General David Petraeus (Ret), former Commander of United States Central Command & former Director of the CIA, sat down with Brian Kilmeade at the Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund event in Houston, TX, for a wide-ranging interview discussing the latest on Iran, why leaving Afghanistan would be mistake, President Trump being right by putting pressure on NATO to spend more money on defense, Russian President Vladimir Putin being the greatest gift to NATO since the Cold War, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's handling of North Korea, competing with China and Patrick Shanahan being nominated for Secretary Of Defense. They also covered the Mueller Report, Venezuela, climate change, OPEC, American oil production and why Congress isn't able to be productive.

Listen here for the full unedited interview

Transcript:

BRIAN KILMEADE, FOX RADIO HOST: -- the only time I ever gave an order to a general and he listened.

GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS, FORMER COMMANDER OF UNITED STATES CENTRAL COMMAND: Let me start actually, though, just by saying thanks to everyone, not just for being here, but for the support that you have provided to an extraordinary organization.

I've known about this for a long time because as Tony (ph) and Steve (ph) mentioned they actually came -- made a call on me - I'd only been at KKR I think for less than a year at that time, and I reminded them that there are about 70,000 veteran service organizations out there, and instead of a new one we might actually consider mergers and acquisitions of old ones.

But if you're going to do that, then you really focus it and focus it on something that is going to have extraordinary meaning. That is exactly what they have done. You see how significant that meaning is, but it's only possible because you and others like you. And so, I've been trying to get to one of these for years, and finally we figured out as I was coming back from an event last night in Vegas -- which was scheduled months and months ago that we could do this, and I'm very grateful for you coming down from New York to do this as well, Brian. I know you are going to get some residual feed out of this as I see the cameras go on.

KILMEADE: Yes.

PETRAEUS: So, I've got to get my game face on here. Let me--

(LAUGHTER)

Let me just mention as well, that we have -- there's another organization which my wife is actually on the board of, and it's been around for about a decade is it, Cynthia? And in fact Cynthia, could you stand up, because she and her husband--

(APPLAUSE)

Her husband David Kim and Cynthia founded Children of Fallen Patriots, similar mission and has partnered, as you heard, in fact several of the individuals were supported together by again Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund and Children of Fallen Patriots. And it's been a wonderful partnership over the years.

I think we're up to $30 million that they have raised now. And just like this organization, they had, I think, zero overhead for a while because they did all the work themselves. By the way, David is no slacker. He's a WestPoint graduate, star man (ph) there, combat veteran who lost one of his platoon members in combat in Panama.

And that ate at him as you would imagine and he was trying to figure out how can we help? And that's the result, is Children of Fallen Patriots. So, to see both of these organizations and to try to help both of them has been a real privilege.

It is just fantastic to see what great Americans can do when they get together to take care of those whose parents in many cases have given their last low measure in motion (ph) while serving in our uniform.

KILMEADE: All right. General Petraeus, it's so great to see you in person. The first time I met you in person was at the Super Bowl.

PETRAEUS: Right, true.

KILMEADE: About 32 years ago. I saw you in New York doing some major events. It's a privilege for me to be here when I was hassling Steve all he had to do was run a Super Bowl. I was following him around asking how he's going to pull this off.

First, he was disappointed the Falcons didn't make it. And number two was he had to pull off the world's most popular sport, the most popular game, the most viewed and did it with a smile on his face. That's why he's been so effective.

Then you fund out about his WestPoint background and one of his classmates, the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and all they want to do is give back to those who fight. So to be here and to meet all of you is great for me. What I'm going to do tomorrow on Fox & Friends is then I'll be able to roll some clips from here to talk about the Johnny Mac Foundation. So we're going to see even more of him (ph) --

PETRAEUS: Sure.

(APPLAUSE)

KILMEADE: And I'm lucky enough to have a radio show with a Houston affiliate that's who it'll (ph) be coming from tomorrow. And then going to the border, I hear there's a problem. Does anyone hear --

(LAUGHTER)

And I'm going to be able to be with the Secretary of Homeland Security as well as the just nominated Secretary Defense, and we're going to see how they're coordinating at the border so it's going to be a fascinating couple of days. When I first started in broadcasting was sports. And I always had a Mike Tyson interview while he was pumped up, have a chance to talk to Derek Jeter; that was it.

I have changed. This is it for me. To be able to talk to the general one on one for 20 minutes, and you've locked the doors, he can't get away so it's fantastic.

PETRAEUS: Bring it on.

KILMEADE: General, for the last 18 years you've been taken on the war on terror, Islamic extremism. And you saw it up close and personal, we didn't know what to expect. A lot of people who have been affected sadly have a need for the Johnny Mac Fund has been fighting in that war. Eighteen years later, how are we doing?

PETRAEUS: Well, I think we have made considerable progress in recent years, in particular obviously against the Islamic state in Iraq and Syria. Keep in mind though that what we have done is defeat the Islamic state as an army. It actually made the mistake of trying to fight toe to toe against soldiers who are supported by us, not even ours, but supported by us with drones and precision fires and fusion of intelligence and training, equipping, advising and assisting. And so that is a very significant achievement.

We should keep in mind though that there are remnants of that organization that will not turn back into an insurgent movement. So yes, we have taken away the ground caliphate, if you will, and the physical caliphate. But there will be insurgent elements, they are regrouping right now in Syria and Iraq, and so we have to have a sustained commitment there, but it is a significant achievement.

There will also be others that will literally be just terrorist cells, in fact some have recently struck in Baghdad again, during the holy month of Ramadan as people gather, as they break the fast.

One other very important element here to keep in mind as well is that the cyber caliphate, if you will, has -- is still in existence. Yes, we destroyed the media center in Raqqa, in Syria, but there is still a very effective group of individuals who are still recruiting, communicating, sharing tactics, technique and procedures, exhorting, encouraging through cyberspace, and that caliphate is going to be very, very difficult to disrupt.

KILMEADE: So when the rest of the world was saying "OK, we lost in Iraq, let's go pull back and cut our losses," General Petraeus, along with some other very smart military minds said, "I think we can do this thing called the surge". And you do the surge and you're able to pull it off, and I think make military history and define maybe your generational war fighters.

So we pull out and the Islamic extremists come back. I thought about you. What was that like, seeing these guys go and these cities fall that you fought so hard to take back for the Iraqi people? Did you sense --

PETRAEUS: Very difficult.

KILMEADE: -- they were vulnerable?

PETRAEUS: It was very difficult. We knew there were remnants of al-Qaeda in Iraq which eventually, when it was reconstituted, it became the Islamic state, and we could see the Iraqis taking their eyes off this.

Tragically, when our forces pulled out and the prime minister of Iraq persuaded highly secretarian actions, he preferred charges against the senior Sunni political leaders, the vice president, his security detail, then the minister of finance and others. This enraged the Sunni population, which we've spent years bringing back into the fabric of Iraqi society, so that everyone supported the new Iraq instead of some of them opposing it. It was very painful to watch. I was the director of the CIA, so I had a ringside seat.

In fact, ironically, I went in to Iraq, into Baghdad right before Christmas, shortly after our four-star and combat forces left. And literally, that was the day in which is all broke loose. And I spent the entire night -- it was like being back there as the commander during the surge, where I was shuttling around the city of Baghdad, trying to keep people from shooting each other.

I certainly wish we could have kept forces there, there's no guarantee that that would have prevented the prime minister from doing what he did do, and then the response, which was put down quite violently. But I can guarantee you that if we'd have five to 10,000 troops on the ground and the kind of footprint that that would have given us, that we could have much more rapidly brought forces back in -- and give the previous administration credit, they did ultimately bring forces back in, and of course it was on that which the current administration built and augmented, and then completed the destruction of ISIS again, as an army, but now we've got to keep our eye on ISIS as an insurgent group.

KILMEADE: So one group that you -- one country we've been keeping an eye on really, since 1979, is Iran, since they had their revolution, and this administration has put more pressure on Iran than any I can think of. Not only did they pull out a year ago from that JC-ROP (ph), the big agreement we had...

PETRAEUS: Joint comprehensive plan and (ph) --

KILMEADE: Yes, comprehensive plan, that even the Senate didn't have a majority; people like Senator Schumer didn't vote for it, Senator Ben Cardin two Democrats. But we pulled out, we put sanctions in. We told every country either you deal with us or deal with them, you can't have both.

Two days ago, we started putting sanctions on metal purchases. And now the Islamic -- that Islamic government has decided to say within 60 days we're going to begin to enrich uranium. How does this play out?

PETRAEUS: Well, I think there's a very good question to draw back for a second, and actually ask how serious are the demands that were placed on Iran by a member of the class of WestPoint '86 Secretary of State Mike Pompeo? He listed 12 demands as you will recall.

And it's a very serious question about are these demands somewhat negotiable, in which case -- and I think I tend to think that that is the case, but it's going to take a long time before Iran is going to be willing to come to the table. And they could actually just try to tighten their belt and make it through the election in November of next year and see what happens there, but they are under enormous pressure.

Their economy is in a real freefall and it's going to go further now with the clamping down on the export of oil, as you mentioned the metals, a lot of other restrictions on what they are able to do.

I do think at some point they are going to come back to the table. But it could be some while. The other question is of course, they're not going to take on the U.S. directly. I don't think they're going to--

KILMEADE: They never do.

PETRAEUS: But they could use some of their surrogate forces, the Shia militia that they have trained, equipped, funded and even direct in certain cases. And they have those militia forces in a number of different countries, socially certainly in Iraq and others obviously in Syria, Lebanese Hezbollah in Lebanon.

And keep in mind that what they would like to do in Iraq and Syria, in particular is to Lebanonize (ph) them. They would like to use these Shia militia they way they used Hezbollah. That's (ph) your paramilitary muscle on the street. And then to get as much political power, Hezbollah has a coalition in the parliament in Beirut. That gives them just about a blocking (ph) veto. They would love to have something similar to that in Iraq, although certainly the Iraqi leaders would not welcome that.

KILMEADE: General, do you agree with this plan? Do you agree with the approach? Do you agree with leaving the agreement and where we're at right now?

PETRAEUS: Well again, I would honestly like to know what is the -- how do we want this to end. My famous question on the way to Baghdad, tell me how this ends, as I was realizing that a lot of the assumptions that we had made are already being invalidated. Here I want to know what is the desire to end state?

Are we trying to do regime change, in which case I think this -- that could be a bridge too far, or are we trying to do serious behavior change, which I tend to think is what is behind the administration's policy. But it's not crystal clear right now.

And at some point in time, I think the secretary of state or the president will have to indicate to the Iranian s, whether privately or publicly, whether there are negotiable elements in those 12 demands -- which otherwise were quite absolute.

KILMEADE: Do they have American blood on their hands?

PETRAEUS: Oh certainly, yes. I mean there were hundreds of Americans who were killed by militias that they funded, trained, equipped, in some case even had some influence on what they were doing and the explosively formed penetrators that were made in Iran - it (ph) didn't have the capability. It's a very finely milled object with a lot of explosives that could slice right through the hole of an M1 tank. And we encountered a lot of those. And a lot of Iranian provided rockets that were used by the militias, and a variety of other weapons and so forth.

KILMEADE: You were also asked to come out of retirement so to speak and go back in to war and relive General McChrystal and go in to a surge in Afghanistan. Now we have a president that's looking to get out of there, and I think a lot of American people have Afghanistan war fatigue. They're wondering how this ends. Are you pleased with the path of these peace talks as we know them led by Ambassador Khalilzad who you know?

PETRAEUS: I think very, very highly of Ambassador Zal Khalilzad. He was the Ambassador in Iraq when I was a three star, and then actually in the first period that I was a four star there. I've known him in other positions. He was the Ambassador to the United Nations, ambassador in Afghanistan, very, very skilled diplomat. But if you could not get a diplomatic agreement when we had 150,000 coalition forces, I was privileged to command at that time, very forceful diplomat in charge, Richard Holbrooke, of those particular talks. We were pushing back the Taliban on the battlefield, reclaiming are that they had taken. If you can't get it then, I don't know how you get it when you're not operating from a position of strength like that. So I have some reservations about this needless to say.

Look, let me talk a tiny bit about Afghanistan if I could because I understand. Look, nobody understands that sacrifices that our men and women have made on the battlefield and those of our coalition and host nation partners (ph) --

KILMEADE: And a lot of people in this room -

PETRAEUS: Better than - better than the people than have actually been in charge of them. As was mentioned, five of my final six commands were either in Iraq or Afghanistan or U.S. Central Command, the overarching region. And we understand the frustration, but we went to Afghanistan for a reason. That's where the 9/11 attacks were planned when Al-Qaeda had a sanctuary in the part of Afghanistan, which was controlled by the Taliban, which was most of the country at that time. The initial training of the attackers was conducted there.

We went in there to eliminate that sanctuary and we have stayed to ensure that it stays eliminated, because they have continued to try to come back, and now the Islamic state has tried to enter there as well. And I have serious questions about whether the Taliban would actually keep them out, even if they agreed to do that whether they'd have the capability of that.

I think it's also very important to stay, because this is also the regional platform for our counterterrorism program in that entire region -- and, of course, it's well-known that the raid that got Bin Laden was launched from Afghan soil. I was actually the commander in Afghanistan that night, although, that night Admiral McRaven's chain of command went to the CIA Director rather than to me.

So again, I think there are very, very important national interests there. I think, again, that it is unlikely, given the position we're in on the battlefield which has actually - we've see a deterioration of the security conditions, that that's the kind of position from which you're going to get an agreement with an enemy that always is proud to reportedly say that we may have the watches - we -

KILMEADE: Right.

PETRAEUS: - but they have the time.

KILMEADE: I also think that we've already told the world we don't cut and run by how long we bend (ph) and the fight that's continued. And they said America doesn't like these type of wars. No one likes them. But you've still managed to thrive, and I think made American proud of this generation of war fighters.

PETRAEUS: Let me - I think - I think Americans should be very proud of their young men and women who have served in these different wars, especially those, frankly, who volunteered in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, that raised their right hand and took an oath at a time of war knowing that they were going to be asked to deploy.

And you know, again, what's so special about this organization is that it meets, I think, a true moral obligation to those who did that and did not come home and whose families were now provided (ph) -

KILMEADE: And General, can I just say before we leave Afghanistan you are worried about the direction of these talks because how we get out will really, probably - the result will be what happens after we leave.

PETRAEUS: Let me actually draw back a bit again, if I could, and give what I think are five lessons we should have learned from the last 18 years of war against Islamist extremists, because if I lay these out -- if you accept these big ideas, the policy is pretty straight forward.

The first of these is that ungoverned spaces in the Muslim world will be exploited by extremists. It's not a question of if, it's a question of when and how bad is it. The second is, you actually have to do something about it. You cannot study this problem until it goes away, because it doesn't go away.

And also, Las Vegas rules are not in effect in these places, what happens there doesn't stay there; it tends to spew violence, extremism, instability and a tsunami or refugees. In the case of Syria, that went all the way into Western Europe and caused the biggest domestic populism challenges for our NATO allies there since the end of the Cold War.

The third lesson is that generally, the U.S. has to lead. There are some exceptions, France and Mali, the Philippines on their soil, certainly. But generally, because of the capabilities that we have, if you think about, again, the constellation of drones that really matters, now it's the reapers. We probably have six times the capability of all of our possible allies and partners put together, and not all of them will shoot from those platforms, so they're not quite as effective.

Beyond that of course, we have an unequal capacity when it comes to precision players from the air, from intelligence fusion, that's very important for our partners. Now having said that, we want allies and want Muslim partners in particular. We want -- this is a fight for the heart of the Islamic world, even more than it is a clash between civilizations. It's a clash within a civilization, and they have a serious stake in this, to put it mildly. This is an existential issue for them, and we want them part of the coalition, and we have done that.

The fourth lesson is very important. You have to recognize that you cannot counter terrorists with just counter terrorists force operations. You can just drone strike and delta force raid (ph) your way out the problem; you have to have a comprehensive approach.

All of the elements that were present in the strategy that Ambassador Crocker and I pursued when you're privileged to lead the surge in Iraq. So you have to do not just the raids to get the irreconcilables, the high value targets, you also have to clear old and rebuild areas, and then gradually transition them. You've got to restore basic services, you have to do nation building.

Now having said that, what is really important about what we've learned how to do in the last half decade or so, is how to do this through others, how to support host nation forces, as they're doing the fighting on the frontlines, they're do the political reconciliation, they're doing the restoration to basic services, the reconstruction, the revival of local economies, schools and all the rest of that.

We are training, we are equipping, we are advising, we are assisting and we're enabling, especially again with this constellation of drones, but we're not doing. And that's hugely important, because number five is that this is a generational struggle, therefore we have to have a sustained commitment, including in places like Afghanistan, but you can only sustain a commitment if you're a democracy if the expenditure and blood and treasure is reasonable.

You've got to drive that down, and we have figured out to do that. Now certainly our host nation partners, Afghans, Iraqis, Syrians, others, have taken very significant casualties. But we've got to keep that down, so that the U.S. coalition countries can stay engaged and help those who are literally fighting for their own country.

KILMEADE: We've almost got to wait for this generation to die off and have a whole new generation see that there's a different way to live. And maybe we're in the middle of doing that now. And what I'm getting from what you're saying, is to leave now would really be a mistake.

PETRAEUS: I think it would be. Again, perhaps somehow that Zal Khalilzad and others can pull a huge rabbit out of a hat, but I'm a little bit -- I'm certainly skeptical about the prospects for that.

KILMEADE: That's a very mature way of saying there's no rabbits, no hat that we can find right now. Looking over in Europe, the President of the United States have been very firm in saying, "NATO, you got to start spending. You got to stop depending on us while not investing in our defense." Germany's probably the best example, and, "You can't tell us we got to be here for security at the same time depend on the Russians for natural gas." Is he right to do that?

PETRAUES: He is right to do that. You may question occasionally some of the rhetoric employed in doing so, but he is by -

KILMEADE: I don't know what you're referring to.

PETRAEUS: He is by no means the first president. I've heard President Obama do this publicly and privately. I heard Secretary Gates, President Bush, others have all been very frustrated that our NATO allies have not spent what they have agreed to spend. In fact, in more recent years there was a, at the Wales summit, everyone signed up and said we'll do 2 percent of our GDP on defense.

Now, to be fair they have started to spend more, and it's multiple reasons. Some of it may be that they're getting a little tired of getting rhetorically beaten up by U.S. presidents, particularly the current one. It's also certainly the recovery from the Euro crisis as actually part of that.

Beyond that, by the way, you know, this is one of the paradoxes of this administration. Certainly there's been enormous pressure on our NATO countries, and you've got to be careful how that's applied, because you want them with us, especially if we draw it out later and talked about the single biggest development in the world in the last decade. It's the rise of China. If you're going to respond to that, you have to have a coherent and comprehensive approach. Part of the coherent approach is that you're bringing as many allies and partners with you, so you've got to be a little bit sensitive to what happens on occasion.

But NATO is much stronger than it was even just a few years ago. I mean, if you spend $720 billion on defense in the United States alone -

KILMEADE: Two years in a row.

PETRAEUS: - two years in a row, and it'll probably be three years in a row. That is a very, very significant commitment. By the way, though, that is twice as much as all of our other - I think it's now 28 other NATO nations with Montenegro having just joined the alliance, but they are spending more. And look, let's face it, the greatest gift to NATO since the end of the Cold War is Vladimir Putin. He has given a whole new reason for NATO to live. His actions in Crimea, in the Donbass Southeastern Ukraine, the threatening of the Baltic States -- which are NATO members, and of course, you know, this administration has continued with the programs that the previous administration planned, and then some because, of course, we're spending more on defense. And we've returned tanks to the European continent for the first time in a number of years.

Our forces along with those of other allies are in the three Baltic States. We have an establishment of temporary bases in Eastern Poland and so forth.

KILMEADE: Well a couple of things, do you think that Vladimir Putin is hitting above his weight right now? He's got some stakes now in the Ukraine as well as Georgia. He has not left. We've told him to. He doesn't listen, and now he feels as though he's got the we're with (inaudible) going (ph) to Syria. He has stuck around. They said he wouldn't. Said he was pulling out.

Now he's in Venezuela. He doesn't seem to be eager to get out of there. Where's this money coming from and are we - is this a facade? Is this fake strength? Is this a lot of rhetoric and a lot of threats but not a lot of substance?

PETRAEUS: No, there is real activity there. And as an individual who's willing to take risk, he's quite astute tactically. You can question some of the strategy long-term, because let's face it, because of the Shalegate (ph), which of course started right here in Texas and then up in northern part of the United States as well, the U.S. now is the number one producer of crude oil. The U.S. in the number one producer of crude oil. The U.S. is the number one producer of--

(APPLAUSE)

PETRAEUS: --natural gas. Each of those has affected -- the natural gas price, we predicted actually in the good old KKR Global Institute about four or five years ago, that the price of Russian natural gas through a pipeline much cheaper to send than to have to liquefy, transport and then re-gasify which is what we would have to do from the United States.

But the price of their natural gas would come down to be just below the price if what it costs to buy natural gas here and again liquefaction, transport and re-gasification. That's exactly what has happened. That's dramatically less than what they had before. And of course it'd been very affected by the reduction in the oil price when he was--

KILMEADE: Right.

PETRAEUS: --really flying high, oil prices were $105 or more per barrel.

KILMEADE: Along with an aging society that's not replenishing.

PETRAEUS: And you said where does the money come from?

KILMEADE: Yes.

PETRAEUS: It comes from social programs that would've taken care if Russians instead of being diverted to the battle fields in Syria to support separatist and south eastern Ukraine, the continuing occupation of south (inaudible) and Abkhazia and Georgia and so forth.

And now the effort in Syria, which I think that is beyond their capability. This a line of communications--

KILMEADE: Right.

PETRAEUS: --that would be incredibly costly, and I just don't see the prospect. Although, certainly they're going to give them encouragement as long as they can.

But at the end of the day, I think Venezuela -- you will approach a moment where gradually the military, some of them will strip away, and then the country is literally going to run out of money. And it may take who knows, three, four, five months, whatever it is. But there will come a moment when that happens. And that will be tragic, because of course the people who will pay for that most of all will be the citizens of Venezuela.

KILMEADE: Are we doing the right thing, General, the way we put the pressure on them backing up Guaido who is constitutionally the true leader of that country and not the bus driver brutal dictator? Did we do the right thing a few weeks ago or a couple of months ago?

PETRAEUS: I think we have--

KILMEADE: Or even last week?

PETRAEUS: Yes, I think we have and I know that we have an awful lot of contingency plans for how to provide humanitarian assistance in the wake of a collapse of the regime, how to support who then takes over and all the rest of that.

There is one big difference between Venezuela and Egypt, though to just give you an example. In Egypt, the military is around Tahrir Square, there is -- whatever it is, a million people demonstrating in Tahrir Square against President Mubarak. They could actually decide you know what, let's take our institution out of this, let's refuse to shoot at our own people. The people will like us for that.

KILMEADE: Yes.

PETRAEUS: Let's let Mubarak go under the bus. Whoever it is that takes over will then bring the army back and of course we'll survive as an institution. There's a difference in Venezuela. This institution, the very senior leaders of it are very much part of the regime, and they are involved in illegal narcotics trafficking and a whole bunch of other criminal activities.

So one of the challenges we have is that we have literally got to take sanctions off some of these individuals as we just did for the Intel chief who has come in from the cold. But that's difficult. And communicating that to them, and again doing that in a way that is as a degree if integrity. But a lot of them are going to go down with the regime and that's a difference between some of the other situations we have seen.

KILMEADE: By the way, I feel like I'm a war zone right now as the earth opens up, you're the only one not shuttering, I wonder why.

PETRAEUS: They're trying to give a little bit of battlefield representation (ph) for you --

KILMEADE: Yes, that was a very nice touch. I had no idea how the Johnny Mac Foundation really worked.

PETRAEUS: And it's the WestPoint (inaudible) of 1986--

KILMEADE: Right. He doesn't even shutter. I'm watching this lightning flash and it doesn't matter -

PETRAEUS: We had a rocket hit the headquarters in Baghdad when Ambassador Crocker and I were in the middle of a video conference with the President of the United States and the national security team. And apparently they said the whole thing was just waving around and, of course, the cameras and shaking and everything else. And gradually it calms down and they said, "Everything OK?" I said, "Oh, yes. It's just a rocket hit the wall."

KILMEADE: The president thought he lost his general and ambassador in one shot, yes. General, a lot of people are watching this. And we get that so (ph) - a lot of anchors on our channel and say, "What do we care about Venezuela for? Let them handle their own thing." Can you tell the American people, if you agree, that Venezuela matters, that it's in our hemisphere, the Monroe Doctrine matters, and if we allows the Russians, the Chinese, the Iranians, and the Cubans to get a foothold there what the ramifications could be?

PETRAEUS: Yes, no look. I mean, you've essentially stated certainly many of the reasons. By the way there's some others - by the way, there's reportedly, certainly at least tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of American citizens actually in Venezuela. And by the way, when people ask, you know, "Can you envision a true intervention?" I can but if it would be if Maduro were so crazy to threaten American citizens that would actually force us to go into protect them.

But look, yes. We don't - this is our hemisphere. This is our backyard. This is the country with the most proven oil reserves in the world. Sorry to Texas on that one, but Texas is a heck of a lot better at producing, and the depletion rates are much lower. Great skill. By the way, can I just for a second do an audible (ph) here?

KILMEADE: Sure.

PETRAEUS: Because it's really important that an audience like this appreciate what has been done here in Texas -- and also in North Dakota and Western Pennsylvania, some others because there's many other - there's several other places at the least in the world that have far more gas and oil in their dense shale rock, but in only one of them is there very substantial production, and it's very simple why that is.

It is simply because we invented the technology of deep directional drilling, hydraulic fracturing, and seismic big data. We have small and medium enterprises that can scale up and operationalize this technology. We've agile capital markets that can fund it. We have a legal structure that is truly unique in many places in the world, where you can actually sell or rent the mineral rights under land that you own.

We have reasonable infrastructure for pushing around, and yes, we are blessed to have water near these deposits, because it's a liquid intensive process. But again, only in America has this happened, and it's for all the sort of reasons that have made the country great again and again and again. The ingenuity, the legal structure, again, the way the businesses work and all the rest of this, and it's a great credit to our country.

KILMEADE: Capitalism, too. Hey listen, I want to make some money. This hydraulic fracturing (ph) could give me a profit. We could do this in an environmentally conscious way. Let's do. And they tried it. They took tremendous risk, the same attitude they had in settling the west. They took it to the wild cats of - the people took the risk to the hydraulic fracturing, and they get a lot of pushback. And you talk about security. That's where you get security. We're in control of our own energy now thanks to the people of Texas primarily.

PETRAEUS: Yes. Very - very important to realize that - that OPEC is no longer the swing producer in the world. And I have to say it's interesting, because I - we watched the beginning of this when I was actually the director of the CIA, because we were tracking what the price of oil would be after the next round of sanctions on Iran. This was the previous rounds. And we have very good energy economists at the CIA. Believe it or not, we've got it right. Treasury, Commerce, and Energy did not. We had insider information, of course, but we didn't share it. We believed it.

But it was -- as this was going on, we kept saying "What's going on in the U.S. market? I mean it just jumped another 400,000 barrels per day. What is happening?" And you know, we were -- it was increasing by a million barrels per year. Remember back when all the respected energy economists said that we had reached peak oil production, and it was 6 million barrels per day. We are now over 12 million barrels per day and that was only about a decade or so ago. So really, quite extraordinary, you know, there's -- some punsters (ph) have said that the gulf states no longer have us over a barrel.

KILMEADE: Yes and I will accept that. I think it's great too -- do you worry about -- and everyone cares about the environment, do you worry about environmentalists that's coming in and taking out our cows, our planes, and our oil and natural gas?

PETRAEUS: That has not kept me awake at night all that much, no.

(LAUGHTER)

Look, by the way, I think it is very important that those are producing oil this way have done the rigorous analysis to determine methane discharge during the -- that's a very, very serious environmental issue, and they have done that. And actually the studies, thankfully, show that it wasn't even as bad as it was expected. But we've got to continue to do that, because I am one who does believe that the environment is changing, and that it is changing, at least in substantial part, because of what mankind has done.

KILMEADE: Really, so you do believe that man is having a negative effect on the climate?

PETRAEUS: I don't think there's any question about that whatsoever.

KILMEADE: Do you believe that's a national security issue?

PETRAEUS: It has national security ramifications, certainly, because what this does already -- you can see the desertification of greater parts of Africa; in other words, the desert is expanding. This forces huge migration of people, they each (ph) come in conflict. You have fights over grazing grounds that are actually wars and again, very significant conflict. You're going to have water wars. We can see Iran, among all the many issues that Iran has mismanaged, has been their water resources.

You can -- and again, there's no arguing with certain facets of this. I mean, you cannot argue that the ice sheets and glaciers and so forth are receding. You cannot argue with the rise of the sea. I mean, these are -- truly are facts that aren't debatable.

You can argue if its 90 percent mankind, and I don't know the rest of it is -- again, methane discharges from cows or something like that, it all adds up. And certainly, I think the vast majority of this is a result of what we have done, and we do need to address that. And I think even folks in Texas would absolutely agree with that.

KILMEADE: All right. I'm going to take some questions from the audience. I have a couple more things. We got some news that North Korea shot (ph) off rockets, some yesterday morning and as well as last week, for the first time in over a year. The president took the controversial step to some. Some say it was necessary, say (ph) "Kim Jong-un, let's go meet, no preconditions, and let's get this over with. We don't have to be enemies; I'm going to show you a video of what your country could actually be. I think you can look across the border and just look at South Korea."

You know the problem -- you know the problems and challenges of North Korea as well as anyone in the country and around the world. Is the president approaching it in a way you can back, and is the fact that he's shooting off rockets now show it's not working?

PETRAEUS: Well I think that the approach of having a meeting and so forth is certainly something that's hard to argue with, I think. I mean, again, you can say you should get some concessions out of that. I mean, a photo-op --

KILMEADE: You liked the meeting?

PETRAEUS: -- the president of the United States, I think its fine. But the real question is, do we truly believe that we can demand that North Korea agree to complete irreversible verifiable destruction of their nuclear program before we do anything? And only then will we consider withdrawing our forces or making other changes or adjustments to our military posture in South Korea.

By the way, keep in mind that not only can you look across the border and see what it could be. The people of South Korea are now sum four inches taller than their brothers and sisters in North Korea, because if the tragic malnutrition that has afflicted North Korea. By the way, they've had a horrible, horrible harvest again this year. And so again they're going to be doing some serious belt tightening.

Now, the real question is, is this a viable negotiating approach again asking for them to do everything before we do much? Or is -- should we do a step by step, starting out with a on the ground verification inspection validation of what is there? Because keep in mind, we haven't even been on--

KILMEADE: We have no idea.

PETRAEUS: -- the ground in about a decade or so. I think the last time we were on the ground is about a year before I took CIA in 2011. And so again, you've got to do inventory of what is there just to understand the nature and the magnitude of the problem.

Are we willing to give some concessions along the way and then have a step by step where there are reciprocal measures and essentially confidence building measures? Keep in mind, this guy has starved his country. His father and his grandfather starved this country to build a weapon of mass destruction capability, and now to try to get one that could project all the way to the United States.

They have seen what happened to individuals who have given up their WOMD. Look what happened to Saddam, look what happened to Gaddafi. And even to some degree in Ukraine.

So, this I think you got to ask and look, the Secretary of State from the class of 1986 at WestPoint, again the founders of this great organization is a seriously bright guy. We do have dialogue. I think he understands absolutely--

KILMEADE: And you know why? Because they're calling him a mobster, they're saying that they don't like his tactics, they want somebody else to negotiate and he laughs that off. But--

PETRAEUS: I think that is a distinct point of pride to be called a mobster by North Korea.

KILMEADE: Absolutely.

(LAUGHTER)

PETRAEUS: I think the class of '86 should initiate the gangster of the year award.

(LAUGHTER)

And the inaugural recipient clearly should be Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

KILMEADE: I know. So, what I'm saying -- with your -- I can tell you have all your PhDs. But what I'm hearing from you is, you might be open to an incremental agreement because a whole hearted coming to take my nukes Gaddafi style is not going to happen.

PETRAEUS: I think it's very unlikely -- and look--

KILMEADE: You might be opening--

PETRAEUS: --the intelligence community of the United States issued it's assessment that they find it highly unlikely -- that is serious terminology in the intelligence word, highly unlikely that he's going to give up his nukes in that way.

KILMEADE: Got you. Lastly, China, there are some experienced politicians who say they are not a threat and a competitor of ours. Your own experience person in Washington and at war, are you somebody who doesn't think China is a threat an competitor?

PETRAEUS: So, let me again give you the big picture here because this is huge. The single biggest of the big ideas over the last decade and international relations has been the rise of China. And keep in mind that China as a competitor -- first of all, China is not just a competitor of the United States -- it absolutely is economically, diplomatically, potentially militarily. But it is also either our biggest, or one of our biggest, trading partners depending on the price of Canadian oil or some other commodities from our two North America neighbors.

So this is unique. This is not like the situation that we had during the Cold War where we did very little trading with the Soviet Union. They were very little dependent on us and vice versa. We're just flat out competitors. In this case we have to both compete and we do have to collaborate to some degree.

Now, the big approach here should be to achieve a degree of coherence and comprehensiveness in our approach to China, some elements of which are present, but by no means all. And what I'm getting at here is that if China is the single most important country, and it is therefore the biggest relationship that we have and the most important. We should look at every decision that we take certainly in the foreign policy realm, security realm, diplomacy, trade and so forth, and ask what will the effect of that be on our relationship with China? And frankly if you did that, asking about the (ph) transpacific partnership, I don't think it would be the transpacific partnership.

I publicly made the case that TPP was far more important geostrategically than it was economically. And the estimates, it would have raised our GDP a few tenths of a percent. But the real essence would be that you would join together with a group of countries. Thankfully Japan did still do it, but less the United States. If you want to have a united front, you've got to keep the G7 with you. You've got to keep your NATO partners, all of our others.

So again, certainly put pressure on our NATO allies to increase to 2 percent, but we've got to keep them with us as well. And again, you can do this all across the board. Now, there are a lot of these elements that are there. The Indo-Pacific Command Initiative and a variety of relationships that we have with allies out there, South Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and so forth in the developing relationships with others like India, certainly the other countries that share maritime borders with China, these are all good initiatives. The question is can you pull it all together and then can you bring every element to bear, so it is comprehensive? Again, it's not just security -

KILMEADE: Right.

PETRAEUS: - it's not just trade, it's not just economic, it's not just diplomatic. It's everything. But keep in mind that what we need to be here is firm, not provocative. We want to ensure that China realizes that if there are actions that they take that are no acceptable to us, that there is going to be a response. And again, you can differ with some of the tactics of the current administration, but this administration has stood firm against China's practices that, for a number of years -

KILMEADE: Right.

PETRAEUS: - have been very highly concerning - the theft of intellectual property on an industrial strength scale, forced transfer of intellectual property and some other cases the building of islands in the South China Sea which they said they would stop, the militarization of those islands when they didn't and said they wouldn't do that, on and on.

These are very serious issues and the negotiations are about these issues. And of course there's a frustration in these negotiations that is going to results in tomorrow morning, unless there is a change at the last minute -

KILMEADE: Right.

PETRAEUS: - the imposition of a substantial amount of additional tariffs.

KILMEADE: Do you believe this might be the last window we have to bring them into a responsible player into the world community given that our economy's so strong and they have shown vulnerability, that they have doubled their defense spending over the last 10 years, they're the number on ship builders in the world.

For the first time they're going to have more than one aircraft carrier ready to go. Do you believe it's important for this administration to stay strong right now more than ever?

PETRAEUS: I just think it's the right thing to do right now. Again, I'm cautious of saying if we don't get it right now it's never -- it's all over. I think this is just a very important moment. We do have a degree of negotiating leverage, obviously our economy is quite strong. But keep in mind, the president's going to have his eye on November 2020 and they know that. They know that's coming.

But on the other hand, they have just spent a great deal of effort restimulating their economy, getting it going again only to have this happen and they're very wary of what could happen if they have a slow down there. They have a number of challenges, and keep in mind yes, they have spent more, and more, and more, and more in defense -- we still spend at least three times what they spend. Although certainly their labor costs are a bit lower than ours.

KILMEADE: Right, yeah I wonder why? Belt and Road progam?

PETRAEUS: Very, very ambitious. And again, some of this very legitimate in terms of the aspiration of connecting the Chinese economy with southeast Asian, central Asia, eastern and western Europe -- but some of it again concerning.

If indeed this is exploited, if there is a use of economics as a tool to bludgeon another country as when Korea took an action (ph) that they didn't like, we deployed a certain radar system and they stopped the flow of tourists to Korea -- they did that quite hardball (ph). And so again, that's what should concern us.

KILMEADE: So Becky (ph) you want to some questions from the audience, all right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir thanks for being here, we talked a little bit about what Children of Fallen Patriot Johnny Mac are doing for these families --

PETRAEUS: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: KKR and others have put some policies in place about hiring veterans --

PETRAEUS: You bet --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And encouraging (ph) veterans, can you talk a little bit about --

PETRAEUS: I'd be happy to.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The soldiers that serve for you and what they do in the workforce now?

PETRAEUS: Yes. So KKR, when I joined had, I think just started a program that was called Vets at Work, Veterans at Work -- building it. And they asked if I'd also be the chairman of the KKR Vets at Work as opposed to chairman of KKR global institute. And I said obviously, absolutely.

And so we set about getting commitments from the -- we owned about 100 companies around the world, you all know KKR one of the big investment firms in the world about $200 billion under management. Of those 100 companies many of them are in the United States, those were our target.

Went to the CEOs, asked for the support -- once we had that and of course you know you've got the retired four star holding the video conference so they were happy to be on the VTC, I think in many cases, if not they knew there was something flying overhead -- would take care of them - no.

But then they -- we had a playbook and we continue to refine it -- and we have a team at KKR that does this. And we provide that to their human resources people and then help them with these different issues. We host annual job hiring fairs -- in fact, my command sergeant major from four of those five combat tours comes back and we get the band back together for these as well -- he's at FedEx.

The result is that we have now hired over 75,000 veterans and spouses, we believe they also deserve the kind of support -- they also have sacrificed greatly, and that is a very significant number in our portfolio companies, the companies that we own in the United States.

KILMEADE: Yes OK. KKR has that been a fulfilling career path for you? This is something totally different --

PETRAEUS: If you are ever offered a partnership at KKR, dive on it. It has been phenomenal, no, it has been incredibly intellectually stimulating -- boots on the ground still matter.

We do a lot of evaluation of geopolitical risk and merge that with the macro economic analysis, environmental social governance issues analysis -- when we're looking at investing in companies particularly when they're in places around the world where we don't have large established offices. We've also originated some deals. We've then helped the portfolio companies once we've made the investments.

It can be very helpful to folks in some parts of the world to have someone come in and then link up with the U.S. Ambassador and other folks, and then go in and explain the difficulty that the firm is having that we're trying to support.

KILMEADE: Ever use all your years of experience in war and outside. Sir, do you have a questions?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First off, thank you very, very much for being here in Houston and thank you so much for your service -

PETRAEUS: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: - and your intelligence and what you just took everybody here in this room, a journey around the world in different political environments and military is just superior and superb, and thank you for your service.

PETRAEUS: Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My question is obviously we've heard so much over the last several years about Comey and the Dossier and the FBI and forces within the FBI that were intentionally trying to prevent this president from winning the election. Do you believe that is the case or do you think that this is just the president and his closest advisors trying to pull something over on the American people?

PETRAEUS: Yes, I don't know that I've got particularly unique inside information on this, and to be perfectly honest I generally don't do domestic politics. I'm happy to leave that to the folks on Fox & Friends, but - and no in this case I -

KILMEADE: We've got a lot to do.

PETRAEUS: - I think I have an obligation to say that I - I do not question that there were individuals in the ranks of that organization that had no love lost, certainly, for the candidate from - but the institution is right down the center and I just - I cannot believe that folks in the intelligence community, the military, or in the Department of Justice would embark on some kind of conspiratorial effort to derail the efforts of a presidential candidate or an elected president.

Again, it doesn't work that way. It doesn't mean there aren't some people that were out between the white lines, and it clearly appears there were a couple of them at the very least, but they weren't running the show. They weren't running these organizations. And when it comes to something like the Mueller investigation, I've known and worked with Bob Mueller in many different capacities during his - more than - I think it was 10 years or more as the FBI Director because, of course, he was extended. He worked for both republican - he was appointed by a republican but stayed on for a democratic president. He's an extraordinary American, and I have absolutely confidence in his integrity and in enforcing that in the team that was doing the investigation.

I mean, this is a guy who, you know, goes to an ivy league - Princeton - great ivy league school, you know. We always used to say "Thank God for Harvard because everybody can't get into Princeton."

(LAUGHTER)

Sorry about that back there. But you know, he goes to Princeton and he volunteers to go into the Marine Corps. There were not many people in the Ivy League schools those days raising their hand and above all saying, "I want to go into the Marine Corps. I want to be a ground pounder." And he did that. You know, he was - as I recall he was decorated for valor on the battlefield. And of course has just repeatedly served this country when he could have been, you know, just staying for decades in a law firm somewhere and having an extraordinarily comfortable existence.

He is a real patriot and, of course, he worked in the DOJ. He was the deputy attorney general as I believe as well. So he absolutely knows this system and the integrity is absolutely unquestionable.

KILMEADE: We're going to find out a little bit more from Michael Horowitz in a few weeks, where that goes. Do you wish -

PETRAEUS: Other questions?

KILMEADE: General, do you wish at some point - do you wish that you were with the administration?

PETRAEUS: You know, I obviously had my celebrity apprentice moment at Trump Tower when I was called in to talk about potentially serving as the Secretary of State. We actually had a very good meeting. What I was seeking to do in that -- what he was seeking to do, and what I also was seeking to do is their sufficient policy alignment if you will. He had a list of questions he asked. I had a list of questions. I mean I'll give you one of them, I said so president elect, you're not against trade per se you're just against unfair trade, right? He said yes. I said OK, I can deal with it. That's the big idea. I got it.

And I mean at point somebody called me up and said "Hey, they're going to announce you tomorrow." And I said "Whoa we need"-- that was a good meeting and he tweeted very positively about it. So, it's the--

KILMEADE: Oh yes, he liked you.

PETRAEUS: The ultimate mention in dispatch as they say. But so then they said then we got to terms and reference, we got to talk what are the authorities, how will those all operate, et cetera, et cetera.

And then he had the meeting with Rex Tillerson and understandably the guy that ran the biggest company in the entire world would be an attractive candidate for that. More recently -- look I was concerned when Secretary Mattis. The issues that he raised are issues that are very important to me as well, and that does start to create a question.

Look, I think if a president asks you to consider serving, you absolutely have to do that. But you then have to ask yourself are the conditions present that would allow contribution? And I have some reservations about that based on the experience of Secretary Mattis and also a few others as well. We were together last night with John Kelly at Anthony Scaramucci's annual SkyBridge Alternative Asset Conference. So, again I had some questions.

KILMEADE: Got you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: General again, we appreciate you being here. I've got a little concern with -- my son is 11 years old, Jesse, yesterday made a presentation about the stock market and one of the questions that came up was "Are you a proponent of the New Green Deal?"

And I would take what you had to say about what are we going to do about the environment is predominantly (ph) green deal. He, as an 11 year old, said "I don't think that's a good idea." As a citizen in Houston, Texas I think it's important to understand that environment and also the reality of what we have to do to provide transportation and--

PETRAEUS: I am keenly aware of that reality (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. And so--

PETRAEUS: Again keep in mind--

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- I would like your opinion on--

PETRAEUS: Sure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- New Green Deal. Thank you.

PETRAEUS: Look, the new green deal in its broadest manifestation is -- even the proponents on that side of the sidle termite highly aspirational, in other words, not entirely realistic to put it mildly. Do I think that we should worry about what is happening to our environment? I absolutely do.

And I think we should do what we can to mitigate the risks to that. It doesn't mean that you turn off all the cars and walk everywhere you go anytime. There's nothing extreme about my views in that whatsoever. I think again that science has absolutely proven that there are changes taking place in our environment that many of which are undesirable. And by the way, it's states in this part of the country that are going to feel that most of all. You can see the predictions of what is going to happen as the temperature gradually rises. It is --

(LAUGHTER)

PETRAEUS: -- definitely going to do that.

KILMEADE: Yes

PETRAEUS: But all the other -- I don't know if you've ever looked at the New Green Deal, I mean there's something where everybody will be employed and one of the versions you get paid even if you don't want to work.

KILMEADE: Right

PETRAEUS: So, again, I mean that kind of stuff is a little bit -- fantastical or fantasy. And so -- but if you just want to talk about should we be concerned about the environment, we (ph) should we be concerned about the changes that have been very clearly manifesting themselves in our environment and should we ask what it is that we can do within reason without -- again -- changing every bit of our way of life.

The answer to that I think is absolutely yes, and I think it would be good if you sat down with your son and pull up one of these New Green Deals and ask what are the elements -- what are the elements of the New Green Deal that have an element of realism as a policy measure, and what of those are somewhat difficult to imagine implementing. I mean it's also -- there's also a universal healthcare in one of them. I mean it's just completely across the board.

KILMEADE: But, General, there was --

PETRAEUS: So again, that component is, I think is --

KILMEADE: What I found disconcerting is how many people were standing behind her with a deal that she seemed to write on the back of a napkin. But they had (ph) been in Congress forever.

PETRAEUS: There is a little bit of a campaign in both of our parties to outflank one's competitors on the left or the right. One of the concerning developments in my view is that the center in the House of Representatives has largely eroded.

KILMEADE: Yes.

PATRAEUS: How do you have compromise if everyone has -- and I can tell you why this is -- by the way I've just done an essay -- a speech on -- that was -- I was asked to evaluate the state of democracy in America. Now as I started that speech, I noted that the fact that you're asking a General to assess the state of democracy is a bad indication. But I did, and the title of it was "Disrupted: State of Democracy in America." And -- I mean look, the manifestations are out there. We can't pass budgets before we start a fiscal --

KILMEADE: It's unbelievable (ph).

PATRAEUS: -- year. We shut the government down --

KILMEADE: (Inaudible)

PATRAEUS: We can't agree on this or that, now to be fair there's been some achievement in each of the recent administrations but by and large there has been such hyper-partisanship that it's been very difficult to accomplish what the bulk of Americans would actually like to see accomplished. Why is that? It's because we have had gerrymandering, where a red district is made bright, a blue district is make bright blue. We have party primaries, not open primaries, and in a party primary only a fifth to a quarter of the party actually votes, they are the activists, and that's where the election is determined.

There we less than six competitive House of Representative races that's defined as a certain number of percentages, less than six truly competitive in the 2016 elections. All of those were decided during the primary and of course in those primaries, if you're a Republican you're going to get outflanked on the right, if you're a democrat you're going to get outflanked on the left.

So we should very strongly consider undoing gerrymandering, we should consider open primaries, we might ought to consider rank or voting. We should consider mandating education on civics, which is largely falling out of our high schools. Most high school students couldn't pass the test that is required for citizenship in America.

KILMEADE: That's unbelievable.

PATRAEUS: So, that's another issue, we probably should even consider mandatory voting which Australia and a number of other countries have, and have a holiday -- perhaps it is Veteran's Day and we celebrate our Veterans by also discharging our duty as citizens by casting a vote.

So again there's a whole series of issues that have to be resolved, and the lack of having resolved those in the past has resulted in a state of democracy in Washington in particular, by the way. Because some number of the states and municipalities are actually doing quite well, but Washington has been really characterized, I think best as gridlock rather than productivity.

KILMEADE: And we've still got the number one military and economy in the world, despite everything you've said which is 100 percent correct. You have another question -- last question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: General Petraeus, thank you for being here. My name is Ali Dabuti (ph) and I'm a -- proud American of Iranian descent. And I was wondering, why do you think it is that when 19 of the hijackers were Saudis? My mother was elected to Parliament in Iran in 1976. Why is that we favor our foreign policy towards a country that just let women drive, and hacked up a journalist -- and why is that we don't set our sights on going back to a different type of relationship with Iran, where even for me that's not a soldier -- if I was playing a war game in that region, Iran speaks Farsi.

The only other country in that region that speaks a different language is Israel, speaks Hebrew and you've got Afghanistan that speaks Farsi. But Iran was a great ally of the United States --

PETRAEUS: It was until the revolution that resulted in an Ayatollah taking control, and we have certainly had various overtures to the Iranians at various times. There arguably were missed opportunities in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, there were actually outreach between the U.S. and the Iranians, but by and large the Iranians have not exactly been our best friends.

They have been behind bombings of different installations, they were behind the killing of hundreds and hundreds of American soldiers in Iraq. They are trying to create a Shia crescent (ph) if you will, or an area that is largely controlled by Iran that would extend from Iran through Iraq, through Syria and down in to southern Lebanon.

They are obviously the ones who fund Lebanese Hezbollah, they funded (inaudible), they have funded the militias in Iraq -- some involvement with the Houthis in Yemen, and of course Hamas in Gaza.

So they have not been, I don't think, tremendous citizens in the Middle East with great respect. And the Iran that your mother was in, was a very different Iran. And look, we've had a tortured relationship with Iran over the years, we obviously overthrew a government at one point in time as well. The agency that I was privileged to lead in my final government service has, again, a checkered past in Iran.

But look, we have tried to talk with them -- when I was the commander in Iraq during the surge, with Ambassador Crocker -- Ambassador Crocker met, I think it was three times with Iranian counterparts and we just could not get anywhere. The interests are absolutely antithetical.

Now, there obviously are other challenges in the region as well, but when it comes to Iran -- and I don't want to do the moral equivalence -- let's just talk about Iran. We have serious issues with Iran, and the idea that if we would just be kinder and gentler to Iran that they would respond with an open hand -- I just don't see that as a prospect.

I would like to see again, a -- certainly a change in behavior where there malign activities are not causing problems in much of the region where their missile programs are not threatening our ally Israel and our other partners in the Gulf States, where they are not supporting, again, murderous militias and paramilitaries. That may be achievable and also making sure that they obviously don't embark on a path to a nuclear weapon.

KILMEADE: And General, I have two more statements to say (ph). So just real quick, if the president was to come to you if he gets a second term or he gets another year and asks you for - and puts you in a position that would you find intriguing, would you be open to it?

PETRAEUS: Again, as I said before, I think you have to consider if a president asks you to serve, but then you owe it to yourself, frankly, as well to ask are the conditions present in which you can contribute. And that would have to - and you'd have to ask about policy alignment and will you be permitted to take the actions that you think are needed in a position?

KILMEADE: The president nominated officially Secretary of Defense Shanahan, acting now. He's going to be up for nomination. Do you support that?

PETRAEUS: Yes, I think I do. I don't - he's not someone I know well. Jack Keane, our very close mutual friend does know him well, has giving him an endorsement as have several other for whom I have a lot of respect, and I think that's enough for me.

KILMEADE: I did some original reporting to close about three people who know you well. This is how they've described you. General Perkins, four star general now retired. "One of the most clear-minded, strategic thinkers I have worked for, a master of geopolitical military and economic issues. I was never at a loss of sound advice and guidance working for him."

General McChrystal, "He set a standard that a generation of soldiers have worked to live up to." General Jack Keane says, "General Petraeus is the most celebrated, successful general since World War II having lead a U.S. coalition in two different theaters of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan while turning defeat into a victory in Iraq."

Those are three people I know you respect who have infinite amount of respect for you. Thanks so much for coming in.

PETRAEUS: Oh, I thank you. Thank you all very much. Thank you. That was very nice of you. Thank you.