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Hot Stories: Iran & Immigration

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JUAN WILLIAMS, NPR: And I'm Juan Williams in for Mort Kondracke and tonight we are THE BELTWAY BOYS.

BARNES: Juan, hot story numero uno is crossing the line which is exactly what Iran has done by enriching uranium which is a big step on the way to creating a nuclear weapon. And Iran has done it in way that is thumbing its nose at America and the West and all the rest of the world that does not want it to produce nuclear weapons.

Listen to the way President Ahmadinejad -- They have been belligerent about it. Listen to the way President Ahmadinejad announced this. "Today our situation has changed and we are a nuclear country and we are talking to others from that position. Our answer to those who are angry about Iran obtaining the full nuclear cycle is one phrase, we say, be angry and die of this anger." That was charming.

WILLIAMS: The guy is a charmer.

BARNES: That was two phrases, that wasn't just one phrase. That was the day he did the announcement. The next day, Mohamed ElBaradei, the guy who heads the International Atomic Energy Agency that regulates nuclear power around the world, came to visit Iran and said please do not do this and they gave him the bum's rush. Then on Friday, Ahmadinejad is out there again treating Israel as a pariah state that must die saying that Israel will be eliminated by one storm and the Palestinians will liberate Israel and so on.

Here is what I think the upshot of all this is: first, after this announcement, and it was a big festivity that they had, one it is going to be harder to back down under pressure at any time before getting a nuclear weapon. Secondly, the intelligence says supposedly that they really will not be able to create a nuclear weapon for five to ten years. We know the intelligence of Iraq and Iran and almost any place in the world has not been very good. We cannot rely on that intelligence. I think you probably agree with that.

And the other thing, the move toward sanctions, severe economic sanctions against Iraq (ph) is going do move ahead now a lot more quickly. Listen to Condoleezza Rice and she is right on target there.


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: When the Security Council reconvenes there will have to be some consequence for that action and that defiance. And we will look at the full range of options available to the Security Council. I am certain we will look at measures that could be taken to ensure that Iran knows they really have no choice but to comply.


WILLIAMS: Something that is important here is that you understand the domestic politics involved. Because what you see is a regime that is appealing to a sentiment by going around, staging this what looks like a high school play, they had that thing with the guys holding up the nuclear material and they have got a backdrop and it looked like it was staged. It was crazy.

I think this is trying to rally support for an administration, a regime, as I would call it, that is not popular at home. Iran is a rapidly modernizing society. People are moving away from the days of Ayatollah Khomeini, moving away from the mullahs, and then you have got Ahmadinejad standing there saying this is the way to appeal to religious sentiment, in fact to religious fanaticism, in my opinion, to keep things go.

There is a large estrangement and there are a lot of people in the United States who think the United States role should be to help foment some kind of revolt, a coup, if you will, against that government.

At the moment we have to keep that in mind even as we look towards military strategy. Let me say when it comes to the military option, Fred, the United States government has to take a large role. Donald Rumsfeld, President Bush, Condoleezza Rice, have to have the stick that goes with the carrot in this situation. You cannot wait for Israel to act. I don't think Israel has the capacity, of course, they don't even have the air rights necessary to do it and the whole question is, what is going to really be the consequence if you take military action.

Of course, I am talking, Fred, about conventional weapons, no one is talking about nuclear weapons, I hope. But if you talk conventional weapons, is it going to destabilize, is it World War III that we're talking about. Would there be retaliation against Israel by other Arab states? In other words, would there be some unintended consequences?

BARNES: There may be some. But your first point that you had hidden in there was I think an important one, that the diplomatic effort, if it is not backed by a clear military option that is there that the Iranians can see, it will not get anywhere. They have to know there is a plan B and the military plan and the truth is you're right, the Israelis could take out some of the nuclear facilities but there are 11 or 12 sites that you would have to hit and they really do not have the military wherewithal.

They took out the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981. That was one reactor. There's a lot more to hit in Iran. And you can do it. You can hit it. You don't need tactical nuclear weapons, that's for sure.

General Tom McInerney who is a Fox contributor has written a piece for the "Weekly Standard" this week outlining how feasible the military option would be. Sixty stealth aircraft and 500 cruise missiles and a lot of other aircraft. It would take a big force but it can be done. It can do the job.

And then there is one more thing we have to remember, I think, about these Iranian leaders, particularly Ahmadinejad and that is he is a religious fanatic.

WILLIAMS: I agree.

BARNES: And so his religion trumps worrying about the economy, for instance, even if we had sanctions. The economy in Iran has been bad for a while and there are lots of things Iranians could have done and they have not done them.

WILLIAMS: One last point for you, Fred. Will this spawn more terrorism against the United States? This is what I'm talking about. Let's think this through but I think we have to pay attention to the domestic and political needs of Ahmadinejad as well as we think about the global political strategies.

BARNES: They have terrorists they are tied to. We can't let them get nuclear weapons.

Coming up, there has been a big time shift in immigration debate in recent days. We will tell you what happened. Hot story number two, straight ahead.


WILLIAMS: Welcome back to THE BELTWAY BOYS. I'm Juan Williams in for Mort Kondracke.

This week's second hot story, Fred, border turn around. In the weeks since the Congress has gone on their Easter recess things have actually heated up, Fred. The action has gone, in a sense, to the streets with the large rallies and now they are going to the suites, if you will, over at the White House and on Capitol Hill.

BARNES: Streets to the suites.

WILLIAMS: Absolutely. A little rhyming for you because what you are seeing is pressure building now to get an immigration bill. There was a thought a week or so ago, that maybe nothing would lap, just too much paralysis but now I think there is pressure from rallies out around the country as well as from and the White House.

President Bush has been a key player over the last week. First he has privately been pushing Senate majority leader Bill Frist as well as House speaker Denny Hastert to get something done. To get away from all this kind of polarizing rhetoric, playing to the populist base, I think, the people who are at the right wing who say we can't have immigrants, we have to build a wall. Moving away from all this talk of big A amnesty is really allowing illegal behavior and allowing it to fester in the United States, and moving toward getting something done.

And so publicly, while he has been playing behind the scenes with Republicans, publicly he has been out front lashing Harry Reid, the minority leader of the Democrats in the Senate and saying that Harry Reid has been obstructing the ability to bring this bill to a vote in the Senate and that if Harry Reid gets out of the way he believes that the Republicans can bring a bill to fruition.

So let's take a listen to what Harry Reid and the president have been doing over the last week.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Unfortunately the compromise is blocked by the Senate Democratic minority leader. He refused to allow senators to move forward and vote for amendments to the bill. It was a procedural gimmick that meant he was single-handedly thwarting the will of the American people. And impeding bipartisan efforts to secure this border and make this immigration system of ours more humane and rational.

SEN. HARRY REID, (D) NV: It seems simple to blame me but remember the Republicans control the House, they control the Senate and the White House so his reaching out trying to find a scapegoat will not work because the facts belie what he is saying.


WILLIAMS: Unfortunately for Harry Reid, I have got to say this, Fred. I know you are going to delight in this, but unfortunately "The New York Times," "The Washington Post", and Ted Kennedy have all been on the side of saying we need, Democrats need to get out of the way and let the Republicans have the vote. The problem has been all these amendments.

You have people, Johnny Isakson, the Senate Republican from Georgia saying if we get amendments I have the votes to win it but most people think, and I must say that those amendments are not going to pass. So let them have the vote. And they will be defeated.

One last thing. This whole business in the House of Representatives where it was said if you are an illegal immigrant you will be charged with a felony has become absolutely an albatross around the neck of conservatives and the Republicans and then Republicans this week have gone on the air, Spanish speaking radio around the country to blame Democrats for that because the Democrats voted to keep it in after Republicans had put it down. But of course, what the Democrats were doing was voting not to criminalize illegal immigrants. So I think it's a little duplicitous by the Republicans.

BARNES: I can explain it better than you could. But anyway, I love that -- does Harry Reid know you have split with him now?

WILLIAMS: I guess so.

BARNES: He does now. Look. I never thought I'd say this, particularly to you, Juan, but I think you have been too kind to President Bush. I know he has been out there for a long time, for a comprehensive immigration reform bill and it has made many in the Republican base mad at him, they think he is too liberal, basically, on immigration.

But I think he needs to go one step further. The House bill which has become an albatross, he actually endorsed it when it passed the House. Enforcement only. But that is not what he is really for. We all know from his private conversations and speeches a couple years ago he is for the whole thing: enforcement at the border stepped up, a guest worker program and a way for illegal immigrants in the United States now to earn citizenship. It's the whole shebang.

And if you see this "Washington Post" poll, you'd see this is what the American people are for. That poll shows 63 percent favor a program that would lead to permanent citizenship for illegal immigrants. It is earned citizenship, you have to learn English and so on and only 20 percent want no temporary work program and criminalizing illegals. Americans are a very welcoming people and that shows it.

One more thing, and the truth is, there are still some Democrats, and I think Harry Reid is one of them, Chuck Schumer is one of them, there are others who would rather have no bill because they think they can hurt Republicans that way and blame them for not succeeding in immigration reform and tag them with that House measure.

WILLIAMS: This is interesting because I think the politics have been the kind of politics that appeal to Tom Tancredo, that appeal to some like John Cornyn, the senator from Texas or Jon Kyl from Arizona, has been to speak to the people at the fringe of the Republican right, the Minutemen, the people who say we have got to build a wall, keep these people out, punish them.

So I think the politics are interesting because the president's politics are more forward looking about the emerging Hispanic vote in this country and staying in touch with them and trying to get them over into the Republican Party.

BARNES: I agree with you on that one. On the other hand, I think people, particularly John Kyl and Jon Cornyn are people who are operating from sincere conviction. And I think that's true of Tom Tancredo as well. I don't agree with them on this totally, certainly not Tancredo but these are not evil people. They are doing what they think is right. And a lot of Americans agree with them but as we know now from this poll and other things, not a majority.

WILLIAMS: Does Tancredo know you split with him on this? I'll call him because I want to be (inaudible).

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