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FAREED ZAKARIA GPS
Fareed's Take on Iran; Panel on the Iranian Situation; Questions on the UN Gaza Investigation
Aired October 4, 2009 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: This GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria.
This week we have a special set of guests, Richard Goldstone, the judge who issued a report accusing Israel and Hamas of war crimes in Gaza. It triggered a fiery response from Israel's Prime Minister at the UN. A Latin American leader, who likes free market, is openly pro-American and is winning the continent's longest-running drug war with the president of Colombia. Plus, a special panel on Iran, Europe and more.
Now, Iran has really dominated the diplomatic news for the last two weeks. A moment of truth is arriving on the Iran Issue. Western countries will have to face up to the fact that there are only really two choices with Iran: one, a military strike, effectively preventing the country from continuing to expand its nuclear capacity; or, secondly, learning to live with such a capacity.
Now, I think striking Iran would have the first effect of uniting the country behind the regime. It happens in every country that is attacked from abroad. George w. Bush's approval ratings on September 10, 2001, were around 40 percent. In one month, after 9/11, they had risen to 93 percent. Iranian dissidents warn that the day after an American attack or an Israeli attack, they would all have to come out in support of the regime.
The political spillover from such an attack in Arab countries would also be large, and the military spillover in Iraq and Afghanistan, where Iran still funds militias, would probably take the lives of American and European soldiers. The price of oil would skyrocket, and, at best, such a military strike would delay the Iranian program, not end it, and probably delay it by just a few years.
Is it possible to live with a nuclear Iran? I would argue yes. Living with it is not a passive option. Iran's behavior will make it possible to maintain, perhaps even expand, sanctions on it. It will strengthen western resolve and, more importantly, make most Arab states ally themselves far more closely with the United States and Europe than ever before. The great strategic threat in the region would no longer be Israel but Iran.
These countries, the Arab countries, would make vigorous efforts to contain Iran's influence militarily and politically, as would western nations. We could press for more sanctions, inspections of all kinds. And, finally, Israel's vast nuclear arsenal, 250 nuclear weapons by most accounts, plus that of the United States would act as a deterrent on Iran. It would not use its nuclear weapons because it would clearly trigger an overwhelming response.
This is not a perfect option. But, in the real world, it seems to me a far more sensible one than a gamble that attacking Iran would solve this problem. Anyway, as always, that's just my take. We will now hear from three very distinguished experts who have their own views.
Let' get started.
Now to our roundtable, fascinating people I've wanted to have on for GPS for a while, all of whom have written on extensively and incisively on Iran. Timothy Garton Ash is perhaps the most prominent intellectual in Europe. He's written nine books chartering the continent's recent political history. He's a professor at Oxford. He writes a weekly column for the British newspaper, "The Guardian".
Roger Cohen is a columnist for "The New York Times." He's written for more than a dozen countries, but most recently on Iran. This past summer, he wrote memorably and movingly about the pro-democracy demonstrations that rocked that country.
Reuel Marc Gerecht is a former Middle East specialist at the CIA. I published him once pseudonymously at Foreign Affairs many, many years ago. He's a frequent contributor to "The Weekly Standard" and many would consider him a fiery neoconservative.
Welcome all. What do you think is the state of play with Iran right now? I mean, just factually, where are we in the - in the - in the negotiations and the process?
TIMOTHY GARTON ASH, AUTHOR, "FACTS ARE SUBVERSIVE": Right now there are at least two governments in Iran. It's a deeply divided regime. Pillars of the regime like Ayatollah Rafsanjani are now in a conflict with the Revolutionary Guards. Unfortunately, this time, we got it the wrong way around.
ZAKARIA: Wait, explain that, because...
ASH: Well, I mean that the moment to engage is when you want to prise open that regime, encourage the forces for change, not at the moment when the forces for change have already exploded, and what all the Iranian opposition is saying to us is do not legitimize Ahmadinejad at this moment. It's the worst thing you can do.
ROGER COHEN, THE NEW YORK TIMES: If I may, I don't think - what is - there is - there is no legitimacy. It's ultimately a force of arms, it's ultimately the monopoly of a force that has preserved this government. And I don't think the view of the Iranian people of the Ahmadinejad presidency, you know, is significant altered. I think they will continue to press for reform, for opening and that will be encouraged, ultimately, if we can break this deadline.
ASH: If Obama met with Ahmadinejad at the United Nations...
COHEN: Well, that's unthinkable. ASH: ... that will be a slap in the face for the Iranian people. So, you do have to watch out, I think. I am actually for negotiations, although I don't think they'll get anywhere. But bear in mind the impact of everything you do on people who are obsessed with the United States.
REUEL MARC GERECHT, FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: Yes. I was just going to say, I mean, pro-Americanism is so great in Iran, amongst the Iranian people, and has been accelerating over the last two decades in great part because the United States has been seen as being hostile to the theocracy. No one in - people in Iran are not saying, you know, "Vive la France!" even though, with Sarkozy taking a much harder anti-Iranian line, one might - might expect them to become more pro-French.
I think the ultimate objective here is to ensure that the United States aligns itself with the democratic movement inside of Iran, not to align itself with Ahmadinejad, not to believe that in fact Hamaney or Ahmadinejad want to have a restoration or relations with the United States. They do not. Just the opposite. For them that would be a death knell for the regime, and I think they're right.
ZAKARIA: An Iranian dissident said to me, and I think everything he said to me is consistent with what you're saying, but he said if the United States or Israel were to attack Iran militarily, the next day the leading dissidents would have to come out in support of the regime and in support of the government, because when - if we were attacked from the outside, we would all have to coalesce around the regime.
GERECHT: I think that's - that's probably a little bit too simple. I mean, if you go back and you look at, say, Rafsanjani, who is one of the most powerful men in Iran. He's been one of the primary critics of Hamaney. They were brothers in arms at one time, now they're antagonists. Rafsanjani's critique of Ahmadinejad and Hamaney on the nuclear issue has been that they have been too aggressive, they have been too inflammatory. What he's really saying under the table is that, listen, if we'd take a softer approach on this, we'll get a nuke (ph) anyway.
ZAKARIA: Yes, but to get attacked by a foreign force, you know, and have civilian casualties and to have the destruction, at that moment - you know, on September 12th there weren't a lot of people who said to George Bush, you know what? You kind of didn't pay attention to this problem of al Qaeda. They - you know, his approval rating went from 40 percent to 90 percent. So...
GERECHT: But I think within a - I think within a fairly short period of time in Iran, what you would have happen is that all the Iranians would probably say, you know, down with the attack. I mean, that's just going to be the instinctive reaction. But within a very short period of time - Iranians aren't simple folk. They're very sophisticated, and their complaints and criticisms and hostility toward the regime is longstanding, that you'll start to see in fact questioning of the competence of this regime. Why did it lead to, in fact, a military strike by either the United States or, much more probable, Israel? COHEN: I completely disagree. If Israel were to attack - if it were to attack Iran, who in the Muslim world would distinguish between Israel and the United States? Well, I think you could count them on one hand. And so, at the moment when the president, when President Obama has made outreach to the Muslim world, the - one of the central tacks (ph) of his foreign policy, we would in effect find ourselves at war from the western border of Iraq, all the across Iraq, all across Iran, across the Arab and Persian worlds, into Afghanistan, to the eastern border of Afghanistan, and beyond.
So how do you reconcile outreach to the Muslim world with wars against Muslims across a 2,000 mile front (ph)? I think it's completely - and not to mention the way Iran could activate surrogates in Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, to the lasting detriment of American interests?
GERECHT: Well, one, I think that sounds a bit like the - what the British dealt with in World War I where they said that if the British go to war with the Ottoman Empire they're going to be dealing with an Islamic wave, a holy war that's going to extend all the way across North Africa, all the way to Iran. It didn't happen.
I mean, many, many times we keep hearing about the supposed street power and street wave that's going to occur if the United States does this or the Israelis do this, and it doesn't happen. I would just suggest that the Iranians are not ten feet tall. In fact, I think their greatest fear is if the Israelis were to attack - I think the odds of Obama doing so are quite small - that if the Israelis were to do so, that their biggest fear is what happens if the Hezbollah doesn't respond? What happens if Hamas doesn't respond? What happens with all the Sunni militants, that they've invested enormous amount of time and money, in fact don't respond? What happens if the Shia government of Iraq says, no, this is not my affair?
Are the Iranians going to go in there and killing Iraqi Shia? I doubt it. Are the Iranians going to go in and wage war against the Tajiks in Afghanistan and Hazara? I doubt it. Are they going to support the Pashtun Taliban in an open, aggressive way? I doubt it.
ZAKARI: But - so let's follow the logic of what you're saying. The Iranians actually are not ten feet tall. They do not have the kind of influence over these - these groups in - in Lebanon, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, that people say. So then why is it such a problem if they develop a nuclear capacity? Because when making the argument that this is a grave danger, the - the case is always made because they have this vice-like grip over all of these militias all over the Middle East and they will, you know, give them the weapons?
So you can't have it both ways. Either Iran is weak and therefore we shouldn't worry about a ten-part North Korea-like nuclear capacity, or it's very strong and it can respond in very effective ways through these militias.
GERECHT: No. I think there's - I think there's another option. Iran doesn't have a vice-like grip over the Middle East, but what Iran has consistently done since the revolution is it's advocated this - a very virulent (ph) form of Islamic militancy. It's supported terrorist groups consistently. You do not want to give a country that has attacked the United States directly, both in terrorism - by the way, the people who attacked us at Khobar Towers in 1996 are the very same people who are in control of the country now.
ASH: Well, one thing is sure. If either Israel or the United States attacked Iran, there would not be a wave of pro-Americanism and fellow semitism wave spreading through the Islamic world. I mean, that's for sure, and Roger is absolutely right about that.
I think to avoid that, one thing we could do is to try and get into a conversation where we get reformists and opposition leaders in Iran into the conversation - and you both refered to this, and they stand up and say, we want a civil nuclear capacity under an international regime, international supervision of the fuel cycle. And then we say, indeed that is what we want. I think that would be the way to combine the hope of democracy and the fear of the nuclear.
ZAKARIA: And some Iranian officials have actually, over the course of the last five years, occasionally suggested that compromise is acceptable (ph).
ASH: It's been discussed many times. It's not unthinkable at all.
ZAKARIA: And we will be back right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GERECHT: In fact, compromise isn't possible because they won't compromise. For them, is it a betrayal of themselves as being devout Muslims, it is a betrayal of the revolution and they will not do it.
ZAKARIA: And we are back with our very distinguished panel. Reuel, let me ask you, when thinking about Iran, one of the things that I think has changed in our understanding of it - at least my understanding of it - tell me if you think this is right, is we always thought of this as a theocracy, and we thought that the mullahs were where the power was, Khomeini was where the power is, but what seems to have happened over the last few years is that it has morphed into a military dictatorship, and the Revolutionary Guard have become the focus of power, you know, many of the mullahs now in Qom, for example, are critical of Ahmadinejad.
So in that context, should we be negotiating with, you know, the what is still the kind of theocratic elements of the region? Is there some way for us to talk directly to the guys who are actually running Iran, who are these - these commandos of the Revolutionary Guard?
GERECHT: Well, I don't think Iran has yet turned into a - a pure military dictatorship. There's still - the clerics are an enormously important part of the equation of the notion of legitimacy within the country. And I would just add I'm not even sure that the Revolutionary Guard Corps - though it has certainly become the most powerful force in the country - is monolith.
I think if you were to go back and you look at the elections and - this is, you know, anecdotal but I think if in the elections of '97 and in 2001, that what you saw was a substantial number of guardsmen actually voting for the reformist candidate. That could have happened this time, too. I mean, one way to divide the Iranians is by those who are better educated from those who are less educated.
ZAKARIA: But isn't it generally true that the - that the Revolutionary Guard and the besieged (ph) tend to draw from the less- educated classes?
GERECHT: Yes, but actually the guard corps have then - I mean, you've now got almost two generations of men in the guard corps. Like the clergy, the children of the guards now are amongst the best educated in Iran. I suspect there is profound division, the type of division that you see with the children of the clergy, and you certainly see it now.
You probably have something similar going on with the guard corps. Now that makes the guard much more nervous, and I think it doesn't make the - the future in the short term bright, but in the long term it does allow a certain level of hope.
ASH: I very much agree with that. You know, all the best regime changes in the last 30 years - the Philippines, South Africa, Central Europe, you name it - have come when you have splits within the regime and you can get defections from within the elite. And so you have to look at these elites and say, maybe the revolutionary guards, many of whom, by the way, are very rich - they have very successful businesses - can be encouraged to defect because it will be in their economic interest.
So I think we have to play it quite smart.
COHEN: I think there are very significant splits. I mean, look at these moderate conservatives like the Larijani, the speaker, (INAUDIBLE), the mayor of Tehran.
ZAKARIA: But they come more from the clerical side. I mean, I don't see a lot of Revolutionary Guard types.
COHEN: Yes. It's very hard to read within the Revolutionary Guards, but I'm absolutely sure - I agree too, I'm absolutely sure it's not monolithic. I mean, there are Iranians who don't like - within the Revolution Guards, throughout society - who don't like having a president who they regard as needlessly embarrassing the country quite often. And they - there is also an important split, I think, within the establishment - and I don't think it's as clear as you suggest where Hamaney stands - between those who believe that Iran has a China option.
In other words, Iran can do what China did in 1972. It can preserve the Islamic Republic but it achieve normalization with the United States and it can come closer to the world and the world becomes a less dangerous place. We still pursue our interests. We may not a good relationship with the United States, we may disagree about everything, but we move forward. That's one significant group within the constellation that is the power structure.
And then there is another group that does not believe that, that believes if you're not saying "Death to America" every Friday, you're not going to survive because what are the pillars of the revolution today? Well, it's unclear, but that's certainly one of them. And I think Hamaney leans toward believing that if you do away with "Death to America" you're at risk, and so it's too much of a gamble. I don't think he's 100 percent committed to that line. I think - I think he can be moved. And even Ahmadinejad, certainly there's part of him that is intrigued by the idea of - of a breakthrough with the United States.
GERECHT: I think that's a very secularized understanding of the Iranians, really. I mean, Hamaney really does view himself as being a Soldier of God, and he makes it crystal clear - he is a devout man, he sees himself - he sees his basic identity, and the identity of Iran as being really the preeminent Islamic state. Its role is to oppose the United States, to oppose what the United States stands for, to oppose Great Satan or as he prefers to say it, "Satan Incarnate." And I think we do ourselves a great disservice by suggesting that these men are much more calculating, that they don't believe in God, that in fact they do not see themselves as part of a...
ZAKARIA: Well, it's possible to be calculating and believe in God. The history of the Catholic Church or...
GERECHT: Well, sure. I would in fact suggest it is that type of very religiously motivated pragmatism that ought to make you believe that in fact compromise isn't possible because they won't compromise. For them, it is a betrayal of themselves as being devout Muslims, it is a betrayal of the revolution, and they will not do it.
COHEN: But look at - look at the Muslims on their doorstep, in Chechnya. Look at the (INAUDIBLE) Muslims in China. Does Iran ever say anything about them? No, it doesn't, because it's a very prudent regime in many respects, and it knows that if it is confronting the United States, it cannot at the same time confront Russia and China, and Russia is de facto an ally of Iran in many respects.
And have you ever heard the Iranians speak out on but half of those Muslims? No, because they're smart.
GERECHT: Well, that's actually not true. They have in the past, but that's...
ZAKARIA: The most pro forma (ph).
GERECHT: ... the - as I said before, the chief issue is the United States. The United States represents that which they fight against.
ASH: The Islamic Republic is itself a compromise between the idea of an Islamist revolutionary regime and the idea of a republic. And the outcome we want is one in which it becomes more of a republic and less Islamist, in which Khomeini is reduced from being genuinely the fuhrer, the Supreme Leader, if I might put it that way, to something more like a constitutional monarch.
ZAKARIA: There's a group of - of clerics in Qom who have issued a declaration that says the Islamic Republic of Iran is now neither Islamic nor a republic because they have violated both ends. I tend to think that the clerical dissent from this - this current regime is growing and that you are actually seeing some kind of a split.
Anyway, we will solve that problem the next time we get the three of you here. Thank you so much, and we will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: How do you react when you hear Israelis accusing you of anti-Israeli bias, anti-Zionism - some have even used the phrase 'self-hating jew'?
ZAKARIA: South African Justice Richard Goldstone made his name with legal cases of world importance but also of great delicacy and sensitivity. First in his home country of South Africa, pursuing an end to the political violence that came with apartheid, then on to the international stage as Chief Prosecutor of the UN Tribunals for War Crimes in Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
But his latest job is more controversial. In April, the UN Human Rights Council appointed Goldstone to head a mission to investigate allegations of human rights violations in the 22-day conflict between Israel and Gaza that began last December. From the start, some on both sides questioned whether a fair inquiry could be made, and in the end Israel, which took much of the blame in the final, almost 600-page report, though not exclusive blame, has reacted angrily.
Listen to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressing the UN General Assembly last week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: A democracy legitimately defending itself against terror is morally hanged, drawn and quartered and given an unfair trial to boot. By these twisted standards, the UN Human Rights Council would have dragged Roosevelt and Churchill to the dock as war criminals.
What a perfect version of truth. What a perversion of justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: Netanyahu said that the report threatens to derail the peace process. Now listen to my conversation with the man at the center of this storm, Justice Goldstone.
ZAKARIA: Judge Goldstone, thank you for doing this.
JUDGE RICHARD GOLDSTONE, HEAD OF UN GAZA INVESTIGATION: It's a pleasure.
ZAKARIA: The Prime Minister of Israel, as you know, denounced your report effectively on the floor of the United Nations General Assembly, and his basic argument is that the report is morally obtuse because it does not just distinguish between a democratic state that is being threatened by this hail of rockets and a terrorist organization, in his words, that is trying to inflict disproportionate and random violence on civilians.
GOLDSTONE: I think - I think, with respect, Prime Minister Netanyahu, misunderstands the basis on which we investigated. We - we didn't question the right of Israel to defend itself or to defend its citizens. It clearly has that right. What we looked was the methods used in doing that. So we didn't - we didn't question Israel's right of self-defense. We, in effect, in a way, took it as a given. It was, as I say, the - the - whether it was a proportionate response or a disproportionate response that we looked at.
And the other way, too, we - we didn't look at whether Hamas is entitled to use military force to - to gain independence for the Palestinian people. We - we looked at what - what methods Hamas used, and we found those to be unlawful.
ZAKARIA: The Israelis claim that Hamas put themselves in hospitals, forced the Israelis to attack - to strike there, and that would produce an international public outrage. What did you find?
GOLDSTONE: Well, we didn't exclude all of those allegations. We couldn't. We - we had a short-time line (ph), we had a very, very scarce resources. We investigated specific incidents and we didn't find, in respect of those incidents, that the Israeli claims had - had been - been justified. But certainly we can't exclude it across the board.
ZAKARIA: You spoke of the Israeli behavior during Gaza as being part of a pattern that you described as, the Israeli term, 'dahia' (ph). What does that mean?
GOLDSTONE: Well, the - the - the attitude of Israel and the policy of Israel, especially since the Hamas victory a few years ago, has been really to turn the screws on - on Gaza. We felt that one of the purposes was to make life so difficult for the people of Gaza that they would turn their back on Hamas and it would lose support. In fact, if anything, it was my personal impression that it's had the opposite effect.
ZAKARIA: What was the infrastructure damage like? Describe so that people can get a sense of what - what you regard as excessive.
GOLDSTONE : Well, the - the infrastructure damage, first of all, that had no military justification at all, was the bulldozing of agricultural fields. Huge tracks of land were just bulldozed by - by tank bulldozers. The only operating flour factory in Gaza. Obviously, flour is terribly important to feed - for making bread, a staple part of their diet. The only flour factory was - was effectively destroyed. They destroyed most of the egg production. They - they killed tens of thousands of chickens. You know, and this has got nothing to do with firing of rockets and mortars. It was the destruction of infrastructure -- of part of the infrastructure of Gaza.
ZAKARIA: How will you describe Hamas' responsibility here? You dealt with that in the report as well. Would you describe Hamas as guilty of war crimes?
GOLDSTONE: Oh yes, absolutely, of serious war crimes, which do amount crimes against humanity, and that's the firing of thousands of rockets that have no precision at all into civilian areas. That's a very serious crime.
But we also criticized its use of civilians and not protecting civilians sufficiently in its launching of rockets. And they put civilians in harm's way.
ZAKARIA: And you found that both Israel and Hamas in a sense did not take enough precaution about the potential for civilian casualties?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.
ZAKARIA: Judge Goldstone, you're Jewish.
ZAKARIA: How do you react when you hear Israelis accusing you of anti-Israeli bias, anti-Zionism, some have used the phrase "self- hating Jew"?
GOLDSTONE: First, there's obviously no truth in it. I've got a great love for Israel. It's a country that, as I said, I've been to many times, and I've worked for many Israeli causes and continue to do so. So it's factually incorrect.
But what saddens me is the fact that Jews, whether in Israel or outside Israel, feel that because I'm Jewish I shouldn't investigate Israel.
If anything, I think I have a greater obligation to do that. If I've investigated war crimes in other countries, why should Israel be different? And it seems to me that that should be welcomed and recognized.
ZAKARIA: When you look at these crimes against humanity, these war crimes, how do they compare? You have a long career. You've seen many of these kinds of things, investigated some. Where does this stand? How should we think of it?
GOLDSTONE: Well, you know, I don't like making comparisons because each situation is so different. But certainly one can compare what has happened here to situations that I've investigated in the former Yugoslavian genocide. One doesn't here in respect of Gaza get anywhere in my view anywhere near that sort of situation.
It's very different. Many people are comparing what's happening in the occupied territories to apartheid South Africa. I don't like that comparison. There's some similarities, but there are more differences.
ZAKARIA: Do you see this as the end of the report and your role?
GOLDSTONE: Absolutely. It's now in the political arena. I hope that we have provided a road map for both sides to investigate themselves and to come to their own conclusions, their own investigations, and where relevant their own prosecutions.
ZAKARIA: Spending time dealing with this, do you have any thoughts or insights into the Israeli-Palestinian divide? Do you think there will be peace? How do you look at this?
GOLDSTONE: No South African can be pessimistic about the prospects of for peace. We had an impossible situation and a certainty that we were going to have bloodbath, and because we had good leadership it was averted, and we now have, I'm proud to say, a working, wonderful democracy in South Africa. We've got problems but we're moving in a good direction.
ZAKARIA: You will be back in Israel anytime soon?
GOLDSTONE: No plans at the moment, but I certainly expect to. I don't have close family, but I have many, many friends there. I'd love to see them.
ZAKARIA: Judge Goldstone, thank you for doing this.
GOLDSTONE: Thank you very much.
ZAKARIA: We will be back.
ZAKARIA: Now for our "What in the World" segment.
Here's what got my attention this week. It's a report from Russia that bankruptcy proceedings have begun for the manufacturer of the Avtomat Kalashnikova number 47. Perhaps you know it by its more common name, the AK-47. Today it's the world's most popular weapon and it might prove to be the victim of its own success.
In 1947, a Soviet soldier Mikhail Kalashnikov won a competition for a new submachine design. So good was the weapon, capable of firing 600 rounds per minute, so indestructible, impervious to hot, cold, wet and stand, the Soviets put it in hands of everyone fighting on their side.
It didn't always shoot where you aimed it, but it was an almost indestructible workhouse.
The U.S. first fought against it in the jungles and rivers in Vietnam. Then in Afghanistan in the 1980s, the Americans made sure that the Mujahideen had AK-47s to counter the Soviet foe.
Today many of those same weapons that the United States provided for those freedom fighters are being used against American and NATO forces by the Taliban.
Then the AK-47 crossed the ocean cementing its reputation as a rebel favorite, first in the hands of guerilla fighters in Central and South America, from there to Africa, where it proved just as lethal in the hands of an untrained child.
On that continent, AKs have been reportedly bought for as little as $12. It got the nickname "The African Credit Card" as in don't leave home without it.
The Kalashnikov is said to be in the official arsenal of more than 80 countries. The U.S. bought more than 180,000 of them when it rearmed the Iraqi army. And the AK-47 was so successful in Mozambique's successful rebel movement that it now figures on their national flag.
It's also become a weapon of choice for terrorists, drug dealers, and gangsters.
Some say these weapons are responsible for the deaths of 250,000 people every year. And there are reportedly anywhere from 70 million to 100 million AK-47s and variations of it floating around.
So why is the company that makes Kalashnikovs going broke? It's a story of globalization and technological change. Massive demand for a product now invites cheaper imitations and counterfeits, many almost as good as the original but at a fraction of the price.
Back in the Soviet era, the Soviets didn't just arm their allies with them, they freely sent out instructions on how to manufacture them. They needed to learn something about intellectual property I guess.
That means the original company and original factory have lost most of its business. In recent years Russia has accounted for just 10 percent of total Kalashnikov production according to the company. Indeed, the factory floor has been quiet for most of 2009.
Fortunately for his own wallet, Mr. Kalashnikov has branched out. He now makes a product people will presumably keep coming back to buy, Kalashnikov brand vodka.
And we will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: But you have 10,000 people who require security protection.
PRESIDENT ALVARO URIBE, COLOMBIA: It is better to provide them with individual protection than to allow the criminals to kill them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: Between the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, there is little talk of another war that the United States has been involved in for decades, the war on drugs. On the front line of that war is the president of one of the most dangerous countries on the globe, Alvaro Uribe of Colombia. And he is fighting with large infusions of American money and military support.
I sat down with the President Uribe last week at the U.N. to find out how it's going.
ZAKARIA: President, thank you to much for joining us.
URIBE: Thank you for inviting me.
ZAKARIA: OK, so tell me about the war against narco-terrorism. This has been a war that has gone on for 40 years in Colombia. By all accounts you have been quite successful, some would say very successful, in the last few years. What do you think was the key to the success?
URIBE: Our aim is to liberate Colombia from this long nightmare. Therefore, we fight with all our determination to overcome this problem for the new generation of Colombia to enjoy peace in our country, the peace my generation has been unable to enjoy.
The more we advance in defeating narco-terrorism in Columbia, the better for our neighbors because the less the possibility for them to suffer this tragedy. Therefore, I am hopeful that at the end, instead of criticism, we will receive support.
ZAKARIA: But you also hit these narco-terrorists very hard militarily.
URIBE: Of course, of course, with all the determination, without any doubt.
ZAKARIA: And in doing that, you got a lot of help from the United States.
URIBE: The United States has helped Colombia. The United States has been a loyal partner in this fight.
ZAKARIA: But you know that in Latin America there are lots of people who criticize you. They say you've become an American base, there are American troops all over your country. How have you withstood this criticism? Has there been a sense that you're an American puppet?
URIBE: No. I am a fighter for the well-being of my fellow country citizens. I am a member of one of one generation whose heart has not known one single day of peace. We have suffered the same generation of many generations in Colombia.
Therefore our duty is to deter this nightmare and build a new country for the generations of the future to live in Colombia in peace, to live in Colombia happily.
ZAKARIA: Mr. President, you dealt very well and had a very good relationship with President Bush. Now the new president, President Obama, there are some who say you're more comfortable with George Bush. He was very tough. He was very strong supporter of yours, a very strong supporter of the war against far narco-trafficking, very strong supporter of Colombia.
Have you found a difference with President Obama?
URIBE: President Bush was a great friend of Colombia, a great friend of my government. I will always keep gratitude for him.
And President Obama has given Colombia all the support. My conversations, my talks with President Obama have been very constructive. Now we have close negotiation with the United States and for the Obama administration for both countries to have an agreement a security.
ZAKARIA: But there are people in the Democratic Party who said and your government have ties with right wing death squads. What do you say to them?
URIBE: Gossips, gossips. This is the first government in Colombia that have dismantled what these are called in your question the right wing paramilitaries.
When we arrived in the president's seat in August of the year 2002, Columbia had 60,000 members of the people in terrorist groups. So far we have dismantled the paramilitaries, and we have weakened guerillas. We have not won this fight yet, but we are winning.
ZAKARIA: But you have 10,000 people who require security protection in this country.
URIBE: It is better to provide them with individual protection than to allow the criminals to kill them. But there will be a moment in which Columbia -- if we continue with this determination, Colombia will no longer need the individual protection.
ZAKARIA: What is it like personally? You have had how many am tempts on your life? Something like ten or 15 attempts in various ways to assassinate you?
URIBE: I don't think in the numbers of tens. I think in the miracles of my god to save my life and intervene to lead for the new generations a different country, for them to live without this danger, without this risk.
ZAKARIA: Do you worry that after you leave the presidency, while you may be given some security, it will not be as elaborate as what you have as president -- do you worry that there will be people who will try to go after you?
URIBE: I have not thought in that. But what we need is to provide our Colombians with security. This is the reason of our force.
ZAKARIA: You know, there are a lot of people who look at this drug war and say it's been going on for 30 or 40 years, the United States have spent $50 billion, $80 billion. There's no real decline in drug consumption in the United States. Drugs are freely available. The whole thing is a failure. What do you say to them?
URIBE: The numbers, I have seen recently from the government of the United States indicate the opposite. We have shown numbers which indicate that that there is a decrease and the price on the streets of the main cities of the United States has gone up.
ZAKARIA: So you believe that the war on drugs is working?
URIBE: With perseverance, without hesitation.
ZAKARIA: How long will it have to go on?
URIBE: The more the determination, the shorter the time -- the same for Colombia.
ZAKARIA: President Uribe, thank you very much.
URIBE: Thank you, thank you very much.
ZAKARIA: Now to the question I asked you last week, how do you think President Obama did at the U.N.? Judging from what you saw, do you think he advanced progress towards the resumption of Middle East talks, did he do enough on climate change?
Most of you thought he did most if not everything he needed to. The other few apparently watching the same speech thought he failed.
In the latter category, Bob Gentry said, quote, "He was an embarrassment to our people. He never praises our nation publicly. He just apologizes for us. I'm sick of it."
On the opposing side, a viewer who gave her name only as Maria, said, quote, "This is a president for our time, turning what is usually a snoozer message into a unified voice against Iran and perhaps the beginning of genuine U.N. cooperative power."
ZAKARIA: Now, to our question of this week -- was the Goldstone Report fair? Was Justice Goldstone impartial? From what you know of the report, let me know what you think. And if you want to read the full 574-page report, go to our Web site. We've got a link there. Let me know what you think and why.
I'd love to include the name of all the viewers who sent in their thoughts, so please always include your name and location if you can.
As always, the book of the week. I would like to recommend a book written by the guest on our panel, Timothy Garden Nash. It's a book called "Free World: America, Europe, and the Surprising Future of the West."
In it he says that the September 11 attacks and the subsequent war with Iraq are those rare seismic events that rearrange the world, and he advises us as to what we need to do to take advantage of the shakeup, especially in terms of the crucial relationship between the United States and Europe.
Also, don't forget to go to our Web site, CNN.com/gps to try your hand at our weekly world affars quiz, the "Fareed Challenge."
Thank you for being a part of my program this week. I will see you next week.