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Fareed Zakaria GPS
Interview with George Soros
Aired February 20, 2011 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FAREED ZAKARIA, 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.
I'll give you my take on the continuing turmoil in the Middle East, but first let me preview what's on today.
We have a great show for you, an exclusive conversation with George Soros, the multi-billionaire speculator, activist, thinker. He has spent decades working to spread open societies around the world. We'll talk about the events in Middle East, the fate of the U.S. economy, euro crises, and also what he thinks about the attacks on him personally from the right.
Then, "What In the World?" One of big wild cards in Egypt is the Muslim Brotherhood. Are they would-be terrorists or regular folks like you and me? We talk to the expert in the field.
And what about Iran? Is it the next Egypt? We'll put together a great GPS panel.
Finally, we'll take a look at some beautiful artwork in Baghdad and tell you why the White House is getting a bill for a billion dollars for these concrete canvasses.
My take. The big question we're all wondering about as we watched the continuing protests and turmoil in the Middle East is what will come of it? And it's impossible to tell in the short term if the regimes will win or the people will.
Remember that in the Middle East there are two methods of control -- mass repression and mass bribery. The Syrians, for example, use mass repression, the Saudis mass bribery. In Bahrain, they've tried to do a bit of both, offering each citizen $2,700 but also putting tanks out on the street.
I think that we're witnessing the beginning of a decade of change in the Middle East, whatever happens in the short term. Even if some of the protests are beaten back, even if people stay quiet for now, over the years, at various turning points, the death of a ruler, a planned election, a big public event, the protesters' demands will crop up again.
The reason is that underlying these protests are two big trends that are not going to go away -- youth and technology. The Middle East is going through one of the world's great youth bulges. Sixty percent of its population is under 30. Now, youth bulges are generally associated with revolts and sometimes with violence. In fact, one study found that over the last 30 years 80 percent of the countries that have experienced violent conflict have had a youth bulge.
Millions of young men, restless, unemployed, who are treated as subjects, not citizens -- this is a recipe for a revolution. And unless these regimes in the Middle East find these young people jobs and give them a sense of dignity, things will continue to bubble.
Another place, by the way, where some of this could happen is sub-Saharan Africa, which also has an extreme youth bulge of its own.
The second big force other than the youth movement that is powering these -- these trends in the Middle East is the information revolution. We're living through a particular technological shift that is empowering individuals and disempowering governments.
See, in the old days, revolutionaries would -- would always try to take control of the radio station or the TV station so that they could use it to propagate their message to the masses. That was when information was a one to many phenomenon -- one person to many.
Today, the Internet and social media have made technology a many to many phenomenon. You share information, photos, videos, messages easily. You create communities, organize activities. The system is flat. Everyone is connected, but no one is in control.
That breaks down hierarchies, it erodes control, and it makes it very tough for dictatorships. It is much too easy to say that Facebook will make you free, but it does make life difficult for dictators and those who want to keep their people isolated from the broad trends of the outside world. It will be a long journey, but I think the Middle East might just have begun its ride to modernity.
Now, if you want to read more of my thoughts on all this, take a look at my cover piece in "Time" magazine or go to Time.com. There's also a great portrait of the youth movement in the Middle East.
Let's get started.
ZAKARIA: George Soros is the 14th wealthiest American, according to "Forbes Magazine." He's one of the most successful investors of all times who has spent billions of his dollars to promote democracy around the world, to promote what he calls open societies.
He was a big supporter of then Senator Obama in the 2008 elections. He has been relatively quiet on that subject in recent months. So who better to talk about the democracy movements in the Middle East, North Africa, about U.S. politics, the president's new budget and much more?
Welcome back, George.
GEORGE SOROS, FOUNDER, THE OPEN SOCIETY INSTITUTE: My pleasure.
ZAKARIA: Do you think what is going on in -- in the Arab world right now reminds you of 1989, when you were very active in helping those countries move to freedom?
SOROS: It is very similar. It's -- it's a historic event, at least equal in importance to what happened then. And it -- it really is a spontaneous desire of people living in closed societies to shake off the dictatorship and -- and corrupt regimes, and to move towards democracy.
The big difference between 1989 and now is that there it was a -- the Soviet dictatorship that was collapsing. Here, its our allies that -- that are changing. And now we have to actually regain the confidence and alliance of the people in these countries.
ZAKARIA: In the -- in Eastern Europe, the people were for us because we had opposed those regimes.
SOROS: That's right.
ZAKARIA: Here, we have supported these regimes, so the people look at us, at least with some suspicious.
SOROS: Yes. But, I must say that in this respect, President Obama did an -- an outstanding job. It's -- it's not sufficiently appreciated. Really, what a big difference it was that he was -- he is our president at this time.
Just imagine if Bush and Cheney would have been in charge. I don't think you would have had a peaceful revolution in Egypt.
ZAKARIA: Even though they were for democracy and Bush talked about the freedom agenda?
SOROS: Yes, it was -- but, in effect, they were allies of -- of these regimes, and the President Obama sees it in terms of people asserting their right to be more in charge of the -- of the government.
ZAKARIA: You say revolutions usually start with enthusiasm but end in tears.
SOROS: That's right.
ZAKARIA: So -- and there are many cases where these things start of well and then the military reasserts control, or there's some kind of total dysfunction.
ZAKARIA: What are lessons you've learned about how to -- how to make sure that Egypt goes right rather than goes wrong? SOROS: Yes. Well, what I learned in 1989 and '91, when I was very involved there, is that the transition from a closed society to an open society is not an easy one because it's -- it's a step up, because there's a lot more involved in democracy than just overthrowing a dictator. You have to build institutions. That takes time, and actually, effort. And these countries will need a lot of support for the revolution actually to succeed.
ZAKARIA: In Egypt, what people look at is the Muslim Brotherhood, a -- a group that -whether or not it's -- it's peaceful or not, has pretty extreme views, and views that are often not compatible with an open society, with a democratic society.
SOROS: You see, this is what I find very heartening, because I also sort of accepted this view that it's either Mubarak or the Muslim Brotherhood or -- or al Qaeda. It turns out that there is, even in Egypt, a sufficiently engaged middle class, particularly young people who actually want to be democratic and are not beholden to an -- an Islamic political movement.
So it's -- the reality actually turns out to be much more promising than I expected.
ZAKARIA: When you look around at the regimes, the other regimes, there seem to be protests and discontent everywhere. The one that is most interesting is Iran.
SOROS: Of course. And I'm convinced that the -- that the regime will not survive. It was already highly vulnerable because the revolution got further and further extreme.
The -- the -- actually, the mullahs, the Islamic element, was already disenfranchised, and it was just the Revolutionary Guard, and then even within the Revolutionary Guard an increasingly narrow group of people who are maintaining themselves in power through real oppression and despotism, killing people through judicial processes. And the large majority of people resent them, try to move up. And because they were oppressed, the -- this movement was repressed.
ZAKARIA: Could we do something to -- to further this strength in Iran?
SOROS: Yes. I think Obama did actually there also a very good job by refusing to get involved and to be instigating regime change. This -- this attempt to impose a regime change from the outside is counterproductive, because then the regime can accuse its opponents as being in the pay of a -- of a foreign power, right?
SOROS: Here, Obama scrupulously avoided it. He was criticized for it, that he wasn't pro-democracy, pushing it. Now, I think now he's beginning to push, and -- and rightly so. And, as I said, the situation there could get very, very ugly.
I think that the -- the opposition leaders could easily be killed through a false judicial process because the regime is fighting for its survival, because they know that they've committed such crimes that it's either them or the people. So they will put up a lot more resistance, but I don't think that they'll be able to succeed because this is something that -- people behave very differently than in normal times. They actually are willing to sacrifice their lives for a common cause.
So it's -- and the -- the impossible, what seems to be impossible not only becomes possible but it actually happens. So I'd -- I would like to bet that the Iranian regime will not be there in a year's time.
ZAKARIA: Wow. If the Iranian regime collapses, this will be a real revolution in the Middle East. I mean, you're -- you are imagining a period of great instability.
SOROS: Yes. Well, look, in -- in '89, '91, the Soviet Union collapsed. It was a major change in geopolitics. The least you can expect for -- is for Iran to collapse in this one, for it to be equally significant. In other words, this game of geopolitics is not totally fixed, because what goes on inside states has a lot of influence on how those states behave.
So Iran, I think, will almost inevitably change its -- its character, and that will change the landscape.
ZAKARIA: When we come back, more with George Soros. We're going to ask him about President Obama's budget, the U.S. economy, how to creates jobs in this country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SOROS: President Obama has lost control of the agenda. The agenda is now in the hands of the Republican Party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: And we are back with George Soros to talk about the American economy and what to do about it.
Where do you think the U.S. economy is right now? Is the budget that President Obama submitted the right way forward? Are the Republican critiques of it correct? Where do you stand?
SOROS: Well, President Obama has lost control of the agenda. The agenda is now in the hands of the Republican Party, and they are going to pursue a very strong effort to cut services by refusing to have any tax increases, by forcing the extension of the Obama tax cuts also for the top one or two percent. You have built in a budget deficit, therefore, you've got to cut services, and they'll oppose any kind of additional new -- new taxes.
I think this agenda will be successful, but it will be pursued, I think, to -- to an extent where it's more directed at cutting services and achieving the ideological purposes of the Republicans, rather than to get the economy going. So I -- I think this will have a negative effect on the economy.
ZAKARIA: Do you think overall, Obama has handled the economy well?
SOROS: No. No. I've been critical of it, and I think that he made one major error. He had to bailout the banking system because without it we would be in a depression. But the way he did it was the wrong way, because he should have injected capital where it was missing. There was a hole in the equity, and he should have provided equity, and instead of nationalizing the -- the liabilities of the banks, but not nationalizing the banks.
ZAKARIA: In the case of Britain, you said that the British government, which is pursuing a policy of cutting spending, though they -- they have agreed to some tax increases, but you said that this whole policy, because it is taking money out of the economy, the government would spend less, is -- is dangerous because it might tip the economy and Britain back into a recession.
SOROS: That's correct.
ZAKARIA: Do you think there's a similar danger here if the Republican Party would have pushed the spending cuts through -- the economy is still pretty fragile, at least --
ZAKARIA: -- on the employment side.
SOROS: Yes. And doing this at a time when private demand is not strong enough, when investment by businesses is not strong enough to take up the slack, it creates a slack. So unemployment, instead of coming down, is likely to remain pretty high. And to have these -- these resources permanently unemployed is basically very harmful to the economy.
ZAKARIA: Now, you know what the Republicans will say. They say that if we don't do this, we will face a crisis because we are borrowing all this money and the bond market wouldn't let us the money.
Now, you are maybe the world's leader expert on this subject because you -- you have literally accumulated a fortune of tens of billions of dollars figuring out when bond markets will -- will support governments and when they wouldn't. When you look at the U.S. government right now, do you think it is in danger of facing a crisis where it wouldn't be able to borrow any more, that the bond market will -- will punish it?
SOROS: Yes. That's more or less in -- in the cards because -- because we are not applying fiscal stimulus because the ideology is that the governments can't do anything right, right? So we can't expect the government to -- to help.
So you have vital resources, and the Federal Reserve is providing quantitative easing. Well, I think when it expires they wouldn't do any -- wouldn't give it any more, but it does create access, money supply, and -- and when you stop pushing money into the economy, interest rates are going to go up. And it will be the rise of interest rates that is going to choke off the economic recovery.
ZAKARIA: So you foresee a rise in interest rates in -- in the United States which will kill growth?
SOROS: That's right.
ZAKARIA: Do you think that they're -- there's danger of -- of state or municipal defaults?
SOROS: There will be fear of it, and there will be defaults, yes.
ZAKARIA: When we come back, I'm going to ask George Soros what he thinks about the sometimes truly bizarre attacks upon him from some parts of the right.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SOROS: FOX News makes a habit. It has imported the methods of George Orwell, you know, newspeak, where you can tell the people falsehoods and deceive them. But this is a very, very dangerous way of deceiving people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: George, I want you to look at a piece of video we have here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS HOST: The question is, do we have a shadow government? And, if we do, who are those intelligent minority that is -- that is guiding us through? And where are they guiding us to?
If you skip past all of the puppets and the strings, if you stop looking at the puppets themselves, you have to see who's behind the puppets. Who is choosing the puppets and the players? Who's the puppet master?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: So, George, Glenn Beck has been on this kick that you are actually the mastermind who is trying to bring down the American government. How do you react when you see this kind of thing?
SOROS: Well, I would be amused if -- if people saw the joke in it, because what he is doing, he is projecting what FOX, what Rupert Murdoch is doing, because he has a -- a media empire that is telling the people some falsehoods and this -- and leading the government in the wrong direction.
But, you know, by accusing me of doing that, it kind of makes it rather hard to see that it's really, he is working for the man who is doing it, which is FOX News.
ZAKARIA: But it's very personal. I mean, he talks about you as a 14-year-old boy and he accuses you of -- of essentially helping to round Jews up -- you're Jewish yourself. You've lost --
ZAKARIA: You lost many, many people in the holocaust. How did you feel when you heard that?
SOROS: Well, look, FOX News makes a habit -- it has imported the methods of George Orwell, you know, newspeak, where you can tell the people falsehoods and deceive them. And you wouldn't believe that at an open society and a democracy these methods can succeed.
But, actually, they did succeed. They succeeded in Germany where the Weimar Republic collapsed and you had a -- a Nazi regime follow it. So this is a very, very dangerous way of deceiving people, and I would like people to be aware that they are being deceived.
Now, I -- because I saw it as a child, I immediately react that way. But people in America, they are innocent. They -- they haven't had the experience. But having the experience now, and I hope they wake up and they realize that they are being deceived.
ZAKARIA: What do you think of this broader movement of the Tea Party, of -- of what's going on on the right?
SOROS: Look, I think the people in the Tea Party are very decent people, hard-working. They've been hit by a force that -- that comes from somewhere which they can't fully understand, and -- and they are being misled. And they are misled by people who are using it for their selfish purposes, namely to remove regulations and -- and reduce taxation. So reduce taxation and regulation, and they are being used and deceived.
ZAKARIA: Do -- do you think that there is some -- I'm struck by the fact that when I first met you, you were always accused of being this ultra capitalist. You were the speculator, you were the person who, you know, understood markets better than anyone.
And now, you're painted as this kind of left wing iconic figure. It's been quite a journey.
SOROS: Well, you just had the experience of speaking through the -- to the puppet master and the extreme left wing manipulator, and you and the audience can make their own decisions.
ZAKARIA: And we will. George Soros, thank you very much.
SOROS: My pleasure.
ZAKARIA: We will be back.
ZAKARIA: One of things you've surely heard is that they want a Caliphate. In other words, a kind of Islamic empire that would be like the 7th -- 8th century Caliphates of Islam. Do you hear that much?
TAREK MASOUD, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Absolutely. So, yes, they do want to return to the Caliphate.
ZAKARIA: Now, for "What in the World" segment.
This week in Egypt, the Muslim brotherhood announced it would apply to become a political party. That is, of course, the Islamic group long banned that many fear if allowed to come to power would create an Islamic Republic in Egypt like the one in Iran. Ever since all eyes turn to Egypt, there have been many questions, allegations, rumors, information, misinformation about the group.
So what's fact and what's fiction? Joining me now, perhaps America's top expert on the Muslim brotherhood, Tarek Masoud, a professor at Harvard University, has been studying the group for years and is writing a book about them. Welcome.
MASOUD: Thank you.
ZAKARIA: Who are these people? You've met hundreds of them. What do they look like? Give us a snapshot, a kind of profile.
MASOUD: They actually look sort of like me when I was following them in the 2005 elections, I'd be wearing my blazer. I'd be clean shaven. And people would often think that I was a member of the Muslim brotherhood, because that's sort of how they appear.
They're generally not what we think is (INAUDIBLE). We generally think the Islamists are poor people, down trodden, who are turning to the comforting certainties of religion and religious zealotry. The Muslim brothers are quite different. They generally tend to be pretty well educated, doctors, engineers, pharmacists, veterinarians. These are not the poor of Egypt. They're kind of upwardly mobile folks. ZAKARIA: People think of them, though, as a kind of reactionary or retrograde organization. What is their relationship to the modern world? Do they like it? Do they want to turn Egypt backwards?
MASOUD: Well, their relation to the modern world is complex. I mean, certainly, they do want to turn Egypt backwards, but not backwards in the way that the Taliban wanted to turn Egypt backwards. They're not the kinds of people who are rejecting western science and learning.
On the contrary, if you look, for example, at the web presences of various political organizations, nobody uses the Internet more intensively or more effectively than the Muslim brotherhood. So these are people who have a desire to engage with the best thinking that's coming out of the west because they believe there's nothing contradictory between that and Islam.
ZAKARIA: One of things you've surely heard is that they want a Caliphate. In other words, a kind of Islamic empire that would be like the 7th -- 8th century Caliphates of Islam. Do you hear that much?
MASOUD: Absolutely. So yes, they do want to return to the Caliphate, but their reason for the caliphate is a little bit different and it seems to have evolved with time. You often read, you know, about a kind of United States of Islam, that's the kind of thing they're looking for, a kind of European Union for Muslim countries, the head of which would be called a Caliph.
ZAKARIA: What about human rights? Are Egyptians comfortable with the idea of a political party that would really disenfranchise women in a very big way?
MASOUD: I think Egyptians would not be comfortable with a political party that disenfranchises women. I think some members of the Muslim brothers would be. If you look at the debates that they have, for example, about the role of women, they still not have come on board with the idea that a woman could, for example, take Egypt's presidency.
And as a result of them taking those -- those views, lots of Muslim brothers have actually started to split away from the movement because they believe that that view is incompatible with what Egyptians want.
ZAKARIA: What is their commitment to democracy? You hear a lot of people say this would be -- they would come to power democratically but then subverted because ultimately what they want is not democracy but an Islamic state.
MASOUD: So that is a very important question. It requires us, of course, to peer into their hearts to know whether when they say they demand democracy and call for democracy they really mean it. My sense is that we've had a lot of experience with the Muslim brothers over time, demanding democracy, behaving in ways that are democratic. And so I think generally their commitment to democracy is pretty sincere.
I also think more important than that, nobody is on board for a return to a kind of autocratic system. So even if the Muslim brothers wanted that, they couldn't achieve it.
ZAKARIA: What is the relationship between the Muslim brotherhood and al Qaeda?
MASOUD: Al Qaeda views the Muslim brotherhood as basically having sold out as -- as having abandoned the cause of Jihad and by choosing to work within democracy and to try to compete in elections, they feel that the Muslim brothers are sellouts, nearly upholding an irreligious, un-Islamic order.
Yes, the Muslim brotherhood slogan has all kinds of blood- curdling lines and it's about, you know, dying for the sake of God is our highest aspiration. But when those lines are uttered by sort of roly-poly physicians, they become far less frightening.
ZAKARIA: So is it fair to say that what you're describing is a group that is socially and politically pretty reactionary on issues like women's rights has some view -- I think views that many Westerners would regard as extremely reactionary, socially conservative at the very -- to say the least, but that you don't detect any strong currents that are deeply anti-democratic or that support violence and jihad. Is that a -- is that a fair summary?
MASOUD: I think absolutely. If we make this distinction between different kinds of extremism, there's an extremism of ends where your goals are perhaps extreme to erect a society that many of us may not agree with. And there's an extremism of means, the kinds of tools you're willing to use to get to those ends. And, you know, the more extreme you are in that dimension, the more violent you'll be.
I think with the Muslim brothers there's clearly an extremism of ends. Their views are -- are not views that we would share here in the liberal west. But I think they come very cleanly on the side of nonviolence. And so, in terms of their means, I don't think they're very extreme. And we -- you can work with them.
ZAKARIA: And is it fair to say, I mean, you're a scholar of the -- of the movement and you've tried to understand them, but if you had to vote in an Egyptian election, you would not vote for the Muslim brotherhood.
MASOUD: If I had to vote in an Egyptian election, I would be voting for, you know, for a liberal secular party, perhaps the left party, but no, I would not be voting for the Muslim brothers. But I would allow them to participate in politics, because I also think the only way that you're going to get them to evolve and change is by -- is by competing against them.
ZAKARIA: Tarek Masoud, a pleasure.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KARIM SADJADPOUR, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE: The predominant narrative of the last three decades in the Middle East has been about Arabs being inspired by Iranian theocracy. Suddenly that's been torn on his head. We're not talking about Iranians being inspired by potentially Arab democracy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Now time for a check of today's top stories.
As many as 180 people have been killed in Libya from clashes between protesters of Muammar Gaddafi and his security forces.
Meanwhile, in Yemen, hundreds of anti-government protesters gathered today for the tenth consecutive day. While in Bahrain yesterday, demonstrators regained control of a major square in that country's capital after deadly attacks by security forces.
A sixth day of protests is expected in Wisconsin over today over the state budget. State workers are angry over a provision that remove virtually all collective bargaining rights. Tens of thousands of people have marched against the bill in the past five days. Tea Party activists have joined the demonstrations in support of the legislation.
U.S. Military officials say there's no reason to believe the hijacked American yacht has reached the Somali Coast. The U.S. Military is prepared to intervene in a situation if necessary. The yacht was en route from India to Oman when it was captured Friday by Somali pirates.
Those are your top stories. Up next, more FAREED ZAKARIA GPS and then "RELIABLE SOURCES" at the top of the hour.
ZAKARIA: The scene this week in Iran's parliament was unlike any we've ever seen before. Lawmakers were chanting death threats to opposition leaders and to a former president of the Islamic Republic. "Death to Mousavi, Karroubi and Khatami," they said, Khatami being a former president. This was in reaction to a new round of protests against the government in Tehran.
So can Iran be another Egypt? Joining me now are two top experts on Iran, Karim Sadjadpour is an associate of the Carnegie Endowment and is of Iranian extraction. As is Hooman Majd, an author and a journalist who now lives in New York.
Karim, what is your sense? Where is the green revolution that didn't quite work in 2009 today?
SADJADPOUR: Fareed, there's an old maxim about analysts and authoritarian regimes. We say that's while these regimes are in power, their collapse seems inconceivable. But after they've collapsed, we say that it was inevitable.
And I think, Iran Islamic Republic is somehow at the crossroads of that maxim. In a sense that right now, I don't see this regime on the verge of collapse. At the same time, I don't see this regime's viability in the future. And I think --
ZAKARIA: You mean in the long term sense?
SADJADPOUR: In the long term sense as well.
ZAKARIA: Well, how do you read what's going on over the last week or two?
HOOMAN MAJD, AUTHOR, " THE AYATOLLAH BEGS TO DIFFER": I mean, first of all, I think we have to remember, I mean, I would agree and it's impossible to predict what the long-term future of Iran is. But I think the thing to remember about Iran today is the regime, (INAUDIBLE), the system, whatever you want to call it, has a lot of support. Still has a tremendous amount of support.
ZAKARIA: Describe the support.
MAJD: Well, the support is obviously among the (INAUDIBLE). I can't give you numbers. I have no idea what the numbers are, but it still has a tremendous amount of support, including President Ahmadinejad himself, who still has a tremendous amount of support.
ZAKARIA: You think the regime has a lot less support than meets the eye?
SADJADPOUR: Yes. I would disagree with Hooman's characteristic that it has tremendous support. I think there's a couple of barometers. If it did have a tremendous support, they would allow journalists like yourself to go there and report. It will allow other reporters to go there and see what's happening. And I think they would allow people to freely assemble and see what happens.
But what I would say is this, I don't think that they have very wide support, but I think the support they have is deep, meaning they have people who are very willing to kill and potentially die on behalf of the regime.
And I think that was one distinction between the Islamic Republic and Egypt's Mubarak, meaning, the breadth of their support I think is fairly similar, but I think far more Iranians are willing to die --
ZAKARIA: Why? Why is that?
SADJADPOUR: Well, I think that, you know, it's easier to compel people to kill on behalf of Islam than it is to kill on behalf of retaining Mubarak republic.
The other thing is, I don't think people in Iran necessarily wake up in the morning thinking about democracy and thinking about human rights and thinking about having a secular system. But they do wake up in the morning thinking about the economy. Younger generation thinks about employment opportunities, older generation thinks about economic dignity.
And if -- if this regime -- this Islamic Republic didn't provide people political freedoms, didn't provide people social freedoms, but they delivered on the economy, then I would agree with Hooman that they would have tremendous support.
But when you deny people social freedoms, you deny people of political freedoms and you terribly mismanaged the economy, I'm not sure really what redeeming qualities this regime has.
ZAKARIA: Hooman, when you look at what happened in Egypt and how Ahmadinejad tried to take credit for it and talked about as an Islamic awakening of sorts. He must be embarrassed by these protests. This must be awkward.
MAJD: I don't think he is. I don't think -- neither he nor the -- not the ayatollahs who have taken credit or have said that this is a, you know, a continuation of the Islamic revolution. No, because they realize in my -- the way I see it, they realized that whatever happens in Egypt, whatever happens is going to be beneficial to Iran and not beneficial to the United States -
MAJD: -- in a long term. Because they feel that a democratic -- even if it's -- if it's a democracy like turkey, which is a best case scenario for -- as far as we are concerned or as far as Israel is concerned, that is still beneficial to Iran. Iran and Egypt have had very bad relations. No diplomatic relations for over 30 years. Practically enemies.
And whatever happens, the will of the people and if the will of the people in Egypt is reflected in the leadership, then it's going to be beneficial. Maybe only marginally beneficial, but even that marginal benefit is something that they would take great pride in. And say, look, as we see, whether it's Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Bahrain, now we're seeing all (INAUDIBLE).
ZAKARIA: Democratic Arab countries will be more pro-Iranian or (INAUDIBLE)?
MAJD: Virtually, every one of them, except for Syria, is anti- Iraq right now and we have seen this in WikiLeaks and everything. So I don't think they're terribly concerned about, you know, protests in Tehran or, you know, I'm not saying they shouldn't be. I'm just saying they aren't terribly concerned about protests in Tehran or in another city or the Green Movement. And I do believe -
ZAKARIA: But you don't see this protest as spiraling at all?
MAJD: I don't, right now, no. I don't -- I don't see that. I think that there's a -- there's real dilemma for the leaders of the Green Movement. And, you know, they said that this was -- and these protests were going to be in support of the Egyptian people.
What they turned into, which is what the government had always said they were, was an anti-regime protest, not just anti-Ahmadinejad protest, anti-regime process.
So you saw people like Muslim (INAUDIBLE) --
ZAKARIA: But what is wrong with having anti-regime -
ZAKARIA: -- (INAUDIBLE). The public says that -
ZAKARIA: -- is, you know, they have the majority support. Why not let the minority -
MAJD: Absolutely. But the view of the -- of the people in power in Iran, is that at a time, when the National Security of Iran is threatened by Israel, is threatened by United States, when they're (INAUDIBLE) of war that the country should bond together.
This is their view.
ZAKARIA: This is -- right.
ZAKARIA: How would you respond finally this war?
SADJADPOUR: What I would say, Fareed, is that the predominant narrative of the last three decades in the Middle East has been about Arabs being inspired by Iranian theocracy. Suddenly, that's been turned on his head.
We're now talking about Iranian being inspired by potentially Arab democracy. And for me what's interesting is that, you know, I traveled a lot in the Arab world. I live in Beirut. I go frequently to Cairo. And whenever I go to the Arab World, I tell people I'm Iranian. They always start to praise Ahmadinejad.
I think what we're seeing now is that Arab popular support, expressions of support for Iran are akin to Latin America populist support for Castro's Cuba in the '60s and '70s. European Intellectuals Popular Support for the Soviet Union in the 1950s.
Iran is this defiant political order, which they admire from afar but which they don't wish upon themselves.
ZAKARIA: On that note, Karim, Hooman, a fascinating discussion. We will of course follow it.
ZAKARIA: Our question this week from the "GPS Challenge" is, we don't know if he celebrated with a cake or candles or maybe a quiet dinner at home with his heir apparent. But we do know that Kim Jong Il marked a birthday this week. How old is he now officially? A, 59; B, 69; C, 79; D, 89? Stay tuned. We'll tell you the correct answer. Make sure you go to CNN.com/GPS for 10 more questions. And while you're there, don't forget to check out our podcast which you can also subscribe to at iTunes. That way you will never a show. And for now, the price is fantastic, free.
This week's "Book of the Week" is the "Media Relations Department of Hezbollah Wishes You a Happy Birthday: Unexpected Encounters in the Changing Middle East", by Neil MacFarquhar. The author is a former "New York Times" bureau chief in Cairo. He grew up in Libya. Speaks Arabic fluently.
It's a wonderful collection of portraits of the region and what it shows you is the voices of young reformers. This was not the intention, I think, of the book, but it comes through very powerfully and is very, very interesting in light of the last month's events.
Now, for "The Last Look," these are unusual canvasses for artists to say the least. They are blast walls in Baghdad, the very thick concrete barriers put up to protect against explosions. Cityscapes, rural landscapes, mosques, and fisherman and horses, all subjects that are drawn (ph) or what would otherwise be real eyesores.
Bur the beauty of art work apparently isn't enough for the City of Baghdad. This week the municipal government demanded $1 billion from the United States for the aesthetic and physical damage caused to the city by the walls. It also demanded an apology.
Perhaps someone needs to remind the Municipality of Baghdad that the walls were put up to stop Jihadis from killing thousands of their citizens.
The correct answer to our "GPS Challenge" question was B. Kim Jong Il turns 69 this week officially. He might be the only one in his impoverished nation able to have an actual happy birthday.
Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week. Stay tuned for "Reliable Sources."