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Egyptian Foreign Minister Met with Mike Pence; Obama to Give Last National Security Speech; Russia, China Veto Ceasefire in Aleppo; Iran Warns Trump Not to Rip Up Nuclear Deal. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired December 6, 2016 - 13:59 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:00:] SAMEH HASSAN SHOUKRY, EGYPTIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Egypt's weight and its traditional role as a beacon of modernity and enlightenment is fundamental to regain the stability and to counter the radical extremists.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: What was the reaction in Egypt? A country of nearly 100 million people, mostly Muslims, 90 percent, if not more of Muslims.
I'll play a couple of clips during the campaign when Donald Trump said this about Muslims. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Donald Trump is calling for a complete shutdown of Muslims coming into the United States --
TRUMP: -- until our country can figure out what the hell is going on.
UNIDENTIFIED DEBATE MODERATOR: Would you, please, explain whether or not the Muslim ban still stands?
TRUMP: It's called extreme vetting. I don't want to have, with all the problems this country has, and all of the problems that you see going on, hundreds of thousands of people coming in from Syria when we know nothing about them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Did you have the opportunity, you, or President el Sisi, to discuss this issue with either the president-elect or the vice president-elect?
SHOUKRY: No. There wasn't a discussion of such a specific nature, and we do not traditionally interfere in how societies organize or legislate related to their internal affairs.
BLITZER: Egypt is the largest Arab country, arguably the most important Arab country. When you hear that kind of talk from a man who is now going to be the president of the United States, what was the reaction in Egypt?
SHOUKRY: I can't say there was a violent reaction to the statements. There was a, a desire that any policy that would be undertaken would be done so with care and with consideration that any form of racial profiling I think is not in tune with international communities understanding of human rights, but, again, these are matters which are debated within societies, and whatever the U.S. administration decides of the U.S. Congress decides on these issues, it's not for any other country, as we don't accept interference in our internal affairs, we don't interfere in the internal affairs of others.
BLITZER: But you certainly wouldn't support, initially, called for a temporary ban and revised it, evolved into extreme vetting of countries where there's a history of tear original. Did he tell you that he can considered Egypt one of those countries? There has been terrorism in Egypt, as you know.
SHOUKRY: No. He didn't. Between our security services, the relationship, I think justifiably is strong enough to be able to deal with issues of this nature. Again, I think the development of the ideas of the president-elect in this regard will continue to -- evolve as the policy -- apparatus is put in place.
BLITZER: You know Egypt has come under criticism from various human rights industries for some policies the president imposed in Egypt right now, and the United States State Department criticized Egypt as well. Do you expect that to ease under a Trump administration?
SHOUKRY: Well, I can't really speculate. I think there's been always a healthy discussion, and debate, between us and our American partners related to many areas of our development and our reform policies. We do so in the spirit of friendship and cooperation and to benefit from U.S. Experience, have a very clear understanding of what our society needs and how it should proceed in terms of reform.
BLITZER: What about Syria right now? Because what's going on in Aleppo, and you're not that far away, is horrendous, when we see hundreds of thousands of people over the past four, five years killed. Millions displaced. Refugees, what, if anything, for example, is Egypt doing to ease this problem?
SHOUKRY: Well, we have been very heavily involved in trying to alleviate the humanitarian difficulties that exist. With the Security Council trying to push ahead a solution to the humanitarian solution.
BLITZER: The rebels fighting the Syrian regime, is what you're saying?
SHOUKRY: Oh, yes.
BLITZER: Who does Egypt side with? The rebels or regime of president Bashar al Assad?
SHOUKRY: Egypt sides with the Syrian people. We main our close cooperation with the national opposition. We maintain our close cooperation with the U.N. envoy. And we promoted resolution to this conflict. We don't feel continuing violence, after five years, there's no military solution and we have to move on to a political solution to --
BLITZER: It looks like the Syrian military of President Bashar al Assad supported by the Russians, the Iranians, Lebanese Hezbollah, they're going to win in Aleppo. It looks like they've got the momentum.
SHOUKRY: That's a possibility. The Syrian opposition, the Syrian people deserve an opportunity to take matters into their own hands and within a political peaceful process. This is the Security Council resolution, the U.N. representatives a responsibility and the international community's responsibility to do so to protect the people. You have more than half of the population which is displaced, and half a million killed in the process of it. Enough is enough.
[13:35:23] BLITZER: Awful, awful situation.
Foreign minister, welcome to Washington. Thanks very much for joining us.
SHOUKRY: Thank you. Thank you.
BLITZER: Good to have you here.
Coming up, any moment, President Obama will arrive in Tampa, Florida, where he'll deliver a major national security speech later this afternoon, his last before leaving office. What will he tell the American public? The president-elect -- and what will he tell the president-elect? All that and more, coming up.
[13:40:06] BLITZER: Any moment now, President Obama will land in Tampa, Florida, getting ready to give a speech on counterterrorism later this afternoon, at MacDill Air Force Base. That's also home of the U.S. military's Central Command, in charge of the North Africa, the Middle East, South Asia region for the United States. It's a way for the president to cement his own legacy on national security as his presidency now winds down.
Let's talk about that legacy, the challenges ahead for the president- elect, Donald Trump, with Democratic Congressman Seth Moulton, of Massachusetts. He served multiple tours of duty in Iraq as a U.S. Marine.
Thanks so much for joining us.
REP. SETH MOULTON, (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Great to be back, Wolf.
BLITZER: You served directly under General Petraeus when he was commanding various commands in Iraq as well. We'll get to that in a moment.
But bottom line, how would you assess these eight years President Obama's handling of the Iraq situation?
MOULTON: Well, look, it's been rather mixed. President Obama prevented an attack on the homeland. He's dealt with an incredibly difficult, complex worldwide situation, especially in the Middle East. He did pull the troops out of the Middle East, out of Iraq, but the problem is --
MOULTON: The problem is he pulled out the troops and had no political plan to ensure the peace. A few years later, he had to send the troops back and we're still there now.
BLITZER: Did that lead to, as the president-elect says, to the creation or enhancement of ISIS?
MOULTON: Of course, not. It didn't lead to the creation of ISIS but the problem, left a vacuum in which a terrorist group -- and it turned out to be ISIS -- was able to grow. Point, next time we pull out of Iraq or Afghanistan, we need a political plan to ensure the safety.
BLITZER: I hear you saying by the president's decision to leave Iraq, pull out of Iraq, because no, you know, agreement could be reached for a unity for U.S. troops with the then-Iraqi government, by pulling out, not $ having a plan in place, a vacuum was created and ISIS exploited and became what it is today?
MOULTON: Here's the problem. Trump talked about how we have to have more military action against terrorists. Actually, the Obama administration has been effective militarily against ISIS. They only occupy one city now in Iraq. They've been dramatically reduced in their holds in Syria.
But the problem is we need to have a political plan to ensure peace. Trump gets it exactly wrong. The mistake Obama made was not so much pupping out the troops. After the surge, we'd gotten a lot of military progress. The mistake he made was not have be diplomatic support to support of Iraqi government. We built the largest U.S. Embassy in the world in Iraq, we knew they needed continued support and left it half full.
BLITZER: Would you say only one city, happens to be Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq, a city that used to have more than a million people. Don't know how many of there now, but that battle for Mosul still continues.
MOULTON: A big city. Again, when we fish the battle in Mosul, militarily, which is starting to go well -- the Iraqis are carrying the fight -- we've got to have a political plan to ensure the peace or we'll find ourselves back in Iraq yet again.
BLITZER: What do you think of General Petraeus, potentially -- you served understand him in Iraq -- as secretary of state? MOULTON: I did. I think he would be a fantastic secretary of state.
General Petraeus is celebrated for being a warrior scholar, for his PhD from Princeton, for being a co-author, with General Mattis, of the counterinsurgency doctrine that helped turn the war in Iraq around during the surge in 2007 to 2008. He's also, frankly, the best boss I've ever had. He's been a great --
BLITZER: What about the crime he committed?
MOULTON: He made a mistake, admitted it. Every one of us makes mistakes. The one he made was big, significant.
BLITZER: It was mishandling intelligence?
MOULTON: Right. And he's paid the price for that, I think. But to think that America would be better off with him in the back room and not out taking part in our national security again, I think is the wrong thing.
BLITZER: Are you OK with General Mattis, a retired Marine Corps general, serving as defense secretary? You have to vote in the House of Representatives on a waiver giving him that authority to serve as defense secretary, because he's only out of useful three years as opposed to seven?
MOULTON: Right. Full disclosure, he was my commander during the invasion in Iraq. I know General Mattis as well. And I think he would make a good general. One of the best strategic --
BLITZER: A good general? He's always been a good general.
MOULTON: He would make a good secretary of defense. He's one of the best strategic thinkers we have. He's incredibly --
BLITZER: You would vote for the waiver?
MOULTON: Here's the think though. We have to have a debate about this very fundamental principle in the United States, which is civilian control of the military. We shouldn't give him a blanket approval and just say we like General Mattis and so we can throw out this important law. We need a serious debate. Congress has to do its job and debate whether it's OK to have someone come in after just three years, when the law says seven years, ensuring there's that break, that there really is civilian control of the military. But I expect we're going to be very impressed with General Mattis. I actually think Trump has been hoodwinked here. I think Trump selected General Mattis because he has a nickname "Mad Dog," and he thinks he's this tough-guy general, when, in fact, he's incredibly thoughtful. He's a great moral leader. He's the kind of check against a President Trump we need. [13:45:06] BLITZER: But the problem that some are having is national
security adviser, General Flynn, a general. Secretary of defense, proposing a general, maybe a secretary of state. A bunch of generals and admirals for consideration. Too much military in the civilian leadership of his cabinet, top national security positions?
MOULTON: This is a legitimate concern. I have great support for General Mattis and General Petraeus. I don't feel strongly about General Flynn. I think he is--
BLITZER: You don't have any say in that because he doesn't need any confirmation.
MOULTON: No, I know. No, I don't. But you have to be concerned having too many military in there.
On the other hand, Donald Trump doesn't know anything about foreign policy. And some of the statements he has made on national security are very concerning. That's why you saw so many Republican national security experts come out against him during the campaign. So, having some serious military minds in the administration to prevent Donald Trump from doing something stupid, I think would be good for our country.
BLITZER: Congressman Seth Moulton, thanks very much for joining us.
MOULTON: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Coming up, the Syrian army is now advancing into eastern Aleppo as Russia denies a U.N. plea to bring much-needed aid and medical supplies to civilians, including children. We're going live to Aleppo, when we come back.
[13:50:15] BLITZER: Bombs are constantly falling.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Dozens of people are dying by the day, including children. Food and medicine are in short supply. Yet, the latest effort to stop the fighting and deliver aid to the people of Aleppo has failed. Russia and China vetoed a temporary ceasefire in the U.N. Security Council.
Our senior international correspondent, Fred Pleitgen, is in Aleppo for us right now.
Fred, how much of the city is now under the control of the Syrian regime? FRED PLEITRGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's
interesting because the pro-opposition monitoring group came out a few minutes before we went live to air and said they believe that about 75 percent of the east of Aleppo is in the hand of pro-regime forces and 82 percent of all of Aleppo. So, we have seen major gains by the Syrian military over the past couple days. And it's absolutely clear why that is happening. It's because the government is bringing massive firepower onto those eastern districts. I was woken around 2:00 a.m. last night because there were massive explosions close to where we were staying. And I looked out my window and it was like a scene from "Star Wars." There was tracer fire you could see throughout the east. There were explosions taking place, jets in the air. That's going on here 24/7. And you can really feel the Syrian regime has the sense of urgency where they seem to want to take the rest of Aleppo as fast as possible, which leaves little room for diplomacy -- Wolf?
BLITZER: And what about the effort to get food and supplies to people who are struggling, including so many children. Is there any hope?
PLEITGEN: For the people who managed to get out are the eastern rebel districts, the ones that are in the places that have been retaken by the government, they are getting supplies. But for the folks still trapped inside the rebel-held areas, it's impossible at this point in time. The government here is tightening the noose on those areas. International aid groups can't get any aid into those rebel-held areas. So, it's unclear how long the folks will have to hold out.
One thing we have to take into account, Wolf, it's horrible for these people not to get food, water and medical supplies, but what makes it worse is that it's very, very cold in Aleppo, especially during the nights. That weakens the people even more and makes the situation all the more unbearable -- Wolf?
BLITZER: Fred Pleitgen is one of our courageous CNN correspondents reporting live from Aleppo.
Fred, be careful over there. We'll check back with you, of course.
Coming up, President-elect Trump wants to renegotiate the Iran nuclear deal, but the country's president is now threatening to react -- I'm quoting him now -- "very harshly and severely" if Donald Trump tries. We have details. That's next.
[13:57:19] BLITZER: Now to a new warning from Iran to the United States: Don't mess with the nuclear deal. President-elect Trump has vowed to make changes, but the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, says he won't let the U.S. rip it up.
Let's bring in global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott.
Elise, how could Iran retaliate? What would they do?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, the president and the hardline clerics are already threatening to retaliate. There's already talk in Iran about boycotting American goods. Even though there are a lot of sanctions on Iran, the Iranians do purchase a lot of American goods. And also, you remember that there are companies like Boeing that have agreed to sell Iran, since sanctions have lifted, some aircraft, and that could end if the new administration decides to do something with the deal. And then, it just puts Iran moving closer towards other countries for business deals. And, look, Iran also, as you know, Wolf, some of its other activity in the region has its way of retaliating.
BLITZER: The State Department still considers Iran to be --
LABOTT: A terrorist organization, a state sponsor of terror.
BLITZER: -- the leading state sponsor of terrorism. Despite that, the U.S. has gone ahead with this deal.
LABOTT: Iran could certainly make some trouble in the region and make its dissatisfaction known.
BLITZER: During the campaign, as we know, President-elect Trump repeatedly said this was the worst deal, awful deal, he would rip it up on day one, and all of that. But it's complicated because it's not just the U.S./Iranian deal, it involves other countries, including some top U.S. allies.
LABOTT: France, Germany, Britain, Russia, China -- these countries are eager to do business with Iran. France and Germany, in particular, were very being trading partners with Iran, eager to do business. Those deals going ahead. And so even James Mattis, President-elect Trump's incoming defense secretary, says he doesn't love the deal either but he thinks it's too late to rip up.
The question is, what could they do? There are things that Hillary Clinton, on the campaign trail, said she wanted to do with strengthen implementation. You saw the Senate earlier voted to extend the Iran Sanctions Act if Iran does violate the deal. And so far, largely, this administration, the Obama administration, says they've s pretty much followed the deal pretty much to the letter. They could certainly impose new sanctions. They have that option, Wolf, but it will be difficult to tear up the deal entirely.
BLITZER: We'll see what the president-elect and vice president-elect and the secretary of state, whoever that might be --
LABOTT: That's right.
BLITZER: -- what they decide to do.
Elise, thanks for that report.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'll be back 5:00 p.m. astern in "The Situation Room."
For our international viewers, "Amanpour" is next.
For our viewers in North America, NEWSROOM with Ana Cabrera starts right now.
14:00:12] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, on this Tuesday. I'm Ana Cabrera, in for Brooke Baldwin.