January 18th, 2012
08:17 PM ET

Zakaria: Obama defends foreign policy record

After interviewing President Obama at the White House earlier today, I spoke with Wolf Blitzer about my impressions. You can watch more in the video above.  I'll write about the interview in this week's TIME Magazine, blog about it at CNN.com/GPS, and speak more about it on Sunday on GPS at 10am and 1pm EST.

Here's a transcript of my conversation with Wolf:

Wolf Blitzer: Fareed, I got the gist of what the president told you. On foreign policy, he seems pretty confident he can handle himself in a debate against Mitt Romney or any of the other candidates.

Fareed Zakaria: I think that's right, Wolf. He implied, 'They have to bash me right now, because they're appealing to their base, but let's have a serious conversation come the general election, and I'm very comfortable putting my record of the last three years up against any criticism they have.'

I think he feels he's kept the country safe. He's decimated al Qaeda. He's gotten out of Iraq. He's refocused the mission in Afghanistan, and he's made this move to Asia to where America's future lies, and so far, public opinion polls suggest that the public generally gives him positive marks for foreign policy.

Wolf Blitzer: Did he seem at all bitter or angry at Republicans for stalling some of these recommendations in terms of improving the economy or jobs creation?

Fareed Zakaria: He was very relaxed, very calm, very confident. He did, when we talked about the issue of deficit reduction. He got quite passionate, and he said, 'It's really important to understand that I use the Simpson-Bowles framework, people say that I walked out away from it which is really not true. It provided a framework and I used that framework, made some adjustment here, and offer it to the Republicans three times.'

'The problem with get moving forward,' he said, 'was the Republicans wouldn't make any move on their side, which is on the issue of taxes and revenues.' He pointed out that he offered the much many few attacks increases and revenue from taxation than Simpson-Bowles. And still, they wouldn't go for it. So, he said to me at one point, 'the problem that I was not yakking it up with John Boehner. The problem was that he couldn't get his caucus to agree, and he was unable to deliver.'

There was frustration there, but I wouldn't say it was bitterness. He was unhappy that people didn't recognize that, in his view, he had really gone the extra mile on deficit reduction and to the problem had been to the Republicans simply wouldn't budge an inch on the issue of increases in taxation.

Wolf Blitzer: One additional point, I just want to raise, Mitt Romney, other Republican candidates, specifically, Mitt Romney saying that if President Obama is re-elected, Iran will have a nuclear weapon. If he's not reelected, Iran won't have a nuclear weapon. Let me read a quote from your interview that's going to be in TIME magazine. President Obama said:

"I have made myself clear since I began running for the presidency that we will take every step available to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Can we guarantee that Iran takes the smarter path? No, which is why I've repeatedly said we don't take any options off the table in preventing them from getting a nuclear weapon."

Did he say absolutely positively the United States will not allow Iran ever to have a nuclear weapon?

Fareed Zakaria: He did not. The quote you read was about as definitive as he got, but I thought that was pretty definitive. I think, as president, you want to be careful about making absolute blanket guarantees about what you're going to do. The sense I got is that they have found ways to very effectively put pressure on Iran.

What they cannot figure out, though, is whether the Iranian regime right now is even in a position to make a strategic decision about making concessions coming back to the negotiating table, finding some win/win formula, because the regime is divided. The supreme leader seems unwilling to make those moves. Nobody else has the authority.

They seem very conscious of that. At one point he said to me, 'This is a very hard problem, and anyone who says it isn't doesn't know what they're talking about.'

soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Lee

    Foreign Policy means Iran ? If it is , then I need to say that Miss Calculation was one reason of Soviet Collapsed . Hope USA will not repeat it. USA dont need to attack Iran . But it is Israel who may need to do so . Israel wants . Iran also wants war as Iran has got a new weapon , Economic recession . Iran knows that Today or in future , she have to confront with Israel . So Today time is better than future . As in future , Iran would lose her weapon , economic recession . But due to strategy , Iran is not able to invade first. American Entersize has shown that American nation are bankruptcy . Their people are brainwashed by Jews controlled Media . They Love Money & Life too much . Iran will attack at this point . Barak Obama or Mitt Romny , you guys need to remember it .

    January 18, 2012 at 11:00 pm | Reply
  2. Adnan Khan

    Obama is a good president, Congress is just racist and won't let him try anything. Seriously, Obama tries his best not to make absolute guarantees because he does not want to disappoint the people. Anyone who thinks Barrack Obama is a bad president needs to do their research.

    January 19, 2012 at 12:14 am | Reply
    • Cris Sese

      I agree! Obama is a very good president and he is the best that the US can have now. He always consider things before making any decision.

      January 19, 2012 at 12:41 am | Reply
      • j. von hettlingen

        Obama might not be popular – especially among those who vote for Republicans, but he's no doubt a good president. The Americans should keep him for another term, given the bad choices the GOP offer. Although this presidential election is a purely domestic affair, the world watches careful whom they elect. Romney is in the eyes of the world a manager. Despite his failing in some issues, the world still has a high regard for Obama.

        January 19, 2012 at 5:21 am |
      • Jose

        Who would take those Republicans candidates seriously? Anyone?

        January 19, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
      • Jose

        To call the current Republican candidates a clown show insults clowns.

        January 19, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
  3. regertz

    Romney is full of hot air. Obama's done a good job and his foreign policy has generally been much superior resultswise to the previous President GW Bush's. He handled Libya very well not overcommitting us and letting the EU play the dominant role. As for Iran, if certain fire-breathing idiots want to go to war there immediately, give them a parachute and drop them over Tehran. Otherwise, lets stick with negotiation, covert ops to restrain the nuclear program, and hold the big stick in reserve.

    January 19, 2012 at 3:36 am | Reply
  4. Blake

    The only reason Obama has had a 'decent' foreign policy is because after he took office, he shifted from way left to right of center. During his campaign, he was talking about sitting down with Iran & NK, etc. for a friendly chat, but once he sat in the oval office, he almost became a Republican. So why not just put a Republican in the office in the first place so we can fix our economic problems & have pretty much the same foreign policy?

    January 19, 2012 at 4:22 am | Reply
  5. Tobey Onuiri

    Since when did republicans start fixing the economy?looking at it from all sides I will say Obama has been a great president and I hope Americans will not vote in a republican to squander the successes so far achieved by Obama.

    January 19, 2012 at 5:07 am | Reply
  6. Benedict

    I believe,as most Americans would,that Obama has achieved most of what he said he would do if elected. Ending the war in Iraq was a relief due the death rate of troops and war fatigue;the elimination of bin Laden and other members of Al-Queda has reduced their capability to attack the US and her allies among others. It‘s easy to say what “i will do“ when running for an elective post and the reality once in office!

    January 19, 2012 at 5:12 am | Reply
  7. GOPisGreedOverPeople

    Just think. When the GOP regain power, they will start a war with Iran (totally unfunded of course). They will make the poor people fight their war and give "no bid" contracts to the rich people. They will use Iran's oil to pay for the war. And when the war is over (in 10 years), Iran will sell us cheap oil. Just like in Iraq!!!!! Oh wait...............Never mind.

    January 19, 2012 at 9:50 am | Reply
  8. George Patton

    Barack Obama has had a horrific foreign policy. This bozo could have gotten us out of both Afghanistan and Iraq by the summer of 2009 had he chosen to do so. He didn't and a lot people had to die needlessly as a consequence of this. Furthermore, when Raul Castro offered a prisoner exchange by swapping 219 political prisoners for five Cuban nationals back in January, 2009, Obama chose to just ignore the whole thing and I find that totally senseless!!!

    January 19, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Reply
    • Onesmallvoice

      You said it all, George. Thank you.

      January 19, 2012 at 7:42 pm | Reply

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