All-Star Panel: Trying to break the ice with Iran

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," September 19, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There have been a lot of interesting things said out of Teheran and the new government, and encouraging things. But actions are more important than words.


CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR: New Iranian President Rouhani and White House Spokesman Jay Carney signaling at least the possibility of a lessening of tensions between the two countries. We're back now with the panel. Well, the Iranians have been on something of a charm offensive the last couple of weeks, sending Rosh Hashanah greetings to Israel via Twitter, releasing some political prisoners, something more serious, and now a series of statements by Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, and even the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. Rich, how seriously do you take all this?

RICH LOWRY, NATIONAL REVIEW: Well, he's a major PR upgrade over Ahmadinejad because he speaks like a reasonable person. But he's a Khomeini loyalist going way back. There's no reason to believe that he's not a faithful son of his regime or he wouldn't be in the position that he is now. And I would take this to be a play to kind of string us along, perhaps, to ease the sanctions, perhaps, and also perhaps because our red lines are now obliterated, to get into negotiations that would forestall an attack by Israel, a country whose red line still means something in the world.

WALLACE: Now, this gets interesting, because President Obama and President Rouhani are both going to be in New York next week. they're both speaking to the U.N. General Assembly, in fact, next Tuesday, and the question, Mara, is should President Obama agree, if President Rouhani suggested through some intermediary to sit down and talk for a few minutes?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, you know, the first reaction is, well, there's no harm in talking. But I think they'd have to know that it's really worth it, because the only reason that the Iranians are really wanting to do this is because the sanctions are really hurting. It tells me that sanctions need to stay on and be stiffened. It is really working. This has been the most serious, intense set of sanctions that the international community has ever tried. So I think that if President Obama sits down with the Iranians and looks like he's being played, that's pretty bad.

WALLACE: You know, it's interesting talking about sanctions. Iranian oil sales are less than half what they were two years ago and the value of the Iranian currency is less than half what it was. So these sanctions really have begun to hurt the economy, to hurt the average Iranian on the street, which is one of the reasons Rouhani got elected in the first place.  What's the problem with sitting down and talking?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Because they are just stringing us along. I mean any negotiation that starts with a lie as large as the one you just heard -- Rouhani saying we are not seeking a bomb and we never have, doesn't have good prospects. It is, of course, obvious that Iran is seeking the bomb.  And here's a fact that underlines all the speculation. The IAEA reported in August that Iran has 186 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium. You need 250 to make a bomb. They are on the horizon. They are within reach. This is a goal Iran has had for decades. It will give it the dominance in the region over the Gulf Arabs, over everybody that the Persians have sought for about 2,000 years.

They have shown not an iota of response in the nuclear arena to any sanctions. Yes, it's hurt them economically. But our director of DNI has said in Congress, there hasn't been any stoppage, any change in the nuclear pursuit.

And the last part I think is this -- the Iranians can see they are near the finish line. What they're worried about now is not economic sanctions, which they have sustained and suffered for a few years. What they are worried about is an Israeli strike at the last minute. They have doubled the number of machines spinning uranium. They have been discovered to have a second program of plutonium. Any country that isn't seeking the bomb is not going to have a plutonium program parallel. They are within the horizon of reaching it. They have maybe half a year, a year to get there. They can forestall the Americans, engage in negotiations, the Israelis cannot strike, and they go nuclear.

WALLACE: So, would you say -- we've got less than two minutes left -- would you say just ignore them, don't even test them, don't even say well if you're really serious about this, President Rouhani, then do this?

KRAUTHAMMER: But your assumption is that if we haven't negotiated or tested, or proposed or made offers, we've been doing that for six years.

WALLACE: I understand that. But this is a new guy and a new foreign minister, Javad Zarif.

KRAUTHAMMER: Right. But he doesn't determine how the nukes are handled. That's all in the hands of Khamenei who is a constant. He's been in power the whole time. Rouhani is a front man. He is not going to be the one who decides. You want to test him? Give him a proposal, and give him two weeks to respond. And then you say, you draw a red line. But who's going to believe a red line Obama's going to draw?


LOWRY: Rouhani is actually on the record on the Iranian strategy on this because he is the chief negotiator for some time, and he said what we did was brilliant. We talked and we talked and we strung them along and the entire time we were going through those negotiations our program was progressing. And if you just look at U.S. policy, the incentive is for them to get a nuke, because North Koreas has a nuke, that regime survived. Iraq didn't, and it didn't survive. So if you don't have a nuclear weapon you're naked unto the world is the lesson they'll take away from it.

WALLACE: Are you, in 10 seconds, as pessimistic as these two guys?

LIASSON: Yes. I'm as pessimistic as these two guys. He needs to say something like Syria, within one week show us what you got and give it up, then we can go forward.

WALLACE: That's it for the panel, but stay tuned to see an unforgettable sports highlight, well, really more of a low light. 

Content and Programming Copyright 2013 Fox News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2013 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.