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Special Report

Pressure Is on Iraq to Form Stable Government;Curbing Iran's Nuclear Ambition

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," July 5, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I remain as I have from the beginning extremely optimistic about a government being formed here that will be representative, represent all of major parties, as well as -- what that will be I can't tell you, but I'm just optimistic about it based on all the conversations going forward.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: There are still problems, but the success is remarkable. But we didn't say we were leaving until we had succeeded. I'm all for dates for withdrawal, but that's after the strategy succeeds, not before. That's a dramatic difference.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: There you see Vice President Biden in Baghdad, a trip there, as the senator you just saw, Senator McCain, also Senator Graham and Senator Lieberman traveled to Iraq and then to Afghanistan to assess the situation.

This all comes in Iraq as there will be a change August 31st. The U.S. role will decrease, plans to draw-down 50,000 troops and shift from combat to more a political and diplomatic engagement there.

To talk about Iraq and Afghanistan, let's bring in our panel, Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard, Juan Williams, news analyst for National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Steve, first to Iraq.

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, the thing that struck me most was Biden in his comments, I believe today, said security in Iraq has no relationship to whether there is actually a permanent government formed, which I think is a rather striking thing to say.

If you look back at what the administration officials were briefing before Biden left on the trip to Iraq, they basically said he is going there to listen. We're not going to be telling or nudging the Iraqis to form a government.

And that person also said, a senior administration official also said these are separate issues, security on the one hand, governance on the other hand. There is only so long you can make the case. And given the stakes in Iraq, I think we need to be moving quickly to get the Iraqis to form a government, because whatever stability there is now, the longer like you don't have a serious, stabile, long-term government, the less likely it is that stability will remain.

BAIER: Juan, he is very optimistic. He said at the end of August the combat mission will be over and people will look at President Obama's handling of the Iraq policy as a success.

JUAN WILLIAMS, NEWS ANALYST, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: He also credited George Bush.

BAIER: He mentioned George Bush.

WILLIAMS: He did. He did. So it was a bipartisan effort. I think everyone wants to feel good.

But I think I'm the skunk at the garden party here, because I'm not feeling good. I think the failure to form government has bedeviled Iraq under loss of leadership. And now you have the vice president there trying to play nice and saying to Allawi, the former prime minister, as well as to Maliki, hey, guys even the people who signed the Declaration of Independence didn't like each other, but they formed a government. Let's get it done. And you hear from John McCain we have to wait until things are stable. What does it mean for American soldiers on the ground? I don't get it. I think we have to be very clear with them, it's time for Iraqis to take control.

BAIER: But he said, McCain said he's all for dates of withdrawal when there is success on the ground, and he said there is success on the ground security-wise now in Iraq.

WILLIAMS: Well, obviously, we have had some violence in recent days, Bret. So we know that it's still not the safest place. And Vice President Biden, for all the roses and hosannas, didn't leave the green zone. That's another indicate this is not the safest neighborhood.

BAIER: And there were rockets fired during his visit.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Which is why his optimist is a little hard to credit. There are ongoing security problems. We are leaving, which weakens our hand when we try to involve ourselves in the negotiations. Remember, Obama handed over the job of working out Iraq to his vice president, and that in and of itself is a lowering of the priority. In the Bush years it was the president's job. Biden went over there, and according to a Maliki spokesman and an Allawi spokesman, he made no suggestions on how this ought to work. We know our objective to get a coalition, and Allawi got the most votes, Maliki is in charge of the government now. That will be a grand coalition that will serve us well. But that hasn't happened now, and it will soon be half a year. And Biden himself says he hopes these negotiations will be done by the end summer. We're two weeks into summer, that’s three months away, and we're going to be leaving, and that is not a good recipe at all.

BAIER: He mentioned the Dutch saying it took them four months to form a government in a stable country. He said this needs to be given time.

KRAUTHAMMER: Holland had its civil war a few centuries ago. That's a big difference.

BAIER: Let's talk about Afghanistan, and the Democrats and their stand in Congress for setting a withdrawal timeline for Afghanistan. The president is putting in Petraeus, General David Petraeus, who will come back with his own assessment. What about that back and forth, the White House and Congress on this?

HAYES: I think President Obama should get credit for standing up to the peacenik part of his party and pushing forward with what he said consistently since 2002, we need to succeed in Afghanistan.

Where he hasn't done as well for the public case for the war, which I think has been is lacking. He needs to be making the argument and making it regularly and making it consistently and making it forcefully explaining to the Democratic base why he is doing what he's doing. We have not had that from him.

BAIER: Juan?

WILLIAMS: You know, you could say he should be out there. He sent the 30,000 troops especially that Republicans wanted him to send. It's just becoming a more difficult situation.

What you see is the votes that took place on the House floor last week where we had – the vote for immediate withdrawal defeated, but you had votes there with Pelosi supporting them, saying you know what, the situation there is not good and we can't have an indefinite assignment, and wanting the troops and for the White House to be aggressive about holding to that deadline.

BAIER: And the funding for the war in Afghanistan got through, in large part, many say, because there were other additional monies put into that supplemental to try and get people's vote.

KRAUTHAMMER: But Obama is the president. This is his war, his policy.

WILLIAMS: His war? Don't do Michael Steele's thing.

KRAUTHAMMER: I meant it's his war in relationship to the Democrats in Congress. He should have control of the Democrats. He already has Republican support. Of course it's a national war, but I'm saying he shouldn't concede to the left of the party a weak policy on Afghanistan if he commits the troops which he did. You can't have a half-hearted policy.

It's his war in the sense that his party has taken it upon himself to continue with and to succeed in it. And thus the reason he issued a deadline is a way to appease his left. That sends a message of half-heartedness. It sends a message of indecision. He talked to the G-20 about the obsession people have with his withdrawal date. He is the one who made it and he’s the one that set it. It tells people in the region that he is sounding an uncertain trumpet.

BAIER: Quickly, you mentioned Michael Steele and his comments that got a lot of attention. It is a holiday weekend. Does he survive this, the Republican National Committee Chairman?

KRAUTHAMMER: I hope not. I think he will, he will hang on, but if he wants to help the party he should resign.

WILLIAMS: Michael Steele will survive this, but he is weakened. His line of defense is how much money he raised and the fact that his candidates have done pretty well so far. But I think he does reflect that disquiet that is public about exactly what is going on there.

HAYES: Several senators in addition to the criticism from Friday harshly criticized him for what he said. He should resign. I don't think he will.

BAIER: Visit our homepage at FoxNews.com/specialreport. Read how the White House is preparing for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit on Tuesday. We will discuss all of that and Iran next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: There is only one signatory to the NPT, only one, that has been unable to convince the International Atomic Energy Agency that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, one nation. That nation is Iran.

The government of Iran still has a choice. The door to diplomacy remains open. Iran can prove that the intentions are peaceful. It can meet the obligations under the NPT and achieve the security and prosperity worthy of a great nation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: President Obama speaking Thursday when he signed new sanctions. The NPT is the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which Iran has not signed on to.

This will be a topic when President Obama meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House. He arrives tomorrow. It will be on camera, at least in parts, for a spray, what they call it, a pool spray, unlike his last visit here to the White House.

We're back with the panel. Steve, what about this visit, the importance, and what could come out of it?

HAYES: I think it's a significant visit when you have both sides playing up the niceties, the fact they are looking to repair relations.

I think the difficulty is, again for both sides, there is so much, there are so many substantive disagreements and so much substantive baggage, largely, the way the Obama administration handled one of our long-time allies, that it will be hard to overcome that, and particularly on the question of Iran.

You have basically the Obama administration in its second stage. The first stage was to try to change Iranian behavior by being nice, by engaging. Now they say we’re going to pass sanctions, we'll be tougher and rally the world community and see if we can change the behavior that way.

The really interesting thing is the CIA Director Leon Panetta a couple weekends ago was asked whether the sanctions would in fact change the Iranian behavior, which is really the key to the administration policy at this point. And he said probably not. So, I think that is going to be the topic one of the discussion.

BAIER: Juan?

WILLIAMS: I think everybody in terms of world leadership and intelligence community, not only here but overseas, thinks already it's a done deal, that Iran will get nuclear weapons. So the question is how do you deter them and how do you limit them? And that is a very tricky issue nobody wants to talk about publicly at this time.

BAIER: I don't think Israel has gotten to that point where they are conceding nuclear weapons to Iran.

WILLIAMS: No, I think Israel -- Israel's position is clearly that they do not want them to have them. And they are reserving the right for, I suppose, a military strike. Again, nobody talks in the terms publicly. That's just not the way you do it.

So we're still at the point of the U.N. sanctions passed, and President Obama saying there will be additional effort by the U.S. to isolate Iran.

And here we are talk about things like gasoline, jet fuel, but also the banking system, to limit their ability not only to do anything internationally, but to make life more difficult for them as a civil society so that Iranian citizens will put pressure on the Iranian leadership.

KRAUTHAMMER: Everybody knows the sanctions aren't going to work. Everybody knows the U.S. has shot all the arrows out of its quiver. Nobody believes this will deter the Iranian regime. It will get nukes.

But here's where the real issue is between Israel and the United States, which hasn't gotten a lot of press. If you believe Iran will go nuclear, you say, OK, we'll live with deterrence. But deterrence depends on having a deterrent. We had a deterrent in the cold war and that stopped the Soviet Union.

The United States a few weeks ago signed on to a resolution which singled out Israel for the possession of nuclear weapons. It didn't even have a mention of Iran, the first time our American administration had done that. The Bush administration did not sign on to that because it knows if Iran is going to go nuclear, its only protection if you want never again, its only protection is to have its own nukes.

And here is this administration surprising Israel by signing on to a resolution which is condemning its possession of nukes. Think of how that undermines Israeli security.

BAIER: We'll have more on this tomorrow.

I want to ask you quickly, Charles, about the NASA administrator Charles Bolden, who said this about the president giving him direction -- three things, "One was he wanted me to help me re-inspire children to want to get into science and math, he wanted me to expand our international relationships. And third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about the historic contribution to science and math and engineering."

KRAUTHAMMER: This is a new height in fatuousness. NASA was established to get America into space and to keep us there. This idea of to feel good about their past scientific achievement is the worst combination of group therapy psycho-babble, imperial condescension, and adolescent diplomacy.

If I didn't know that Obama had told us I'd demand the firing of Bolden the way I would Michael Steele. This is absolutely unbelievable.

BAIER: We have more on this tomorrow as well.

That's it for the panel.