'This Week' Transcript: David Axelrod

ROGERS: Well, there's evidence, and there's intelligence. The evidence is very good that senior elements of the Quds Force clearly knew and sanctioned this particular activity. And what we know about the Quds Force and how its command-and-control operates, the closeness of Suleimani, the director -- the commander of the Quds Force, with the supreme leader -- something like this would have to have senior-level approval. This isn't something that happened in the -- in the basement of the Quds Force headquarters.

AMANPOUR: If that's the case, then, doesn't the United States have to respond? And how will it do so beyond sanctions?

ROGERS: Well, we should respond. You should never, ever allow a nation to believe that they can commit an act of political assassination on U.S. soil. So there's a lot of things that we can do.

And I think it's a great opportunity for the administration to push back with even our European allies and say, listen, there's a lot of commercial contracts. Maybe we should -- time now to re-evaluate. Put pressure on the Chinese and the Russians and say, listen, you're either going to stand with the nation that is engaged in nation-state terrorism or you're going to stand with the rest of the international community.

AMANPOUR: Militarily respond?

ROGERS: I don't think you should take it off the table. I think there are a lot of things that we should do to make sure that they understand this is unacceptable. Give you a great example. We know they have Quds Force operatives in Iraq and Afghanistan targeting and helping target, train, supply weapon systems and other things against U.S. soldiers. We need to make sure that we take a very aggressive stance for those operatives.

AMANPOUR: You've written today, David Sanger, in the newspaper about one effort, and that is to get the IAEA, the nuclear watchdog agency, to publicize more of what they believe Iran is doing on the nuclear front. How difficult is it going to be for the United States to get this kind of pressure on Iran right now?

SANGER: Well, I think over the past year, Christiane, given the Arab Spring, some of the focus came off of the nuclear issue for the administration. If you think until January of this year, the primary goal the Obama administration had in the Middle East was stopping the Iranian nuclear program. You haven't heard the president talk about it very much; you haven't heard even people in the Middle East who are concerned about it talk very much.

I think that the administration now sees in this plot an opportunity to refocus not only on Iran, but on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which also runs the nuclear program.

AMANPOUR: Is there a risk that if one pushes too much on this particular issue and gets the IAEA chief to put out other things that he knows that it could backfire and get the -- the watchdog people kicked out of Iran?

SANGER: That is a significant risk, and it's one of the reasons that Yukiya Amano, who is the chairman or the director of the IAEA, has been so reluctant to make public the details.

The second problem, though, is that there's no overall evidence, at least that has been described to me -- maybe Chairman Rogers and others know of some -- that shows the Iranians actually building a complete bomb. Instead, it's the elements that you would only use in a nuclear weapon system. So there's some deniability for the Iranians.

AMANPOUR: Chairman Rogers?

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