Iran prisoner swap: Winners and losers

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," January 18, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Under the nuclear deal that we, our allies and partners, reached with Iran last year, Iran will not get its hands on a nuclear bomb. The region, the United States, and the world will be more secure.

FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY BOB GATES: What we've required in order to get the lifting of the sanctions, $50 billion to $100 billion, is a lot of cash. And you can argue about how much of it is going to go for the Iranian economy and how much of it is going to fuel terrorism and interference elsewhere in the region, but the notion that it's all going to go to economy I think is unrealistic and naive.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Former Defense Secretary Bob Gates, and there you saw the president over the weekend, as this Iran nuclear deal goes into effect. Just some bullet points from this. The U.N. oversight and continuous IAEA monitoring of Iran's nuclear program including a reactor decommissioning, the Iran deal ensures that, and it reduces Tehran's uranium enrichment for 10 years according to the deal.

It also means the regime gets access, as you heard, to billions in oil revenue and frozen assets, somewhere between $50 billion to $100 billion, and it gives Iran the ability to buy arms and related components if approved by the U.S. Security Council.

Five Americans are released. It's a dual track negotiation. Most of them back with their families as of tonight, and that is a big deal for those families, obviously. Opponents saying it opens up another problem for this administration.

Let's bring in our panel, Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard, Charles Lane, opinion writer for The Washington Post and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I was amazed by the way the administration managed with the prisoner release to do as it did in the Cuban deal to direct attention away from absolutely disastrous transactions with the Iranians is in the deal so that all of the attention is on the swap.

I didn't have a lot of problems with the swap. There are a lot of details that could have been different, but ultimately it makes no difference if ours were hostages and other guys had been tried if court -- Sharansky was exchanged for two Soviet spies and Sharansky was entirely innocent as well.
To me it was a non-issue.

The real issue is, and all the attention was directed away, is that we have just concluded a deal that we are celebrating in which we have given all of our leverage away at the beginning with the cash, with the lifting of sanctions. We have a risible inspection regime. And there is no chance whatsoever of there being a re-imposition of sanctions.

The Iranians are talking about a five percent growth in their economy.
It's been shrinking under the sanctions. And the minister of transport just announced that the purchase 114 airbuses from Europe, a perfect example of how they are now locking in all kind of deals with the Europeans as a way it ensure that there will never be a re-imposition of sanctions.
We gave everything away and we have guaranteed that Iran will acquire a nuke in about a decade.

BAIER: Which is why we are maybe not hearing from any of the other European allies on the negative side of the coin.

KRAUTHAMMER: We're not going to hear from them again on this.

BAIER: We will hear from Republican candidates. And we did hear from some of them today. Take a listen.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think this president lives in a fantasy land. He lives in the world as he wishes it was. I live in the world the way it is. We need to take aggressive action against a country that has disrespect, and all the president does is send them hostages and send them more money --

SEN. TED CRUZ, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This deal is a really problematic deal. And it reflects a pattern we've seen in the Obama administration over and over again of negotiating with terrorists and making deals and trades that endanger U.S. safety and security.

SEN. RAND PAUL, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think when something good happens we ought to celebrate it.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's put a price on the head of every American abroad. Our enemies now know that if you can capture American you can get something meaningful in exchange for it.


BAIER: Chuck?

CHARLES LANE, THE WASHINGTON POST: The one quote you didn't run was Donald Trump who went after this deal also at Liberty University in some detail. And what struck me about Trump's attack though, was interesting. Unlike these other candidates you just quoted who seem to be against the idea of doing a deal at all, Trump struck a different note, which was sort of like the way they went about it was stupid. He criticized their squandering of the leverage here and they gave them all the money up front there, made it sound like he would have been a much smarter negotiator.

But he seemed to accept the idea that there should have been an approach to Iran through negotiation, which I thought it interesting. It kind of in a complicated way put him in the same position of Rand Paul who has always been more sympathetic to this diplomatic opening with Iran. And I'm going to be looking carefully to see if any of the other candidates tried to push Trump on that point, because he has not come out to this point and said we never should have done this deal in the first place, which is the position that these other guys are taking.

BAIER: Back to substance of the deal and the trade.

STEVE HAYES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yes. I think it's a bad deal. If you look at the coverage of the deal in the region, Reuters Iran ran headline that said "Iran moves from Pariah state to regional power." And I don't think there's a better summary of exactly what happened here than that headline.

A lot of I think the details of this are being lost, as Charles said, in the discussions about the prisoner swap. And what the United States just did on top of the nuclear deal was stroke a check to Iran for an additional
$1.7 billion, to a state that we still designate as the leading state sponsor of terror in the world, that the U.S. Treasury Department has designated for having a secret agreement with Al Qaeda. We are providing these funds to terrorists in effect. It's a terrorist state. We should have no illusions they will use this to rebuild their transportation infrastructure.

The Obama administration describes this, John Kerry in interviews yesterday and today, describes this as if the money is not fungible, as if Iran is going to turn everything toward rebuilding its economy. It's a dangerous illusion, and I think we will be paying for it for years to come.

BAIER: But Charles, there is a lot of confidence coming from this administration when you talk about this deal. Here is the president Sunday about the stockpile.


OBAMA: Before the deal Iran was steadily increasing its stockpile of enriched uranium, enough for up to 10 nuclear bombs. Today more than 98 percent of that stockpile has been shipped out of Iran, meaning Iran now doesn't have enough material for even one bomb.


BAIER: That sounds pretty good.

KRAUTHAMMER: It sounds pretty good, but it is misleading. Number one, we allowed the Iranians to self-inspect. We have no idea if that was 98 percent because we don't have a baseline. The IAEA was supposed to establish a baseline. It wasn't allowed to.

And second of all, it's been given the right to enrich. The entire negotiation had been premised on the idea we're going to lift sanctions if it stops enriching uranium. It retained the right, which means it's going to does it in the future.

In the end, I think Steve is right. What happened yesterday is that with the stroke of a pen Iran went from a pariah state, unable to trade oil, to use the international system to trade oil, to a state that is now a normal state, a member in good standing of the international community long before any of this starts. It is asserted to be a normal state as of yesterday, and we have no way of exerting any pressure on it. And this administration has shown with the seizing of the sailors that it will do nothing to jeopardize this deal in the future in calling out Iran if it cheats. It's guaranteed to be cheated on.

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