All-Star Panel: Good idea for Obama to meet with Iran's new leader?

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," September 23, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (via translator): The Iranian nation seeks peace in this region, but unfortunately some agents in recent years have misrepresented Iran to the world. During this trip I and the delegation accompanying me will use opportunities to introduce the real face of the Iranian nation to the world as a nation that loves culture and peace.


JOHN ROBERTS, ANCHOR: Iranian president - the new Iranian President Hasan Rowhani just before his visit to the United Nations where it's possible he may have a brief meeting with President Obama. Brit, good idea, bad idea for the two of them to meet?

BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, people underestimate even now the prestige associated with sitting down with the President of the United States, particularly after all these years and all this history with Iran going back to 1979. And, you know, these sanctions are hurting. And Iran's life as an outcast nation has been very unpleasant for the people there. Clearly that's what Rowhani's mission is to try to get some softening of the sentiment in the West to get the sanctions lifted. And if President Obama were to grant him based upon all the atmospherics and no substances that have come from him so far I think it would be a mistake. A visit with the President of the United States is a meaningful thing and should not be given lightly.

ROBERTS: Is there a danger, A.B., that if they meet, then the president might get played in the same way the Clinton administration got played by North Korea back in the 1990's?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: Right, that is the problem. He's under tremendous pressure from the Israelis. Prime Minister Netanyahu is worried about what kind of a trap the Iranians are laying, that Rowhani is really talking a great game and acting like he really wants to open up his society, but it really is still Ali Khomeini, the supreme leader, who makes all the decisions and it's not Rowhani.

And so I think, with Syria as a backdrop, if President Obama doesn't have a guarantee of enforcement and is he getting the Security Council can't pull it together and can't actually back up his -- our deal that the Russians arranged on Syria after the debacle that was President Obama's Syrian response, how can he go into a meeting with the president of Iran when he hasn't even found a way to make -- to punish the Syrians if they don't disarm? So I think he would be criticized for giving that meeting if he hasn't already figured out the Syrian mess.

ROBERTS: Charles, this guy is a decades-long insider. But can things really change that much just with the change of a president? Ahmadinejad was not on this page.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Exactly. Look, I think the decisions are made at the top and he is not the top. He has made it very clear he wants better relations. Of course, Iran does. It's under sanctions. There have been 10 Security Council resolutions against Iran and the sanctions are hurting.

But there wasn't a word in that lovey-dovey op-ed he wrote in the Post that suggested any change whatsoever on nuclear -- on the nuclear pursuit. And the idea that he actually said openly, we have never sought and we are not seeking now nuclear weapons is a bold face lie that everyone knows. He says we are a country, what did he say, that loves culture and peace. This is a country that has an official holiday, Death to America day. Well, that's a lot of culture and peace.

How many -- how naive do you have to be not to understand that this is a country within sight of a nuclear weapon? It's a few months away. It wants to hold out, hang in there, develop that, get to the threshold. And it's not about sanctions. It's about becoming a nuclear power and there is zero indication that it has changed in anyway on that policy.

ROBERTS: Tucker is it worse to talk or not talk?

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: Well, you can certainly talk without handing a propaganda victory to your enemies. And in fact there are conversations that take place between United States and Iran. A number of players have been sent by the Obama administration to Iran. That is now public.

And I would say, by the way, it's not just Israel that doesn't want this to happen. It's also the Saudis, the Gulf states. I mean there are a lot of people who are worried about -- in the region -- about the expansion of Iran and I think they understand this would be a bad thing. I don't see a constituency for it. This is something the president floated, of course, in his first campaign in '08 and his debates with Hillary Clinton. But like closing Gitmo, it's an idea that has, I think, sunk beneath the waves in the face of the reality, which is it is silly.

KRAUTHAMMER: Can I make one point? The idea, I don't think there is a choice between talking and not talking. It isn't as if we haven't been talking.


ROBERTS: We haven't been talking at the presidential level though. And that changes everything.

KRAUTHAMMER: But we have been in negotiations for almost a decade.  We have had all kinds of talks, and all kinds of venues, and all kinds of arrangements and there has not been an inch of movement on the other side. I would say what the president said -- you want to meet with the President of the United States, show me action and not words. Stop enrichment and then we'll talk.

ROBERTS: Brit, if you were a betting man, and I know you are on occasion, would you say this meeting happens or doesn't happen?

HUME: Well, I hope it doesn't happen. I fear it might in some hallway encounter that, of course, would have to be previously arranged that would amount to a brief handshake. It probably wouldn't amount to much. It wouldn't make a great deal of difference. But all we are getting from this guy so far is the fact that he is not his predecessor, who was such an unattractive thug that this guy looks like Uncle Hasan. And, maybe -- I don't think that's worth a handshake but he may get it.

ROBERTS: Ultimately, the same people are pulling the strings. I asked Charles -- how can things be so different when you just change the guy whose strings you pull?


HUME: It can't.

STODDARD: Oh easily, because it's a PR mission and it's a way of buying themselves more time. And it's actually really smart.

ROBERTS: Panel, thanks so much for joining us today. We really appreciate it. Coming up after the break, a homecoming worthy of celebration. Stay with us.

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