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State of the Union

Interview with John Kerry; Interview with Ed Royce, Eliot Engel; Interview with Mike Rogers

Aired November 24, 2013 - 09:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning from Washington. I'm Candy Crowley.


CROWLEY (voice-over): After decades of hostility and distrust, a diplomatic breakthrough with Iran. Six world powers including the United States have sealed the deal designed to slow Iran's nuclear program.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These are substantial limitations which will help prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon. Simply put, they cut off Iran's most likely paths to a bomb.

CROWLEY: Tehran is celebrating the agreement which will ease sanctions. Israel is issuing dire warnings.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Included in the Geneva last night is not a historic agreement. It's a historic mistake. It's not made the world a safer place.

CROWLEY: Israel doesn't rule out a strike against Iran and Congressional critics are already blasting the agreement. So, what next? I'll ask the deal maker secretary of state, John Kerry. Plus, we'll talk to three influential House members from the intelligence and foreign relations committees and two former U.S. intelligence chiefs on this special edition of "STATE OF THE UNION.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

CROWLEY (on-camera): Mr. Secretary, thank you for joining us. As my first question, a lot of people say Iran is just going to be North Korea. A country that agrees to stop its nuclear ambitions in order to get sanctions lifted and then secretly goes ahead and continues with its program. Why do you think Iran is not North Korea?

KERRY: Well, there are many reasons why it's not. First of all, it's a member of the NPT. Secondly, they have engaged in a negotiation. Thirdly, they have committed to have daily inspections of certain facilities. They have committed to restrict their activities with those inspections taking place. And in addition to that, they have publicly committed that they are not going to build a nuclear weapon. North Korea already has and has tested and will not declare a policy of denuclearization. So, there are many different things that lead one to at least say that we ought to be exploring and testing the possibility of a diplomatic solution.

Let me be clear, we do that with eyes absolutely wide open. We have no illusions. You don't do this on the basis of somebody's statements to you. You do it on the basis of actions that can be verified, and moreover, we have kept the basic architecture of the sanctions is staying in place. There is very little relief. And we are convinced that over the next few months, we will really be able to put to the test what Iran's intentions are.

CROWLEY: So you, at this point, trust Hassan Rouhani, the new president in Iran to be able to follow-through. Are you convinced that he has the power to do so? Because you know that the hard-liners in Iran certainly are singing a different tune than has been sung at the negotiating table.

KERRY: Absolutely. We're well aware of that. And the simple answer to you is, none of this is based on trust. It's not a question of trust. It's a question of having the verification and the intrusive inspections and the insights into the program and the commitments that can be held accountable so that you are, in fact, creating a fail-safe mechanism by which you are making your judgments.

None of this -- when you're dealing with nuclear weapons, it's not an issue of trust. As the old saying goes, if Gorbachev and Reagan, you know, trust but verify. Verification is the key. President Obama and I have said since the beginning, we're not just going to verify or trust and verify, we're going to verify and verify and verify. We have to know to a certainty so that Israel, Gulf States, ourselves, nobody can be deceived by what is taking place.

CROWLEY: One of the points that the Israelis and others who have been unhappy about these negotiations have made is that there's a difference between halting a march toward nuclear capability and actually dismantling the mechanisms you need to build nuclear bombs. Here, you have halted it but not dismantled it.

KERRY: Absolutely, of course.

CROWLEY: What do you say this morning to the Saudis, to the Israelis who will say that they feel less safe, that Israel, in fact, is threatened?

KERRY: Well, Israel is threatened by what has been going on in Iran. But I believe that from this day for the next six months, Israel is, in fact, safer than it was yesterday because we now have a mechanism by which we are going to expand the amount of time in which they can break out rather than narrow it. We're going to have insights to their program that we didn't have before.

We're going to have a destruction of the 20 percent enrichment. We're going to have a limitation on the low enrichment at 3.5 percent. We're going to have a limitation of the building and installation of centrifuges. I mean, Israel, if you didn't have these things, would be seeing Iran continue on a daily basis to narrow the breakout time, to continue to do the things that it's been doing.

So, I believe that Israel, in fact, will be safer, providing we make sure that these sanctions don't get lifted in a way that reduces the pressure on Iran and we don't believe they will be. There's very little sanctions relief here. And the basic architecture in the sanctions stays in place.

So, we believe very strongly that because the Iranian nuclear program is actually set backwards and is actually locked into place in critical places that that is better for Israel than if you were just continuing to go down the road and they rush towards a nuclear weapon.

CROWLEY: Mr. Secretary, what is next vis-a-vis the relationship between the U.S. and Iran? Do you see normalizing relations down the road? What is possible in that one-on-one relationship?

KERRY: Well, nothing is possible until we solve the nuclear problem. And we're not looking -- the only down the road is over the course of the next six months while we work to try to solve the nuclear program. And if it can be solved, hopefully, establish a basis for proceeding forward on other things.

But right now, we've made it very clear that the international community requires resolution of the United Nations resolutions that have been passed, the questions that the International Atomic Energy Agency has. All of these things need to be answered. And so, we're trying to set up a process by which we can verify, know what we're doing, restraining the program while we negotiate the comprehensive deal.

CROWLEY: And finally, Mr. Secretary, Iran's behavior has been a bad actor in the region and elsewhere, not just because of its pursuit of a nuclear weapon, but because of its relationships there, how it backs Assad, a man that the U.S. administration and many other countries don't think should be there. So, there are other things that certainly speaks to Iran's behavior.

Do those things have to change? And do you think that's a part of this process in order for you to feel that there is a way to have somewhat normal relationship?

KERRY: Well, obviously, over the longer term and for any opportunity to really change the relationship, of course those things have to change. Hezbollah is a terrorist organization. Fundamentally, a client of Iran. Hezbollah is in Syria. Iran is engaged in Syria. These are issues of deep concern to all of us. In addition to that, we've seen activities around the world sponsored by Iran on occasion that violate the norms of international standards and behavior.

So, there are lots of things regrettably that we still have to work on. Our hope is that President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif want to build this different relationship, want to show in clear ways as we go forward that the program is peaceful. And we are open.

What President Obama has said is we are open not to being duped, to not to being tricked, and not to being led down the primrose path but open to setting up a verifiable, clear process by which everybody, Israel, our friends in the region, we particularly, the international community, our allies, the P5+1, can all make clear determinations about what Iran is doing in terms of its nuclear program and that it is going to live up to the highest international standards.

That's the beginning of the way in which you change the relationship. And that is where we've all decided, Iran included, that they're prepared to try to make steps in order to change this relationship. CROWLEY: Secretary of state, John Kerry, thank you for your time. I know it's been a long day, so we appreciate it.

KERRY: Thank you. Thanks so much, Candy. Thank you.

CROWLEY: I'm joined now by Jim Sciutto. He is CNN's chief national security correspondent and has followed these talks from the very beginning. Jim, so, six months, where do we go from here in terms of the next step in this deal?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, arguably, this is the tougher time. They've had weeks of very difficult talks to get to a temporary agreement, a temporary halt to some of these activities here. Now, they're going to have that six months to talk to get longer term agreements, longer term limits. You look at centrifuges.

Iran has agreed to add no more centrifuges. Now, they're going to get to the issue of dismantling some of them. On the Arak heavy water facility, Iran has agreed not to keep building it.

SCIUTTO: They got to get to the discussions of tearing it down. So in effect, they hit the pause button. Now, they're going to have to be talking about hitting the delete button and that's going to be some tougher negotiations over the next several months.

CROWLEY: And one of the things about this agreement is that it was not made between anybody in the neighborhood of Iran and not the Saudis, not the other Arab Gulf States, not the Israelis, and this has raised a lot of hackles because we've yet to find a state in that region that thinks this is a good idea. How does the president approach that?

SCIUTTO: No question. Their approach, their response has been and Secretary Kerry said that early this morning when the agreement came through that this is just a tactical disagreement with Israel and others. But really, it's far more fundamental than that. Secretary Kerry said this makes the world safer. Benjamin Netanyahu this morning says it makes the world a more dangerous place.

That's a fundamental disagreement, but clearly, administration has decided they can live with that. But I also think there is a false impression that Israel's response to this deal is monolithic. There are others, even in the Israeli security establishment who've come out and said they're open to talks as a way forward. That that might indeed, if it's verified and if Iran abides about this agreement, might make Israel safer.

So, there's disagreement inside Israel just as there is disagreement inside the U.S. as well. And I think we're going to see that playing out over the next several months as we watch these longer term talks take place, Candy.

CROWLEY: Jim Sciutto in Geneva for us. Thanks, Jim.

When we return, President Obama's guidance to Congress over imposing new sanctions.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now is not the time to move forward on new sanctions, because doing so would derail this promising first step.


CROWLEY: Is Congress onboard? We will get reaction from three key members next.


CROWLEY: Joining me now, the chairman and ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Republican Ed Royce of California and Democrat Eliot Engel of New York. Gentlemen, thank you both. You both have been quite skeptical of this deal before it was made. You remain skeptical now. But let me ask you first, Chairman Royce, what is the alternative to at least starting this process?

ROYCE: Well, remember the administration opposed the Senate putting the key oil sanctions on Iran which the senate -- U.S. senate did it a 100-0 vote. And it's those sanctions that's got Iran to the table in the first place.

So, our feeling in the legislation which I and Eliot Engel passed out of the House with 400 votes was that we needed to continue to ratchet up those sanctions until Iran was willing to agree to give up its right to enrich and to give up its nuclear program.

Until they do that, they're still on the road to having the capability for undetectable nuclear weapons breakout. And that's the bottom line. We just feel more pressure needs to be brought in Iran rather than to make this deal and take the pressure off of Iran which will allow them to go forward with their economic revitalization in the country.


ROYCE: Which isn't in our interest.

CROWLEY: Congressman Engel, though, it's there. Just quite the objections of a lot of people. There is this agreement now. And the president has said quite clearly, now is not the time for more sanctions here during the six-month period. Do you agree with that.

ENGEL: Well, let me first say that it's disappointing to me that Iran is still going to be allowed to enrich while they're talking. I would have thought that that should be a prerequisite to any kind of talks. We're not asking them to dismantle any of the centrifuges. So, that's disappointing.

But the agreement is here and we have to make it work. And I think we need to be very, very careful with the Iranians. I don't trust them. I don't think we should trust them. But I think that we have to make it work. Now, I'm favor of sanctions. I agree with Chairman Royce that it's important to ratchet up the problems with the Iranians so that they --

CROWLEY: Now though? I mean, during this six-month period, do you think now is the time to ratchet those up?

ENGEL: No. I think it makes it very difficult to continue the sanctions. I have been in favor. Obviously, our bill was passed 400- 20 just a few months ago. And I think that we could have played good cop, bad cop and Congress really believes that sanctions should happen. I think it's difficult for the Senate to do sanctions now.

But I do think sanction should always be hanging there, because that's what brought Iran to the table in the first place. And I don't think you make them bargain a good faith by going squishy.

CROWLEY: Congressman Royce, one of the things that Senator Lindsey Graham said last night to CNN was we're still going to be do this and what we're going to do is say here there are the sanctions. They're going to go in place in six months and we'll decide how successful the six months has been before the sanctions are waived. Do you think that's a good idea?

ROYCE: I think what Senator Graham is saying is that it would be sort of (INAUDIBLE) that would be hanging there.

CROWLEY: Right. Is that a good idea?

ROYCE: Yes. Yes, of course. You have to be able to hold their feet to the fire on these negotiations because once before we had an agreement with Iran, they walked away from it.

ROYCE: And, the IAEA had an agreement with Iran and Iran went ahead and built an enriched facility building and lied to the IAEA about that.

So, unless, we understand that the people who run in Iran, who send the protesters out to chant death to America last month in the streets, unless we understand, you know, that they are capable of cheating and have in place the ability to really ratchet up, we're going to find ourselves exactly where we found ourselves with North Korea which will be that nuclear capability will be in the hands of the ayatollah.

CROWLEY: Congressman Engel, when you look at Iran today, do you see the new president acting like a moderate, helped open the way for these talks or do you see the Ayatollah Khomeini who is shouting, you know, death to America, death to Israel? Which is the real Iran?

ENGEL: Well, I think the supreme leader is the real Iran.

CROWLEY: The ayatollah, the one who said death to America --

ENGEL: Yes. Just last week, he called Israel a rabid dog. The rhetoric hasn't stopped. Look, Rouhani is no moderate. No moderates were allowed to run in the Iranian election. All the moderates were excluded. You had six hard-liners that were allowed to run. And Rouhani is, perhaps, the most moderate of the six hardliners, but he's still a hardliner.

It's not clear to me that he can make these decisions, anyway. It's the supreme leader, Khomeini, who can make these decisions. And he frankly hasn't shown any kind of moderation whatsoever. Look, I think we have to use these next six months to make sure that Iran dismantles its program and that they have no right to enrichment. They keep saying even as we speak, they have a right to enrichment. That troubles me. They don't.

CROWLEY: Chairman Royce, let me ask you as a final question. At this moment, what do you think is the worst that can happen over the next six months? And there's really not anything right now that Congress can do, is there?

ROYCE: Well, here's the unfortunate thing. We had put enormous pressure on Iran and it was having an impact internally. Some of the polling out of the country by Gallup showed that two-thirds of the people wanted a western style democracy, right? And you had hyperinflation. You have mass unemployment there. You have a situation where Iran was having a hard time funding the type of instability it likes to create throughout the region.

One of the reasons that other regimes throughout the Middle East are concerned about our approach is that they feel that in letting up on Iran and lifting sanctions, we're going to re-empower Iran to be the hegemon in the Middle East, to take that money and continue to support Hezbollah, Hamas, attempts to overthrow Saudi Arabia, their machinations (ph), and other governments around that region.

CROWLEY: They're still a sponsor of terrorism.

ROYCE: They are a state sponsor of terrorism trying to get a bomb.

CROWLEY: Yes. Thank you so much, Chairman Ed Royce, ranking member Eliot Engel, both of the Foreign Affairs Committee. I appreciate your time today.

When we return, should the Iran deal spark an arms race in the region? Could it? House Intelligence committee chairman, Mike Rogers, is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CROWLEY: With me now, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Mike Rogers. Let me begin with something that the Iranians were quite fixed on during the course of these negotiations. And that was the idea of whether or not they have a right to enrichment program which they say would just be for nuclear power, for peaceful reasons.

And, I want to play you something that the Iranian foreign minister had to say. This was after the deal was announced.


MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: We believe that the current agreement, the current plan of action, as we call it, in two distinct places has a very clear reference to the fact that Iranian enrichment program will continue and will be a part of any agreement now and in the future.


CROWLEY: Whoa. Now, I must say that the secretary of state said, people are going to tell you that there's, you know, written in here the right to enrichment and there isn't. So, already, they disagree on what the agreement said which is kind of the point, I guess --

ROGERS: We have just rewarded very bad and dangerous behavior. So, think about what this agreement does. It says you can continue to enrich. That's what the Iranians believe. And they have made no changes, no changes in the development of their nuclear weapon program. And I can tell that you with a high degree of certainty.

So, here is the leading nation state of terror who tried to commit a political assassination right here in Washington, D.C. as they believe can contribute to the deaths of hundreds of U.S. Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, who continues to be the main driver between the incredible brutality that's happening in Syria, very active around the world with other political assassination attempts and what have we done?

We've taken away the one thing -- we've given them just enough breathing room, the one thing that brought them to the table.

What is worrying about that is bipartisan opposition in Congress, very strong bipartisan option to the deal. Our Arab league partners don't like the deal. Israel doesn't like the deal. And we may, we may have just encouraged more violence in the future than we have stopped. That's why I hope we reconsider where we're at and certainly in six months.

CROWLEY: Well you're right because the deal is there. And there is not much Congress can do at this particular point because it's a deal. I think the question, though, is that they are freezing their -- much of their program at any rate. They are -- we are to believe this plan, allowing unprecedented access to at least some of its reactor sites, et cetera, et cetera. And I want to play you something that John Kerry said in advance of the criticism he knew was coming.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Finally, I know that there are those who will assert that this deal is imperfect. Well, they, too, share a responsibility. And that is it to tell people what the better alternative is.


ROGERS: Gladly. You know, the president opposed the first round of sanctions. They work on Iran passed with huge bipartisan support. The second round of sanctions passed with huge bipartisan support. This was the third round. And what we are finally starting to do is start to impact the elite in Iran, the business class of Iran. And what they have done, now remember, they're overburdened.

They're active. They're supporting Hezbollah, terrorist organization, operating in Syria. They have all of these pressures and finally we were getting to the place that was actually going to really bite. They were going to have to make the determination, is a nuclear weapon worth the destruction of our country financially? What they have just done is stop the second round and what is frustrating to me about this, Candy, is they spent the last month lobbying Congress not about what the deal would be or wouldn't be, but please don't do another round of sanctions. That tells me they don't understand what capabilities they have now and what they're seeking to do. And that's dangerous.

CROWLEY: Well others have said, look, there are experts who say there is only so far you could go with the sanctions before you just pushed them into making a nuclear weapon. But beyond that, we are where we are, Mr. Chairman. There is a deal in place. There is an agreement, however heinous the past has been about Iran. And you are privy to a lot of intelligence information that most people aren't. What is the real Iran today that we've made an agreement with?

ROGERS: Well, it is a very dangerous place that has the sheer determination. And here is what we need to understand. So the rhetoric coming out of, even when I heard what the secretary recently - again this is a bipartisan effort here in opposition. So they went into the deal without Congress really being fully supportive, without our Arab league partners being fully supportive. Without Israel being fully supportive. That tells you that somebody is not paying attention. And I would argue that probably the folks wanted a deal. Why now? Why release that pressure now? Iran has not changed.

The (INAUDIBLE) force which is their arm, their terrorist arm that does state sponsored terrorism activities around the world, again, including trying an attempt here in the United States, they continue their cyber efforts to attack according to public reports financial institutions in the United States. None of that has changed. The only things that changed is you have now given them a permission slip to continue enrichment. That's what the Iranians walk away from. That is the one thing the whole world was trying to stop them from doing. That's why I don't understand the rhetoric on this. And we know when you go down this path, we made this mistake in Pakistan. We made this mistake in North Korea. And now why -- history is a great judge here and a great teacher. Why would you make the same mistake to a nation that will proliferate a nuclear arms race in the Middle East if they're successful in getting a nuclear weapon?

CROWLEY: We got to leave it at that. We have six months to watch this thing. So Congressman Mike Rogers, chairman of the Intelligence Committee, thank you for stopping by.

ROGERS: Thanks, Candy.

CROWLEY: When we return, can Iran be trusted to keep up their end of the bargain? Two former intelligence chiefs, John Negroponte and Michael Hayden are next.


CROWLEY: Joining me now, former CIA director, Retired General Michael Hayden, and the former director of National Intelligence and U.S. ambassador to the U.N., John Negroponte. Thank you both for joining us. I want to get you to try to place this in history for me. I know it's a little early but how big a deal is this?

MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER CIA AND NSA DIRECTOR: I think we might be overreacting a bit both in overselling the deal and perhaps over criticizing the deal. This is at best an interim agreement, one of your earlier speakers mentioned this is hitting the pause button, not the delete button. I think - I think we're really going to find out whether this is important in the next six months, not now.

CROWLEY: And there's -- is there harm in the pause? We've certainly heard Benjamin Netanyahu argue there is harm in the pause because they will use it to sort of regroup. But from where you look at it, is there harm in a six-month pause?

JOHN NEGROPONTE, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Well, I think you asked about, is it a big deal? I think it's a huge deal in the Middle East. I think it's not only the nuclear implications, but I think the question of what is this going to do to Iran's hegemonic ambitions? Are they going to consider themselves now a peer with the United States? Does this represent some real shift in Sunni- Shia balance in that part of the world?

CROWLEY: Does it? Because nobody in the region other than Iran is a party to this. Nobody in the neighborhood is a party to it. And it seems like most people in the neighborhood from the Gulf Arab -- Gulf States to Israel are going, no. Because you know, as we know, Iran is heavily involved in Syria and with Hezbollah and not on the side of the U.S. is. But how do you ever make a deal unless you start the deal somewhere?

HAYDEN: Agreed. But as the ambassador pointed out, we've been broadly aligned with the Sunnis and the Israelis in the region. And now they're perceiving this is our moving in the direction of an accommodation, perhaps a deep accommodation for the future with the Iranians. That takes an awful lot of hand holding to keep our allies on side (ph). It doesn't appear we've done a whole lot of that today.

CROWLEY: It doesn't. And what is that hand holding? I mean sure, you can hand hold but don't there also have to have actions? I mean something? It certainly seems between Israel and from what we're hearing behind the scenes with Saudi Arabia and others that it's been very tense.

NEGROPONTE: Well I think what the general meant by, "hand holding," is now an intensified diplomacy with both the Gulf countries and with Israel. And another point to make is this agreement deals with the issue basically of enrichment and doesn't -- as has been pointed out by the other speakers this morning, doesn't even deal with it entirely at this particular point. But what has not been discussed or has been omitted, of course, is other elements of the Iran nuclear program, the delivery systems, the weaponization, and it hasn't dealt with the question of Iran's behavior in the neighborhood to which you just eluded.

CROWLEY: And I've asked this of everybody because also of the secretary of state because it fascinates me. Because there are - it seems to me to be now two voices from Iran. I don't know whether there's actually two parts of Iran. We have this moderate and people object to that term, the new president there. And, yet, we have Khamenei, the supreme ayatollah. What's the real Iran? You all know stuff a lot of us don't know, have seen it over the course of the past 30 years. What is the real Iran?

HAYDEN: The real Iran in terms of the actions of the Iranian state, the real Iran comprises the supreme leader. And he is the one that will determine Iran's course of action here.

NEGROPONTE: So the issue is has he changed his mind? And we don't know that for sure.

CROWLEY: Doesn't sound like it.

NEGROPONTE: One thing I would say is that he has allowed Mr. Zarif, who used to be my counterpart at the United Nations, he was the ambassador to the U.N., he has allowed him a much more prominent role than has been -- Zarif has been allowed in the last several years. So I take that as some kind of a signal. But it doesn't tell you definitively whether the supreme leader - whether the leopard has changed his spots.

CROWLEY: Do you perceive the leopard, the ayatollah, ever giving up nuclear weapons ambitions?

NEGROPONTE: Well, I mean that's what we got to work hard on over the next six months. I think what worries a number of people is that we might get sort of salami sliced and that Iranians will engage in dilatory tactics and then seek some more momentary relief from sanctions and so forth. I think we got to press hard for these next six months and that we go to the next step to relieve sanctions. Has got to be one, the entire package has been accomplished.

CROWLEY: Right. Because here's what -- I also looking at this think. Well, we'll get six months down the road. And they won't have reached the entire package. But they're not going to undo the pause. Well, we are making progress. And, you know, you can sort of see an Iran that gives just a little but keeps what it's got.

HAYDEN: Candy, the worst practically the worst of all possible outcomes because now what you have here is a nuclear capable state. I think, frankly, that is Iran's bottom line. So what we're negotiating on is how much time we're putting between their nuclear capability and a nuclear weapon, a nuclear reality. And my great fear is this interim agreement which doesn't roll back much of anything at all becomes a permanent agreement.

CROWLEY: Do you have the same fear, that it is -- we're not looking at an Iran that is going to be willing to give up its capability. We're just trying to push back how quickly they can get to nuclear capability?

NEGROPONTE: Well think of it this way -- the one reversal that has taken place is going to be the destruction of the uranium that's been refined up to 20 percent. But everything else is sort of still on the table. So you really got to deal with all of that. You got to deal with it as quickly as possible.

CROWLEY: Times are wasting (INAUDIBLE) when it comes to (INAUDIBLE) developing a nuclear weapon. John Negroponte, Michael Hayden, thank you both for joining us this morning.

When we come back, what the Iran deal means for president Obama's legacy.


CROWLEY: Joining me around the table, Bill Burton, former White House deputy secretary and current senior fellow of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of "The Hill," and Alex Castellanos, a Republican strategist and a CNN political commentator. Thank you all for joining us on this day after historic day.

I want to talk a little bit about the president's foreign policy and a recent poll "CBS News" the question was, what's your opinion of Obama foreign policy? Only 38 percent approved. 50 percent disapproved. Same time frame. CNN had a poll where we asked about approval for the interim deal on Iran's nuclear power. 56 percent favor it. So in the short-term, a president in trouble over health care and a number of other things, does this give him a breather, a bit of a break, a little boost in the polls, a little strength?

A.B. STODDARD, COLUMNIST, "THE HILL": I think it definitely needs to be acknowledged that sanctions have been successful and that the sanctions have brought us to the point where he had leverage to actually have negotiations with the Iranians because they were so desperate for sanctions relief. Obviously any deal is progress if it succeeds. If it doesn't, the glow of this will wear off quickly because if Iranians don't comply, and there's more questions about what this has done and continued opposition from Israelis, et cetera, the it becomes a mistake.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Any time you see the president (INAUDIBLE) the world stage, you know, he's the captain of the ship of state, you see him as the father figure for the country. That's a good thing for the president politically. However, I think we're seeing here the regovernization of the Democratic Party. Bill Clinton, new Democrat, the era of big government is over. Barack Obama, Obamacare, the era of big government is back domestically. Now on foreign policy we're seeing a very, give peace a chance Democratic Party and so this Democratic Party is going to go into 2014 and '16 is not Hillary Clinton's party. This is more of an Elizabeth Warren, George McGovern, Dukakis party.


CROWLEY: Obama is George McGovern?


CASTELLANOS: Without the experience.

BURTON: I think the American people appreciate leadership and that's what they saw here. They saw a real accomplishment and progress in Iran. What you have seen here is a significant shift in American foreign policy. When you first saw it start to happen was back in a debate with then Senator Obama versus Hillary Clinton when he said that he would engage with Iran.

After that, a lot of folks like Alex of the world back then were saying, this is McGovern. This is weak. This is not what the American people want but his poll numbers went up. Trust in him went up. I think that what you'll see here is the American people appreciate the progress being made and they see their president as a leader on the world stage and I think that's good for the nation.

CROWLEY: Longer term, just humor me a bit. When you look at -- I'm a little surprised at the numbers that approve of the president's foreign policy. He ended the war in Iraq. He's winding down the war in Afghanistan. He did get Osama bin Laden. Now a deal with Iran which most people say they wanted interim though it may be. In terms of legacy, could foreign policy be that? We've always talked about, it's health care, it's health care. Could it be foreign policy?

CASTELLANOS: Well, the way I think Republicans look at this and a lot of concerned Americans is that he has retreating from the world. Not exactly made America stronger. We are the glue. We are the glue that holds the civilized world together. It's our presence and strength and how we are respected by our friends and feared by adversaries that keeps the world peace.

And as he has retreated from that, as we've approached now a more global kind of perspective. We're just one of many countries that is working to keep the world a better place. The world has become more uncertain. I man the Middle East is on fire. The soviets are re- empowering themselves. The -- even Latin America is a less stable place and now in a much more connected world, it's a less certain world for the United States at the same time he's reducing our military. We're going to 200 ship Navy. So a weaker America, a less respected America in a more uncertain world, that I think is going to be his legacy.

CROWLEY: Let me -- I'll give you a chance to respond to that but then I want to move onto Republicans.

BURTON: I would argue that one group who does not agree with you is al Qaeda. The president completely decimated al Qaeda. The leadership is totally either dead or disaggregated in a way where they cannot attack the United States the way they did on 9/11. The president ended the war in Iraq. He's winding down the war in Afghanistan. I would say that we are a lot stronger than we were when president Obama started in 2009 at this moment. Particularly as we moved Iran further away from getting a nuclear weapon.

CROWLEY: I just think a lot of intelligence folks would argue about al Qaeda. It has reconstitute itself perhaps in many different forms but he did indeed go after a lot of leaders and get a lot of leaders but now a slightly different end and a lot of people think scarier threat.

STODDARD: No one is mentioning Syria. I don't know when those polls were taken. That was a debacle. The response was made people more anxious. The country was opposed to intervention but weren't sure about what Syrians agreed to and whether they had secret stockpiles we don't know about of chemical weapons. So the Americans remain more anxious whether viewed as a retreat or not. That's why they look at a time when they feel unsafe no matter how many victories. They still look at the leadership and the anxiety shows up.



CASTELLANOS: (INAUDIBLE). They're going to go out and develop their own nuclear capabilities. If Israel thinks, well, we have to act independently of the United States, the Middle East is now going to be in my view a more uncertain place.

CROWLEY: I want to move you on because it was (INAUDIBLE) it's got a lot of chatter in social media. John Cornyn running for re- election. Senator. Republican. Tweeted out pretty immediately after the deal was announced, "amazing what White House will do to distract attention from O-care." He got pounded for that. I laughed because a little bit I thought he was kidding but perhaps not. You know, it may be a distraction from Obamacare for a while. I'm not sure it was, hey, let's get a deal with Iran so we cannot talk about health care. Yes. This week right now it's really bad.

CASTELLANOS: I don't think any American president, Republican or Democrat, would risk the security of your country to distract from even the worst political disaster you could imagine which may end up being Obamacare. However, weakness invites the wolves. When you are in a weak position politically as leader of the United States, you do maybe look for -- you're a little more open to things you shouldn't be open to. I think Senator Cornyn might have reworded that to be a little more accurate.

CROWLEY: I'll give you the last word real quick, A.B., and that is there's a danger Republicans can overplay their hand on this sort of thing.

STODDARD: I think as long as there's Democrats joining them in the Congress opposing this deal, then they really still have a leg to stand on. But it's -- again, I think people need to acknowledge the sanctions brought us to this point.

CROWLEY: Bill, you get first word next time. Bill Burton, A.B. Stoddard, Alex Castellanos, thank you, guys. And thank you all for watching STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. If you missed any part of today's show, find us on iTunes. Search, STATE OF THE UNION.

Fareed Zakaria, GPS, starts right now.