'Special Report' Panel on Obama's Approach to Iran's Nuclear Program

Published October 01, 2009

| FoxNews.com

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from September 30, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAEED JALILI, CHIEF IRANIAN NUCLEAR NEGOTIATOR (via translator): We are entering talks with goodwill and with having a positive strategic and longstanding view, and it depends on the kind of interaction and approach which will be taken regarding our view. We hope that our view will be considered an opportunity for cooperation.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is not talk for talk's sake. There is a specific agenda and specific problems that need to be dealt with. And if they're not dealt with responsibly by the Iranians, that stronger measures will be developed and implemented to ensure that they do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, HOST: U.S. officials headed to Geneva for talks with the Iranians among other nations, the P5 plus one sitting down with Iranian leaders to talk about their nuclear program. The Iranians are already saying that they see this as a test of international respect for their country.

What about this? Let's bring in our panel, Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer -- Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, the farce continues. The Obama administration has been in office for eight months. It offered the outstretched hand, and it implied there was a deadline in mid-September for Iran to show its seriousness.

What we got in mid-September was a five-page piece of gibberish on which the Iranians said they want to talk about saving the planet, et cetera, and not a word about the nuclear issue. They have declared the nuclear issue closed. Then last week, Obama announces the discovery of this facility in Qom, a secret enrichment site, which is obviously illegal and obviously overwhelming evidence of their desire to achieve a nuclear weapon, and he says they will be held accountable. The Iranians immediately announce we're not going to discuss this new site. Robert Gibbs says, well, if they don't bring it up, we will. Well, that will be a really interesting dialogue to look into.

What we're getting is the Iranians stalling. And the reason this is not harmless, even though it is sort of a farcical dance, is because with every week that passes, and now over eight months, Iran is approaching the day in which it goes nuclear. And time is short. Everyone knows the clock is ticking. And Obama said today unless they show seriousness by the end of the year, we will then impose sanctions, which means nothing will happen into next year, which means it drags on forever.

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: I mean, this really is a moment of truth for Obama. This is two moments of truth, this and Afghanistan.

And what the Iranians I bet you are going to do at these meetings is give -- do just enough, hint just enough that they are accommodating to give the Russians and the Chinese an excuse to not impose sanctions of any kind.

So what Obama is going to have to do if he really means to stop nuclear proliferation, and that's what this is all about -- because if the Iranians get nukes, the Saudis will get nukes, and the Iranians may give nukes to god knows who.

So if Obama is really serious about this, what he has got to do is get the French and British together and stop their gasoline from going in and try to topple this government because of social pressure. And that may require a naval, quote-unquote, "quarantine" in order to do it.

Now, that will be a real step for Obama, and I doubt that he's got the guts to do it.

BAIER: And Fred, a big player in all this is China. China and Russia, always, but China is -- Iran is China's second largest supplier of the energy.

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Right.

BAIER: So they're not talking about this openly, and they don't sound like they're going to push for sanctions.

BARNES: No, and what Mort's talking about, if you did block refined oil, gasoline, from coming back into Iran, the Chinese wouldn't go along with it. So you would have to do it either unilaterally or with just a few partners.

BAIER: A coalition of the willing.

BARNES: A coalition of the willing, and a strong president could put that together.

You know, the State Department put out the idea yesterday that the president doesn't want to reach a snap judgment in these talks. He doesn't -- I think a snap judgment is it's quite an honor given all we know so far, but rather than a snap judgment, he would rather have these talks develop so they could be more in-depth talks.

That's what the Iranians want. It fits into their plan to delay and stall, and so on.

And then the problem is that Obama comes with a weak hand in terms of impressing the Iranians with his seriousness. I mean, look at what he has just done. One is in Afghanistan, he's dithering. Certainly the Iranians notice that.

When he had -- with the plans for a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, the Russians didn't like it and the president backed down. The Russians said or at least President Medvedev said, well, maybe they would help out with stronger sanctions. Now the Russians are backing away from that.

And then you have the president's history of having deadlines that mean nothing. We have seen that domestically here in the United States.

So I think nothing good possibly could come out of these talks. And remember what President Sarkozy of France said, while we're talking and everything, the centrifuges are spinning.

BAIER: That is the question here, the clock. And different intelligence units apparently have different assessments of this clock. U.S. intelligence is still apparently sticking to the 2003 National Intelligence Estimate, which said that Iran stopped weaponizing.

However, British intelligence, The Financial Times has a story out today that they cite British intelligence sources saying that they believe they are already weaponizing enriched uranium.

KRAUTHAMMER: It was a report here in 2007, which said that in 2003 the Iranians had stopped their nuclear weapons program, which is obviously false. Even at the time it was obvious, because it didn't even speak about enrichment and missile development, which are difficult and the core issues in developing a nuke.

But it's clear that with the Qom site being discovered, they are hell- bent on getting a nuke. All that is left is the weaponization of the weapon, which, as you say, British intelligence is now saying is already underway. If it was ever stopped, it resumed several years ago.

And that is the easiest and the shortest of the steps. The uranium enrichment is the key step, and that's happening as we speak.

BAIER: At the 2007 NIE about 2003 report.

KONDRACKE: Dennis Blair, the national intelligence chief, testified earlier this year that he didn't think that they were highly enriching uranium when we apparently knew, we had known for three years, that they were.

Now, Mark Kirk, the congressman from Illinois who is running for the Senate, is coming out with a statement tomorrow saying, hey, Blair, what did you mean? Why did you say that then and this now? I don't know what the answer to that is.

BAIER: It will be interesting. Got to run.

BARNES: Mort was particularly right, this is a test for Obama. The whole world is watching, particularly the dictators and thugs and the military governments. And if he's weak on this, boy, they're going to push even harder against him.

BAIER: OK, good transition. So what do conservatives like about President Obama? We will ask the panel after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROVE: The stewardship of the Defense Department by Robert Gates has been a nice surprise. Gates is a patriot. The question was would Obama listen to him, and Obama has.

GINGRICH: I think for a liberal Democrat it takes a lot of courage to take on the teachers' union and be that direct and that clear about that kind of change.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: Two very prominent conservatives there talking about what they like about President Obama's policies. What about that? We are back with the panel.

We put the question to you, Fred Barnes. What do conservatives like about president Obama's policies?

BARNES: I will tell you what I liked that he has done as a conservative, and the first thing that comes to my mind is what he has said and done about fatherhood.

And remember, Barack Obama, his father left him when he was two years old, so he has talked about the hole that a father leaves behind when he leaves, when he departs. And it's something interesting, he said, it's a hole that the government can't fill. He's been very good on this subject, and I hope he preaches about it more.

And the other one is on the program to finance community colleges, which is one of the forgotten aspects of American education. They're all over the country, but they need a lot of help. The funding for them has gone down.

There are tens of millions of Americans who don't need to go to Harvard or UVA or any other school, four-year college. What they need to be productive in the workplace and have good jobs they can learn at a community college. And they need to be emphasized, and Obama is, and I give him credit for that.

KONDRACKE: And he has increased funding for all kinds of basic research, which George Bush really cut, especially medical research.

But I would emphasize what Newt Gingrich said. Obama and Arne Duncan, the education secretary, are in favor of expanding the number of charter schools, which the unions hate. They're in favor of performance pay for teachers, which the unions hate.

And they're using stimulus money that has not been spent, which is quite a lot, actually, to require, if states want that money, they've got to produce plans that involve lifting caps on the number of charter schools, state by state.

You get the teachers unions who manage to put caps on the number of charter schools available, and Arne Duncan is insisting that they lift them.

BAIER: Charles, what do you like about President Obama's policies?

KRAUTHAMMER: To me, that is a lightning round question, but I will dig deep and I will give him credit for continuing the Bush policy of the rendition and detention without trial.

Rendition is handing over a bad guy that you capture abroad over to another country, which was denounced by the left in the Bush years as inhuman, and detention without trial of course was attacked by the Democratic left as a rape of the constitution.

So I'm glad Obama is continuing the inhumanity and the constitutional rape of the Bush administration. It shows a certain broadmindedness.

(LAUGHTER)

I will give him credit for one other thing, for having so depleted his political capital on health care that he really doesn't have the charisma and resources, political resources now to do a lot of mischief.

BAIER: That's a backhanded...

KRAUTHAMMER: I'm trying really hard here and I have to fill the time.

KONDRACKE: Here's one more. Pakistan is a success.

BAIER: And by the way, the president met with his national security team today talking about Afghanistan and Pakistan behind closed doors. We have a picture of that.

KONDRACKE: Right, the Pakistan part of this is a success. We killed a lot of terrorists using predator launched missiles, and it requires corporation from the Pakistanis in order to do that.

BAIER: And up until this recent stall, Fred, the Afghanistan equation was seen as a positive thing for conservatives looking at how he handled it. But now there is some doubt.

BARNES: It certainly was by me in this thing. He fired a general quickly who he didn't have confidence in. He said there was a war of necessity. They had a strategy that General McChrystal now wants to implement.

And it was fine up until the president balking. And I think it's purely because he's following the polls in this country. He has seen public opinion decline, in other words, is now more against American intervention there, and I'm very gloomy about what he might do

BAIER: We really tried to stay positive here, Charles.

KRAUTHAMMER: Yes, I know. I tried really hard, and I think I failed.

(LAUGHTER)

BAIER: We'll leave it there. That is it for the panel.

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