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FAREED ZAKARIA GPS

World Powers Strike Nuclear Deal with Iran; Interview with Elon Musk

Aired November 24, 2013 - 10:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: This is GPS, the Global Public Square. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria, coming to you from Bali, Indonesia. We have a very important show for you today, starting with the Iran nuclear talks in Geneva. We have reporters and experts to help make sense of it all. Then we'll take you to Mars. One of the world's most innovative minds says we need to get there. Elon Musk of SpaceX and Tesla. Also, on the furor over the safety of his electric cars.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELON MUSK, CEO, TESLA: What the heck is going on?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAKARIA: But first, here is my take. If you're trying to decide what to think about the deal struck between the major powers and Iran, here's a suggestion. Imagine what would have happened if there had been no deal.

In fact, one doesn't have to use much imagination. In 2003, Iran approached the United States with an offer to talk about its nuclear program. The Bush administration rejected the offer because it believed that the Iranian regime was weak, had been battered by sanctions, and would either capitulate or collapse if Washington just stayed tough.

So there was no deal. What was the result? Iran had 164 centrifuges operating in 2003. Today, it has 19,000. Had the Geneva talks with Iran broken down, Iran would have continued expanding its nuclear program.

Yes they are now under tough sanctions but they were under sanctions then as well. And yet, the number of centrifuges grew exponentially. Despite all the sanctions, keep in mind, the costs of a nuclear program are small for an oil rich country like Iran.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has been opposed to a deal. But is it in Israel's interest that Iran's program keep growing in size and scope?

That's a strategy that assumes that either Iran is heading for collapse, or that a military strike will take place that would permanently destroy Iran's entire nuclear program and it wouldn't get rebuilt. This seems more like wishful thinking than strategy. The agreement that the major powers have gotten in Geneva essentially freezes Iran's program for six months and rolls back some key aspects of it while a permanent deal is negotiated.

In return, Iran gets about $7 billion of sanctions relief, a fraction of what is in place against it. The main sanctions against its oil and banking sectors stay fully in place.

This is a sensible deal signed off on by France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China, as well as the United States and Iran. But it is just an interim deal and not a historic rapprochement and that's why so much of the opposition to it is misplaced.

Washington has many points of disagreement with Tehran, from its opposition to Israel and its support for Hezbollah to its funding of Iraq militias. This is not like Nixon's opening to China. It's more like an arms control deal with the Soviet Union, with two wary adversaries trying to find some common ground.

Many countries in the Middle East, from Israel to Saudi Arabia, have legitimate concerns about Iran. But many of these countries have also gotten used to having a permanent enemy against whom they could rail, focusing domestic attention, driving ideological and sectarian divides, garnering support.

The Middle East is undergoing so much change. Perhaps this is one more change. Perhaps Iran will come in from the Cold. For now though, it is just one step, not a seismic shift. But it is a step forward.

For more on this, go to cnn.com/fareed and you can read my commentary for Time Magazine this week. Let's get started.

Now, let me hand you over to Wolf Blitzer in Washington for the latest news and some analysis. I'll be back later in the show with Elon Musk of Tesla and SpaceX.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Fareed. Thanks very much. Lots of breaking news here. The historical deal, as you've been pointing out, between Iran and the international community slowing its nuclear program and what could be a potential first step in preventing the country from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

President Obama announced the breakthrough in a live television address late last night. The Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with our own Candy Crowley this morning. His message, "Trust, but verify."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: We do that with eyes absolutely wide open and we have no illusions. And we are convinced that over the next few months, we will really be able to put to the test what Iran's intentions are.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: But not everyone is cheering this deal including one of the United States' most critical allies, Israel. The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now calling the move, and I'm quoting him now, "A historic mistake."

We're getting reaction from key players all around the world including here in Washington. Let's go to CNN's Reza Sayah. He's in Tehran. And our chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour in London.

First, to you, Reza, what's the reaction inside Iran?

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Iranians didn't get much sleep last night, Wolf, because word of this deal came around 5:00 a.m. local time here in Tehran, but the overwhelming reaction has been positive.

We haven't talked to one person who hasn't been pleased that an interim deal has been hammered out between Iran and the P5-plus-1. However, the Iranians are savvy people. They're not ones to be duped easily so they're skeptical.

They want to wait to see what this means in the long-run. But, when you look at these negotiations and what could happen in the second state, if there is a final be-all, end-all agreement and this nuclear issue is resolved.

And we're a ways off from that. It's the Iranian people who can benefit the most. Iranians have been portrayed often in a very negative light in media and in Hollywood, but if you come here to Iran, you can easily see that this is a very young, sophisticated, extremely educated population.

But they've suffered through years of economic sanctions, political and economic isolation from the West. They see this interim agreement as a golden opportunity to improve relations with the West and improve their lives, Wolf.

BLITZER: It certainly is an opportunity there. Let's see what happens. Reza Sayah in Tehran, thank you.

Christiane, you've studied this story for a long long time. Our viewers here in the United States and around the world are anxious to get your thoughts. What do you think?

During this next six month interim period, can it achieve that breakthrough, the president, the Secretary of State are talking about, an elimination of an Iranian nuclear military capability?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is an interim deal and I would quibble with the word historical deal. Look, in 2003, 2005, the entire Iranian program was frozen.

This is not that, but it is, according to intelligence people who I've spoken to and, of course, according to the word of the deal, it is being described as significant rollback, significant freezing of the Iranian nuclear program as it stands right now in return for very modest sanctions relief that is reversible.

To put into context, the sanctions relief, as you said, was about $6 to $7 billion. You know, there are hundreds of billions of dollars worth of sanctions on Iran right now. It is the toughest sanctions regime ever enacted.

And here's the thing about sanctions, and this is critical, yes, President Rouhani of Iran was elected in order to try to get sanctions relief and give the Iranian people a better deal, a better life.

Yes, the sanctions have had an impact. However, intelligence people and us, with our own eyes, and you all have seen that sanctions, even the toughest in the world, have not brought Iran to cry uncle in terms of its nuclear program.

In other words, it has not caused Iran to capitulate or surrender, whatever term is the term of (inaudible), in terms of its nuclear program. And even this interim deal, Iran wants to continue to have a nuclear program.

So the ultimate goal for Iran is to how that will be recognized by the rest of the world. And I think that is -- after the six months, it's going to be the real hard negotiations.

BLITZER: Is this shift from Ahmadinejad to the new president, Rouhani -- is this a major factor in this ...

AMANPOUR: Yes.

BLITZER: This agreement that was announced overnight?

AMANPOUR: I would say so. Look, Ahmadinejad, as we all remember, was a contemptible fellow and a contemptible figure. He said the worst things in public that simply, you know, threatened Israel. He was anti-Semitic. He was aggressive about the nuclear program. Just absolutely contemptible.

No U.S. official or European official could hold their head up seriously and have a conversation or even a negotiation under Ahmadinejad. He's gone.

Now, there's a new president who has made it very very clear that sanctions relief and a different Iran -- it's not just sanctions relief. He has said we want an Iran of moderation, no extremism, you know, proper relations with the rest of the world. And that's what the Iranian people want.

So what's really change is a Rouhani, whose come into office. I know many people pooh-pooh this and the Israelis call him a wolf in sheep's clothing. But, nonetheless, it's shifted the debate on the ground.

He has been able to bring Khamenei, the Supreme Leader who calls all the shots, plus the other areas of consensus-making in Iran, whether it's the press, whether it's the parliament, whether for now the Revolutionary Guard, to back these negotiations.

So, in that regard, it is a big change in the negotiation -- negotiating ability from Iran.

And I think from the U.S. perspective, the United States, as you very well know better than I, Wolf, this administration does not want the alternative and that is another war in the Middle East.

So this administration has shown and has demonstrated, by not going and intervening in Syria that is not open for business when it comes to military action in Iran.

So a deal is what's going -- is the alternative.

BLITZER: Well, we'll see what happens. Christiane Amanpour joining us from London. Thanks very much.

Much more ahead here on this landmark deal that has been announced overnight, including the reaction from the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling it a "historic mistake."

I'll speak with the Prime Minister's spokesman, Mark Regev. He's standing by in Jerusalem.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to GPS. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. We're following the breaking news, a historic deal between Iran and the international community over its nuclear program.

One of the fiercest critics of the deal and one of the United States' important allies, Israel. Joining us now the spokesman for the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mark Regev, joining us from Jerusalem.

Mark, thanks very much for coming. And what's wrong with giving diplomacy a chance to deal with Iran's nuclear program over the next six months? Isn't diplomacy a better option than the military option?

MARK REGEV, SPOKESMAN, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Of course, we want to see diplomacy succeed. Of course, we'd like to see a peaceful solution. Israel, more than any other country, has an interest in a successful diplomatic outcome ultimately. We're the first people on the firing line.

But we want to see a genuine deal, a good deal, a deal that has ability to sustain itself, that actually does dismantle the Iranian military nuclear program. And we're concerned that this deal that came out of Geneva is a bad deal and does not actually attain that goal.

I mean, ultimately, we want to see the Iranian nuclear military program dismantled. That's the goal and we're, frankly, not sure that this deal accomplishes that.

BLITZER: Well, here's the president speaking last night -- late last night from the White House. Here's President Obama, listen to this:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The resolve of the United States will remain firm, as will our commitments to our friends and allies, particularly Israel and our Gulf partners who have good reason who have good reason to be skeptical about Iran's intentions.

Ultimately, only diplomacy can bring about a durable solution to the challenge posed by Iran's nuclear program.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And Secretary Kerry today told our own Candy Crowley that "Israel will be safer as a result of this interim deal right now."

I want you to respond to what the president and the Secretary of State have been saying.

REGEV: Look, we all share the same goals. Israel, the United States agree that the Iranians cannot be allowed to achieve, to build nuclear weapons.

Now, on the tactics of how to achieve that, we can have honest differences. And we are concerned that a deal in which you give the Iranians up front sanctions relief, and they are getting relief that amounts in the billions.

We're afraid that you're removing from the table an important leverage on the Iranian regime. I was following the wires, Wolf. I've seen the Iranian currency has already bounced up. I see that there are already -- the Iranian economy, you're already signs just from last night's decisions.

Now, if the pressure on Iran is reduced, if the sanctions are going to be eased, then what motivation do the Ayatollahs in Tehran have for actually coming forward and doing the serious heavy lifting on the really important issues; that is actually dismantling their military nuclear infrastructure?

This deal does not do that. They don't have to dismantle a single centrifuge. They don't have to dismantle their plutonium- producing heavy water reactor. That is further down the line.

And if you're now reducing the pressure, what motivation do they have to make those difficult decisions?

BLITZER: The motivation they have, if you believe the President of the United States and the Secretary of State and the other members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany is those sanctions that are being eased right now, they can be reinstated overnight.

The architecture, they keep saying, is in place. If the Iranians cheat, they will pay a price because all of those tough sanctions an additional sanctions could be imposed making life even more miserable for the Iranians and the new president Rouhani, presumably, doesn't want that.

That's the pressure that they have over these six months. What's wrong with that concept?

REGEV: As the president said, we're skeptical and our Arab neighbors. We all believe that it's crucial to keep the pressure up on Iran. It's crucial that the Iranians only get sanctions relief, in our opinion, only if they actually take tangible steps. And what they've done is they've taken cosmetic steps. They've taken steps that are not really significant steps that they can reverse within weeks.

And we're also concerned in Israel with the other side of the equation not just that the Iranians haven't taken serious steps, but that the West, that the international community is actually lifting sanctions in a way that can start a process which is not reversible.

It's like having that small hole in your tire, a small hole in the sanctions regime, in the end, like with your tire, you'll get a flat. We're concerned. We believe the pressure should be maintained on the Iranians until there is a dismantling of their military nuclear infrastructure.

BLITZER: Can we assume, Mark, that the Israeli military option to launch an air strike, if you will, against Iran's nuclear facilities is off the table at least during this six month interim agreement?

REGEV: Look, Israel will always reserve the right to defend itself, to protect our people. And this regime in Tehran, just last week, the Supreme Leader, the aptly called Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, he called Israelis rabid dogs and he spoke about Israel disappearing.

This is a regime that consistently has talked about wiping my country off the map. This is a regime that has consistently called Israel a cancer that has to be removed.

We would irresponsible not to take those threats seriously and my prime minister would be irresponsible in not taking the necessary steps to protect the people of Israel.

BLITZER: So the answer is the option remains on the table, a military strike between now and the next six months?

REGEV: We, of course, would like to see a diplomatic solution. We'd like to see a peaceful dismantling of the Iranian nuclear military program. If that can be achieved, that's obviously preferable.

But Israel always reserves the right -- as President Obama has said, the right to defend ourselves, by ourselves, against possible threats.

BLITZER: Mark Regev is the spokesman for the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu. Mark, thanks very much for coming in.

REGEV: My pleasure. Thanks for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: We're going to have much more on this historic deal. Just ahead, a panel of experts standing by to weigh-in.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to GPS. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Let's talk a little bit more about this historic nuclear deal with Iran.

Joining us, Ken Pollack, the senior fellow at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy. He's the author of the book, "Unthinkable: Iran, the Bomb and American Strategy."

Also, Karim Sadjadpour with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Suzanne Maloney, she's a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. And Reuel Marc Gerecht, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, also a former CIA officer.

Thanks so much to all of you for coming in.

We just heard the spokesman for the Prime Minister of Israel. He's not ruling out the possibility of an Israeli military options, if you will, a strike over the six months of this interim deal.

And listen to what Prime Minister Netanyahu said early this morning:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: What was concluded in Geneva last night is not a historic agreement. It's a historic mistake. It's not made the world a safer place.

Like the agreement with North Korea in 2005, this agreement has made the world a much more dangerous place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Is he right, Karim? Is the world now a much more dangerous place because of this agreement?

KARIM SADJADPOUR, POLICY ANALYST, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE: I would disagree with that perspective, Wolf. I think this is not a moment for euphoria certainly, but it is a moment for cautious optimism.

The Iranians have put their foot on the nuclear brakes, the sanctions regime largely remains intact. And I think when you're looking at this deals, there's a big difference between what's ideal and what's viable.

And I think what Netanyahu was calling for, what he hoped for, was not really viable.

BLITZER: Reuel, what do you think?

REUEL MARC GERECHT, FORMER CIA OFFICER, SENIOR FELLOW, FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: Oh, I thing we're definitely in worse shape.

I mean I think the most important gathering last week was not in Geneva. I was actually in Tehran where the Supreme Leader addressed the commanders of the Revolutionary Guard and Basij and that speech was ferociously anti-American.

I think (inaudible) has already said he views this as the end of the sanctions regime. I think it beggars the imagination that we're actually staring at the possibility that they're going to give up their nuclear aspirations.

And I think what has to be remembered is right now we're at the high water mark of our leverage. And if this is all we could get with the first round, I think, in six months' time, we're going to discover that we don't have anything much at all.

BLITZER: The Ayatollah, Supreme Leader says -- he did call Israel the "rabid dog" of the region and he also insisted that the Zionist regime, as they've often said must go away. No room.

Is there a real difference between Rouhani and the foreign minister on the one hand and the Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah, on the other?

SUZANNE MALONEY, SENIOR FELLOW, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: No, I think they're all clearly part of the same system and it's a system that remains dogmatically anti-American.

Khamenei's speech last week was a particularly belligerent one, but he said nothing that he hasn't said in the past. But what we do see is that he's willing to endorse a deal that involves some tactical constraints on the Iranian nuclear program and I do think that leaves the world safer today.

BLITZER: You've studied this, Ken, for a long time. What's your bottom line assessment? As far as the deal is concerned, does it make the world a safer place a little bit or a more dangerous place?

KEN POLLACK, AUTHOR/SENIOR FELLOW, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION'S SABAN CENTER FOR MIDDLE EAST POLICY: Yes. I think I would say that it is a somewhat safer place. I don't think we should go overboard with this.

And I think that it's important not to worry about, you know, these kind of ridiculous numbers about, you know, how much it set the Iranians back or this and that. At the end of the day, there are a lot of different ways to skin a nuclear cat.

I think the way to look at this is this was a confidence-building measure. Neither side trusts the other. Neither side should trust the other given the our experiences over the past 34 years. But each side is saying we understand what you're going to need in a final deal and we're willing to give you a little bit right now as a token of our good faith, that we're willing to go down this path.

We don't know what's going to happen in the next six months. We're going to see if the Iranians are actually willing to live by this deal just as they are going to see if we are.

At the end of those six months, if it's still intact, then I think that we can say yes, there's a good sense of moving forward.

BLITZER: The critics, Karim, they say, you know, if you ease the sanctions, let's say by $6 or $7 billion, which is the figure that administration figures are talking about, you could -- you can't really reinstate those sanctions, you heard that from Mark Regev, the spokesman for the Prime Minister, very easily.

You can't turn them back on. What's your response to that?

SADJADPOUR: Well, we really haven't lifted the sanctions. We unfroze about $10 billion worth of Iranian assets and there were some very minor sanctions relief. But the reality is that if six months from now, if Iran decides it wants to renege on some of these agreements, these sanctions will -- do remain intact.

And I think what I would say is that if it took marathon diplomacy only to reach an interim deal, to reach a final resolution of this conflict is going to resemble an ultra marathon through mine fields. It's going to be very difficult to reach a final agreement.

BLITZER: Because, Reuel, the argument I guess, in simple words, is why not give peace a chance?

GERECHT: Well, I think we have been giving peace a chance. I mean the Europeans have been trying to engage the Iranians fairly enthusiastically since 1992. And guess what, they discovered it didn't really work.

BLITZER: But there's a new president now, Rouhani, who's obviously very different than Ahmadinejad.

GERECHT: Well, yes, but Rouhani's memoirs, the primary element in his memoirs is really how proud he is of maintaining the nuclear program at a time when the Iranians thought they were very, very week, vis-a-vis George W. Bush.

So I'm deeply skeptical. I mean the differences between us are so stark because the ideology -- their ideology is so clear. I don't think confidence building measures matter all that with the supreme leader and I think the president may, Barack Obama may have gotten himself into a pickle because six months down the road I think he's going to discover that the first stage in this agreement is basically the Iranians final stage. And then he's going to have to decide what do I do next? I think he's got a binary choice. He either punts or he goes to a preemptive strike. BLITZER: Or he goes back to tightening the sanctions and doing what a lot of members of Congress want to do. Increase the sanctions making life even more miserable for the people of Iran.

MALONEY: Well, I think the sanctions have proven incredibly effective and the fact that we only have now six-month waivers. We have more in our arsenal in terms of putting economic pressure on Iran and clearly the two-stage aspect of the deal commits the Iranians to make the big concessions in order to get the big rewards at the end. They want this more than we do. And Rouhani needs it in many respects more than the international community does.

BLITZER: Now, everybody understands why the Israelis are not happy with this. But Saudis -- they hate it as well. The Emirates, the United Arab Emirates, a lot of the other Gulf states, they aren't very comfortable with what the United States and the other permanent members of the Security Council and Germany have done. Explain why they don't like this deal?

POLLACK: And it's an important point. Because it is fundamentally different from where the Israelis are. At the end of the day you heard (inaudible) say the Israelis could accept the diplomatic solution. I don't think that's the case for Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arab states. They believe that they are locked in a region-wide war with Iran and its proxies. They want American participation in that war against Iran and its proxies. And what they're afraid of is that this deal is either going to cause the United States to basically say, all right, we've taken the Iranian nuclear issue off the table, now we don't have to worry about the Middle East and we can go back to doing domestic politics or we're still -- they're afraid that this deal is going to be the start of a rapprochement between the United States and Iran that is going to take us off of Saudi Arabia's side and put us on Iran's side.

BLITZER: Because we heard Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee tell Candy Crowley earlier on "State of the Union" that the Saudis hate Iran in part because the Iranians want to kill the Saudi ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir here in Washington at a restaurant in Washington a few years ago. That's just one example of why they simply will never trust the Iranians.

SADJADPOUR: Well, Saudi Arabia and Iran are fighting a proxy war throughout the Middle East and Iraq and Syria and Lebanon, Saudi Arabia looks at the Middle East very much through sectarian lenses. They are the Sunni power. They look at Iran as the nefarious Shiite power. But I think we have some realistic expectations about what this deal is. The United States and Iran are not going to be allies tomorrow. The United States and Saudi Arabia and Israel are going to remain allies. This is very much potential nuclear detente. We're not on the verge of a U.S. -- Iran rapprochement.

BLITZER: Now, you worked at the State Department. The fact that Iran is still on the State Department's list of countries that are state sponsors of terrorism, does that have any impact in this direct face to face negotiations between the Secretary of State and the foreign minister, very quickly? MALONEY: I think what it tells you is that we're really at the first stage of what would be a very, very long and difficult road toward any real rehabilitation of Iran and the international community and any real change in the U.S. -Irani relationship.

BLITZER: Guys, we're going to leave it there. Good discussion. Thanks to all of you for coming in.

Fareed is going to be back on "GPS" in a moment. He has an exclusive interview with one of the most innovative men in the world, Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla on why we need human colonies on Mars and his response to the uproar over the recent fires in his electric cars.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAKARIA: Elon Musk is a billionaire, an investor, a scientist, a designer and one of the world's most innovative minds. He runs two companies that are trying to disrupt major industries that have been doing things the same way for decades. Aerospace with SpaceX and automobiles with Tesla. Tesla is making luxury all electric cars. Cars that have had a bit of controversy of late. Currently SpaceX is essentially an intergalactic trucking company taking loads back and forth from the international space station and bringing satellites up to orbit. In the future, it hopes to carry humans too. We met on a balcony overlooking the SpaceX factory floor. It was buzzing literally and figuratively. The workers were preparing for an important launch on Monday.

(on camera): Elon Musk, pleasure to have you on.

ELON MUSK, FOUNDER & CEO OF SPACEX: Thanks for having me.

ZAKARIA: So, this is the Dragon.

MUSK: Yes.

ZAKARIA: That goes up into space and is going to go up on Monday, correct?

MUSK: Yeah, that's our Dragon spacecraft, (inaudible), which is capable of taking cargo to and from the space station including biological cargo like fish and mice and that kind of thing.

ZAKARIA: So, when do human beings start going up in it, do you think?

MUSK: So, we expect to complete version two of Dragon, which will have astro transport capability in about two years.

ZAKARIA: And most of what you do now is send satellites up into space, right?

MUSK: Yeah.

ZAKARIA: That's how you pay the bills. MUSK: Exactly.

ZAKARIA: But you want to do something much more ambitious with SpaceX?

MUSK: Yeah, I mean the long term aspiration is to develop the technologies necessary to transport a large number of people and cargo to Mars in order to create a self-sustaining civilization there. And that's really why I started the company. It was because it seemed to ...

ZAKARIA: To create the possibility for life on other planets?

MUSK: Yeah. Exactly. I mean, it sort of started off when I was thinking about what to do after PayPal. And I'd also been interested in space. But I didn't think there was anything that an individual could do in space. I mean it seems like the province of large governments. And -- I sort of started looking into it. And I went to the NASA website to say -- to find out when we're going to Mars ...

(LAUGHTER)

MUSK: Because it seems like obviously that is the next thing after the Moon. And I couldn't find anything. So, wow, what's -- this seems very strange. Initially I was under the impression that it was -- that we'd lost the world to do that. And I later came to the conclusion that I was quite wrong about that. I think the United States in particular is a nation of explorers.

ZAKARIA: So you decide you want to try and do this. And do you look at it as -- why did you decide transport was the most important thing? I mean think we would have -- living on Mars.

MUSK: No, that's the relatively easier thing.

ZAKARIA: Really?

MUSK: Yes, yes, absolutely.

ZAKARIA: So we could live on Mars, just getting there is the problem?

MUSK: Yes. Like -- I mean right now getting to Mars is impossible. So, I guess it's kind of doesn't matter what you do when you get there if you can't get there. So the first order of business is to figure out how to get there. And it needs to be in a way that enables large numbers of people and cargo. It can't just be like a handful of people. Because that's obviously not going to create a self-sustaining civilization. And Apollo was an amazing inspiring thing for all of humanity. But for the last time we went to the Moon, it was like 1973 or '4, I believe. So, we don't want just to have flags and footprints for -- and then never go to Mars again. If we just have one mission, that will also be a super-inspiring thing, but it's not going to fundamentally change the future of humanity.

ZAKARIA: So you have this Grasshopper rocket, which unlike most rockets, which can't -- you know, which are not reusable, this one gently comes back down in a kind of vertical land.

MUSK: Yeah, absolutely. You can see the videos of this on the SpaceX website. The fundamental breakthrough, going back to the point of that -- that building a Mars transportation system it has to be affordable to go. Like it can't just be like billions of dollars per person to go to Mars. Then that there is no way you could establish a base on Mars at that cost. So we have to develop rockets that are rapidly and as close to completely reusable as possible. As an example, the Falcon line costs about $60 million. I mean it's sort of like a jet. You know, it's like -- but the cost of the propellant is only about $200,000. So, it's just like you could imagine how expensive it would be if you had to buy a new plane every time you went somewhere, a very few people would fly. But refilling a plane is pretty easy.

ZAKARIA: We once talked about airplane travel, and I asked you why it is that with all this technological improvement over the last 30 or 40 years, the one thing that doesn't seem to have improved, and it is in the domain of the private sector, sort of.

MUSK: Yes.

ZAKARIA: ... is jet travel.

MUSK: Yeah, sure. Absolutely.

ZAKARIA: I mean if you are flying from New York to London, it takes about as long as it took 40 or 50 years ago. In fact, it takes longer.

MUSK: Actually, that this is -- it actually does take longer. Because in the -- like my favorite sort of commercial airliner is the 747 because it actually goes quite fast. And it's actually incredible that that thing was -- I mean the first iteration of it was designed in the '60s. I mean, since then I don't think we've exceeded the 747, which is nutty. I think -- well, for the commercial airliner business you essentially have a duioplet (ph) between Airbus and Boeing, and these big airplane programs are really long-term and they're quite expensive and I think if you're in the senior management of one of those companies, it's a safer bet to take -- to just aim for a little incremental improvement than to try to aim for a radical improvement. Because generally, if you aim for a radical improvement and you're wrong, you'll get fired.

ZAKARIA: Why doesn't SpaceX create the fastest jet plane in the world?

MUSK: We've got to focus on rockets.

ZAKARIA: When do you think you'll be able to achieve the aspiration of SpaceX of actually moving people to a place like Mars?

MUSK: Well, I think we could probably send the first person in about 12 years.

ZAKARIA: Wow. Will you be that person? MUSK: Only if I'm confident that SpaceX will be fine if I die. That's, you know, maybe if I was confident that the mission would continue if I wasn't around then I would do it.

ZAKARIA: Elon Musk on his program to Mars. Lots more ahead from him including his response to all of the headlines about Tesla's cars catching fire.

MUSK: New technology should have a spotlight on it, but it shouldn't have a laser on it.

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ZAKARIA: Elon Musk says he doesn't get a lot of sleep these days. He's not only CEO and chief designer at SpaceX, he's also CEO and product architect at Tesla. Tesla produces luxury all electric vehicles, and the company's cars have been in the news after some model S sedans caught fire. Earlier in the week, but after our interview, the National Highway Transportation Safety Board announced an investigation into two of the incidents. The board had previously given the model S a five-star safety rating, its highest. Listen in to more of my interview with Elon Musk.

You've heard all of the press about Tesla. So, let me first give you a chance to get it off your chest.

MUSK: I've been like pistol whipped.

(LAUGHTER)

ZAKARIA: Three cars caught on fire.

MUSK: Yes.

ZAKARIA: What's your response?

MUSK: So, the amount of national and international news headlines dedicated to three Tesla fires that caused no injury is greater than all of the gasoline fires that occurred in the United States.

ZAKARIA: With all of the other cars?

MUSK: Yeah. Which -- from mid-last year to today is about a quarter of a million gasoline car fires, which caused about 400 deaths, something like 1,200 serious injuries. Our three non- injurious fires got more national headlines than a quarter million deadly gasoline car fires. That's mad. What the heck is going on? I mean, I realize a new technology should have a spotlight on it, but it shouldn't have a laser on it.

(LAUGHTER)

ZAKARIA: So when you look at Tesla, the big concern many people have is scale. You're producing about 30,000 cars a year. But Toyota is producing ... MUSK: Oh, yeah, we're minuscule.

ZAKARIA: Millions. So, way too much attention. And your market cap is almost as high as some of these car companies.

MUSK: Well, yeah. It's got (inaudible) recent weeks, but yeah.

ZAKARIA: What do -- do you think it's crazy or do you think it's an appropriate indication of future growth?

MUSK: Yeah, I mean what if -- you know, what if -- I actually said on more than one occasion, is that I thought our valuation was more than we had any rights to deserve, that we would do our best to fulfill those value expectations and that I thought over time the value of Tesla would probably significantly exceed where it is today or even where it was at a relatively high point a few weeks ago. But it would be, I think, silly for me to assert that Tesla is unequivocally worth -- it was $22 billion and we'll have, you know, somewhere over $2 billion in sales this year. That is an enormous amount of credit for future execution.

ZAKARIA: The heart of what interests you about Tesla, at least as I recall when we've talked is that it's not a compromise. That a hybrid is something of a compromise ...

MUSK: Yeah.

ZAKARIA: ... between the internal combustion engine and a battery part engine and here you can do it cleanly. But batteries just aren't that powerful enough and they don't seem to improve enough to imagine a world powered by batteries, right?

MUSK: I certainly can see that. In fact, my opinion is that all transportation with the ironic exception of rockets will be fully electric.

ZAKARIA: Even planes?

MUSK: Yeah, everything.

ZAKARIA: When, by when?

MUSK: Everything. It would be like a 100 percent conversion. Like we still will have some steam engines running around and some people will still ride horses. But it is a pretty tiny percentage. So, I think it will be the same with gasoline. I think in the future people will look back on the gasoline era the way that we look back on the steam era today.

ZAKARIA: So, you are using battery technology. You're doing Tesla, which is an electric car. You have solar panel. You have an interest in business and solar panels?

MUSK: Yeah.

ZAKARIA: Do you think solar energy is the future? MUSK: I think it is super-obviously the future. Absolutely. In fact, if you think about it, the world is almost entirely solar powered already. And that we would be a frozen ice ball at about three to four degrees Kelvin, absolute zero, without the sun and the sun powers our entire system of precipitation. The ecosystem ...

ZAKARIA: And the agriculture.

MUSK: Yeah, I mean apart from a tiny number of exceptions almost all life is solar powered.

ZAKARIA: All right. Another great technology you've talked about that most people think of as out of a movie. Explain how it would work. Let's say, it's New York or Boston or L.A. to San Francisco. I get into a tube and it's almost like air hockey. The way it works is I strap myself into a seat and ...

MUSK: Well, it's -- it would actually feel maybe like the Space Mountain ride at Disneyworld. The (inaudible) actually less than what people experience at Space Mountain. So, if you can handle Space Mountain at Disneyland, you can handle -- you should be able to handle the Hyperloop. It will feel super smooth. Because as you mentioned, it would use air skis like air hockey table but with the air jets on the pod side as opposed to the tube side. So, it would just be -- I mean it would be smooth as glass.

ZAKARIA: Ten years from now, what will car travel look like in America?

MUSK: Ten years from now? I think there's going to be a lot of electric cars on the road. Certainly vastly more than there are now.

ZAKARIA: Driverless cars?

MUSK: I think we'll be in the steep portion of the adoption of electric cars in ten years.

ZAKARIA: Do you think hybrids are a transition that will fade away?

MUSK: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. They are like -- like a sort of an amphibian -- I mean as -- there was a role for amphibians when life was moving from the oceans to land, but in the end very few amphibians remain.

ZAKARIA: It's a good point to end on. Thank you. Thank you.

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