A Clear Message For Iran

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report with Brit Hume", March 8, that has been edited for clarity.

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PIROOZ HOSSEINI, CHIEF IRANIAN REP., IAEA: I'm certain that we are trying our best to provide every information that is available to us to the agency. This is what we are doing at the time being, and we will continue to do so.


BRIT HUME, HOST: There was that from that Iranian spokesman on a day when U.S. officials complained that country, Iran, keeps changing its story on its nuclear weapons program. In Iran, meanwhile, club-wielding vigilantes in Tehran weighted into a crowd of about 200 women, roughing some of them up, as they tried to commemorate International Women's Day (search).

Iran is a closed society, and information from there is scarce, so we, from time to time turn to a man who watches developments there closely. Michael Ledeen, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

Michael, welcome, nice to see you.


HUME: Get your title right?


HUME: Good. Good for me.

All right. Now, what is the state of play on the rest of the world's efforts to get Iran to come clean on this nuclear program?

LEDEEN: Well, your summary was perfect. They changed the story every couple of days. I mean it's like the old joke about the woman accused of stealing a pot from her neighbor and comes in and says to the judge, in the first place I never took the pot. Secondly, it was a very old pot. And third, it was in better shape when I gave it back than when I took it.


LEDEEN: And that's what they do. I mean a few months ago, they said they had no nuclear program at all. Then they said, well, yes. We do, but it's only a peaceful program for a domestic energy. Here is a country drowning in oil and natural gas, as if they needed nuclear energy.

And then each time that we find by one means or another, either inspectors go or the Pakistanis rat them out, or more recently the Libyans rat them out, and we discover that they're doing all kinds of other things that point toward nuclear weapons program.

They say, well, no one ever asked us about that stuff or we never intended this to be a complete answer. And then before this statement came out from the IAEA today...

HUME: That's the International Atomic Energy Agency.

LEDEEN: Right.

HUME: Which said?

LEDEEN: Which said they're in violation of their agreements with the agency and with the United Nations. They said -- they came out and said that the U.N. had better put an end to all these nasty investigations and so forth.

And the Europeans had better now deliver the nuclear technology that they promised us if we were good boys, otherwise terrible things will happen. And then the U.N. came out and said they're in violation, and they said, well, we never said that we told everything.

HUME: So what to do?

LEDEEN: Well, the only thing to do, since it's clear that they are hell bent and I mean literally hell bent to have an atomic bomb, and they made this decision. We know exactly when it happened. It was in 1991 at the end of the First Gulf War. They said if Saddam had nuclear weapons, the Americans would never have dared do this. Now, we don't want the Americans ever to come after us, so we must have nuclear weapons. We want to be the North Korea of this part of the world, and so they went on a program to develop nuclear weapons.

And we know a great deal about this and so forth. They will never stop. Now, we have no way -- convenient way, to compel them to stop. This is another case where a regime of that sort is not going to change its nature. And we're going to have to eventually support the Iranian people to turn it into a free country.

HUME: How far along is it thought that they are?

LEDEEN: We don't really -- nobody really knows.

HUME: All right. Now, this is a case where the administration, having applied force in Afghanistan and Iraq, has hung back from doing that here. And said, look, you know, we use different means in different places. This time we're using the means of diplomacy.

LEDEEN: Right.

HUME: And we're working to build and work through a coalition of countries, which from time to time, has appeared to be fairly united on this issue. Is the coalition that the administration is turning to, which involves again the U.N. and its atomic energy agency and so on, have any chance of being effective here? If so, why? If not, why not?

LEDEEN: I don't think so. I think the coalition dealing with North Korea is a lot tougher and a lot more united than the coalition dealing with Iran.

HUME: Why is that?

LEDEEN: Because the Europeans, the French, the British, the Germans, above all, all have huge material interests in Iran. They have gigantic oil contracts. And they're forever...

HUME: To buy from Iran?

LEDEEN: To buy from Iran. And I mean Iran is on the docket for all kinds of violations. It's not just nuclear. It's human rights, it's torture of prisoners, it's press violations. There's no freedom of the press, there's no freedom of any sort really.

And the Europeans constantly send observers there who come back and cluck their tongues and don't do anything, because they have these big interests there. And I think it's going to be very hard to get the Europeans to be as tough as we should be.

HUME: So in other words, if a resolution to get tough, which presumably would mean, what in the near term?

LEDEEN: Sanctions.

HUME: Sanctions were to be -- an effort to apply sanctions were attempted, your belief is that it would fail?

LEDEEN: I think it would fail. I don't see any...

HUME: Because it would be voted down by the French or voted down by the Brits even?

LEDEEN: Yes, yes.

HUME: Even the Brits?

LEDEEN: Oh, yes.

HUME: Even the Brits?

LEDEEN: The Brits, I mean they sent Prince Charles (search) over to make nice to the Iranians just a month or two ago, when there was that earthquake and bomb. He went over and walked all around the earthquake zone and said, oh, what a terrible thing. Then he went to Tehran and kissed up to the mullahs. So I mean the British at the highest levels are being nice to the Iranians.

HUME: Does the United States by itself, largely going to end up at war with this country?

LEDEEN: I don't think so. I mean I think if ever there were a country made for a democratic revolution, it's Iran. The people hate the regime. We saw it again in this latest, phony election.

And all we really need to do is be clear on our message to Iran and say that we want regime change, and we support the Iranian people. And I think they will go for it.

HUME: You do?


HUME: Well, that's the most encouraging thing you said yet. Indeed, the only encouraging thing you've said.

HUME: Always nice to have you, Michael, even though the news always seems to be grim.

LEDEEN: Thanks, Brit.

HUME: Thanks for coming.

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