This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," January 25, 2006, that was edited for clarity.
NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Well, Congress is getting tough on Iran — lawmakers from both sides of the aisle pushing for harsh U.N. sanctions. And they're not even ruling out military force to stop that country from getting a nuclear bomb.
But by forcing on Iran so much, are we ignoring what could be an even greater and bigger danger, Syria?
One of America's most wanted terrorists reportedly spotted in Syria just last week. Imad Mughniyah is wanted for the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847. Remember that one, in which a Navy diver was beaten, tortured, shot in the head, his body dumped on a tarmac at a Beirut airport?
Is Syria harboring the terrorists behind that act and many other acts? And what should the U.S. do about it?
Let's ask former presidential candidate, former NATO Supreme Commander General Wesley Clark. He's also a FOX News contributor.
General, good to have you.
WESLEY CLARK, FORMER DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, Neil.
CAVUTO: Syria is the one country I think we forget about. Is it a threat?
CLARK: Well, we shouldn't. This is an historic opportunity for the United States with Syria. It's not too late. You know, Syria is under a lot of pressure. They're under pressure from the U.N. investigation of the Lebanese former Prime Minister Hariri's assassination. They're under pressure economically. They're under pressure because they're caught in a squeeze play ideologically.
This is the time that the United States should be talking with Syria.
CAVUTO: When you say talking with Syria, what do you...
CLARK: I mean send the right people in there under cover.
CLARK: High-level people, maybe Steve Hadley, maybe one of Steve's deputies, to actually lay out the possibility of...
CAVUTO: But not at the highest level?
CLARK: The president can't go there, but it can be done.
CAVUTO: But how can you do that now, General, when you have had the leaders of Syria and Iran palling around?
CLARK: Because me, it can be done.
CLARK: In this part of the world, people talk and fight together with each other simultaneously at all levels.
And if we're in this part of the world, we have got to not only have military force. We have got to have our full wits, our intelligence, our leadership, our ability to mobilize international law and diplomacy. We should tell Bashar Assad in Syria that this is his moment to do an historic transformation of Syria. He needs to get the terrorists out by working with us.
He needs to set the Syrian economy moving in the right direction. He needs to lay the foundations for democracy.
CAVUTO: He has ignored even the verbal overtures, though.
So, I mean, he has a history of certainly sticking it to the U.S. And he might even be behind some prominent assassinations in Lebanon. So, I'm wondering if he is the guy to do that with or he's the only guy we can deal with.
CLARK: Well, he's the guy who's there right now. He's in power.
He's got some big weaknesses. And he needs us, if we work with him the right way. And we could use him as a transitional figure. But, you know, this is not about somebody that you are going to admire their ideals or their conduct. This is about serving and protecting the interests of the United States of America and our friends and allies in the region and advancing the cause of democracy.
And the truth is that we have got alternatives. We don't necessarily have to invade and occupy Syria. But if we don't talk, and the worst comes to it, we may well find ourselves doing that.
CAVUTO: Do you suspect that more the insurgent activity, more of maybe the hidden weapons activity, if you want to call it that, is, at its roots, in Syrian more than it is Iran?
CLARK: Well, I think there are different motivations.
First of all, Syria and Iran are a little bit aligned. And Syria uses Iran's strength as a buffer against Israel to do what it wants. But when the United States went into the region, the talk was all over the Middle East, just like it was in the Washington and off The Weekly Standard that it was Iraq first, and then Syria, Lebanon, and then Iran.
And, so, these nations in their own defense made sure they would stymie what the United States wanted to do in Iraq. So, yes, an insurgent base grew up in Syria. I know we're trying to take action against that base in one way or another, reinforcing the border. And we have had low- level dialogues.
You know, the Syrians initially said they would cooperate with us on intelligence. But what we have got to do is, we have got get to Bashar Assad, because the alternative to doing that is to muddle through, wait for Syria to collapse, and we will have another failed state on our hands, a failed state that, one way or another, is going to be a danger, a bigger danger, to the Middle East.
And it will cause us to take action, actions with our overstretched military that we really don't need to take. What we need to do...
CAVUTO: When you say it's overstretched, too overstretched to do something about Iran right now?
CLARK: Depends on what you're going to do about Iran.
Now, you can certainly run bombing strikes and Special Forces activities and you can go after those nuclear sites.
CAVUTO: You have to know where those sites are, though, right?
CLARK: I think that's less of a problem.
I think the greater problem is figuring out what's the end state. Let's say you run eight to 14 days of bombing against Iran. You take out 30 sites. Maybe 15 of them were the nuclear sites. You have taken out some command-and-control, his missiles, his air bases, some of the stuff that would threaten us along the literal of the Persian Gulf. OK.
And then what? What happens? Does he then say, oh, I give up; I surrender; I will be your friend? No, he's not going to say that.
CAVUTO: Well, who cares if he's less of a threat?
CLARK: Because what he's going to do is, he's going to be a magnet pulling in all kinds of anti-American resistance.
CAVUTO: So it would actually galvanize the Arab world.
CLARK: How do we know A.Q. Khan is not going to replenish that nuclear stock right away?
CLARK: So, it's a danger.
We have got to think through the thing not just from the initial strike, not, can we hit the target; can we penetrate Iranian airspace? Of course we can do that. It's, what is the end state strategically, geopolitically? How do we handle the conflict in this part of the world?
CAVUTO: Let me ask you.
Before you came here, I was telling you I have read this piece in The New York Observer today about Al Gore and what he's up to, many people saying, you know, we miss Al, we like Al, and he would maybe be a credible candidate in 2008. What do you make of that?
CLARK: Well, I think he is a credible candidate. I mean, he's experienced. He's broadly versed. He has spent six years recovering from the effects being in elected office for all his life.
CAVUTO: Do you think he's running?
CLARK: I suspect he would like to be president of the United States.
CAVUTO: Could he get the nomination?
CLARK: I don't know.
I mean, I think that, in both parties, everything is really up for grabs right now. I think, despite the fact of what the polls say, I think the American people are listening. You know...
CAVUTO: But, you know, those same polls, General, with all due respect — and I know we have talked about this in the past — blame your party for not having a consistent voice on terror. How would you respond?
CLARK: I think the Democrats have been very consistent on the problem of terrorism.
I think that what they recognize is that you have got to have a policy in the world that not only uses military force, but first uses diplomacy, then uses international law enforcement and only as a last resort.
CAVUTO: But, sir, I don't see that consistency. I see, you know, Joe Lieberman saying one thing. You're saying another. John Kerry, I don't know what he's saying.
So, I think the rap against Democrats, fairly or not, when Americans are asked on this issue of security who best to protect us, your party doesn't come out well.
CLARK: Well, I think it's deeper than that. Because that is the perception — and you're right. It's in the eye of the beholder.
CAVUTO: Would you ever want to run for president, because your party seems to be too far to the left?
CLARK: I'm in the business community right now. I haven't said anything about my political future, one way or the other.
CAVUTO: Would you like to be president?
CLARK: I'm proud of being a Democrat.
CAVUTO: Would you like to be president?
CLARK: Here's the thing, Neil...
CAVUTO: You're not going to answer...
CLARK: Well, I want to talk about the issues you're raising, because I think, you know, I know political speculation is a lot of fun, but I think this country has got some very serious issues in front of it.
CAVUTO: You have said, General, your party has some problems getting a voice out on this issue.
CLARK: It does. You know why? Because...
CAVUTO: So, if your party is to the left on these issues of security, which you hold near and dear, would you then say, you know what; you're not listening; you're not speaking to the American people; I will?
CLARK: Well, I have been speaking out all along, on FOX, in speeches, and across the country and in various fora. I'm giving a speech in Washington next Monday.
CAVUTO: Do you think Hillary Clinton has?
CLARK: And Hillary Clinton is speaking out. A lot of Democrats are speaking out.
But I will tell you what the issue is, really. The issue is that, if you're not in the majority in one of the two houses of Congress, and you don't occupy the White House, it's real hard to get a consistent message out. It's a mechanical thing.
Now, the Republicans did finally pull it together in 1994, with the Contract For America. But it was done around an election. And it came together.
CAVUTO: But you will admit that your party is not exactly on the same page on this issue?
CLARK: Well, I don't know. I don't sell America short.
Look, we believe in a two-party system in this country. And you know, in your party, if you're a Republican, and you have got to be proud of your party and what it has done, but you also know that a two-party system is essential, because power corrupts.
CAVUTO: If Al Gore were to come to you and say, General, I need your advice, what do you say?
CLARK: I'm talking to everybody. If anybody comes to me and says they want my advice, I talk to them.
CAVUTO: All right, General, always good seeing you — General Wesley Clark.
CLARK: Thank you, Neil.
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