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Fareed Zakaria GPS
Russia Hammers Ukraine with Missiles; Biden and Xi Meet Face to Face. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired November 20, 2022 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: 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 New York.
ZAKARIA (voice-over): Today on the program, a Russian made missile lands in Poland and Biden and Xi meet for three hours. I explore what we learned from NATO's would-be crisis, and what we can glean from talks between the world's two most powerful leaders, with Richard Haass and Tim Naftali.
Also, is China ready to seize Taiwan? That is the question the reporter Dexter Filkins sought to answer in a new story for "The New Yorker." What did he learn from his trip to the embattled island?
And it's now been more than two months since Mahsa Amini died after being arrested by Iran's morality police. What do we need to know about Iran's Gen Z, the young people leading the protest? I'll talk to Atlantic Council's Holly Dagres.
ZAKARIA: But first, here's my take. It is heartening to see some important Republican figures come out against Donald Trump. But it's worth noting that many of them embrace him when he proposed a Muslim ban, strung on Ukraine's president, was impeached, and then tried to overturn an election. His real sin in their eyes is that now he is losing popularity.
However, Trump's slump among Republicans could change. Imagine that during the 2024 campaign, the Republican Party runs a large and varied field. Ron DeSantis, Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo, Nikki Haley, Larry Hogan, and Liz Cheney, among other possible candidates. Trump would start with a shrunken base but would generate enormous publicity and would likely win the single largest vote share in the early primaries.
He might not get past 50 percent of the voting in any state, but most Republican state primary systems favor the frontrunner, and in state after state, he would just do better than anyone else. As Ronald Brownstein reminds us, that is how Trump became the presumptive nominee in 2016, while only garnering around 40 percent of total votes. Voters did deliver a powerful rebuke to the Republicans in the midterm
elections and clearly it was centered around two issues, election denial and abortion. But those who shifted appear to have been independents and a sliver of moderate Republicans. These are not the voters who will determine the results of Republican primaries.
The results also don't tell us enough about a possible matchup between Trump and DeSantis. DeSantis' victory in the Florida gubernatorial race was impressive, but in the early stages of a presidential campaign, DeSantis would not be facing Trump mano-a-mano, but rather as one choice among many.
A "New York Times"-Sienna poll from October found that almost half of likely primary voters still prefer Trump, with about a quarter favoring DeSantis and only 6 percent favoring Pence. DeSantis' popularity will probably have increased in recent weeks, but in a possible 2024 presidential campaign, he will be fighting for not Trump voters and the not Trump lane of the Republican Party is going to get very crowded.
Were Trump to have a revival of his fortunes, many would jump back on his bandwagon. Ted Cruz has already reserved a spot there, promising that if Trump were to get the nomination, he would enthusiastically support him. Republican officials seem to be hoping that their voters will do their dirty work for them and deliver them from Trump. Reversing the usual roads of leaders and followers.
But it won't work. The party must put an end to its moral cowardice and finally and frontally confront the cancel within. Republican leaders need to explain to their voters that Trump is a demagogue who tried to undermine American democracy, which should make him an unacceptable nominee for the Republican Party.
In a fascinating essay in "Foreign Affairs," Barnard College scholar Sheri Berman points out that America is something of an outlier among well-established democracies. She knows that in many Western European countries, right-wing populist parties have been forced to retreat from their most extreme positions and accept mainstream stances on issues such as the European Union, the euro and the war in Ukraine.
But in the U.S., the Republican Party having opted for extremism in the wake of the Trump revolution has been far more willing to go along with his dictates, with a slate of almost 300 election deniers as candidates in the midterms. The reason, Berman points out, both in the essay and in a conversation with me, is that the institutions and norms of liberal democracy are strong in Western Europe.
The political parties act responsibly, European and national institutions maintain their independence, and leaders call out bad behavior. So from Sweden to Italy, when radical right-wing parties come to power, they are rarely able to change policy along the dramatic lines that they had once called for. She notes that in Sweden and Italy, the far-right parties have had to moderate their record and policies significantly to attract support and be seen as serious enough to govern.
The United States unfortunately has a weaker, more open political system to begin with, defined nowadays by primaries, money, social media, and celebrity. All of which enable an entrepreneurial politician like Trump to take over a major political party and turn it into something resembling a personality cult. At the last Republican National Convention, not one of the former presidents or presidential nominees of the party spoke, but six members of Trump's family were given prominent slots, something unthinkable in a European country.
Berman writes, "The Freedom House and other groups that track democratic development such as V-Dem have noted a marked decline in the strength of American democracy but have found no similar decline in Western Europe."
In countries where Democratic institutions are weaker, such as Hungary, Turkey, and alas, nowadays the United States, demagogues change parties rather than the other way around. To fend off this threat, Republican leaders must act to purge their party, and country, of extremism. Even after the midterms, Trump and Trumpism will not magically vanish.
Go to CNN.com/fareed for a link to my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started.
Most eyes and attention this week were on the missile that landed in Poland just over the border from Ukraine on Tuesday. But the United States does not believe that Russia fired that missile. What we all should have been paying attention to was the devastating aerial bombardment of Ukraine that Moscow delivered this week.
The British Ministry of Defense said Tuesday saw likely the largest number of strikes that Russia has conducted in a single day since the first week of the invasion. One of the main targets has been energy infrastructure, plunging swaths of Ukrainians into darkness. The capital Kyiv experienced both blackouts and communication disruptions. All this as winter, cold, and snow have arrived.
Let me bring in the panel to talk about Ukraine and we will later get to China. I have two terrific guests joining me in studio, Richard Haass and Tim Naftali. Richard is of course the president of the Council on Foreign Relations and Tim is a CNN presidential historian and teaches history at NYU.
So that bombardment just, you know, this is part of the new general that's been put in place in Russia. This is the guy who oversaw the Syrian campaign. This is exactly what he did in Syria. It is brutal. I mean, he is -- and they're going for energy infrastructure. They're basically plunging the civilian population into cold and misery, right? Can Ukraine just keep taking these body blows?
RICHARD HAASS, PRESIDENT, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: You're exactly right. This is the Aleppo-zation of the Ukraine war. Russia can't compete, if you will, on the traditional battlefield, so they're saying this is our battlefield. We are going to so increase the misery, that we are going to try to get you to should uncle and to come to the negotiating table and give us enough so we can claim this was all worth it.
History suggests not. You know the history of mass bombing during World War II, it tends to stiffen the spine of civilian populations, but we'll see. It's part of Putin's larger strategy to play for time.
He's hoping the new House of Representatives here might give him a break. He's hoping Europeans get cold this winter, maybe they'll lose some of their spirit of backing Ukraine. And obviously he wants to break the back of the Ukrainian people. I don't think it will work, but that right now is his strategy.
ZAKARIA: Do you agree with that?
TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: It's absolutely his strategy. He is looking for weakness, he is looking for a lack of resolve on the part of Europeans and the United States. And like all autocrats, he underestimates democracies. There's one thing you can count on from an autocrat. They think we are weak and they always get surprised when we don't back down. So what we have to do is project to them a sense of unity and resolve.
ZAKARIA: Which we have so far been able to do, right?
NAFTALI: We have actually remarkably so. Europeans and the United States have continued to tell Putin and to send signals to Putin that we mean it when we want to defend Ukrainian sovereignty.
ZAKARIA: But it does highlight that Ukraine is going to be, I mean, devastated. I don't know whether you can even come up with a figure that will describe what the rebuilding of Ukraine is going to cost at this stage.
HAASS: No. It's incalculable. It's pulverization. And this is a modern society. You and I have both spent time there. You even recently. And you go to downtown Kyiv and you could have been in any city in modern -- you know, in any modern city in contemporary Europe. The cost of this, the human cost (INAUDIBLE). A quarter of the population or more has been displaced. The physical cost now.
I spoke to a friend the other day in Kyiv. I think she is on the 23rd floor of her building. The only way to get to her apartment is to walk up and down the stairs. Imagine what this is like for the elderly and for young children. So this is a conscious strategy. It is brutal. These are war crimes on an hourly basis. That is what we are seeing. And the cost of rebuilding Ukraine, the years it will take, the dollars it will take, will be enormous.
ZAKARIA: Tim, you had a really fascinating piece in "Foreign Affairs" in which you pointed out that Putin, in a conference with a bunch of Russian journalists, and in answer to one of his favorite foreign policy experts, Lukyanov, who has been on this show, the guy asked him about the Cuban missile crisis. And what did he say?
NAFTALI: Lukyanov asked Putin, are you going to be like Khrushchev, accepting a retreat? And Putin --
ZAKARIA: Actually it was even -- he said, are you going to be like Khrushchev, and Putin says, you mean, accept a retreat? No. He characterized what Khrushchev did as a retreat.
NAFTALI: And what's so important I think is that there is a sense among American and some European elites that the Cuban missile crisis ended peacefully because of statesmanship on both sides. There is no doubt that statesmanship mattered. But the initial move towards an offramp was from the Russian and the Soviet side. The Russians were scared. And the reason they were scared was they were looking for some lack of resolve on the part of John F. Kennedy and they didn't see it.
And when John F. Kennedy imposed a blockade and stuck by it, Khrushchev realized, I don't want war. I've got to find an offramp. So what I was trying to share was don't look to history to give you a reason to go to Putin and give him an offramp. If anything, it's the opposite. Don't give Putin a sense that you want to end this because he's been looking for that. He's desperate for straws. Force him to want an offramp the way that John F. Kennedy forced Khrushchev to seek an offramp from the Cuban missile crisis.
HAASS: That's something I would agree, but I would actually say Khrushchev followed the act under slightly greater restraint than Putin is now. There was a degree of institutions in the Soviet Union, neither was sporadic. You had a degree of collective leadership. We have a personalization and a de-institutionalization of that country, which makes it frightening that one man has so much power.
ZAKARIA: But do you agree with Tim, which I think is right, which is we shouldn't be searching for offramps for Putin, we should be maintaining pressure, let him look for the offramps?
HAASS: Absolutely. And, you know, the situation is as far from being ripe for diplomacy. Neither side right now is prepared to accept half a loaf. What we want to do is create the conditions for diplomacy rather than go directly into diplomacy.
ZAKARIA: All right. Stay with us. When we come back, we're going to solve the China problem, right here.
ZAKARIA: When Biden came into office, he did little to moderate the tough foreign policy stance that Trump took on China. But this week, there was at least the potential for a thaw, as President Biden and President Xi Jinping met for three hours ahead of the G20 in Bali. It was the first in-person meeting between the two men as leaders of their respective nations.
We are back with CNN's presidential historian Tim Naftali and Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations to discuss it.
Richard, what did you think of this Biden-Xi meeting? HAASS: Not bad. It was almost nostalgic. It kind of looked like
diplomacy to me. Unlike the original meeting between the senior lieutenants of both governments in Anchorage, which was this public kind of scolding match which was I thought unprofessional and counterproductive. This was -- I think both guys came there with a desire to lower the temperature, to build something of a floor under this relationship.
We want China's help with Ukraine, among other things. They haven't provided arms to Russia, as best we know. They're putting pressure on them not to use nuclear weapons. All good. China has -- Xi Jinping, despite his consolidation of power, has an inbox, shall we say, that is, you know, enough to keep anybody up at night, all the economic challenges, the health challenges, the demographic challenges, what have you.
So I think he too wanted to slightly calm things down. China is on something of a charm offensive right now. So they didn't solve problems, Fareed. They put down a couple of guardrails maybe. Some red lines, some clarifications. They've agreed to institutionalize more talks. And that might be the most important thing. Again, it's diplomacy. It's at least the beginning of a possibility of avoiding some downside. Even possibly creating some limited areas of upside.
ZAKARIA: Tim, what do you think about this possibility of China not quite breaking with Russia but putting some more pressure on Russia? Because this is an odder lines. I mean, it gets -- you know, harkens back to the Cold War when it was the same alliance but in reverse. At that time, the Soviet Union was the major power and China was the minor power. This time its role is reversed.
NAFTALI: Well, I think our objectives with the Chinese should be limited and they should be do no harm. What we really want is the Chinese not mess around with Taiwan and let North Korea do what it wants to do. If China just doesn't provoke in Asia, it gives us a chance to focus on Ukraine. I really think that our objectives with China should be very short term right now. Diplomacy is a good way to achieve it but we should be laser light focused on Putin.
What we don't want is two 70-year-old extreme nationalist autocrats to find a reason to work together. They both are unhappy with American power. Look, both China and Russia share that. We should be reminding China of the reasons that they need to work with us.
ZAKARIA: Is it possible to get to a kind of a real working relationship with the Chinese? Because, you know, while there is all this good talk, I mean, the Biden administration is essentially waging a kind of economic war on China with the chips ban and things like that. The Chinese are surely looking at that and saying the Americans want to keep us down. What is the potential for, you know, a real working relationship?
HAASS: First of all, you're exactly right. After years of saying we wanted to support China's rise and bring them into the international economy, now we're saying we changed our mind. We don't like the way you cherrypicked things, so we now are trying to slow down China's rise. So, you know, there is that. That is the backdrop.
I'm really skeptical that we can have a cooperative relationship. China has had decades to rein in North Korea. I have seen zero evidence. You know, remember that old line, the French (INAUDIBLE) about Germany. We like Germany so much we're glad there are two of them? That's what China feels about Korea. They want to keep that peninsula divided. They are basically more worried about a unified Korea working against them than they are about a North Korea with nukes and missiles. So they're not helping us there.
ZAKARIA: Do you think there's analogy here with the Cold War, where at some point the U.S.-Soviet relationship, which initially was very tense and there were no super power summits or anything like that, and then really it's the early '60s where the Cuban missile crisis, and this -- you know, both sides realized, you know, we've got to have a good working relationship with each other.
What would it take to get the U.S. and China to realize, look, you know, there is a real danger of this spiraling out of control. Two largest economic powers, technological powers in the world going at it in space and artificial intelligence. How do we rein it?
NAFTALI: Well, in the 1960s, it was a shared fear of nuclear danger that brought the United States and the Soviet Union to a series of understandings about limiting the arms race. In the case of the United States and China, it's China's recognition that the world economy matters, and that they don't want -- it's not so much a nuclear danger. No one is talking about a nuclear war between China and the United States.
It's that their actions should basically flip the game board and make it impossible for them to achieve the standard of living increases that Xi himself has talked about. Xi has not committed to market capitalism at all. But he still wants the Chinese people to enjoy growth and better living standards. It's making him understand that cooperation with us is necessary to keep the world economic system together.
ZAKARIA: And presumably we have to realize that as well, that there is a danger of this economic warfare with China --
HAASS: It could blow back against us. But --
ZAKARIA: Right, right, and now turning the whole board of international economy.
HAASS: Absolutely. But our ability to use economics to persuade China to act with restraint, we've got a problem. We are so dependent, by we I mean the United States, Japan, South Korea, even Taiwan. Over 40 percent of Taiwan's economy is based upon exports to the mainland. We are so dependent on China economically. The question is, who has the leverage? Almost a version of what happened with Europe and Russia early on in Ukraine over energy. I think we've got the same problem with China. If there ever is a
crisis over in Taiwan, I'd be really interesting, Fareed. Does the economic relationship, who derives more leverage from it?
And right now we have not positioned ourselves so we can pressure China. In some ways they'll be able to pressure us and our allies.
ZAKARIA: All right. We're going to have to close this conversation for now. And we are going to look in greater depth at Taiwan, with "The New Yorker's" Dexter Filkins, who is back from there and tells us what the Taiwanese think of the possibility of an invasion.
ZAKARIA: After meeting with Xi Jinping this week, President Biden said he did not see any imminent attempt on the part of China to invade Taiwan. But at last month's party congress where Xi cemented a third term, he declared complete reunification of our country must be realized. So is an invasion coming, just not imminently?
My next guest has a new article called "A Dangerous Game Over Taiwan." Dexter Filkins is a staff writer at "The New Yorker." Dexter, welcome.
First tell me, what was it like to be in Taiwan? Taiwan has handled COVID fantastically. Did you have quarantine?
DEXTER FILKINS, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: I did. It's very intense. It's like -- it feels like 2020. When I got on the airplane, the flight attendants had full bodysuits on and visors. I was met when I landed in Taipei, the capital, met by people who escorted me to a quarantine taxi then I went to a quarantine hotel. And I was basically locked in my room for four days.
ZAKARIA: And now, we talk a lot about this tension with China and the U.S. over Taiwan. And the part that has always struck me as the most dangerous part is this, there is a status quo that has kept the peace in Taiwan for a long time, 50 years, where everyone recognizes that let's not mess with the status quo. Taiwan shouldn't declare independence and China shouldn't invade.
But the problem is, the thing that might change the status quo is what you report in your piece, which is younger people in Taiwan are increasingly very fiercely independent minded. I don't know if that means they would vote for independence, but they are absolutely clear they have nothing to do with China, they have no connection, they're a separate country.
The party that represents them, the DPP, seems to be most likely to win again. You know, the -- it feels like in other words what is changing and what China must be noticing is that every day Taiwan becomes more pro independence, even if not formally, but de facto. FILKINS: Exactly. I mean, that's the problem in a nutshell. China is watching this and they see Taiwan drifting away. It's generational. So it's -- I mean, the young people are just like, China? Like, forget it. You know, we've got a democracy here. Like, the economy is booming. It's super sophisticated. We don't have anything to do with those guys.
China sees that. They see what's happening, and the DPP, the party -- the ruling party is giving voice to that. And so I think that's creating a lot of attention because China sees what -- they see what is happening clearly in front of them.
ZAKARIA: Now, if China were to want to do something, the militaries are completely mismatched, right? I mean, China has 2 million people under arms.
FILKINS: Yes, yes.
ZAKARIA: Taiwan has how many?
FILKINS: Two hundred thousand.
FILKINS: But I think -- I think it's in China's interest, if they were going to invade, to do it fast. Basically before the cavalry, which would be the United States, can ride in. So, you know, the -- but I -- but I think honestly there is kind of -- invasion is a possibility but then something -- something less, something under the radar, like a blockade, that would be -- that would cripple Taiwan.
I mean, it's an island. They're dependent on everything, from oil to natural gas to food. And so if suddenly the ships couldn't come and go, the place would shut down.
ZAKARIA: Right. You point out they have something like 11 days of supply -- worth of supply of energy.
ZAKARIA: Because they get everything -- it's coal and liquefied natural gas.
FILKINS: Exactly and then they go dark.
ZAKARIA: So just a blockade, and they would be crippled.
FILKINS: Exactly. And like China knows that. And so when Nancy Pelosi, right after her visit in August, they basically -- the Chinese Navy essentially practiced a blockade basically. They had the ships outside of all the major ports. So they -- I think that, to me, is probably more realistic danger than full-on D-day.
ZAKARIA: And you quote somebody in the article saying -- and the reason that would be so deadly is because if you would have just blockade or delayed the arrival of series of commercial cargo ships, would that count -- would that cause the outrage? Would it trigger, you know, a response from the U.S.?
FILKINS: Exactly. We wouldn't see it on television. Like, what would we be watching? You know, it would be a ship in the middle of the Pacific that's getting stopped by the Chinese Navy. Now, that might be an essential ship that has natural gas to run the electricity plants, or it has food, but like what's it look like? Why is anybody going to get outraged? And so -- but the -- it's crippling to the Taiwanese economy and to the population and it falls from the tree.
ZAKARIA: When you asked the Taiwanese what they thought of Joe Biden, four times now saying that the United States would come to the defense of Taiwan military, which is not something the U.S.'s treaty bound to do.
ZAKARIA: Do they take that to mean that there will be American troops in Taiwan?
FILKINS: I think so. I mean, you know, they're skeptical. They feel like in their past they've been -- they've been kind of betrayed before.
But for instance, you know, like -- I don't know -- you know, we're not all paying attention to every move in Taiwan. But when Biden said for the fourth time, we will defend Taiwan, I got a text message from a very senior official in the government saying, fourth time, fourth time. So I think -- I feel -- they feel very insecure and very vulnerable. And so, they feel like I think realistically they wouldn't be able to do it without the United States.
ZAKARIA: Do you think that the situation now is sort of stable or are we in a kind of escalatory cycle where the U.S. does things that it feels is designed for Taiwan's defense, but China regards those as provocative, then it does things, the U.S. feels -- you know, what I mean? A kind of a tit for tat spiral.
FILKINS: Yes, yes. I talk to a lot of people in the Biden administration. I think that's what they're worried about. They're worried about an accident. You know -- I mean, every time -- every time the United States sends a warship into the South China Sea, it's international waters, two Chinese ships right next it to. You know, every time they send up a plane, there's a Chinese plane right next to it.
ZAKARIA: And the often -- they often say -- Chinese planes, you point out, often the pilots say stop, turn back.
FILKINS: Yes, yes.
ZAKARIA: Every time.
ZAKARIA: And then the U.S. -- a pilot has to say, we are, you know, in -- we are not in territorial space.
ZAKARIA: And so there's a -- there's a -- there is this sort of confrontation every time.
FILKINS: Every time. And so what happens -- that's happening every day. And so what happens if those planes bump or the ships bump? You know? As has happened before actually. But what happens then?
One of the things that the people in the Biden administration made clear to me was that the communications between the senior leaderships in Washington and Beijing, it's not good. You know, they said to me, we're sending messages to Xi Jinping and they're not getting through.
ZAKARIA: Perhaps the scariest part of your piece was actually you said that there is a hard line between Washington and Beijing, but a lot of times the Beijing side literally does not pick up the phone.
FILKINS: Literally, yes, yes. That to me was -- I mean, I think somebody from the Trump administration said to me, we have these -- we have these channels to get messages to Xi, and we realize that they weren't getting through. And then he said, the Biden administration has concluded the same thing, which is we're not getting through. That's super dangerous.
ZAKARIA: On that cheery note, Dexter Filkins, you're always -- your reporting from countries anywhere in the world. As always hugely insightful. Thank you.
FILKINS: Thank you. Thank you so much.
ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini was once a young revolutionary. Now the 83-year-old leader is facing an uprising from today's youth. We will explore that after the break.
ZAKARIA: It's been over two months since Mahsa Amini died after being arrested by Iran's morality police. Her death set off protests across the country, which show no sign of stopping. These demonstrations are calling for nothing less than the end of clerical rule, a revolutionary idea in the Islamic republic.
So far, the U.N. says more than 14,000 protesters have been arrested, and the organization Iran Human Rights reports that more than 300 have been killed. CNN has not been able to independently verify those figures.
There are two overlapping groups who are driving the protests. Women and Gen-Z. My next guest wrote an article for Foreign Policy explaining just who Iran's Gen-Z is and what it is they want. Holly Dagres is a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council's Middle East programs. Holly, welcome. I want to first ask you, when you see these protests, you see the police pretty brutally putting an end to them, people are imprisoned, it doesn't seem to be having the effect that, you know, governments often able to achieve, which is to get people to disperse, to stop protesting, you know, they don't want to get arrested, they don't want to lose their jobs, they don't want to lose their livelihoods. How are the Iranians able to just keep going?
HOLLY DAGRES, SENIOR FELLOW AND "IRANSOURCE" EDITOR, ATLANTIC COUNCIL: Well, I would say hope springs eternal for starters. This is people that have been through so much the past four decades under a brutal and authoritarian government, under the leadership of the Islamic republic. And for them when they are going out in the streets they very well know that their lives are on the line, that they could be beaten to death with batons or shot with bullets. And that should tell you just how desperate Iranians are for change and how they are fed up with the status quo.
It isn't that they're just chanting against the clerical establishment saying things like death to Khomeini or death to the dictator. They're chanting for freedom. They're chanting that they no longer want an Islamic republic, and that supreme leader's guardianship is invalid to that should just explain why people continue to go to the streets.
Additionally, the more that protesters are killed, if you talk to the protesters themselves on the ground, including the Gen-Z protesters, they tell you, well, the more we rise up. And so, for instance, just the past few days, we saw the death of a Kian Pirfalak, a 10-year-old boy who was, according to his family, killed by security forces. This little boy had dreams of being a robotics engineer. And these pictures and videos of this little boy have gone viral and had brought so much anger to the streets of Iran over the death of this boy that had so much potential.
ZAKARIA: You talked in the article about how these Gen-Z protesters have managed to communicate. (INAUDIBLE) statistic 80 percent of Iranians are on social media. We forget how social media can be this force for incredible, you know, allowing people to organize themselves. Talk a little about that.
DAGRES: Yes. So 80 percent of Iranians over the age of 18 use social media messaging apps, albeit through numerous hurdles. Since 35 percent of the world's Web sites are censored in Iran so they use circumvention tools like VPNs. And it really -- social media is the only way for Iranians to have their voices heard. So what's interesting is when Mahsa Amini was brutally murdered, she was actually a hash tag, her name, the pictures of her at an ICU and later her family embracing each other post mortem, went viral in Iran and it was actually that anger online that poured into the streets.
And so a lot of these videos and images coming out of the country they -- Iranians want their voices to be heard. They want human rights organizations to document what's happening. They want the media to pay attention. Because they don't have any other way of connecting to the world. And so, this is exactly why social media is so integral right now to the people of Iran.
ZAKARIA: It feels still like a David versus Goliath struggle in the sense that you don't have a single leader or even a political party that is organizing this and -- where does this go? Does it have the capacity to by itself do -- really damage the regime?
DAGRES Well, that's an important question you're asking and one that we get a lot. I remember the Arab Spring, they were also leaderless, but that doesn't mean that because a moment is leaderless that it's meaningless. I think that protesters don't need our skepticism, they need our support. And right now, the point of why protesters are in the street is because they don't want an Islamic republic.
And, yes, it is a David and Goliath moment, but I think that the more attention is given to what's happening in Iran, especially the plight of the protesters, the more that it helps their cause.
ZAKARIA: Holly, pleasure to have you on. A real honor. Thank you.
DAGRES: Thank you.
ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, Swedish prosecutors declared this week that sabotage was behind the recent explosions at the Nord Stream undersea pipelines that carry gas. We'll look at what could become another casualty of great power conflict, the pipes deep in the ocean that underpin your streaming, your banking and your (INAUDIBLE) when we come back.
ZAKARIA: And now for the last look. On September 26th, two Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea were rocked by a series of explosions. The pipelines carry natural gas from Russia to Germany, and the blast caused gas to spew to the surface so dramatically it could be seen from space. Months later, little is known about exactly who was behind the suspected attacks on the pipelines, but prosecutors did declare this week that sabotage was to blame after traces of explosives were discovered at the site.
Some fingers point towards the Kremlin, which has been seeking to punish European countries for supporting Ukraine. Of course, Russia denies all involvement but the event highlights an underlying weakness in the security of the critical infrastructure that connects the world's nations, and one that Russia could easily disrupt.
You see, when tech companies talk about our data being stored in the cloud, we may think of the sky. But our emails, financial transactions and phone calls sent abroad are also likely to be found zipping through narrow tubes on the bottom of the ocean floor. These cables are cheaper and faster than their satellite alternatives.
Even a decade ago, the U.S. Federal Reserve estimated that $10 trillion a day was being transmitted through this underwater network. The optical fibers that do the transmitting are typically as narrow as a human hair. Encased in protective material, the whole apparatus is often no thicker than a standard garden hose.
As of 2022, the market research firm TeleGeography has tracked 530 active and planned undersea cables stretching hundreds of thousands of miles. Some are as deep on the ocean floor as Mount Everest is high. As of 2009, the U.N. believed that between 100 to 150 cables are damaged each year by commercial fishing, earthquakes, and sometimes even sharks. And the threat of underwater terrorism is real, with many analysts now worrying that a wave of rising geopolitical tension could soon spill onto the ocean floor.
"The Financial Times" told of one recent incident in the North Sea that has raised eyebrows in the international security space. Cables supplying internet and communications to the Shetland Islands experienced significant damage severely impacting service. Officials believe it may have been caused by fishing vessel activity, but the presence of a Russian ship in the vicinity raised concerns that it could have been sabotage.
Adding to the intrigue the Yantar, a Russian spy ship, is spotted regularly near cable sites. The boat is set to carry tools capable of cutting through and tapping these precious pieces of critical infrastructure. The Russians aren't alone in alleged underwater espionage, either.
The Edward Snowden leaks in 2013 revealed information about a program called Tempora where the U.K. was tapping into transatlantic internet cables, sucking up vast troves of data and sharing it with the United States. China has gotten in on the cable game, too.
Several state-owned companies own, maintain and repair undersea cables. China's moves to increase its dominance of this cable industry has prompted Taiwan to increase spending on its own infrastructure for fear that China could soon have a tight grip on its telecoms.
In the early 20th century, the world was connected through a similar network of undersea cables. But back then they carried telegraph signals. The United Kingdom was a dominant force in the industry, given the wide reach of its empire. And during World War I, British forces engaged in an early act of information warfare, they cut the cables connecting their adversary, Germany, with the outside world. More than 100 years later, Russia could do something similar with devastating consequences.
Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.