Posted by CNN on September 27, 2012 in News Clips

[Below is an excerpt of a transcript taken from CNN's website. A link to the original transcript appears below]


BLITZER: A red line for Iran. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu brought his campaign against Tehran's nuclear program to the United Nations General Assembly today. BOLDUAN: And if you missed it, at one point, Netanyahu used a cartoon-like drawing of a bomb to illustrate his point, and he literally drew that red line across it.

And his speech was aimed as much at the Obama administration as it was at the U.N. Listen here.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: The relevant question is not when Iran will get the bomb.

The relevant question is at, what stage can we no longer stop Iran from getting the bomb? The red line must be drawn on Iran's nuclear enrichment program. And I believe that, faced with a clear red line, Iran will back down.

And this will give more time for sanctions and diplomacy to convince Iran to dismantle its nuclear weapons program altogether.


BLITZER: All right, let's discuss this a little bit more right now with two guests.

Jim Zogby is the president of Arab American Institute. And Danielle Pletka is the vice president of foreign and defense policy at the American Enterprise Institute.

Thanks to both of you for coming in.

You heard what the prime minister, Jim, said. I followed up in the last hour with an interview with the Israeli ambassador, Michael Oren, and he elaborated a little bit. Listen to this.


MICHAEL OREN, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: We believe by drawing that red line, you won't be increasing the chances of military engagement, you'll be significantly lessening the chances of a military engagement because the Iranians have been presented with red lines in the past in the Straits of Hormuz and they've backed down. They know the Iranians can see the color red, and they're loathe to cross those type of lines.


BLITZER: All right, Jim, is he right?

JAMES ZOGBY, ARAB AMERICAN INSTITUTE: I think that the president handled it very well in this speech. It was tempered; it was thoughtful, but it was also very firm. And I'd go with the way that the president approached it, rather than what Netanyahu is pressing the president to do.

BLITZER: What's the difference that you see between the president's position on Iran and a nuclear bomb versus the prime minister's position?

ZOGBY: Thoughtful versus bombastic. That's the difference. You don't win points by being pedantic and bombastic. You win points and you win support for the position you want to win by being thoughtful, clear and, at the same time, very direct.

BOLDUAN: What do you make, Danielle, of Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech today?

DANIELLE PLETKA, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: I thought he was pretty clear. I actually didn't think he was bombastic. I think a lot of people expected him to be much sharper, much tougher on the Iranians and much tougher, frankly, on the United States.

BLITZER: How much tougher could he be, though?

PLETKA: Again, he really tempered every criticism of the United States. You know, there's -- we've heard a lot coming out of Jerusalem about the Obama administration's unwillingness to set red lines. Today, there was none of that throwing down the gauntlet to Washington. He really focused everything on the Iranians, and one of those things, what I was surprised by, was how much applause he got.

BOLDUAN: Really? Well, let me ask you. If there would be a President Romney in the White House, what would be different in terms of U.S. position towards Iran. Do you anticipate, do you think we would see a U.S./Israeli strike on Iran next year then?

PLETKA: I'm not an adviser to Governor Romney and he has not confided his plans about Iran to me, if he has any.

What I think that he's tried to underscore is the question of credibility. Right now what we have is a president of the United States who has said, again, and again, and again, "I will not tolerate, this is unacceptable." But really, on the ground, all we've seen is an intensification of sanctions. But sanctions are only a tool. They need to achieve something.

And the truth is over the last three years. Iran has made more progress towards a nuclear weapon than it has in the previous ten years. So that's really the problem that we face, and what Romney is trying to say, I think, is that the Iranians will take him more seriously and also that he would back Israel.

BLITZER: Jim, do you see a major difference between Romney and President Obama?

ZOGBY: Absolutely. The difference is, is that President Obama is winning friends and allies and trying very hard to build international coalitions based on respect. All that was squandered in the eight years that preceded his administration, and the slow, steady process of regaining trust has been a difficult one.

Look, he didn't get a magic wand when he was elected. He got the shovel that George Bush was using to dig deep holes, and he's trying to get out of that hole. The prerequisite for any international action, as, for example, we want to see on Syria, can only come about if you have allies willing to back you up. We had that with Libya. We don't have that with Syria. Right now, it's very dangerous with Iran. We do not want to see a unilateral action by anyone with Iran, but international pressure is mounting, sanctions are working. President Obama saying the red line is no bomb and, frankly, I believe he means it.

BLITZER: Do you want to respond?

PLETKA: I do. You know, Jim paints a very nice picture. You know, shovels and all the rest of it, but you're really a numbers guy and I think the numbers speak for themselves. The truth is that we're even less popular in the Middle East than we were on to the Bush administration. Everything that President Obama did...


ZOGBY: Those are my numbers and that's not exactly a fair case. We're at the same level and the reason why is because too many of the things...

PLETKA: Oh, it's all George Bush's fault. Come on, that's getting a little...

ZOGBY: President Obama did not deliver, but one of the reasons he wasn't able to deliver on many of the things was the obstructionism he faced here at home.

PLETKA: Come on. You have never seen...

ZOGBY: The slam down that he got by Congress last year was embarrassing to the United States of America and took a heavy toll.

PLETKA: You've never seen an administration that has kowtowed more and tried more in the Arab and the Muslim world to gain friends and influence people, and the truth is that it's policy that matters. It's not sucking up that matters.

ZOGBY: If you look at the way Libya and Egypt has responded to these crises, for example. You saw something that did not happen in the past, and that is...

PLETKA: You mean no condemnation of the violence from the president?

ZOGBY: ... a Libyan government -- Oh, my God. He condemned it, and in fact...

PLETKA: He condemned it 48 hours later.

BLITZER: I want to just interrupt for a minute, because you have a new poll that's out that your organization released, the Zogby poll. Your brother, John Zogby, is the pollster. How important is the U.S. outreach to the Arab and Muslim world to your vote. This is among likely Arab American voters throughout the United States. Among Democrats, 86 percent very or somewhat important. Among Republicans, 85 percent. So there's a consistent added to that it's really important to reach out to the Arab and Muslim worlds.

ZOGBY: And my community is a bridge to that world and needs to be taken seriously. The Arab vote matters and, frankly, what they're saying is they favor President Obama still. But there's a bit of a gap...

BLITZER: Overwhelmingly?

ZOGBY: Overwhelming, almost two to one. But there's a gap between the vote that he got in 2008 and now. And part of that's based on some disappointment, but he has time to grow it between now and November.

BOLDUAN: I mean, 85 percent of Republicans say outreach is important to them. I mean, do you think, when we're looking at this presidential race, do you think Mitt Romney has done that? Has done enough outreach, especially when you look at his reaction right after the Libyan attacks and the protests in the Middle East?

PLETKA: Outreach to who?

BLITZER: To the Arab world.

PLETKA: Outreach to the terrorists that committed the attack in Libya, or outreach to the Middle East?

BLITZER: ... Reach out to terrorists. You know, they want to fight the terrorists, but they want to -- people do want to reach out to the Middle East.

PLETKA: I think that any president of the United States, whether it's going to be Obama or Romney, is going to have to reach out to the Arab world.

The problem is, in the Arab world the thing they most fear right now is a growing and a threatening Iran. That's what we hear in the Gulf. That's what you hear in the Labotte (ph). That's what you hear from everybody. They're not afraid about having their hand held. They're afraid about whether America is going to have their back.

And privately, they are telling everybody that that's their biggest concern. But America is retreating, and we hear all this about a pivot to Asia. And they're really worried we're not serious about their problems any more.

BLITZER: I want to move on, but do you want to say anything about that?

ZOGBY: Yes. The pivot to Asia means that America is paying attention to Asia. It ought to, but also pay attention to Central and South America. Frankly, we've waited for hemispheric approach to policy we haven't had it. But is American government giving up on the Middle East? No. And it cannot afford to. No. 1, because the economic ties that we have, No. 2 because we're so deeply invested in terms of personnel, in terms of other interests and allies that we have.

I think that the president has been very clear, not only about Iran, but clear about the need to establish relationships with these emerging democracies and to provide them with the assistance they need to move forward. He said we didn't start this Arab Spring. We can't direct this Arab Spring, but we have to be supportive when we can. It's been difficult...

PLETKA: Not in Syria, of course.

ZOGBY: Well, look, if we took the approach that president -- a President Romney or President McCain would have taken to Syria, we would be now today engaged in -- with ground troops in Syria, creating a humanitarian...

PLETKA: You're a pretty aggressor commander in chief for these guys. I don't think either of them has suggested that.

ZOGBY: They called for a humanitarian commander. What does that mean? It means you occupy Syrian territory. Is the world ready for that?

PLETKA: I don't think that's what that means.

ZOGBY: Well, you tell me how you establish the humanitarian corridor without taking territory.

PLETKA: All I can tell you is that mouthing...

ZOGBY: Fighting the war is the American people -- are the American people ready for that kind of approach? The answer is no.

PLETKA: I can't talk over you quite that much, but I don't think ignoring the death of 30,000 people is the right approach.

ZOGBY: No one is ignoring the death of 30,000 people. The regime is horrific, and the president has spoken about that. But the question is, his hands are tied. He cannot act unilaterally. And he can't...

BLITZER; We've got to wrap it up. I will point it out in my interviews with both Mitt Romney and John McCain, they specifically said they are not supporting U.S. ground forces going in. I think they have something more along the line like in air strikes or whatever, or a no-fly zone, which is what they did in Libya.

ZOGBY: U.S. military leadership has been very clear about the fact that, if you establish a no-fly zone, you ultimately have to take out air defense systems which, in Syria, are much more advanced than they were in Libya.

BLITZER: That is true. ZOGBY: This is not a cake walk, as we were told by many Republicans, as we went into Iraq.

PLETKA: Not everything about is about George Bush. We really do need to take our foreign policy seriously now...

ZOGBY: And serious, and we need to be thoughtful...

PLETKA: ... and act like grown-ups who aren't -- you know, that's important.

BLITZER: Can we continue this conversation in the other room?

PLETKA: We're going to take it outside.

BLITZER: No, we'll continue it here in THE SITUATION ROOM but we have a lot more to discuss in the days and weeks to come. Appreciate it.

BOLDUAN: Thank you very much for coming in.

ZOGBY: The difference between these two guys is very serious, and I would like to continue the conversation.

BLITZER: We definitely will. Foreign policy is critically important, and we report on it a lot.


BLITZER: All right. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Let's continue our conversation with Jim Zogby, the president of the American Arab Institute, and Danielle Pletka, the vice president of foreign and defense policy at the American Enterprise Institute.

Jim, you were in Charlotte at the Democratic convention. I was there, the Los Angeles mayor, Villaraigosa. Remember when he declared that they were amending the platform to declare Jerusalem Israel's capital. And I want to play the clip because, at the end, there's an intriguing moment.


MAYOR ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA, LOS ANGELES: All those delegates in favor say aye. All those delegates opposed say no. In the opinion of the chair two-thirds have voted in the affirmative. The motion is adopted. And the platform has been amended as shown on the screen.


BLITZER: Arab Americans were standing there. You were probably not too far away, but they were obviously pretty upset. What do you think of that?

ZOGBY: And rightly so. It was not the convention's finest hour. In fact, cast a poll for -- for a couple of days on the proceedings. We should have been talking the next day about Bill Clinton's incredible speech. Instead I was talking to reporters about this fiasco.

And, frankly, it was -- it shouldn't have happened. It shouldn't have happened the way it happened. The language that got added at the end of the day was inconsequential. I mean, the fact is, is that it said Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. It's going to be the capital of Israel. But it's also going to be the capital of a Palestinian state if there's got to be peace. It said nothing about that, and it said that it has to be negotiated between the parties. We agree with that.

So all of that -- all of that embarrassment in order to prove a point that nobody needed to have proved, I think was -- was an embarrassment and was wrong.

BOLDUAN: Danielle, another issue that took center stage today at the United Nations with both Abbas and Netanyahu speaking today was the Middle East peace process. Listen to...

BLITZER: Or lack thereof.

BOLDUAN: I was going to say, or lack thereof. Listen to that -- get into that conversation, listen to the comments that I'm sure you are aware of, but listen to these comments that Mitt Romney made at that fund-raiser back in May. Listen to this.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm torn by two perspectives in this regard. One is the one which I've had for some time, which is that the Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace and that the -- and that the pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish.


BOLDUAN: The pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish. I mean, what do you make of those remarks? Could -- do these hurt him? I mean, shouldn't he be more optimistic in running for president than he can kick -- kick start this, again?

PLETKA: You know, the peace process is one of those things that constantly comes up. Everybody recommits themselves to it. Everybody brings new vigor to it, and everybody ends up in the same place. And we've seen this with president after president, Republicans and Democrats, Palestinians, Israelis, it doesn't matter what party anybody comes from. At the end of the day, unfortunately, what Mitt Romney said has been the reality.

Does that mean that has to be the future? I don't think it has to be the future, but right now what you see is a Palestinian group, a Palestinian territory that isn't doing any better than it has been.

BLITZER: When he says that Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace. If you look at the leadership of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, the prime minister, Salam Fayyad. They've clearly stated they would like to establish peace as a two-state solution with Israel. That's different than Hamas and Gaza.

PLETKA: Yes, of course. But seeing so doesn't make it so. And that's the real problem. You know, they both complain. Both sides complain. The Palestinians complain, the Israelis complain. They're mirror images in many ways, because they are complaining that the other side isn't really willing to do what it takes. And at the end of the day, what we've seen up to now, is that's the reality. They haven't been willing to do what it takes. It's not all on one side.

ZOGBY: They're mirror images.

BOLDUAN: Should President Obama have been doing more, been more aggressive in trying to push for this?

ZOGBY: I think he tried, but I think that what he was unable to do was to deal with the problems in Congress. The slap down that he got from his own Congress when they invited Benjamin Netanyahu and gave him 29 standing ovations in order, as he rebuked their own president, was humiliating.

And across the Middle East, it actually was devastating to people. They said, is this how your Congress treats your own president?

Let me just say, they are mirror images. One is the occupier and the other is the occupied. And when we've polled...

PLETKA: I don't think that's quite accurate. Come on.

ZOGBY: Well, actually, if you say the Palestinians aren't occupied, I don't know what you'd call it.

PLETKA: I think that the Palestinians have had territory for themselves. They've mismanaged it.

ZOGBY: Let me make the point. When we polled in 2006...

BLITZER: One at a time.

ZOGBY: When we polled in 2006 before that election we asked the question, if peace were possible, who would you vote for? Seventy- three percent of those who voted for Hamas who said they were Hamas voters said that they would have voted for Fatah if they thought peace were possible. They didn't think it was possible.

The point is that if you give people the hope that peace will be there and you actually move in that direction, the Palestinian constituency will come along. And I believe the Israeli constituency will come along, too. Right now, you have one leader unwilling to make peace.

PLETKA: And another unwilling to make peace.

ZOGBY: And that's the problem.

PLETKA: You can't have a one-sided version of history, and you can't have a one-sided version of policy. It just doesn't work. The reality is we haven't got a peace. Next president is going to have to dedicate himself to trying to, but clearly the pathway that we've been down so many times hasn't led to peace.

ZOGBY: But the way to start that pathway is not by...

PLETKA: It's not a political winner. That's absolutely true. That's why the president isn't talking about it in the race.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens after the election. My own sense is they've got to try. It's too important. There's a peace group among the Israelis, a peace group among the Palestinians. They've got to find a way. They just need some help from the outside.

My personal recommendation is, whoever is the next president of the United States, they invite Bill Clinton to be the special Middle East peace negotiator. He deals with Haiti. He'll continue dealing with that. He's got credibility and he knows this issue.

ZOGBY: Took the words out of my mouth. I went with Clinton in '98 to Gaza and Jerusalem and Bethlehem. I saw him talk over the heads of both leaderships and win people to his side. His problem was that he pushed too late.

PLETKA: He did, but he gave everything he could at the end of his presidency, and look where we are.

BLITZER: Never too late. Peace is too important.

ZOGBY: And the reason why it didn't work was that it was the end of his presidency.

BLITZER: Whatever the history is...

PLETKA: Let's look forward.

BLITZER: ... let's get Bill Clinton involved. Let's get him involved in this peace process after this election.

PLETKA: He is the solution to every Democrat's problem.

BLITZER: Well, maybe Republicans would be smart to do it.

All right, guys, thanks very much for coming in.

BOLDUAN: Thank you both.

BLITZER: A political reporter trying to get answers about a federal investigation gets doused with water. You're going to find out why.

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