Transcript: Sec. Gates and Sen. McCain

GATES: Well, I think breakout in the -- in the ambassador's terms means they have enriched enough uranium to a relatively low level that if they have another facility where they could enrich it more highly, that they have a -- they have enriched enough at a low level that they could, in essence, throw out all the IAEA inspectors, change the configuration of the -- of the cascades and the enrichment capability and enrich it to a level where they could use it -- where they could make it into weapons grade uranium.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And you say you personally have no doubt that they want weapons.

Can that weapons program be stopped with sanctions?

GATES: I think that what is critical is persuading the Iranians that -- or leading them to the conclusion that their security will be diminished by trying to get nuclear weapons rather than enhanced. And I think that because of the election, we see fissures in Iran that we have not seen before in the 30 years since the revolution. And I think that severe sanctions, if the Iranian -- first of all, we -- we have created a problem for the Iranians with this disclosure.

And so the first step is the meeting on October 1st with the P5 plus one, with the Iranians, to see if they will begin to change their policy in a way that is satisfactory to -- to the great powers.

And then, if that doesn't work, then I think you begin to move in the direction of severe sanctions. And their economic problems are difficult enough that -- that I think that severe sanctions would have the potential of -- of bringing them change their -- their policies.

I think -- you asked me how long do I think we have?

I would somewhere between one to three years.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me turn, finally, to Guantanamo. We have just a couple of minutes left. A major story in "The Washington Post" suggesting that the president's deadline of January 22nd for closing Guantanamo will not be met. And White House officials tell me that at least some prisoners will still be in Guantanamo on January 22nd and beyond.

How big a setback is that and how long will it take to finally close Guantanamo?

GATES: When the president elect met with his new national security team in Chicago on December 7th...

STEPHANOPOULOS: 2009.

GATES: ...last year, this issue was discussed, about closing Guantanamo and executive orders to do that and so on.

And the question was, should we set a deadline? Should we pin ourselves down?

I actually was one of those who said we should because I know enough from being around this town that if you don't put a deadline on something, you'll never move the bureaucracy. But I also said and then if we find we can't get it done by that time but we have a good plan, then you're in a position to say it's going to take us a little longer but we are moving in the direction of implementing the policy that the president set.

And I think that's the position that --

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's where we are. So the deadline of January 22nd will not be met?

GATES: It's going to be tough.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And -- and how many prisoners will be there on January 22nd, do you know?

GATES: I don't know the answer to that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Is it -- but, as you said, it's going to be tough and likely will not be met.

GATES: We'll see.

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