Wolf Blitzer asks Fareed Zakaria if he agrees with former CIA agent Bob Baer's assessment that there has been a military coup by the revolutionary guard in Iran. Zakaria is not as willing to use the word coup, but does feel that there is some conflict between the clerics in Iran.
As Zakaria points out, the dynamics of those conflicts and the ease with which they can be blamed on American interference is exactly why it was wise for the Obama administration to be cautious with their rhetoric.
BLITZER: One Middle East expert says what we're seeing unfold in Iran right now isn't just a government crackdown, but an actual coup by the country's elite revolutionary guard.
ZAKARIA: Do you think it's pretty clear that the government has the ability to really consolidate power and crackdown on this?
BAER: Fareed, I'm quite sure there's been a military coup d'etat by the Islamic revolutionary corp in Tehran. They're taken over. And the fact that the Basij came out so quickly. They could have only done that on orders from the IRGC. The fact that Ahmadinejad's a former IRGC officer, he has the backing of senior officers. I think what we've seen is a military coup against the old clerical establishment.
BLITZER: Let's bring in Fareed Zakaria to join us now. Fareed, what do you think? You are an authority on this subject?
ZAKARIA: I think that Bob Baer is on to something. I'm not sure I would use the word coup, you know, that strongly, but there is no question what we're witnessing in Iran is the displacement of the old clerical establishment and the rise to power of some new clerics, but mostly a group of people who have much closer ties to the military, to the intelligence organizations, to the police, and to the Basij. So what you're seeing is a kind of consolidation of a pure military dictatorship, losing the trappings of the Islam and the ideology as much.
And by the way, this is very much part of Ahmadinejad's strategy when he is now attacking America. It is an attempt to consolidate power and to move beyond the debate about what's going on in Iran.
BLITZER: Can millions of Iranians, especially young people, women, intellectuals, university students, can they though be brutally suppressed given what's happened over these past last few weeks?
ZAKARIA: Unfortunately, the answer's probably yes. You know, usually people -- the people with guns and money win in the short run. And the Iranian regime has lots of guns and lots of money because of the oil. There is, however, a huge ideology crack in the regime. And that ideological crack is very, very important. And it may be fatal in the long run.
But what the regime now has to try do is to use brute force to win in the short run, and to try to drum up a new ideology. That's why Ahmadinejad is trying to pick on America. That's why he's accusing us interfering. And by the way, that is precisely why President Obama has been very wise in trying to be a little bit cautious, stay out of this fight, not get entangled into it. It powerfully helps Ahmadinejad to be able to turn this into a U.S. versus Iran, tit for tat. Look at what's happening right now. We've stopped talking about Mousavi and we're talking about Obama and Ahmadinejad. That's exactly what Ahmadinejad wants.
BLITZER: One of your reporters, Fareed, from "Newsweek" magazine has been picked up, arrested, or I don't know if anyone's been in touch with him. But give us the latest - tell us what's going on, because I know you're working as hard as you can and your colleagues are to get him out.
ZAKARIA: It's a very troubling situation, Wolf. He's one of 23 at least journalists who have been picked up, arrested without any charges. And what is most troubling about it is this is a guy who has been accredited in Iran, in the Islamic republic of Iran under their laws for ten years. He's a very distinguished journalist. He's been a "Newsweek" correspondent for ten years, a very distinguished documentary, filmmaker. He's won many awards in Iran and outside.
And there seems to be no procedure that was followed. So what we're hoping, and what we have appealed for, is that the regime, the Islamic Republic of Iran follow its own laws, its own -- it has procedures in this matter. We think he is entirely innocent. And we believe - and we have some hope that perhaps he will be released when they see that, you know, he is, in fact, very balanced, very nuanced, very professional.
BLITZER: Have you been able to hear from him? Have you been in touch with him at all?
ZAKARIA: You know, some of this is somewhat sensitive, Wolf. And I don't want to say anything that will get him into trouble. We're trying very hard to get him out.
BLITZER: Well, good luck, Fareed. We wish him and all of our journalistic colleagues, everyone in Iran for that matter, we wish them only, only the best.