'This Week' Transcript: David Axelrod

ROGERS: Well, there's three parts to that program. There's the enrichment part, the weaponization part, and the ability to deliver it via missile. So they've hit a very important threshold in enrichment. They hit the 20 percent threshold. From 20 percent to the 90-plus percent that you need for nuclear-weapon-grade material is exponentially easier.

So they've crossed that threshold. They're doing a lot of testing on missiles. Their weaponization program, we know, is alive and well. So some notion that they may have slowed down on one and not all three, it is a three-part program. We know they're engaged in the three parts. I wouldn't wait too much longer. A nation that's willing to politically assassinate an ambassador on U.S. soil with a nuclear weapon is incredibly dangerous.

AMANPOUR: Now, as you know, the Iranian government, right up to the top, the supreme leader, Khamenei, has denied this and basically said there's no way and it's child's play. And they're trying to get a pretext to attack us.

You know that there a lot of skeptics in the Iran-watching community, that this just seems like such an incompetent plan and that was so -- or not. I mean, what do you think, in terms of the pushback from those who are saying, "How could this have happened?"

SANGER: Well, the evidence that I've seen -- and of course, I only see what is -- what is out there in public -- clearly shows that there was a plot and that money was transferred from Iran to the potential assassin. So clearly something was underway here.

There is this disconnect between what we regard as a very disciplined Quds Force and the Revolutionary Guard Corps and what seems to have been a somewhat amateurish attempt to get a guy who's affiliated with a Mexican drug cartel and who also is a DEA informant. And that does not seem to be the A Team at work. But it may simply be that the U.S. got lucky in this case and that the Iranians made a very big mistake.

AMANPOUR: And why do you think Iran, with all its antagonisms between the U.S., would try do something that steps up this situation so dramatically?

ROGERS: Well, and let me just talk about the amateurish part and then address that. We were very fortunate. We got to see this, we the U.S. government, got to see this unfold from the beginning.

It was a former FBI agent. If you would have started at the back end of this -- say they had been successful, a bomb had gone off, let's say it was in a restaurant. You would have had to figure out what the target was, who all was killed, and then to start trying to walk it back. We would still be in the throes of anger and frustration and chaos right now in the United States trying to figure out who did this and why.

Because we got on so early, people say, well, this was really easy to determine. There's good fortune, good police work, but good fortune in this particular case.

So think about it. They had somebody who could travel to Iran to the United States on a U.S. passport, who had connections in Mexico, who was not directly affiliated with the IRGC or the Quds Force. That was somebody that made sense for them. And, by the way, he also had the ability to recruit a criminal to pull off the act. That is not necessarily amateurish; it's pretty sophisticated.

AMANPOUR: All right. And we're obviously going to be looking at this and trying to figure out more and more details as they come up. Thank you both very much, indeed.

SANGER: Thank you.

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