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Shields, Brooks Examine Obama’s Moves on Iran, G-20

Columnists Mark Shields and David Brooks sift through this week's headlines, including Iran's nuclear surprise, the G-20 summit and U.N. talks.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks, syndicated columnist Mark Shields, New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    Mark, how important is this news today about the Iranian nuclear facility?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    I'm not sure, Jim. I think it is important. I think it was revealing how the president in the United States did respond in sort of stark contrast to what had happened in the past, I mean, standing there with President Sarkozy and Prime Minister Brown. I mean, I thought that was sort of a signal, the gravity of it, and sort of a new approach.

    I thought the words were severe and quite blunt. And maybe, just maybe, the deal on the land-based anti-ballistic missiles that was negotiated last week, removing them from the Czech Republic and from Poland, missile defense system, maybe enlisted Russia, which is going to be key. Without Russia and without China, any sanctions against Iran are going to be more form than substance.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Is this a huge development? Do you see this…

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    I was mostly struck by the sense of urgency and by the atmospherics of it. The countries have worked together for many, many years on this issue, and they've been quite strong about it in some of their statements. Nonetheless, this was sort of like a "gotcha," "we got you" moment. And Sarkozy…

  • JIM LEHRER:

    And that's based on — apparently based on U.S. intelligence, which he, Obama, then informed the Brits and the French about, correct?

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Right. And intelligence that we've had, apparently, for many months. But what struck me was, you don't write that check. You don't go into this level of urgency and even ultimatum, as Sarkozy did especially, unless you can cash that check, unless there's something behind that check.

    So, basically, today they made a bunch of threats, and so that made me think why — what do we have in their pockets that makes them feel comfortable making these threats? And basically, it suggests to me that somewhere in the creation of a new sanctions regime, they've got something.

    And it suggests to me that, in the past week, the Russians have dropped hints that they would be supporting the sanctions. I have trouble believing they would have gone to such a level of urgency unless those hints were somehow real, because they have to be able to cash these checks. They've basically made an ultimatum.

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