'This Week' Transcript: Former Vice President Dick Cheney

CHENEY: I think -- I don't have a lot of confidence in the administration to be able to negotiate an agreement. I think sanctions offer some prospect of bringing the Iranians around. I've talked to my friends in that part of the region. I still know them, a lot of them, and they're very fearful that the whole Iranian exercise is going to go the same way as the Syrian exercise, that is, that there will be bold talk from the administration. But in the final analysis, nothing effective will be done about the Iranian program.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But right now, what we're seeing today, in fact, in Syria is the chemical weapons are being cataloged. The inspectors are in there, finding out and putting a stop to the program.

CHENEY: Well, we'll see. I'm a skeptic, I think like a lot of other people are, and I know that our friends in the region are worried. If you look at the piece, there's a front-page story in "The New York Times" today, about how the administration has had a review of Mideast and it's continuing to, quote, "pivot to Asia," and downsize the importance of the significance of that part of the world to U.S. policy.

STEPHANOPOULOS: One of the things they're doing is backing away from the so-called democracy agenda that was propagated by President Bush in your administration.

But you weren't, it seemed, a big fan of that.

Do you think it's right to scale it back?

CHENEY: Well, I think the U.S. presence in the Middle East was enormously important now for decades, going all the way back certainly before Desert Storm. I think that presence and that capability and that influence has been significantly diminished as we have withdrawn from the region. We've cut the number of forces we have in the region.

I think our friends no longer count on us, no longer trust us and our adversaries don't fear us. That was sort of the cornerstone and the basis of the U.S. ability and influence.

If we're not heavily involved there, if we've turned our back on the region, if we've had a president who believes we overreacted to the terrorism attacks on 9/11, I think the Saudis, the Emirates, the Egyptians, many in that part of the world no longer have confidence in the United States.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You've said you'd advised President Bush to take out Syria's nuclear --

CHENEY: I did.


He didn't. Israel did.

Did you think your administration should have taken military action against Iran's nuclear program?

CHENEY: I thought it would be important if we took out the Syrian reactor, that it would send a very important signal to the Iranian program, that we'd drawn a red line. We'd said to North Korea, don't proliferate, after their first test. They clearly proliferated and we didn't do anything about it.

And if we had taken out the Syrian reactor the way the Israelis did, and they wanted us to do it, we would have sent a clear signal about proliferation. We would have given substance and meaning to our diplomacy. The Iranians would have to look at that and say, these guys are serious about it. They mean business and we'd be much more effective today negotiating with the Iranians if we'd taken out that Syrian reactor seven years ago.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Is military action against Iran inevitable?

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