Secretary of State Kerry meets with Iranian foreign minister

Former U.S. Ambassador to UN Andrew Young speaks out


This is a rush transcript from "Your World," September 26, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: All right, you're looking live outside the United Nations, where inside, Secretary of State John Kerry, leaders from five other countries are having a powwow with Iran's foreign minister over the country's nuclear program.

This type of high-level back-and-forth is very unusual. We haven't seen anything like this approaching the magnitude of this level since 1979, the revolution in Iran. That's when Jimmy Carter of course was in office, and a time Andrew Young remembers all too well. Our former U.N. ambassador, always good to have you, Ambassador.

What do you make of this?


CAVUTO: I do want to get into your history here, but -- but this meeting.

YOUNG: No, this meeting, I think, is very good.

In fact, it's most important for us to talk to our enemies. And I have always advocated that. And it's always worked for us. You don't really understand what people are really after unless you give them a chance to say to you what it is they're concerned about.

I have always felt that we have neglected Iran. We have got a lot of very smart, creative American-Iranian citizens. And I have said to them, one of the reasons why we were successful in Southern Africa is, we knew the black leaders that could be trusted. And so we were able to carve out a little influence in foreign policy that made it possible for us to get by without wars in Southern Africa.

I think the American-Iranian community ought to have the same kind of interaction with the Iranians in Iran. Iran is a complicated place. And we have never quite understood it well, but we're going to have to live with them.

I read a little book called "The Revenge of Geography," and their -- their suggestion was that, given the location of Iran strategically, it's going to always be a very influential player in that region. And we're going to have to find a way to...


CAVUTO: Well, but we have to be -- but we have to be consistent, right, sir? And the rap against...

YOUNG: No, we don't have to be...

CAVUTO: Well, but the rap against the Carter administration, I'm sure you're aware, was that it sort of turned its back on the shah, and then all of a sudden embraced the ayatollah.

YOUNG: No. We...

CAVUTO: Now, I'm not saying that -- I'm just saying, who do we trust now?


CAVUTO: Can we trust these guys?

YOUNG: No, you -- no. I don't know. You can't trust anybody.

That's the reason you talk to them. And one of the first meetings I went to in the Carter White House was to say to the National Security Council, we need to engage the middle class in Iran, because the shah is not as stable as we think he is.

The CIA was looking at the Communist Party, which was nothing in Iran. There was always a ferment in the middle class because they were locked out of decision-making. Now, the only reason I knew that was that I'm a preacher, and most of my friends ended up as missionaries, so that I would get better intelligence from missionaries who were living and teaching in a place than they could pay for or get through intercepts. And so...


CAVUTO: Well, as a missionary, then, as a trained missionary, do -- do you trust this new government? Do you trust this new president when -- you know, when he expresses regret about the Holocaust and all?

YOUNG: No, you don't trust him.

CAVUTO: Because, as you know, Bibi Netanyahu...

YOUNG: No, no. You do...

CAVUTO: Hear me out, sir.


CAVUTO: Bibi Netanyahu has said, this is a trap. These guys are setting a trap. What do you say?


I say, look, we're wise -- our eyes are wide open. We can only learn more by engaging them. I think any sensible foreign policy learns as much about its enemies and adversaries as possible.

CAVUTO: So, when I hear the words, conciliatory words or more moderate language out of -- out of this -- this -- this new president, what -- what makes me not think that is just to drop sanctions, say and do anything they can to get the sanctions removed, and then resort, as we saw in North Korea and in other cases with despots, back to their -- their bad behavior?

YOUNG: Well, no, we have -- we have never -- no, we have never really talked to North Korea.

Billy Graham talked to North Korea. Jimmy Carter talked to North Korea, but we have never had a -- every place we have trouble, we have trouble because we don't talk to people. If we talked to Iran, we will be better off than if we ignore them. And I just think -- and I'm not saying you trust them.

CAVUTO: Right.

YOUNG: But I'm saying that you keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

CAVUTO: So, there are other Republicans, I'm sure you're aware, Ambassador, saying, well, before this president, our president meets with their president, there should already be some preconditions for that chat, or some -- you know, you don't go into that looking like you're a weakling.

What do you say to that?

YOUNG: I say that -- well, I can't say it on television.


CAVUTO: Enough said.

YOUNG: I say that one of the thing about Jimmy Carter, Jimmy Carter would sit down with the devil if he thought he could move him an inch.

And when Jimmy Carter got Begin and Sadat at Camp David, nobody thought that that was possible. Everybody in the State Department said, this man is crazy, he shouldn't do this, it's a weak presidency. But Israel and Egypt had 40 years of peace, where no Israeli killed any Egyptians and no Egyptian killed any Israeli.

Now, I say running the risk of his reputation and having ignorant people think of that as weakness is -- we need a little more of that in the world.

CAVUTO: So, when the Israelis respond by saying, we feel abandoned under this administration, the Obama administration, we feel they're siding and talking to guys who wish us ill...

YOUNG: Oh, come on.

CAVUTO: ... what do -- what do you say?

YOUNG: I say that that's nonsense.

Israel has always been our closest ally. They will be our closest ally. Before I went to the U.N., I was taking with Martin Luther King -- we were planning a tour group of 5,000 black American Christians to go to the Holy Land, because we thought tourism was one of the things that could promote peace in the area.

We're not going to abandon Israel or any of our friends. But that doesn't mean we should turn a blind eye to our enemies. We never stopped talking to the Russians. We never stopped talking -- well, we stopped talking to the Chinese, until Kissinger started, and then he got us out of Vietnam. Talking never hurts, especially if you do it out in the open and in public.

CAVUTO: Yes, I remember your first meeting...

YOUNG: The secret negotiations...

CAVUTO: I remember your first meeting with the PLO, and you got a hell of fire for just chatting, right?

YOUNG: Who was that?


YOUNG: No, you know, I never met with Arafat.

I met with Zehdi Terzi, who was the Palestinian representative at the U.N., who happened to be a tenured professor at Columbia University and a Christian.

CAVUTO: But it set the stage for Arafat, right?

YOUNG: But we were...

CAVUTO: In retrospect, it seems silly now, but it did set -- it did set a good stage.

YOUNG: You know, it -- it -- well, it -- what we were trying to do was, this was the last generation of American-educated Palestinians...

CAVUTO: Gotcha.

YOUNG: ... people who grew up at the American University in Beirut, the Friends School in Ramallah.

And my classmates from seminary taught most of them. So, they told me who I could trust and who was crooked.


CAVUTO: All right.

YOUNG: And it was simply opening up a dialogue.

CAVUTO: No, I remember. I remember it well, Ambassador.

YOUNG: But I -- I...

CAVUTO: I wish we had more time, sir.

Go ahead. Finish that thought.

YOUNG: Yes. No, I was saying that I got cussed out by the Russian ambassador's wife...


YOUNG: ... because I had -- I had Paul Newman coming to lunch and didn't invite her.


CAVUTO: Oh, man. Well...

YOUNG: And she called me up and she said...

CAVUTO: Far worse -- that is a far worse slight.




CAVUTO: Ambassador, thank you very much. Very good having you.


CAVUTO: Andrew Young.

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