Bill Clinton on the Threat From Iran

Former President discusses how to deal with the threat from Iran plus his work with President Bush on the Haiti relief effort


This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," December 20, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS HOST, "THE O'REILLY FACTOR": Now, Iran is the most difficult foreign situation right now because of the nuclear threat. And no politician seems to have a handle on that because China and Russia will not help in the sanctions against Iran. Yes, we hurt them, but not enough for them to pull back.

So the next president of the United States is going to have to deal with this nuclear thing. How would you deal with it?

BILL CLINTON, (D) FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: First of all, let me say there are probably lots of things that I don't know because I have declined to take any security briefings since Hillary became secretary of state, unless someone in the White House specifically asks me too, like when I went to North Korea to bring those young journalists home.

But here is what I think about it. I think when the IAEA finally said Iran was trying to get a nuclear weapon and seemed to be pretty far along the road, that was the biggest un-kept secret in the world. Anybody that had been paying attention knew that. We don't know maybe exactly when that would happen.

But I also know that in dealing with it is complicated. That's what the Israelis think too. I mean, when you have ask yourself what are your options here, I do not believe the president should take any military option off the table. There may be efforts right now that we don't even know about.

O'REILLY: Sure, sure.

CLINTON: Sabotage.

O'REILLY: Why won't Russia and China help on this?

CLINTON: I'm surprised because partly it is to maintain a sense of neutrality that they aren't totally in the American camp.

O'REILLY: But they know the danger to the world and commerce and everything else.

CLINTON: But it's dangerous to the Russians because of all the Muslims on their underbelly, many of whom have difficult living conditions and are fertile ground for --

O'REILLY: Terrorism?

CLINTON: Yes, terrorism. And it's dangerous for the Chinese because of the Muslims in their northwest in the same kind of circumstances.

But the bottom line is I think the Americans and the Israelis and the Sunni Arab states that are very concerned about it, I hope and presume they are all working together. I hope and presume they are all sharing intelligence. And I hope and presume they are looking at all their options.

O'REILLY: That could be world war iii right there, because Israel is not going to allow it to happen. They are going to go in you know what's going to happen after that.

CLINTON: But there may be more than one way to skin a cat. They sent them back pretty good, whoever gummed up their computer capacity. And what do a lot of the Americans and Israelis are worried about is if you try to bomb the facility, you still got to deal with the centrifuges. They're underground in an urban area.

O'REILLY: If you take care of their structure, if you bomb them, can you basically knock out their infrastructure to deliver anything.

CLINTON: Yes. But most people -- but I will tell you what bothers me, just me as a citizen, knowing what I know about this, the Iranians I think would be crazy --

O'REILLY: They are.

CLINTON: -- to ever launch a nuclear weapon because their whole society would disappear.

O'REILLY: But they wouldn't launch it. They would give it off to somebody.

CLINTON: What I think would happen is if you have all this fissile material and then you give it to a terrorist group and they have a series of suitcase bombs that could terrify and paralyze the world without creating a nuclear cloud over Jerusalem. It's really a deeply troubling thing.

O'REILLY: It is.

OK, final question. You and President Bush the elder have done a lot of humanitarian work. And then you and President Bush the younger rally people to give millions of dollars after the Haitian earthquake. I said on the air that you guys did a noble thing. I didn't believe that that money was going to be used for anything other than day-to-day services, but nothing was going to improve in Haiti. What I said was correct. If you go there now, it's just as bad now as it was before the earthquake -- poverty, corruption, chaos.

CLINTON: Wait, wait, wait.

O'REILLY: You are an expert on Haiti. You have a foundation in Haiti. I give a lot of money to Haiti, by the way, because I have been there and I feel so sorry for those children over there. There is something very wrong in Haiti. What is it?

CLINTON: For 200 years Haiti has been either abused and neglected by ITS neighbors and they've engaged in self-abused and self-neglect. But I have seen a change this last time that I was there and I have been working there. I go there every month.

O'REILLY: I know.

CLINTON: The money President Bush and I raised we have set up to invest in businesses. And we raised $20 million more dollars through colonel slim and a Canadian philanthropist to set up a loan fund because the banks down there don't lend money to small business.

And so we are seeing structural reforms. The last time I was there marked four months that the streets have been the cleanest they have been in the 35 years I have been going there. We have thousands of people moving out of the camps. We have tens of thousands more kids going to school. There's a new industrial park in the north that the United States spearheaded. A young American is going to set up a furniture factory there with 3,000 jobs. And the new prime minister of Haiti working for the president is a Haitian national who is a career employee, who is a doctor, and he's as good as gold. The president has one great attribute. He will make a decision.

O'REILLY: You are optimistic about it.

CLINTON: I'm more optimistic than I have ever been. It's now -- it's getting there.

O'REILLY: OK. Mr. President we appreciate you coming in. The book is "Back to Work." And I hope you come back. Merry Christmas, Mr. President.

CLINTON: Thank you.

O'REILLY: Pleasure to see you.

CLINTON: Merry Christmas, Bill.

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