at some point refuse to fire or beat their own people.
BLITZER: Because Roger, in your article that you wrote in the "New York Times" today, it was a very strong piece. You said some police units are wavering right now. What do you mean by that?
COHEN: Well, I saw regular police units talking to people related to this one incident where the commander of a unit of a dozen police moved forward, arms raised and said, "Look, I have a family. I don't want to beat people much less shoot people. Please leave." There were units that were just standing around.
That said, the Revolutionary Guards and the Basij are formidable forces and they're both large. Would they -- if ordered to do so open fire at large groups of Iranians protesting? There have been isolated shootings. And dozens of people have died. Mainly from the Basij, this very menacing plain clothed militia.
But would there be the whole sail cutting-down of swathes of people? I can't see that. I can't see Iranians opening fire on other Iranians. Even with the degree of fanaticism there is in some units. I think that's very hard to imagine.
But there is a great deal of dedication in these two groups, particularly Revolutionary Guards and the militia. Many of them I saw yesterday out in the street today for you where it looked to me 15, 14 even. I think they've been bussed-in from villages and these are brainwashed kids.
Brainwashed from the age of five, six and utterly dedicated to a regime that they see manifesting the hand of God on earth.
BLITZER: Roger Cohen is with the New York Times. He's in Tehran and Jason Rezaian is with tehranbureau.com. Guys thanks very much for joining us. We'll check back with both of you tomorrow.
We're going to continue our extensive coverage here on LARRY KING LIVE. This is a special LARRY KING LIVE.
We're all over what's happening in Iran right now, the breaking news. This is one of those moments in world history where things could go in either direction. And we're watching it for you. Stay with us.
Much more coming up after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. I'm Wolf Blitzer, sitting in for Larry.
The BBC says Iran has expelled its permanent correspondent in Tehran and El Arabiya says its Tehran bureau was ordered closed on Sunday. The media blackout has made the social networking sites all the more important.
Ivan Watson, CNN international correspondent has reported from inside Iran on many occasions. He's been monitoring the networking sites from our Iran Desk at the CNN Center in Atlanta.
Here is Ivan's latest report.
IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Amid the clashes and chaos, a recurring scene, women in their black overcoats and scarves at the heart of the struggle. Collecting rocks for ammunition against security forces, protecting a fallen pro-government militiaman from an angry mob, wounded in the government crackdown.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Iranian women -- since the late 1800's have been, in fact, at the forefront of the struggle for change.
WATSON: At Shiraz's University this week, riot police clubbed women dressed in black robes. A man yells, "Don't beat them, you bastards." The women stand their ground, many Iran experts aren't surprised.
BADI BADIOZAMANI, IRANIAN EXPERT: We have a saying or a name for them, Shiozan (ph) the lioness, lion woman.
WATSON: At least one of these women has paid the ultimate price for her defiance, a woman now known around the world as Neda, felled by a bullet on the front line.
BLITZER: And Ivan is joining us now from the CNN Center.
You spoke to a woman in Iran earlier today, Ivan, with a very compelling story, specifically about some photos. Tell us what she said.
WATSON: Absolutely, this was an iReport contributor. A 19-year-old woman whose name we will withhold for her own protection and she told us on the phone that she was in the front lines in these clashes in Tehran on Saturday.
Let's take a listen to what she said. She said there were many women alongside her during these violent hours.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED IREPORTER: Yesterday was such a bad day. The streets were full of guards and policemen. And they were hitting everyone.
I was just walking and because it was so crowded and they said run. I said I can't run. How can I run? It is so crowded in here. And they -- he hit me. And he was twice as me. He was so big. I said you want to hit me? And he said, yes. And then he hit me with the club.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
WATSON: Now this young woman, Wolf, she went on to say that she's injured right now and she was also hit with a stone, beaten taking those very photos that we were just looking at right now. She described large numbers of military helicopters flying overhead in Tehran today. And said she felt lucky to be alive.
She was terrified to go out on the streets today despite the call from some demonstrators for another round of protests -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ivan, are you seeing much difference in the amount of video coming in today as opposed to yesterday?
WATSON: Oh, it kept flooding in today; lots of disturbing images from the clashes yesterday. Really remarkable to see that the protesters at times were not just standing their ground but were actually pushing back the security forces throwing rocks.
You saw in that story that we showed women actually bringing stones to the men to then hurl them at those security forces. We're getting very different accounts from the streets of Tehran on Sunday, of course; much larger security presence and only scattered attempts at demonstrations.
BLITZER: What do you think about this phenomenon that we've really seen develop over these past few days of the social networking sites like MySpace or Facebook or Twitter that are providing so much of the information that the whole world is seeing.
WATSON: Well, it just shows how Internet and tech savvy Iranians are; the fact that when you have the government imposing such a strict media blackout, near complete media blackout, they are very ingenious about finding other ways to get their story out, to get their images out.
You know, this is their lives. This is their future. And they clearly feel this is incredibly important to get out.
And it also shows that they probably have been dealing -- and I've seen this on past reporting trips -- that they've been dodging Internet censorship for years and coming up with ingenious proxies to get around this to get their information out, often just for socializing.
Another point, you know, the cell phone networks have been down periodically over the course of the past week. And that very common way of communicating in Iran and in Tehran in particular, text messaging, that's been completely shut down -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Ivan, we're going to stay in close touch with you. Thanks very much.
We're not going away from this story by any means. As I said, this is a historic moment unfolding in the streets of Tehran and other cities of Iran right now.
We're going to hear some unique voices from inside Iran. That's coming up.
BLITZER: There are many voices eager to be heard during this crisis in Iran. One of them belongs to Poyan. He's an Iranian, he's living in Holland. His wife, Mahsa, is in Tehran at this hour. Mahsa has sent a number of photos to CNN's iReport.
And Poyan, who wants his last name withheld to protect his family and his wife's family as well as his wife, is joining us from Holland right now. When did you last speak with Mahsa, Poyan?
POYAN, HUSBAND OF IREPORTER MAHSA (via telephone): Hi, Wolf. The last time that I talked to her was Saturday night for three or four minutes that we talked about the situation over here and in Iran. So that was the last time.
BLITZER: What did she say?
POYAN: She told me about the fear that is around on the streets because this is not a normal demonstration. The riot guards and the Basij militia, they shoot at point blank. They have the order to shoot.
I got a couple of e-mails from her with some news that Ayatollah Khamenei was in helicopter today around Tehran to see the demonstrators. And he ordered to shoot them. The other one was the people shout, "Don't be afraid. Don't be afraid. We are all together. Death to Khamenei, death to dictators."
BLITZER: How worried are you Poyan, about your wife?
POYAN: This is scary because I can not talk to her. I cannot see her. I want her to be here. I want to be there for her, for my people and for my wife. But we are shutout. And this is scary.
BLITZER: Have you asked her to stay inside and not go out on the street?
POYAN: Well, this is her own right to do whatever she wants because this is my land, this is her land. And we all want freedom. And the reason that I am in Holland is because my father was five years in prison and her father and also her mother. So I don't blame her if she is going out on the streets to protest.
BLITZER: Poyan, good luck to you and good luck to your wife, Mahsa. We'll stay in close touch with you and hopefully we'll be able to stay in touch with Mahsa as well.
POYAN: Thank you very much.
BLITZER: Thank you.
We're going to continue our coverage. What should the president of the United States be doing right now? We're talking about President Obama. He's under a lot of pressure to become even more assertive in his public statements.
Paul Wolfowitz and David Gergen, they're here. We'll talk to both of them when LARRY KING LIVE continues.
BLITZER: Welcome back to a special LARRY KING LIVE. I'm Wolf Blitzer sitting in for Larry.
Joining us right now, two guests: Paul Wolfowitz who was deputy secretary of defense under President George W. Bush, he's now a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. And from Boston, David Gergen, our senior political analyst; he served as a White House adviser to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton.
Gentlemen thanks to both of you for coming in. Yesterday the president released this statement and among other things he said this -- I'll read part of it. "The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching. We mourn each and every innocent life that is lost. We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people. The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights."
Paul Wolfowitz, what do you think?
PAUL WOLFOWITZ, VISITING SCHOLAR, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: I think it's a good statement. I mean he started out overly cautious and mind you, I've seen other presidents start out overly cautious in these situations. But I think what people need to realize is while this is going to be something decided by the Iranian people, they care what the rest of the world thinks. And they particularly care what this particular American president thinks.
He has a powerful voice. I'm glad now it's coming out that way. He's going to have to keep it up.
BLITZER: David, this is, as you know, a written statement released on behalf of the president. It clearly would be much more powerful if he said it on camera and his voice was actually heard by people in Iran and all over the world. Do you think it will be wise for him tomorrow to go out and give a speech or make a specific statement similar or maybe even going further than what he said on Saturday?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, I do believe it will be useful for the president to show more forceful leadership internationally on this issue.
Paul wrote an important op-ed piece a couple of days ago in the press. And he and I don't always agree but on this one, I think, he had a very persuasive point.
These are hard calls for any president. I totally understand the arguments of those who say don't meddle. They see us already as this Great Satan. But having made the Cairo speech, having promised essentially a new kind of politics in the world, both in his American election and as he went before the world in Cairo, I think it's important for the president to follow-through and to not practice the old politics which was we sit on the sidelines and just start to stay quiet and we don't want to, you know, we don't want to meddle.
I think this in this case, it's important that he rally other nations and speak not alone as the American president but have a concert of nations that speak together and stand up on behalf of these silent protests in favor of democracy.
BLITZER: Because as you know, Paul Wolfowitz, several of the European allies, the French, the Germans, the British, they've made pretty forceful statements in recent days. But how significant would it be for this president of the United States not only to rally them but rally, let's say, leaders in other countries that may have influence like Russia and China, for example.
WOLFOWITZ: It's hugely important and not just because he's the president of the United States but because he's Barrack Hussein Obama. Both of those things are powerful.
And I would encourage reaching out to people like the president of Turkey and the president of Afghanistan, democratic Muslim majority countries that had mistakenly and prematurely recognized Ahmadinejad as winner of the elections.
I think there's a lot that we can do. We don't have to take sides in this election but we can stand for principles and this president is not going to be questioned in his commitment to principles.
BLITZER: We're going to continue this conversation on U.S. policy, U.S. Strategy toward Iran. This is a developing story. We're following the breaking news out of Iran.
Much more with our guests right after this.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're continuing our coverage of the breaking news in Iran here on a special LARRY KING LIVE. We're talking with Paul Wolfowitz, the former deputy secretary of defense during the Bush administration, and David Gergen, CNN senior political analyst.
David, is it important right now for the president of the United States to try to establish a dialogue, if you will, or other U.S. officials with the opposition leader Mir Hossein Moussavi?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think that the United States should have conversations with -- across the leadership group of Iran. This is not about trying to change a regime as odious as we find that regime. It is about recognizing the rights of people to vote and have their votes count and then to be able to protest silently as these people have done.
And I think it is important for the president to have conversations not just with the opposition leader but across -- and I think dialogue with whatever government that emerges as complicated as that's going to be. But let me just say one more thing, Wolf.
When we seen these pictures come out now, and it's so clear that people in Tehran and elsewhere in Iran, want to get their message out to the world community. They want to make sure we're watching and listening. And in turn this is a conversation we need to be having with the people.
And we have seen the pictures like this young 16-year-old girl shot through the heart. You realize what's unfolding before our eyes is, in effect, the Tiananmen Square in slow motion. And that calls for some kind of humanity on the part of people in the west and other democracies, and as Paul says, in places like Turkey, to respond to what we're seeing. BLITZER: Is this one of those moments where we're going to see a dramatic change? I ask the question because you served at the Pentagon when in 1991 when we saw a failed Soviet coup in August of '91 but eventually six months later the collapse of the Soviet Union ending 74 years of communist rule in Russia.
PAUL WOLFOWITZ, FMR. DEPUTY SECY. OF DEFENSE, 2001-2006: And we don't know where it's going. I think you said a little while ago, history in the balance. But I think it's important that we put our weight on the right side of the balance. It's going to be decided by Iranians. But we have something to contribute. And, you know...
BLITZER: We don't want it to backfire.
WOLFOWITZ: We don't.
BLITZER: Or the U.S. meddling or involved. But given the history -- and there's a long history between the United States and Iran which you know quite well.
WOLFOWITZ: But, you know, I understand the concern about meddling in a way that seems to label the oppositions on Americans, too. But the opposition has made it very clear they want support from the world. There's no question about it.
BLITZER: You think Mir Hossein Moussavi wants the president of the United States...
WOLFOWITZ: Yes. His spokesman don't make (INAUDIBLE). He said so. And you know, what's happening, I think, in Iran, I'm afraid, is darkness is descending. The regime is trying to silence the opposition by technical means, by violence against people.
BLITZER: So what would you want the president to do right now?
WOLFOWITZ: I think a variety of things that can help to pierce that darkness.
BLITZER: Like what?
WOLFOWITZ: What he says himself, what our friends and allies say, which we can reach out to, what the non government community, what the American technical community. I mean we've got technical geniuses here that can probably help these people break through the kinds of jamming systems that the regime is trying to use against them.
BLITZER: Talking to Moussavi?
WOLFOWITZ: I would -- I would certainly find out if he wants a conversation. If he doesn't, I wouldn't push it. But I certainly would make it clear that the phone is open and you know.
BLITZER: Is the -- take us inside the White House, David, because you worked in the White House for four presidents. Is there a robust debate among his national security and foreign policy advisors under way right now?
GERGEN: Well, this White House has been very good, of course, about shutting down the press on sort of what the inside dynamics often are. We do -- we have had reports in "The New York Times" that Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have both been pushing for a more muscular response.
But we've also had the official White House spokesman saying well, everybody is on the same page. We may have some disagreements about aspects of it. But in every White House I've ever been, there does tend to be a division over issues like that with some wanting to do just what the president says to do, be cautious, stay out, stay on the sidelines. None of our business. We don't want to be meddling. Don't want to be -- you know, drawn into it.
Versus others who it who say, you know, at some point, Mr. President, these things get so awful. I remember when Israel went into Lebanon. President Reagan was in office. And there was a huge pressure on him not to say anything about the Israeli presence there.
And then those pictures came back from Beirut. And Mike Beaver took those pictures in the President Reagan and showed him these kids were being shut up and the president sort of said, "I cannot say something."
And he called the Israeli prime minister and said call it off and it ended. But there are times when even they're best friends like Israel, the United States has to stand up for a more humane set of principles.
BLITZER: All right, guys. Don't go away, Paul Wolfowitz and David Gergen. They're staying with us. Robin Wright was traveling to Iran on many occasions. She's going to join the conversation as well. Stay with us. LARRY KING LIVE continues right after this.
BLITZER: David Gergen and Paul Wolfowitz are still here and but also joining us in the conversation right now is the journalist Robin Wright. She's traveled to Iran nearly every year since 1979. She's interviewed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khamanei. Her latest book is entitled "Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East."
I want to talk about this tape that we've seen today of this young girl Neda who was shot and killed. But that picture of her lying on the street with her father over her and her friends. That's -- that's going to become a symbol of what's going on right now.
ROBIN WRIGHT, JOURNALIST, HAS EXTENSIVE KNOWLEDGE OF IRAN: Oh, yes. There've been millions of hits on YouTube,Ttwitter, Facebook. It is today the symbol and is likely to be. This will likely be Neda's uprising.
What makes so it interesting is that it begun -- it has begun to echo the same kind of themes, the mechanisms, the tactics used in the revolution itself 30 years ago. In Shiite Islam people commemorated death every three, seven and 40 days after a death. And during the revolution, there was a cycle where in all the clashes between the shah and the security forces, there was a death commemorated 40 days down the road.
That then led to new clashes, new deaths and another 40-day commemoration that led to another confrontation. It was literally the whole year of 1978 until the shah was out ousted in 1979.
BLITZER: And this period of mourning is martyr. They become martyrs.
BLITZER: Those who are killed.
WRIGHT: That's right. And martyrdom is central to the history of Shiite Islam. It is better to die fighting for justice than to live with injustice. And so she has come to symbolize all that Shiite Islam, all that Iranian history is about.
And the opposition leader has already called for commemoration in three days. And, of course, this is only the beginning of the cycle. So you could see the very tactics used by the revolutionaries 30 years ago have come back and made -- be part of the cycle in an effort to challenge them.
BLITZER: And we heard that Mir Hossein Moussavi, the opposition leader, he says he's ready. He's prepared for martyrdom.
WOLFOWITZ: Which is remarkable. And I think people probably underestimated him, including the regime. But certainly I think people here. It's an amazing statement. And I -- understandably some of the caution at the beginning of the week from the White House was, we don't want to encourage people to put their lives at risk and think that we can rescue them.
That should be behind us now. I mean it's very clear the Iranians are brave. They don't need the Americans to tell them to be brave. What they do need is the whole world to say look, we admire your bravery, we support your peaceful resistance to tyranny and we support the democratic process.
BLITZER: And when the president, Robin, says the whole world is watching, I think it's fair to say he's right. The whole world is watching.
WRIGHT: The whole world is watching. But on this issue of martyrdom and the opposition, the fact that Moussavi's people have came out today and said he didn't, in fact, make that statement, he is in many ways the unlikely hero. He is one who thrusts in this position.
He is the response to a reform movement that has taken birth among the people themselves. So this is -- he's taken some very bold positions but they claim he's not.
BLITZER: So there's a mix interpretation whether he actually said that. Whether he said it or not, there's no doubt, David Gergen, that he has merged right now as the symbol of the opposition. Perhaps not even wanting to get into that stance. But whatever the people on the street are doing, he's their representative.
GERGEN: Yes, that's right. Clearly, he's not the best vessel to represent this movement. But he is the one who is there. And under those circumstances, he's become symbolic. But I'd like -- I'd be interesting what Robin and Paul both here, Wolf, to answer this question.
When this is over and there is a government -- let's say the darkness does descend, as Paul so eloquently put it, and we have the same government in place. What happens to the prospects for negotiations? How does the president organize that with regard to talking to Iran?
And given the questionable legitimacy of the regime, the storied legitimacy, how does this -- where do we go from here when this is over?
BLITZER: Because there's no doubt, Paul Wolfowitz, that it's going to be much more difficult for President Obama to have a dialogue with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad if he emerges as the president of Iran after cracking down the way he has.
WOLFOWITZ: Well, he may be a weaker man and they need to negotiate. But I think it's a mistake right now to base our policy on where we're going to be with respect to negotiations after it's all over. And I think we have to say this.
Whatever else you say about Moussavi, whether he said it or didn't say it, he is a very brave man. He is resisting. He's putting his life at risk. And I think we have to admire that.
BLITZER: Well, what do you make of all these arrests that are going on, including relatives of Rafsanjani? I mean it seems like there could be a split among the clerical elite running this country.
WRIGHT: Ah there already is. And it's the deepest split since the revolution. This is what makes it so interesting. You have a real coalition opposition. It's not just like the student revolt in 1999 where you had kids without a strategy. They were a body without a head.
This is a coalition that includes two former presidents -- former prime ministers. You have leading intelligencia. You have taxi drivers. There are indications that some of the police are not willing to take action against the protesters. This is an across-the- board coalition that is very robust.
The key will be on Tuesday when the -- they've called for a national strike to see if the business community, one of the three legs of Persian society, participate, close their doors and signal to the government that they also are unhappy with the election results.
BLITZER: And there's no doubt also, David Gergen, that so much of this fervor, this opposition to the regime there is fueled not only by young people but by women. And it's really an amazing development when you think about, you know, the status of women in Iran. They've been in this situation for 30 years since they overthrew the shah.
GERGEN: It is. It's very striking. And, Wolf, this is a trend we're actually seeing around the world in many countries, especially as women are given a little more freedom and they're given more education, they're speaking up and changing the dynamics of internal politics.
They are really a major force for democracy in country after country for opening up, for becoming more modern, for changing as the standards of behavior, changing the culture. This is something we ought to be celebrating and there, just as Moussavi is showing a lot of valor in all of this, they're showing an enormous amount of courage out there on the streets.
BLITZER: And I think it's already -- I was going to say to Robin, but let me -- I'll let Paul come in in a second. I think it's already having an impact elsewhere in the region.
WRIGHT: Oh, absolutely.
BLITZER: What people are seeing.
WRIGHT: And I think there are probably a lot of leaders in the Middle East who are looking at their own backside. If you can take one of the most rigid and authoritarian governments in the world and in the region, one of the mightiest armies, largest security forces, and find that people can take to the streets and challenge them, that then changes the dynamics of balance of power in regimes across the country.
BLITZER: Including Saudi Arabia? Do you think the royal family there is getting nervous?
WOLFOWITZ: Don't take it too far. I think they have some things under control for better and for worse. But, look, I think it certainly speaks across the region. What really struck me in Obama's speech in Cairo, he talked about seven issues, and on two of them the audience applauded that mere announcement that he's going to discuss -- one was democracy and the other one was women's right.
He said I want to talk about democracy, I want to talk about women's rights. The audience burst into applause.
BLITZER: It sounds like you really liked that speech.
WOLFOWITZ: I liked large parts of it and I loved the audience reaction. I think it speaks volumes.
BLITZER: Paul Wolfowitz, thanks very much for coming in. Robin Wright, thanks to you. David German, always a pleasure having you here on LARRY KING LIVE.
We're going to continue our conversation. The CIA has a long history in Iran. Two former CIA officers, they're standing by to join us to talk about what the CIA should be doing, shouldn't be doing, how much information is really coming in about this situation in Iran right now.
Stay with us. Our special LARRY KING LIVE will continue right after this.
BLITZER: We're going to get to our conversation with two former CIA officials on what the CIA should and should not be doing in Iran right now. But first, the Sunday talk shows were certainly full of quotes about the turmoil in Iran and U.S. policy regarding that country. Here's a he sampling of what was said today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "MEET THE PRESS")
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: I think something very deep and very fundamental is going on. And there's an expression of a deep desire amid the people of Iran for freedom.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "FACE THE NATION")
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: This is a human rights issue. This is an issue about whether people can freely demonstrate their disagreement with their government without being beaten and killed in the streets.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THIS WEEK")
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: This regime is corrupt. It has blood on its hands in Iran. They've killed Americans in Iraq, innocent Iraqi people. Now they're killing their own people. Stand up with the protesters. That's not meddling. That's doing the right thing.
SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), HEALTH COMMITTEE: The worst thing that we could do at this moment for these reformers, these protesters, these courageous people in Tehran is allow the government there to claim that this is a U.S.-led opposition.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "STATE OF THE UNION")
SEN. RICHARD LUGAR (R), INDIANA: Either the protesters bring about change or they're suppressed. And it's a potentially very brutal outcome.
SEN. DIANE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: It is very crucial, as I see, that we not have our fingerprints on this, that this really be a truly inspired by the Iranian people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. We're going to have our conversation with two former CIA officials. That's coming up next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Let's get another take on the crisis in Iran right now. We welcome Michael Scheuer, a former CIA operative and counterterrorism expert. He served as chief of the CIA's bin Laden issues station. He's the author of "Imperial Hubris." He wants to call your attention to National Geographic's very timely "Iran in the West". It airs tomorrow at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.
And from New York, Gary Berntsen joins us. He's a former CIA operative as well. He's the author of "Jawbreaker: The Attack on Bin Laden and Al Qaeda".
Thanks to both of you for coming.
And does the U.S. really know, the intelligence community, Michael, does it have good information on what's going on inside Iran right now?
MICHAEL SCHEUER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: I think it has some information, good information I doubt it, Wolf. It's very difficult to have good information about a country when you have no representation there and no ability to work in that country in any but a very covert manner.
BLITZER: Just because the United States doesn't have a diplomatic embassy there, that means it has no representation there?
SCHEUER: Well, no. It's all done covertly. It's much more difficult. Our allies help. Certainly, we have been trying to overthrow this regime for a long time. So we obviously have assets within the country.
BLITZER: What should, if anything, Gary, the CIA be doing in Iran right now?
GARY BERNTSEN, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Well, clearly you want to do -- you know collection. And what we want to be collecting on is probably the suppression which is going to come.
Likely the IRGC, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Ministry of Intelligence and Security, are going to start to make people disappear, and we wan want to be able to keep track of that, we want to sort of do what we can to highlight this because this regime is not just going to walk away from this.
These are revolutionaries who fought their way into power. They have the Iranian Revolutionary Guard there to defend the Islamic nature of the regime. And they are going to suppress their population very, very brutally.
BLITZER: It's one thing, Gary, to just collect information and bring it to policymakers, including the president. It's another thing to engage in covert action and try to affect what's going on.
Do you think it would be wise for the U.S. to engage in covert action right now? BERNTSEN: Well, covert action requires both, you know, daring and competence. And we've had -- you know, that's been up and down over the years in terms of covert action, but I don't think that covert action -- more we need is public diplomacy right now.
I mean we're beyond the covert action phase right now. The Iranians have launched this, the population on their own, and I think that we're wise to do sound public diplomacy, get other nations involved with us, put pressure on the Iranians not to suppress their population, and to try to give birth to this, help -- you know give birth to this movement.
BLITZER: Michael, do you agree?
SCHEUER: No, I don't. I think Mr. Wolfowitz before me and many people in the press want to sit here -- they want to break the Iranian regime. That's all they're interested in. It's a matter of power.
And for westerners to flicker into YouTube and to urge these kids to go out on the street and as Gary said fall on the bayonets of the revolutionary guard, to me it's just almost criminal.
The United States should stay the devil out of this business. Obama managed to keep his big mouth shut while the Israelis killed 1500 people in Gaza. He just hobnobbed with the greatest jail master in the Middle East in Cairo.
Stay out of this business. America doesn't need another war at this moment, Wolf. It's just none of our business what goes on in their country.
BLITZER: So -- but you support the president's decision to have a very sort of modest public posture at least during this first week after the election.
SCHEUER: His first statement was excellent. Apparently, the neocons in his own administration now have got his ear because clearly there's no such thing as a universal right to assembly and free speech. That's -- that differs from country to country.
That's the neocon idea of imposing American values everywhere else in the world. It's a nonsense, and it's going to get people butchered in Iran.
BLITZER: Do you agree with that, Gary?
BERNTSEN: Clearly Mike and I disagree on this. And -- what I'll say is this -- that I think the greatest long-term chance for peace in the Middle East is to have a democratic movement formed in Iran that we will be able to just talk with in the future.
I don't think this regime has any interest in stopping its pursuit of nuclear weapons. I'm not proposing that young people there fall -- you know dive into bayonets there. I'd like to see many of them do as much as they can to sort of bring change here. Peacefully if he can, but they need to stand up -- the entire population needs to come out and support the movement which is going on right now.
BLITZER: We only have a little time left.
Michael, what's going to be the outcome? What's going to happen?
SCHEUER: I think the regime will hold on. And it really doesn't matter if it doesn't, Wolf, because Moussavi is going to build a nuclear weapon the same way Ahmadinejad is going to build a nuclear weapon.
BLITZER: Do you agree with that, Gary?
BERNTSEN: I'm not sure. I don't -- I think that Moussavi may take a different tract if he doesn't have the supreme leader as a master. I think if you have a different type of government there, I think the Iranians may take a different track.
BLITZER: Gary Berntsen and Michael Scheuer, guys, thanks very much for coming in.
We'll take a quick break and wrap things up right after this.
BLITZER: Thank you very much for joining us. Larry will be back tomorrow. I'll see you in "THE SITUATION ROOM."
CNN's continuing coverage of the situation in Iran resumes right now.