Panel on Obama and Afghanistan

Panel on Obama and Afghanistan

By Special Report With Bret Baier - September 30, 2009


SAEED JALILI, CHIEF IRANIAN NUCLEAR NEGOTIATOR (via translator): We are entering talks with goodwill and with having a positive strategic and longstanding view, and it depends on the kind of interaction and approach which will be taken regarding our view. We hope that our view will be considered an opportunity for cooperation.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is not talk for talk's sake. There is a specific agenda and specific problems that need to be dealt with. And if they're not dealt with responsibly by the Iranians, that stronger measures will be developed and implemented to ensure that they do.


BRET BAIER, HOST: U.S. officials headed to Geneva for talks with the Iranians among other nations, the P5 plus one sitting down with Iranian leaders to talk about their nuclear program. The Iranians are already saying that they see this as a test of international respect for their country.

What about this? Let's bring in our panel, Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer -- Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, the farce continues. The Obama administration has been in office for eight months. It offered the outstretched hand, and it implied there was a deadline in mid-September for Iran to show its seriousness.

What we got in mid-September was a five-page piece of gibberish on which the Iranians said they want to talk about saving the planet, et cetera, and not a word about the nuclear issue. They have declared the nuclear issue closed. Then last week, Obama announces the discovery of this facility in Qom, a secret enrichment site, which is obviously illegal and obviously overwhelming evidence of their desire to achieve a nuclear weapon, and he says they will be held accountable. The Iranians immediately announce we're not going to discuss this new site. Robert Gibbs says, well, if they don't bring it up, we will. Well, that will be a really interesting dialogue to look into.

What we're getting is the Iranians stalling. And the reason this is not harmless, even though it is sort of a farcical dance, is because with every week that passes, and now over eight months, Iran is approaching the day in which it goes nuclear. And time is short. Everyone knows the clock is ticking. And Obama said today unless they show seriousness by the end of the year, we will then impose sanctions, which means nothing will happen into next year, which means it drags on forever.

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: I mean, this really is a moment of truth for Obama. This is two moments of truth, this and Afghanistan.

And what the Iranians I bet you are going to do at these meetings is give -- do just enough, hint just enough that they are accommodating to give the Russians and the Chinese an excuse to not impose sanctions of any kind.

So what Obama is going to have to do if he really means to stop nuclear proliferation, and that's what this is all about -- because if the Iranians get nukes, the Saudis will get nukes, and the Iranians may give nukes to god knows who.

So if Obama is really serious about this, what he has got to do is get the French and British together and stop their gasoline from going in and try to topple this government because of social pressure. And that may require a naval, quote-unquote, "quarantine" in order to do it.

Now, that will be a real step for Obama, and I doubt that he's got the guts to do it.

BAIER: And Fred, a big player in all this is China. China and Russia, always, but China is -- Iran is China's second largest supplier of the energy.


BAIER: So they're not talking about this openly, and they don't sound like they're going to push for sanctions.

BARNES: No, and what Mort's talking about, if you did block refined oil, gasoline, from coming back into Iran, the Chinese wouldn't go along with it. So you would have to do it either unilaterally or with just a few partners.

BAIER: A coalition of the willing.

BARNES: A coalition of the willing, and a strong president could put that together.

You know, the State Department put out the idea yesterday that the president doesn't want to reach a snap judgment in these talks. He doesn't -- I think a snap judgment is it's quite an honor given all we know so far, but rather than a snap judgment, he would rather have these talks develop so they could be more in-depth talks.

That's what the Iranians want. It fits into their plan to delay and stall, and so on.

And then the problem is that Obama comes with a weak hand in terms of impressing the Iranians with his seriousness. I mean, look at what he has just done. One is in Afghanistan, he's dithering. Certainly the Iranians notice that.

When he had -- with the plans for a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, the Russians didn't like it and the president backed down. The Russians said or at least President Medvedev said, well, maybe they would help out with stronger sanctions. Now the Russians are backing away from that.

And then you have the president's history of having deadlines that mean nothing. We have seen that domestically here in the United States.

So I think nothing good possibly could come out of these talks. And remember what President Sarkozy of France said, while we're talking and everything, the centrifuges are spinning.

BAIER: That is the question here, the clock. And different intelligence units apparently have different assessments of this clock. U.S. intelligence is still apparently sticking to the 2003 National Intelligence Estimate, which said that Iran stopped weaponizing.

However, British intelligence, The Financial Times has a story out today that they cite British intelligence sources saying that they believe they are already weaponizing enriched uranium.

KRAUTHAMMER: It was a report here in 2007, which said that in 2003 the Iranians had stopped their nuclear weapons program, which is obviously false. Even at the time it was obvious, because it didn't even speak about enrichment and missile development, which are difficult and the core issues in developing a nuke.

But it's clear that with the Qom site being discovered, they are hell- bent on getting a nuke. All that is left is the weaponization of the weapon, which, as you say, British intelligence is now saying is already underway. If it was ever stopped, it resumed several years ago.

And that is the easiest and the shortest of the steps. The uranium enrichment is the key step, and that's happening as we speak.

BAIER: At the 2007 NIE about 2003 report.

KONDRACKE: Dennis Blair, the national intelligence chief, testified earlier this year that he didn't think that they were highly enriching uranium when we apparently knew, we had known for three years, that they were.

Now, Mark Kirk, the congressman from Illinois who is running for the Senate, is coming out with a statement tomorrow saying, hey, Blair, what did you mean? Why did you say that then and this now? I don't know what the answer to that is.

BAIER: It will be interesting. Got to run.

BARNES: Mort was particularly right, this is a test for Obama. The whole world is watching, particularly the dictators and thugs and the military governments. And if he's weak on this, boy, they're going to push even harder against him.


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