Zakaria: Obama shouldn't meet Rouhani this week
September 23rd, 2013
10:13 AM ET

Zakaria: Obama shouldn't meet Rouhani this week

CNN speaks with Fareed and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani about the apparent softening in Iran’s rhetoric under new President Hassan Rouhani. This is an edited version of the transcript.

What do you think of the changes going on in Iran? Clearly it seems like President Hassan Rouhani is certainly a lot different at least in tone than Ahmadinejad?

Giuliani: No question, the tone is completely different. The question is, is this credible or is this just a way of buying time so they can continue to either enrich uranium or maybe even stop that for a while.

Do you think it's credible?

Giuliani: I begin by being very skeptical because of the history, because they played us for a fool before, Rouhani actually even bragging about it. I have to look at that history and say, there’s a really good chance they’re doing it again. At the same time, you can go ahead and talk to them and you can go ahead and try to test this out and see is there a change.

But the main thing is you better be ready not to make any concessions until they deliver the goods. I would want to make sure there was a verification program in place. That we actually began the verification program and knew they were going to let us go inspect these facilities.

Then when we got to that point we felt they were really delivering, we could start talking about reducing the sanctions. Because I do think this is not a function of whatever happened in Syria, I think this is a function of the sanctions.

Fareed, with Rouhani, do you believe there is a real difference? Do you believe this is a significant change?

Zakaria: Look, I think these are very promising signs. You have to test it. They have in the past had a strategy of talking and not delivering. Here’s what’s different this time. Rouhani campaigned on this idea of being able to make a deal with the West so that he could ease the sanctions. Clearly the sanctions are what are behind this and they feel the pain.

There are the makings of a deal. You want to test it and make it step by step. You don’t want to make the concessions before they allow the inspections. What gives me some hope is that Rouhani, unlike Ahmadinejad, is an insider. He’s known the Supreme Leader since 1980. He has worked within this establishment. He’s a cleric.

Rouhani continues to say, though, that Iran has no nuclear weapons program. Should that concern us he was saying that or just talk?

Giuliani: Assad was saying that until a day before he agreed at all, to allow inspections of the chemical facilities. I think Fareed is correct in the sense that Rouhani is putting out different signals than in the past. I even think being a skeptic that this is a little different than it was six or seven years ago. I don't think this is to buy time to just increase uranium and enrich it more.

I think they're actually at a point where they're only a year away any way. I think they are going to halt the program. I think what they are trying to do is get relief from the sanctions and then when the economy starts to come back again then we have to worry that they are going to go back and start enriching uranium again.

So the key to me here is I think it is pretty simple that the administration can be tough and not drink the Kool-Aid. I think if we say, all right, you want relief from the sanctions, we want to inspect all your facilities and then allow those inspections to take place for five, six, seven months and make sure they're not doing what they did five, six years ago, throw the inspectors out and make sure we have not only a change of words but change of action.

Should President Obama meet with Rouhani this week?

Zakaria: I don't think the president should meet him. I think that's not the appropriate level because when things go wrong – I think the secretary of state should meet with him. I think if that meeting went well…As Rudy says, if you don't give away the store, there’s nothing wrong with talking, there’s nothing with meeting. There’s nothing wrong -

You would say secretary of state, meet with him?

Giuliani: I think Fareed is right. I come from the old school of the president walks in when the deal is done and blesses it. All the hard work is done before the president is there. You don't put your president in a position of having somebody walk out on him, having it backfire. And if something goes wrong you don’t want the president blamed for it.

Get all the details worked out. The main thing I would be concerned about in watching this is let’s not give away anything until we have a verification program in place and we’re actually executing it and our inspectors are confident that they’re being given the access they were previously denied.

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Topics: Iran

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soundoff (70 Responses)
  1. tms5510

    Are you out of your mind? Iran president should meet with someone at the same level. Iranian take it as an insult.

    September 23, 2013 at 12:04 pm | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      Indeed, John Kerry should meet with his Iranian counterpart, Javad Zarif and warm up the relationship a little.
      Obama should be at the General Assembly and shake hands with Rouhani, and say, "welcome to the U.S."
      Indeed, it's going to be an important opportunity to send signals to each other. A rapprochement doesn't come overnight. It would take time to defrost a chilly atmosphere.

      September 24, 2013 at 8:52 am | Reply
    • Ted

      The Iranian ploy is so plainly obvious: let them inspect, get relief from sanctions, then complete the nukes. So go ahead, shake hands all you want but keep chocking Khameni and the gang till they eat uranium-enriched pistachios.

      September 24, 2013 at 1:36 pm | Reply
    • Dan

      They are both presidents but Rohani is not the leader of Iran. Obama is the leader of the US. Apples and oranges.

      September 24, 2013 at 1:57 pm | Reply
    • jimbraysga

      Well, finding someone in the US who is on Rouhani's "level" may be difficult; what's Dick Cheney up to these days?

      September 24, 2013 at 2:35 pm | Reply
    • tom

      It is premature for both presidents to meet. The lower level diplomats need to meet first and lay the groundwork. Just like when Nixon went to China, the details of what they would agree to, had already been hammered out. Same here. I also think that in some form or fashion, Israel will have to be involved. Its clear that everyone's middle east policies (both Iran and U.S.) are centered around Israel. It would certainly be helpful for the Israelis to agree to the same terms as what is being asked of Iran – ie. no nukes.

      September 24, 2013 at 5:02 pm | Reply
    • TAJW

      Meeting with anyone from Iran at any level from our government is useless.

      The Iranians have been manipulative liars for years. Anything they say at this point is without legitimacy.

      Let the sanctions work until they start changing things....that is why they were implemented. Negotiating with them will merely reduce sanctions without any give on their part, that is their intent.

      And always, always remember, the real leader of Iran is the Gran Ayatollah, to the extent that anyone leads the country at all.

      September 24, 2013 at 7:28 pm | Reply
      • Jeff Sol

        Iran has been manipulative liars, and the USA hasn't??? 🙂

        September 24, 2013 at 7:54 pm |
  2. mikeaceshadow

    Fareed you have an opinion like every one else. How can you decide whether Obama should meet with Rouhani or not? Hope your Sunni roots is not causing you to be biased against a Shia Rouhani??!! Does it hurt to talk or you think the bombs should do the talking?

    September 23, 2013 at 1:17 pm | Reply
    • Scott O' Canada

      Take a pill dude, he has just reiterated what 3.4 billion other people were thinking.

      September 24, 2013 at 2:45 pm | Reply
  3. PSF

    Farid, I respect your opinions on lot of issues but you obviously do not understand the culture of Iranians. If you do not respect the Iranians, nothing will get done. What is there to loose if Obama talks to Rouhani? Do you think talking to somebody means you are weak? I hope Obama's adviser do not let this opportunity go and I hope they have better understanding of the situation compared to you.

    September 23, 2013 at 1:32 pm | Reply
  4. George patton

    Who the H is this Rudolf Giuliani to say that Obama shouldn't talk to Hassan Rouhani? Is this Giuliani a warmonger or what? It is totally insane to listen to this right-wing nut job as he apparently wants another war in the Middle East! In fact, the Iranians have far more grievances against us than we do against them. People like this Rudolf Giuliani are the biggest threat this country faces today!!!

    September 23, 2013 at 1:43 pm | Reply
  5. Austin A.

    II must say that this is such racist view and topic you have at your current article/program.

    Im a fan of CNN and watch the programs regularly and I ought to say also that your TV show program is one the most boring and drowsy one I ever seen.

    September 23, 2013 at 2:14 pm | Reply
  6. Johnelmi

    Farid, First watching you sitting with a far right anti-Iran neo-con creates a bad sense of you. I never thought you share any thing with neo-cans, but you made me think twice now. You did not even challenged Rudi for his words about only one more year till an Iranian bomb. You could just say how many years pass and Rudi repeats the same "only one year" term.
    Furthermore, please tell me what is your suggestion for the next round of talk in which Rouhani and Obama find the same rare opportunity to talk. Do you want to kill just an opportunity?

    September 23, 2013 at 3:00 pm | Reply
    • TAJW

      I'm repeating part of another post because it is germane:

      The Iranians have been manipulative liars for years. Anything they say at this point is without legitimacy.

      Let the sanctions work until they start changing things....that is why they were implemented. Negotiating with them will merely reduce sanctions without any give on their part, that is their intent.

      And always, always remember, the real leader of Iran is the Grand Ayatollah, to the extent that anyone leads the country at all.

      September 24, 2013 at 7:30 pm | Reply
  7. PSF

    Faid, read this from Guardian, it is educational:

    September 23, 2013 at 3:33 pm | Reply
  8. zeb

    I'll believe when Rouhani removed his turban and shaved his beard.

    September 23, 2013 at 3:44 pm | Reply
    • hg

      So, is that all of your problem to believe someone? In this case, you believe in all shaved monkeys in a zoo...So simple criteria.

      September 23, 2013 at 8:04 pm | Reply
    • Wastrel

      He needs to drink a beer wiith me before i believe him.

      September 24, 2013 at 11:31 am | Reply
  9. Alex u.k.

    Fareed Zakaria is a loose canon who suggested President Obama should have attacked Syria and not to have consulted the Representatives of the nation. He would like to Pretend he knows foreign policy inside out and convince them, he is loyal and a close friend of Israel and AIPAC. Lets go to perpetuated war and continue hostilities for another 40 years, as it generates work and money for Fareed and Friends. Alas Alas.

    September 23, 2013 at 4:19 pm | Reply
  10. Sayit

    Iran is the world's number one supporter of Islamic terrorism, all types. Basically Iran and it's representatives are terrorists. The only thing we should do with Iran is remove all their nuclear capablility to prevent them from giving nuclear weapons to terrorists. No talking to terrorists, it makes absolutely no sense.

    September 23, 2013 at 6:04 pm | Reply
  11. stella

    I am so sorry for CNN with such an close-minded and ignorant journalist like Fareed ! President Obama and President Rohani both have the same level in diplomatic meeting ..they are both PRESIDENT !

    September 23, 2013 at 6:06 pm | Reply
  12. Yuck

    Blue white golden light please let there be peace,permanent peace all across the globe.anyone that lies,cheats kills and does any negative move act is using BLACK when you're in public please be on your best behavior and act civil.not like a zombie or an ancient person from BC era....this AD era not BC

    September 23, 2013 at 6:43 pm | Reply
  13. Nikk

    Persian pride ,

    September 23, 2013 at 6:45 pm | Reply
  14. J

    Why you Americans are so proud of yourself? Why u think he shouldnt meet with Obama? He is the president of Iran. He cannot meet with you! Love it or not, you need to respect to Iran and Iranians as the most ancient civilisations on this planet. As long as you are not talking with respect, you will get nothing!

    September 23, 2013 at 8:01 pm | Reply
    • Joseph McCarthy

      Well put, J. How right you are!

      September 24, 2013 at 11:49 am | Reply
    • TAJW

      Iran gets nothing until start they start making the changes that the U.N. sanctions were put in place for.

      Meeting and negotiating with them will only get the world to reduce the sanctions. That should not happen until they do what has been stated.


      September 24, 2013 at 7:32 pm | Reply
    • i12bphil

      May I remind you that the current government your country has ...began with the taking of American hostages?

      September 24, 2013 at 10:26 pm | Reply
      • leonid7

        In all fairness, that was after the US had backed the hand-picked and corrupt government of the Shah for quite a few years. People seem to forget that American involvement in Iran didn't begin in 1979 or on accident.

        September 25, 2013 at 2:38 am |
  15. Josh

    To be more accurate. Iran has a history of playing and torturing American emotion.

    September 23, 2013 at 8:12 pm | Reply
    • Hessam

      American Emotion? That is funny... say something could match up them more!

      September 24, 2013 at 1:38 am | Reply
    • Austin

      Hilarious pal!!! Cant stop laughing 🙂 @ "emotion" . Who do you think you are when we had our Passenger plan crashed into pieces by an navy ship of US which killed all with *ucking reason that they could give, ... . Go read the history "emotion"

      September 24, 2013 at 10:38 am | Reply
  16. Josh

    American should only deal with honest people like Mr. Hussein.

    September 23, 2013 at 8:34 pm | Reply
  17. James

    I don't mean to be rude but this coming from a person who copy and pastes the work of others and publishes under his own name is a little difficult to take. I wouldn't pay much attention to what Mr. Zak has to say.

    September 24, 2013 at 12:47 am | Reply
    • PSF

      Well said!

      September 24, 2013 at 1:01 pm | Reply
  18. Phelix Unger

    I agree with Fareed, Kerry should be the first to meet with Rouhani and have the details of what the Iranian government is bringing to the table and whether or not they meet the litmus test that the president has set out previously. As for Rouhani being an equal to the president of the United States, give it up you clowns. Iran makes noise gets some attention on the world stage, but that is where it ends. Again the most powerful nation on earth who has had to take drastic action to have the government of Iran finally get to this point of showing a willingness to negotiate. This isn't mutual respect, this is a government in Iran trying to find a way to negotiate the lifting of the sanctions which are having the affect that they were meant to have. So many supporters of Iran here, like it so much go there and enjoy the freedoms that the clerics deem fit for you to have, and nothing else. The government of Iran supports terrorism, represses their own people, and will not stand for anyone with dissenting views of its policies.

    September 24, 2013 at 12:52 am | Reply
    • Hessam

      Iran makes noise? Why is US governments so concerned about this noisy country? I that the same way you mention all the middle east? is it a colony of a noisy counties?

      September 24, 2013 at 1:35 am | Reply
  19. Hessam

    Who the H is this guy Zakaria who thinks has this authority to say such a b...t

    September 24, 2013 at 1:11 am | Reply
    • Joseph McCarthy

      Fareed Zakaria is a Hindu with an obvious hatred for the Muslims Hessam, which should surprise no one. Have you observed how the Indians and the Pakistanis hate each other? This has been going on for centuries so anything Fareed says against the Muslims is to be expected.

      September 24, 2013 at 11:54 am | Reply
      • Hessam

        Joseph, You totally right. It a shame that a person in CNN is biased that much about his own PERSONAL religious beliefs!

        September 24, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
      • Suresh

        Fareed is a Muslim from India and in most of his articles he supports muslims, I dont know where you got this dumb idea.

        September 24, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
      • AD

        Mr. McCarthy, first get some basic understanding before you accuse someone of having a religious bias. Fareed is muslim from India (may be you do not even know that India has about 160 Million muslims which make up approx. 10% of muslim population in the world).

        September 24, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
      • tom

        My impression of Fareed is that he is balanced and does not take sides. Some of you with middle eastern first names seem to feel differently. Could it be that you are biased because he's not from your particular home country?

        September 24, 2013 at 5:05 pm |
  20. Hessam

    Totally agreed with J. They forgot where they are from (if any;) )

    September 24, 2013 at 1:39 am | Reply
  21. Alex u.k.

    Fareed Zakaria considers himself guardian and more American than most of this great nation. Hard liners (Big Heads) exist in both Iran and USA, who are not very happy to join hands and resolve their differences in a civilized manner called Dialogue. The man has traveled from Iran to US with good intentions holding an olive branch and he has Full mandate from his nation and his leader. The ball is definitely in US quarter and life is too short. Take it or continue hostility and animosity for the next 40 years. Life is too short and Americans are a peace loving nation.

    September 24, 2013 at 5:42 am | Reply
    • Jimmy

      I agree with you. The problem is that we Americans are letting such people penetrate into our society to the extent that they start making policies on our behalf. We must keep people like Fareed Zak on a leash! Else, no one will benefit but people with Agenda.

      September 24, 2013 at 9:43 am | Reply
      • tom

        Policy is made by American presidents who must be born here, not foreign born immigrants. Get educated before sounding off with nonsense.

        September 24, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
      • tom

        Jimmy you call yourself "American" but it seems you never heard of the First Amendment? I've heard far worse from fatso limbaugh or anne coulter than here on cnn.

        September 24, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
    • Joseph McCarthy

      Do you mean to say Alex u.k., that we Americans are truly a peace loving people? Then why are we in of all these useless and unnecessary wars which benefit only the already wealthy and right-wing nut jobs? The Russian people are far more peace loving than we are by a mile!

      September 24, 2013 at 11:59 am | Reply
  22. Rosslaw

    Why on earth is Guliani considered a foreign policy expert? His long time bodyguard, later appointee a head of NYC's Riker Island, later appointee as NYC police commissioner and one day nominee to head the Dept. of Homeland Security, Bernie Kerick (sic), was taking money from organized crime the entire time. 3,000 New Yorkers dying on 9/11 was the best thing that ever happened to this piece of work.

    September 24, 2013 at 9:28 am | Reply
  23. palintwit

    Bristol Palin's next novel should be hitting bookstore shelves soon. Her recent memoirs about her life as a drunk, pregnant teenager sold an astounding 1,500 copies and buoyed by this success she has worked very hard to write the sequel. Her adoring public expects no less because after all, the Palins are not quitters.

    September 24, 2013 at 10:30 am | Reply
  24. Vivuvi

    Shut up Zakaria, you ugly piece of S

    September 24, 2013 at 11:24 am | Reply
    • Joseph McCarthy

      You said it, Vivuvi! Thank you.

      September 24, 2013 at 12:00 pm | Reply
  25. Dave in IL

    Obama is like a naive farm boy on the world scene. The only people he sees as enemies of the US are the Republicans.

    September 24, 2013 at 11:35 am | Reply
    • palintwit

      Sarah Palin and her tea-twits really are enemies of the US.

      September 24, 2013 at 11:53 am | Reply
  26. joe

    Iran is playing Obama like the fool that he is!!! Look at what Putin has done to him, no world leader has respect for this man.

    September 24, 2013 at 11:44 am | Reply
    • palintwit

      On the contrary, Obama has the respect of more foreign leaders than both Bushs put together.

      September 24, 2013 at 11:55 am | Reply
  27. PeterD

    Obama has elated even Jimmy C as a better POTUS.

    September 24, 2013 at 12:15 pm | Reply
  28. Sander30

    It sort of depends where American leadership want Iranians to go. If they want to go back to the era of the Shah then I think they will be disappointed. If they want to build a mutually respectful relationship , respecting Iran's right to be a sovereign nation state with it's own sphere of influence in the Middle East then I think things could improve a lot.There is a long history of Imperialist abuse from the USA to Iranian's which has created this hostility.And of course this desire for control of the regions energy reserves, the support for dictatorships to ensure US control means it is highly unlikely Iran and the USA will improve relations.It would require recognizing historic crimes and a fundamental switch of official U.S. foreign policy since the second world war and I do not think Obama is going to go there he has shown no inclination to radically shift American foreign policy towards the Middle East in his years in office.

    September 24, 2013 at 2:41 pm | Reply
  29. sparks2000

    since when do governments have to do the bidding of the USA to be accepted by the world?another point of arrogance on the part of the US gov't regime.

    September 24, 2013 at 5:57 pm | Reply
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