tv CNN Newsroom CNN December 7, 2013 10:00am-11:01am PST
immigrants, people that are special ed, special needs, and yet and still they're among top performers in the world. we have to understand that the adults created this system. this is not about kids that get the trophies, this is about adults that are uncomfortable going home with a child that doesn't have a trophy, this is about the adult that doesn't want to sit home and help his or her child do a homework assignment that might take up too much of their night. we have to own that we the adults have to put our children first and create situations in which we push not just the children but the educators that sur ound them. too many of us are comfortable with mediocrity. as michelle said, the rest of the world is moving forward. we haven't dropped, we're just losing in a race because we're not moving forward. >> frank talk from steve perry and michelle reed on this important issue. we have much more ahead in the cnn newsroom and it all starts right now.
i am fredricka whitfield. ice, sleet, snow, a cold snap hits much of the u.s., knocking out power for hundreds of thousands of people. and plunging central parts of the country into bone chilling cold. we're going live to the heart of the storm next. and home at last after six weeks locked up in north korea, an elderly u.s. war veteran suddenly free. he is now back home. and we just heard from him last hour. plus, after ineffective chemotherapy and failed bone marrow transplant, this 15-year-old leukemia patient thought he would die. then an experimental treatment changed everything. details coming up. merrill newman back on u.s.
soil, accused of alleged crimes in his time fighting the korean war. the 85-year-old tourist was captured in october in north korea and detained by authorities there. now after six weeks, newman is a free man. he arrived at the san francisco airport just moments ago on a united airlines flight from beijing. why the sudden release that north korean officials are calling a deportation? north korea media say because in large part this video where newman appeared to apologize for his alleged crimes. joining me now, cnn correspondent dan simon who is in front of his condominium complex in palo alto. dan, he hasn't made it from the airport to his condo i presume as of yet, and he didn't answer any questions last hour, made a simple statement of being grateful to be back home. >> reporter: he looks to be in terrific condition, fredricka. we haven't seen him yet. we are in front of this
retirement complex. we don't know if he's headed here or if he's going to receive some medical evaluation, but the bottom line is he is back home, he is safe, and this is what he had to say a short time ago. >> good morning, i am delighted to be home. i want to thank the swedish embassy in pyongyang and in beijing for all their help. been a great homecoming and i'm tired but ready to be with my family now. thank you all for the support we got. very much appreciate it. >> reporter: fredricka, to put it in context, this is an 85-year-old with a heart condition. he had been held captive since the end of october. you can imagine how worried his family must have been for him. the bottom line is he is looking good. we will be curious to hear how
his condition went or his captivity went, how he was treated. those questions are going to come later. as you said, fredricka, he didn't take any questions. >> right. is there a feeling that we will know kind of the impetus of his release? >> reporter: that's a great question. you know, this is a man who was an intelligence officer in the korean war. obviously had a desire to go back to north korea and perhaps visit with some of the people he knew during his wartime. it is apparent he said the wrong thing to someone and he was taken into custody and accused of war crimes. no one knew what was going to happen. then we saw him give this apology and again, it was sort of a waiting game. then last night suddenly north korean government without explanation decided to release him. the news division of the korean government said he was released because he obviously offered this sincere apology and they said they released him for
quote, unquote, humanitarian purposes. fred? >> dan simon, thanks so much. the family of a christian missionary kenneth bay held in a north korean prison for over a year issued this statement. it read that the bay family is pleased to hear mr. newman was released from north korea. we have faith in our government to bring kenneth home. end quote. let's talk weather in a bad way. a major storm is on the march from the gulf coast to the great lakes. it's already hit several states in the form of an ice storm. the dallas, fort worth area among the hardest-hit. it knocked out power for hundreds of thousands of people. much of the state has been plunged into bone chilling cold. at least one death has been attributed to weather conditions. a tow truck spun off an icy bridge, killing the driver. as the storm swept into arkansas, trees and power lines were down. the governor has declared a state of emergency.
the weather is now moving up to the northeast. a winter storm warning has already been issued for central ohio. as you can tell, this storm isn't over yet. something tells me it is just picking up steam. alexandra steele is in the weather center. what should others expect? >> hi, fred, good morning. those pictures aren't really what it is going to look like with this new storm. what we saw with the ice from dallas to memphis, they had ice and the temperature stayed incredibly cold. this is going to be a different scenario. i want to show you the timing and who will see what and when. here is the forecast radar. this is a ice story. tomorrow at 8:00 a.m., pink coming out of nowhere. area of low pressure develops in the southeast, this is what happens. the white snow. pink is the ice, definitely the most problematic with this, the freezing rain and sleet with this storm. sunday morning this is where it gets into kentucky, west
virginia and virginia. by the time we head to 4:00 in the afternoon, gets into washington as well. it looks as though washington could see one to three inches of snow. but in addition, about a quarter inch of ice. that will be the problem. then sunday night, it moves overnight into new york. new york doesn't look like any snow deal perhaps, but then it moves farther north than that. and with this, temperatures on monday quickly rebound into the 40s. so whatever ice does fall, we're going to watch that quickly melt. here is where the ice scenario is, fred. richmond to roanoke, we could see potential for a half inch of ice. >> folks need to start stocking up pantries now. you don't want to venture on the road to get noches of any sort. >> temperatures are going to warmup. monday is okay to be on the road. >> that's good. alexandra, appreciate that. right now it is the big ice and they're waiting for the big
thaw in the big d, dallas. hard hit. ed lavandara is there. did it happen, is it going to happen, the dallas marathon? >> reporter: no, it was supposed to run tomorrow, sunday morning was cancelled first time in that event's history. there was also supposed to be a big holiday parade, big tradition in downtown dallas. a few days ago, crews started to set up the grandstands along the path of the parade. that was cancelled. those stands are still just sitting there, waiting for the storm to pass so crews can tear it back down. the parade and marathon and a bunch of other events, businesses and schools had to close yesterday, this town and dallas fort worth is quiet. we are in clyde warren park on the northern edge of downtown dallas. this is a place where it is usually packed on a weekend, come here to enjoy the weekend.
there's nobody out here. couple people walk out every once in a while. behind me is all ice, not snow. this is what you're seeing. a leaf here is caked, can't even break the ice on the leaf. that ice is completely wrapped around a lot of foliage you see around town. that's what we're dealing with here. that's a thick layer of ice that has frozen on a lot of the greenery here. when you talk about roadways, incredibly dangerous, treacherous today. crews, people are warned to be very careful. a lot of slush on roadways yesterday has hardened in frigid companies and airports are struggling to catch up with all their flight schedules. dallas, fort worth international airport cancelled 50% of outbound flights. that's 400 flights in all. >> bad situation. thanks so much, ed lavandara in chilly dallas. plans for a week of mourning
for nelson mandela are coming into focus. people all over the world are remembering the former south african president. mandela was 95 years old. according to a government minister, tomorrow is a day of prayer and reflection in south africa. mandela's memorial service will be held tuesday at a soccer stadium outside johannesburg. it seats about 100,000 people. his body will be lying in state from wednesday until friday. mandela's funeral and burial will take place next sunday, the 15th. when patients are diagnosed with cancer, they fear the worst. coming up, we have an amazing story of a young boy who's getting a second chance at life and his treatment may just answer the prayers of so many others fighting this disease. every day we're working to be an even better company - and to keep our commitments. and we've made a big commitment to america. bp supports nearly 250,000 jobs here. through all of our energy operations, we invest more in the u.s. than any other place in the world.
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washington, d.c. president barack obama taking part in a conversation at the saban forum, bringing together american and israeli leaders from across the political and social spectrum. let's listen in right now to the introduction of the president. >> i am personally honored that you insisted that i have this conversation with you, even though i never set foot for any conversation for ten years. so thank you. i'm very honored. should we start with iran? >> we should. >> okay, good. mr. president, polls indicate that 77% of israelis don't believe this deal would preclude iran from having nuclear weapons, and they perceive this as an existential matter for them. what can you say to the israeli people to address that concern? >> before i answer the question,
let me say to you thank you so much for the great work that you've done. i thank the saban forum and center has done outstanding work and it provides us a mechanism where we don't just scratch the surface of these issues. obviously the challenges in the middle east are enormous and the work that's being done here is terrific, so i want to also thank you for hosting us today and you here, including outstanding members of the israeli government and some friends that i haven't seen in a while. so thanks for having me. let me start with the basic premise that i've said repeatedly. it is in america's national security interests, not just israel's national security interests or the region's national security interest to prevent iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and let's remember where we were when i
first came into office. iran had gone from having less than 200 centrifuges to having thousands, in some cases more advanced centrifuges. there was a program that advanced to the point where their breakout capacity had accelerated in ways we had been concerned about for quite some time. as a consequence, what i said to my team and what i said to our international partners was that we are going to have to be more serious about how we change the cost benefit analysis for iran. we put in place unprecedented regime of sanctions that has crippled iran's economy, cut their oil revenues by more than half, have put enormous pressure
on currency, their economy contracted by more than 5% last year, and it is precisely because of the international sanctions and coalition we were able to build internationally that the iranian people responded by saying we need a new direction in how we interact with the international community and how we deal with the sanctions regime, and that's what brought president rowhani to power. he was not necessarily the first choice of hard liners inside iran. now, that doesn't mean that we should trust him or anybody else inside iran. this is a regime that came to power as swearing opposition to the united states, to israel, and to many of the values that we hold dear, but what i've consistently said is even as i don't take any options off the table, what we do have to test
is the possibility that we can resolve this issue diplomatically, and that is the deal that at the first stages we have been able to get done in geneva, thanks to some extraordinary work by john kerry and his counterparts in the p 5 plus one. let's look at exactly what we've done. for the first time in over a decade we have halted advances in the iranian nuclear program. we have not only made sure that they have to stop adding additional centrifuges. we also said they've got to roll back their 20% advanced enrichment. >> to how much? >> down to zero. so you remember when prime minister netanyahu made his presentation before united nations last year, well, the
picture of a bomb, he was referring to 20% enrichment, which the concern was if you get too much of that, you now have sufficient capacity to go ahead and create a nuclear weapon. we're taking that down to zero. we are stopping the advancement of the iraq facility, which would provide additional pathway, plutonium pathway for the development of nuclear weapons. we are going to have daily inspectors in ford rowan na tons. we will have additional inspections in iraq. and as a consequence during this six month period, iran cannot and will not advance its program or add additional stock piles of advanced uranium, enriched uranium.
what we have done in exchange is kept all these sanctions in place, the architecture remains with respect to oil, with respect to finance, with respect to banking. what we've done is we turned the spigot slightly and said here is maximum $7 billion out of the over $100 billion of revenue of theirs frozen as a consequence of our sanctions to give us the time and space to test whether they can move in a direction, a comprehensive, permanent agreement that would give us all assurances that they're not producing nuclear weapons. >> i understand that. a quick question as relates to the 7 billion, if i may. >> please. >> how do we prevent those who work with us in geneva who are already descended on tehran looking for deals to cause the 7 to become 70 because we can control what we do, but what is the control on the others?
>> this is precisely why the timing of this was right. one of the things we were always concerned about is if we did not show good faith trying to resolve this issue diplomatically, then the sanctions regime would begin to fray. this was two years of extraordinary diplomatic work on behalf of our team to actually get the sanctions in place. they're not just the unilateral sanctions that are created by the united states, these are sanctions that are also participated in by russia, by china, and some allies of ours like south korea and japan that find these sanctions very costly, but that's precisely why they become so effective. so what we've said is that we do not loosen any of the core sanctions, we provide a small window through which they can access, but we control it and it
is reversible. during the course of these six months if and when iran shows itself not to be abiding by this agreement, not to be negotiating in good faith, we can reverse them and tighten them even further, but here is the bottom line. ultimately my goal as president of the united states, something i have said publicly and privately and shared everywhere i've gone is to prevent iran from getting a nuclear weapon. but what i've also said is the best way for us to prevent iran getting a nuclear weapon is for a comprehensive verifiable diplomatic resolution, without taking any other options off the table, if we fail to achieve that. it is important for us to test that proposition in the next six months, understanding while we're talking, they're not secretly improving their position or changing
circumstances on the ground inside iran. if at the end of six months it turns out we can't make a deal, we're no worse off, and in fact we have greater leverage with the international community to continue to apply sanctions and even strengthen them. if on the other hand we're able to get this deal done, what we can achieve through diplomatic resolution is greater than what we could achieve with other options available. >> let's hope. >> absolutely. >> you hosted dinners at the white house. >> i have. >> and you know the famous saying, why is this not different than any other night, in that context, would like to ask you a question. >> please. >> with best intentions and all efforts, president reagan felt pakistan would not go nuclear. didn't happen. best intentions, president clinton thought north korea
won't go nuclear. why is this nuclear deal any different than any other nuclear deal? >> well, we don't know yet. we don't know yet. i think it is important for everybody to understand this is hard because the technology of nuclear site you can get off the internet. the knowledge of creating a nuclear weapon is already out there, and iran is a large country and relatively wealthy country. so we have to take seriously the possibility that they're going to try to get a nuclear weapon. that's what this whole exercise is about. having said that, if you look at the history, by the time we had agreement with north korea, they essentially had a nuclear weapon. with respect to pakistan, there was never the kind of inspection
regimes and international sanctions and u.n. resolutions that were in place. we have been able to craft an international effort and verification mechanism around the iran nuclear program that is unprecedented and unique. that doesn't mean it's easy, and that's why we have to take it seriously. but i think one of the things that i have repeatedly said when people ask why should we try to negotiate with them, we can't trust them, we're being naive, what i try to describe to them is not the choice between this deal and the ideal, put the choice between this deal and other alternatives. if i had an option, if we could create an option in which iran
eliminated every single nut and bolt of their nuclear program and foreswore the possibility of ever having a nuclear program and for that matter got rid of all its military capabilities, i would take it. but -- sorry, i want to make sure everybody understands, that particular option is not available, so as a consequence, what we have to do is make a decision given the options available, what's the best way to assure iran does not get a nuclear weapon, and the best way is to test this diplomatic path, understanding that it's not based on trust, it's based on what we can verify, and it also does not negate the fact that iran is engaging in a bunch of other behavior in the middle east and around the world that is detrimental to the united
states and detrimental to israel and we will continue to contest their efforts where they're engaging in terrorism, where they're being disruptive to our friends and our allies. we will not abide by any threats to our friends and allies in the region and we made that perfectly clear. our commitment to israel's security is sack row singt and they understand that. if we can work on the nuclear program in the way rag was able to negotiate with the soviet union even as we were still contesting them around the world, that removes one more threat, a critical, extension threat, takes it out of their arsenal and ultimately win them defeat, some of their agenda through the region, without worrying that somehow it will escalate or trigger a nuclear
arms race in the most volatile part of the world. >> you're right, it would. so freedman had an interesting perspective in one of his columns. said never negotiate with iran without some leverage and some crazy on your side. we have to outcrazy the crazies. do you think he has a point? >> well, tom is a very smart observer. i know my friend bibi is speaking later f tom wants to characterize the way you described, that's his prerogative. that's not my view. prime minister netanyahu and i have had constant consultations on these issues throughout the last five years, something bears
repeating. the united states military cooperation with israel has never been stronger. our intelligence cooperation with israel has never been stronger. our support of israel's security has never been stronger, whether talking about iron dome, whether you're talking about trying to manage the situation in gaza a little over a year ago. across the board, our coordination on israel security has never been stronger, and that's not just my opinion, that's something that can be verified. there are times where i as president of the united states am going to have different tactical perspectives than the prime minister of israel and that is understandable because israel cannot contract out its security in light of the history that the people of israel
understand all too well, they have to make sure they're making their own assessments about what they need to do to protect themselves and we respect that and i have said that consistently to the prime minister. but ultimately it is my view from a tactical perspective that we have to test out this proposition, it will make it stronger internationally, and it may possibly lead to a deal that we'll have to show to the world. in fact that assures us iran is not getting a nuclear weapon. it is not that there's a lot of capacity to hide the ball here. we're going to be able to make an assessment because this will be subject to the p 5 plus one and the international community looking at the details of every aspect of a potential final deal, and we're consulting with all our friends, including israel, in terms of what would that end state look like, and if
we can't get there, then no deal is better than a bad deal. presuming it is going to be a bad deal and as a consequence not trying for a deal i think would be a dire mistake. >> well, personally i find a lot of comfort in the fact even though the united states and israel may have red lines in different places, we all have the same place as far as the bottom line goes, and iran will not have nuclear weapons. >> that's more than fair. >> good. thank you. should we move to the israeli palestinians? >> we should. >> okay. >> very obedient president i have here today. >> you know, this is the saban forum, so you're in charge. >> i wish. >> or cheryl is in charge. >> you're right.
it is cheryl that is in charge. first of all, before i ask the first question, i would be remiss if i didn't have the bottom of my heart thank you for your continuous effort to achieve peace in the middle east. thank you so very much. >> thank you. [ applause ] >> people talk about an imposed american solution. we've heard these rumors rumbling around for awhile. the u.s. has always said it doesn't want to impose. what do you propose? >> first of all, this is a challenge that we've been wrestling with for 60 years. what i've consistently said is that the only way this is going to be resolved is if the people of israel and the palestinian people make a determination that their futures and the future of their children and grandchildren will be better off with peace
than with conflict. the united states can be an effective facilitator of that negotiation and dialogue. we can help to bridge differences and bridge gaps but both sides want, have to want to get there. and i have to commend prime minister netanyahu and president abbas for courageous efforts that have led to very serious conversations over the last several months. they're not easy but they come down to what we all know are going to be the core issues, territory, security, refugees, jerusalem, and there are not a lot of secrets or surprises at this point. we know what the outlines of a potential agreement might look like, and the question then becomes are both sides willing
to take the very tough political risks involved if their bottom lines are met. for the palestinians, the bottom line is that they have a state of their own that is real and meaningful. for the israelis, the bottom line is to a large extent the state of israel as a jewish state secure. and those issues have been spoken about over the last several months in these negotiations in a very serious way. tiffany is here, we are grateful for her efforts there. i think it is possible in the next several months to arrive at a framework that does not address every single detail, but gets us to a point where
everybody recognizes better to move forward than backwards. sometimes when you climb up a mountain, even when it is scary, it is easier to go up than down. and i think that we're now at a place where we can achieve a two state solution in which israelis and palestinians are living side by side in peace and security. but it's going to require some tough decisions. one thing i have to say is we have spent a lot of time working with prime minister netanyahu and his entire team to understand from an israeli perspective what is required for the security of israel in such scenario. and going back to what i said earlier, we understand that we can't dictate to israel what it needs for its security, but what we have done is to try to
understand it and see through a consultative process are there ways through technology, through additional ideas, we can potentially provide for that. i assigned one of our top former generals, john allen, who used to most recently head up the entire coalition effort in afghanistan he is retired, but willing to take on this mission. he is willing to examine the set of challenges around security. >> has he concluded anything? >> he has come up to, he has arrived at the conclusion that it is possible to create a two state solution that preserves israel's security needs. that's his conclusion, but ultimately he's not the decision maker here, prime minister netanyahu and the israeli military and intelligence folks
have to make that determination and ultimately the palestinians have to also recognize that there's going to be a transition period where the israeli people cannot expect a replica of gaza in the west bank. that is unacceptable. i think we believe we can arrive at that point where israel was confident about that, but we're going to have to see whether the israelis agree and whether president abbas is willing to understand that this transition period requires some restraint on the part of the palestinians as well. they don't get everything they want on day one. >> right. >> and that creates some political problems for president abbas as well. >> yeah. i'll say the next question, what was the reaction of the prime minister to general allen for john kerry. >> ask john kerry or ask the
prime minister. i don't want to speak for him. >> they won't tell me, but okay. >> that's probably true. >> my last question. the palestinians are two people, one in the west bank led by president abbas that is negotiating the deal and one in gaza led by hamas that wants to eradicate israel from the face of the earth. president abbas as far as i know says he won't make a deal that doesn't include gaza, which he doesn't control. how do we get out from this. >> well, i think this is going to have to happen in stages, but here is what i know from my visits to israel, my visits to the west bank. there are people of goodwill on both sides that recognize the status quo is not sustainable
over the long term. and as a consequence it is in the interest of of both israelis and palestinians to resolve this issue. there are young people, teenagers i met both in israel and in palestinian territories that want to get out from under this history and seek a future that is fundamentally different for them. and so if, in fact, we can create a pathway to peace, even if initially it is restricted to the west bank, if there's a model where young palestinians in gaza are looking and seeing that in the west bank palestinians are able to live in dignity with self determination and suddenly their economy is booming and trade is taking
place because they have created an environment in which israel is confident about its security and a lot of the old barriers to commerce and educational exchange and all that has begun to breakdown, that's something the young people of gaza are going to want, and the pressure that will be placed for residents of gaza to experience that same future is something that is going to be i think overwhelmingly appealing. but that is probably going to take place during the course of some sort of transition period, and the security requirements that israel requires will have to be met. and i think that we can accomplish that, but ultimately it is going to be something that requires everybody to stretch
out of their comfort zones, and i do -- the one thing i will say to the people of israel is that you can be assured whoever is in the office i currently occupy, democrat or republican, that your security will be uppermost on our minds. that will not change. and that should not mean you let up on your vigilance in terms of wanting to look out for your own country, it does -- it should give you some comfort, though, that you have the most powerful nation on earth as your closest friend and ally, and that commitment is going to be undiminished. >> my last question. >> i promised we'd work something back stage where as long as his questions weren't too long i would take a couple questions from the audience and
he was very disciplined. so let me take one or two. this gentleman right here. >> mr. president. >> why don't you get a microphone so everybody can hear you. >> i used to be a general in the israeli air force in intelligence and now running a think tank in tel aviv. looking into the future agreement with iran i put behind me the initial agreement and what is really important is the final agreement. two questions. what is the problems you see as a red line to ensure that iran will be moving forward, moving
backward, falling back from the bomb as much as possible, and what is your plan b if an agreement cannot be reached. >> well, with respect to the end state, i want to be very clear. there's nothing in this agreement or document that grants iran a right to enrich. we've been very clear that given its past behavior and given existing u.n. resolutions and previous violations by iran of its international obligations that we don't recognize such a right, and by the way, if negotiations breakdown, there will be no additional international recognition that's been obtained, the deal goes away and we are back to where we were before the geneva
agreement, and iran will continue to be subject to all of the sanctions we put in place in the past and we may seek additional ones. but i think what we have said is we can envision a comprehensive agreement that involves extraordinary constraints and verification mechanisms and intrusive inspections, but that permits iran to have a peaceful nuclear program. now, in terms of specifics, we know that they don't need to have an underground, fortified facility to have a peaceful nuclear program. they don't need a heavy water reactor in iraq to have a peaceful nuclear program. they don't need some of the advanced centrifuges that they currently possess in order to have a limited peaceful nuclear
program. so the question ultimately is going to be are they prepared to roll back some of the advancements they've made that would not justify or could not be justified by simply wanting some modest peaceful nuclear power, but frankly hint at a desire to have breakout capacity and go right to the edge of breakout capacity. and if we can move that significantly back, then that is i think a net win. now, you'll hear arguments including potentially from the prime minister that says we can't accept any enrichment on iranian soil, period, full stop, end of conversation. and this takes me back to the point i made earlier. one can envision an ideal world
in which iran said we'll destroy every element and facility and you name it, it is all gone. i can envision a world in which congress passed every one of my bills that i put forward. i mean, there are a lot of things i can envision that would be wonderful. but precisely because we don't trust the nature of the iranian regime, i think we have to be more realistic and ask ourselves what puts us in a strong position to assure ourselves that iran is not having a nuclear weapon and that we are protected. what is required to accomplish that and how does that compare to other options that we might take. and it is my strong belief that we can envision an end state that gives us an assurance that
even if they have some modest enrichment capability, it is so constrained, and the inspections so intrusive that they as a practical matter do not have breakout capacity, theoretically they might still have some, but frankly, theoretically, they will always have some because as i said the technology here is available to any good physics student at pretty much any university around the world, and they've already gone through the cycle to the point where the knowledge, we're not going to be able to eliminate, but what we can do is eliminate the incentive for them to want to do this. with respect to what happens if this breaks down, i won't go into details. i will say that if we cannot get the kind of comprehensive end state that satisfies us and the
world community and p 5 plus one, then the pressure we have been applying on them and the options that i have made clear i can avail myself of, including military option, is one that we would consider and prepare for and we've always said that. so that does not change. but the last point i'll macon this. when i hear people who criticized geneva deal say, you know, it's got to be all or nothing, i would just remind them if it's nothing, if we did not even try for this next six months to do this, all the breakout capacity we're concerned about would accelerate in that six months. iraq would be further along, advanced centrifuges would be put in place. they would be that much closer to breakout capacity six months from now. that's why i think it is important to try to test this
proposition. i'll take a couple more. yes, sir. right over here. >> mr. president, boise smith, journalist from israel daily newspaper. mr. president, i covered the negotiations iran, nuclear negotiations, geneva, 2009, istanbul, 2010, and came back from geneva again where you could see big change was not only on the iran side but on the b 5 plus one side, meaning they're eager to reach an agreement. coming back from geneva, we learned, some of us long before, secret talks america had with iran and we know the concern you have on the israeli security, we're very grateful, but how does it thank you. >> you know, the truth is, is that without going into details there weren't a lot of secret negotiations. essentially what happened, and we were very clear and tra
transparent about this is that from the time i took office i said we would reach out to iran and we will let them know we're prepared to open up a diplomatic channel. after an iranian was elected there was some acceleration leading up to the u.n. general assembly. you recall that he was engaging in what was termed charm offensive. he was going around talking to folks. and at that point, it made sense for us to see, all right, how serious are you potentially about having these conversations. they did not get highly substantive in first several meetings but were much more exploring how much room, in fact, did they have to get something done. and then as soon as they began to get more technical at that point they converged with the p5 plus 1 discussions. i will say this.
the fact of his election, it's han said that there's no difference between him and ahmadinejad except that he's more charming. i think under states, the shift in politics that took place in this election, obviously he is part of the iranian establishment and i think we have to assume that his ideology is one that is hostile to the united states and to israel. but what he also represents is the desire on the part of the iranian people for a change of direction. and we should not underestimator entirely dismiss a shift in how the iranian people want to interact with the world.
there's a lot of change that's going to be taking place in the middle east over the next decade. and wherever we see the impulses of a people to move away from conflict, violence, and towards diplomatic resolution of conflicts, we should be ready and prepared to engage them, understanding though that ultimately it's not what you say, it's what you do. and we have to be vigilant about maintaining our security postures, not be naive about the dangers that an iranian regime pose. fight them wherever they're engaging in terrorism or actions that are hostile to us or our
allies, but we have to not constantly assume that it's not possible for iran, like any country, to change over time. it may not be likely. if you ask me what is the likelihood that we're able to arrive at the instate that i was describing earlier, i wouldn't say that it's more than 50/50. but we have to try. last question, and i think -- young lady right there. >> mr. president, my name is elena, reporter for israeli channel 2. i've been listening to your analysis of the iranian deal. and i can only imagine a different, slightly different than analysis given by our prime minister. >> i think that's probably a good bet. that's more than 50/50.
>> israelis are known for their understatement. and i try to imagine a conversation between you two. and he would ask you, mr. president, i see this deal as a historic mistake, which is he has already stated. >> yes. >> and i think it's the worst deal, the west could have gotten. >> right. >> and you would have told him, that's where you go wrong. what would you have told him? that's one thing. and then, perhaps to understand the essence of your conversation, he would ask you, mr. president, is the one set of circumstances under which you will order your b-52s to strike in iran? what would you tell him? is there any set of circumstances in which you would order your fighter pilots to strike in iran? what would you tell the prime minister? >> let me make a couple of points. number one, obviously the conversations between me and the
prime minister are for me and the prime minister, not for an audience like this. and i will say that we have very candid conversations. and there are occasionally significant tactical disagreements. but there is a constancy in trying to reach the same goal. and in this case, that goal is to make sure that iran does not have any nuclear weapons. as president of the united states, i don't go around advertising the circumstances in which i order pilots to launch attacks. that, i think, would be bad practice. i also would say, though, that when the president of the united states says that he doesn't take any options off the table, that should be taken seriously. and i think i have a track
record over the last five years that indicates that that should be taken seriously. you know, it's interesting in the region, there was this interesting interpretation of what happened with respect to syria. i said, it's a problem for syria to have chemical weapons that it uses on its own citizens. when we had definitive proof that it had i indicated my willingness potentially to take military action. the fact that we ultimately did not take military actions and in some quarters was sbeinterpretei you see, the president is not willing to take military action, despite that i think that mr. gadhafi would have a different view of that or mr. bin laden, be that as it may. that was yesterday, what have you done for me lately. but what i -- but the point is, that my preference was always to
resolve the issue diplomatically. it turns out, lo and behold, that syria now is actually removing its chemical weapons that a few months ago it denied it even possessed and provided a comprehensive list and they have already begun taking these weapons out of syria and, although that does not solve the tragic situation inside of syria, it turns out that removing those chemical weapons will make us safer and it will make israel safer and it will make the syrian people safer and it will make the region safer. so i do not see military action as an end unto itself. military action is one tool that we have in a tool kit that includes diplomacy in achieving our goals which is ultimately our security. and, you know, i think if you want to summarize the difference in some ways between myself and
the prime minister on the geneva issue, i think what this comes down to is, the perception potentially that if we just kept on turning up the pressure, new sanctions, more sanctions, more military threats, et cetera, that eventually iran would cave. and what i've tried to explain is two points. one is that the reason the sanctions had been so effective, because we set them up in a pain staking fashion. the reason they've been effective is because other countries had confidence that we were not imposing sanctions just for the sake of sanctions but we were imposing sanctions for the sake of trying to actually get iran to the table and resolve the issue.
and if the perception internationally was that we were not in good faith trying to resolve the issue diplomatically, that, more than anything, would actually begin to fray the edges of the sanctions regime. point number one. point number two, i've already said this before, you have to compare the approach that we're taking now with the alternatives. the idea that iran, given everything that we know about their history, would just continue to get more and more nervous about more sanctions and military threats and ultimately just say, okay, we give in, i think does not reflect an honest understanding of the iranian
people or the iranian regime. >> the president of the united states there at the saban forum there in washington, a meeting between u.s. and israeli leaders. the conversation being dominated by iran's nuclear ability, the president also underscoring the strength of the u.s./israeli relations. we'll have much more on this forum 30 minutes from now in the "cnn newsroom." right now time for "your money." a possible tipping point for the economy. 203,000 jobs created last month. but as low-wage workers take to the streets it looking more like one america with two economies. i'm christine romans. this is "your money." america on track to create nearby 2.3 million jobs this year. but the quality of those jobs could spark the beginning of a 21st century labor movement. fast food workers protesting in 100 cities across the country this week. they're calling for a living wage, $15 an hour. they are not alone in their call for better pay.