This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from December 5, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MOHAMAD ELBARADEI, INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY: It has opened the win dow of opportunity for Iran now, because Iran has been publicly somewhat vindicated in saying that they have not been working on a weapon program at least for the last few years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRIT HUME, HOST: The Soviet Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov took that a bit further — he said that they had ever been working on a program, although he noted that U.S. officials disagree with him.
Some further thoughts on this report from the intelligence agencies from Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of "The Weekly Standard," Mort Kondracke, Executive Editor of "Roll Call," and the syndicated columnists Charles Krauthammer, FOX News contributors all.
Well, this is day three for us on this subject, but it seems worth discussing again, because the reaction has been in some ways stronger than we might have thought to this report that says that Iran abandoned its nuclear weapons program in 2003, but remains, says the report, desirous of getting a nuclear weapon.
But what about these reactions? Lavrov, Elbaradei — you had Ahmadinejad saying today this is a great victory for Iran — Mort?
MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "ROLL CALL": Well, we all agree that this makes it impossible for President Bush to get political support in the United States for any military attack on nuclear facilities. That's done in this report.
I think it makes it a lot more difficult to get countries like Russia and China, if he could have ever gotten them anyway, to go for sanctions against the United Nations, but we haven't heard from Sarkozy, for example, as to whether he is willing to join the United States in keeping the pressure on.
In this report, there is lots of stuff that is pretty hawkish. For example, the paragraph — "We assess with high confidence that Iran has the scientific, technical, and industrial capacity eventually to produce nuclear weapons if it decides to do so."
They are continuing enrich uranium. They are not open to international inspections. And it seems to me entirely appropriate to get the international community to open up to the IAEA and have full inspections.
HUME: Get Iran to open up to the IAEA.
FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Look, this report substantially undercut the Bush administration, no question about that. And maybe it was intended. We know the chief authors of it were three men who opposed the Bush policy on Iraq and North Korea, and Iran.
And the whole distinction here on a nuclear weapons program is based on a definition that says this one program that the Iranians never acknowledged was a weapons program. They shut that down. But their civil — and all of this is in a footnote in the NIE — the civil programs, those are not weapons making programs.
Those are ones that we have been trying to shut down. Those are the ones that are enriching uranium. Those are the ones that are doing all the things you would do if you wanted eventually to create a nuclear bomb.
And on what basis does the NIE say that those are not weapons programs? The Iranians say they aren't. And, of course, there is no rational for nuclear energy in Iran since they have so much oil and gas.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: This is being spun by adversaries of the United States and those opposed to meaningful sanctions as a vindication of their policy. The Russians were against this, the Chinese — and they seize on this and say all sanction activities will stop.
I think the French are serious about this. They understand the threat, and they will continue with us. That's not going to change.
But what's happening is that those who are soft on Iran and soft on any real sanctions are spinning this incorrectly. The hard part of developing a weapon is the enrichment, is creating the fuel.
Once you have the fuel, even Baradei will tell you, and he is not exactly a friend of the United States or George Bush, it takes you only a few months once you have the fissile material to turn it into a bomb.
So all that is suspended is the part of the program that requires only a few months to activate and to accomplish. The uranium enrichment is happening under the eyes of the world. All the centrifuges are going day and night producing enriched uranium.
And the reason for all non-proliferation efforts are directed at enrichment is because that is the key step. So this idea that the program is retired or abandoned is completely wrong.
The major issue is — is enrichment happening? Yes. The fuel is produced. You may have made dormant the process of turning it into a weapon, but you can always restart that, and it takes only a few months.
KONDRACKE: Two other points. One, last night I said that we ought to have direct talks with the Iranians. Robert Kagan, who is a notable neoconservative, agreed with me in today's "Washington Post."
It is not a weakling position. It is a strong position — you get in there and you find seams in the hierarchy.
BARNES: I didn't see your name mentioned.
KONDRACKE: No, you didn't have too.
BARNES: And you're both wrong.
HUME: When we come back with the panel, how big a deal is a trade agreement with Colombia? Why is President Bush calling for it right now? It has to do with somebody else down there in Latin America, and we'll tell you who it is next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The Venezuelan people rejected one-man rule. They voted for democracy.
The United States can make a difference in South America in terms of Venezuelan influence, and here's how — if Congress can pass a free trade agreement with Colombia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUME: With Colombia, huh? Well, apparently there is, of course, a free trade agreement pending, but the U.S. Senate leaders have not been willing to bring it up.
So what's going on here? Thoughts from our panel — Fred?
First of all, what is the character of the deal?
BARNES: It is just a free trade agreement that would help the Colombians, in particular.
It is not that we have such heavy trade with them — but what it does is it would help Colombia in becoming further a free market country, which is already headed that way under their President Uribe, and they would be a part of the economic zone in the Americas involving the U.S. it would bring them in.
And, by doing that, it will really do a lot in the political and economic and diplomatic and ideological war that's going on in the Americas between this old fashioned, Castro-type communism-socialism now championed by Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. And we have already got the major Latin American countries on our side, Mexico and Brazil. Those are the two most important ones.
Colombia wants to be there, too. And this trade agreement is the key to doing it.
Organized labor in the U.S. says they're not doing enough because union members get killed, and they're not doing enough to get the killers. Well, they're doing more now in Colombia.
But there is a bigger issue, and the issue is the struggle in the Americas.
KONDRACKE: The violence against labor organizers and everybody else is way down in Colombia. A lot has been done in "Plan Colombia" to try to stop that.
The Democrats voted overwhelmingly for the Peru trade agreement yesterday. It contains labor and environmental standards, which the Democrats insisted had to be part of these agreements.
The Colombia agreement has the same kind of — it's practically identical.
HUME: So what's the problem?
KONDRACKE: The AFL-CIO is against it because of this past violence against labor organizers, which, as I say, is way down, and they are putting the whammy on the Democrats.
But Fred is right. The point is — the Democrats keep saying that we have to repair our relations with the world, we have to help the poor. The best way to help the poor is to let them sell their goods in the United States. That is what is going to make them rich.
You cut them off and don't let them do that, then you're helping people like Chavez.
KRAUTHAMMER: Colombia has succeed in beating back a major insurgency and needs our help.
HUME: You are talking about the drug insurgency?
KRAUTHAMMER: Yes, which a drug — it also has a lot of Marxists, and Chavez is helping these bad guys as well. But if you compare where the country is today to where it was ten years ago, there's no comparison.
So here is a country succeeding, and it is a model of success. It needs our help. Free trade is the best way to do it. It has almost a negligible impact on the United States. It's economy is 1/30th of the American economy. It's not going to hurt the American economy in any way.
The Democrats have turned protectionist as a response to public opinion. You even have a Clinton who is talking about NAFTA, of reviewing or repealing NAFTA. That's a huge step backwards, and, as a result, they are opposing the Colombia agreement at a time when we need it.
And when, with the rise of Chavez, it becomes not only an economic necessity and a political necessity, but a geopolitical one. It's a way to strengthen our friends. It's an obvious, easy way, and it's a disgrace that Democrats are holding it up.
BARNES: Who is the leading opponent of free trade in Latin America? It's Hugo Chavez, just like he is on the wrong side of most everything.
And this is a perfect opportunity after he just has been repudiated by his own people, at least a slim majority of them, to pass this treaty and build up Colombia, and particularly President Uribe, who is a friend of the United States. The timing is perfect.
HUME: Will they do it?
BARNES: It isn't going to happen. I don't think so.
KONDRACKE: I think the administration is going to force it, but they will bring up Colombia and force the Democrats to choose, and hope they will do the right thing.
HUME: That is it for the panel.
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