Meet the Press   |  September 29, 2013

2: The US-Iran relationship: What lies ahead

NBC's Andrea Mitchell examines the sudden thaw in the relationship between the U.S. and Iran and what it means for future diplomatic efforts.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> us iran relations reached a new level late friday when news bropke that the newly elected iranian president hassan rouhani and president obama spoke by phone it was the first conversation between the leaders of the countries in over thirty years. i reiterated to president rowhani what i said in new york, while there will surely be important obstacles to moving forward and success is by no means guaranteed, i believe we can reach a comprehensive solution.

>> so what is behind the recent actions of the iranian president ? joining me now, our chief foreign affairs correspondent, andrea mitchell , and former adviser to president obama on arms control and wmd, one of the few who met with rowhani while he was in new york, welcome to both of you, what i am fascinated by, what brought you to this moment?

>> i think the answer is very simple, it is pressure, the economic sanctions imposed, started by president bush and strengthened by president obama has been sufficient to force the iranians to seek a deal so they can get relief from sanctions.

>> but how do we get from there to here?

>> that is a big question, i was at a small gathering with rowhani , it is very clear they're concerned about the bank situation. he is a politician, he was elected with the mandate to be moderate. he got 51% of the vote. his closest competitor got 16%, he was greeted back in tehran with crowds of demonstrators, supporters but also protesters. the fact that the mullahs allowed them to go to the airport, they even threw a shoe, but he has explained very ably, will they give up the real stuff? and that is a very heavy price for them. they have spent billions on it. and right now, israel is complaining, and netanyahu is coming tomorrow, israel is concerned they are building a heavy water reactor , which can create plutonium --

>> just to be really -- they have three facilities that can produce the stuff to build the bomb.

>> that we know of.

>> that we know of. now, you only need a certain percentage to have energy use . they're above that. and the fear is they can what is called "break out," they can get to that nuclear weapon real fast. so how do you prevent that from happening and believe in a deal?

>> well, as a condition for lifting sanctions, i think the u.s. and its allies will demand that iran accept physical limits on the nuclear capacity, in terms of size and strength and the enrichment program.

>> but haven't we had requirements in place before? rigorous inspections?

>> this goes beyond inspections, monitoring is very important to be sure the iranians don't cheat, especially given their history of cheating. i think their physical limitations, so they don't have the capacity to break out quickly, so far, rowhani has not indicated any willingness to accept those issues.

>> and they prop up the assad regime, they fortify the hezbollah, the iranian revolutionary guard has a stronghold in iraq throughout the region, they're terrified of the goals of iran at this point. that is the over view, how do you navigate that?

>> well, that is the overview, but the war, potentially, the whole region could change if this were there work. if this works, then syria becomes at least more viable as a political solution in geneva, if the hezbollah and the iranian arms are not going to prop up assad. and then russia becomes a partner, we let them into the middle east , which is dangerous, but now there is a way in the u.n. of monitoring things, afghanistan as you mentioned. iran has been such a trouble maker in both of those places. if this economic pressure has been profound enough and you have 30% -- rather 60% of the iranian population under 30, this is the mandate he has, a short window. if this were to work, then perhaps saudi arabia and the gulf states would see the benef benefit, because they and the israelis are very conservative.

>> so 30 seconds here, you have netanyahu who is coming to meet with the president tomorrow. he is going to say don't trust this guy, he is fooling you. i think what the president will say is that it will all depend on concrete results. words are nice, but what really counts at the end of the day is whether iran is ready to take action as the president said in his u.n. speech.

>> do you believe this is real?

>> i don't think it is real yet. i think the iranians will try to get sanctions --

>> and play rope a dope.

>> and play rope a dope. as the sanctions continue to bite even more then the iranians will have to make tough choices.

>> very quickly, what the israelis are worried about, and others in the gulf, is that the president will be so ready for a deal is that he will not be tough enough because of what happened with syria.

>> thank you both very much. fascinating developments. coming up, back to our top story on the shutdown, reactions to my interview with ted cruz , plus insights and analysis of who has the upper hand at this point on the budget battle a political roundtable is here chis matthews raul labrador congressman from idaho jon huntsman and dee dee myers we are back in a moment.