Face the Nation transcripts September 15, 2013: Levin, Corker, Albright

(CBS News) Below is a transcript of "Face the Nation" on September 15, 2013, hosted by CBS News' Bob Schieffer. Guests include: Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and CBS News correspondents Margaret Brennan and Elizabeth Palmer. Plus, a panel with Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan, Harvard University's David Gergen, USA Today's Susan Page, and Washington Post's Michael Gerson.

BOB SCHIEFFER: And good morning again. Well, the big news this weekend, the United States and the Russians have agreed on a deal to get chemical weapons out of Syrian hands. Under this agreement, the Syrians have one week to detail their entire chemical weapons stockpile; weapons inspectors will go to Syria in November with the goal of destroying all the weapons by the middle of next year. The agreement will be backed up by a U.N. resolution that will leave the option of using force against Syria if they fail to comply. Our CBS news State Department correspondent Margaret Brennan is traveling with Secretary of State Kerry. She joins us now from Tel Aviv. Well, Margaret, he is there to tell the Israelis what this agreement means and so on. How is this going?

MARGARET BRENNAN, CBS NEWS STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bob, Secretary Kerry is trying to reassure Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu that this is not just an agreement based on words; it will be one based on results. The Israelis have sort of cautious optimism. That's how the press is covering it. The idea is that the message being sent to Damascus is going to be received really in Tehran. The idea that weapons and disarmament in Syria is sort of being seen as a model for how the international community might challenge Iran about its nuclear program is the focus, in many ways, of the debate here in Israel. Keep in mind, there is this diplomatic agreement but it was really hastily put together over two and a half days of around-the- clock negotiations in Geneva. So there are a lot of unanswered questions and technical details, including who is going to provide security for the weapons inspectors who are going in to an active war zone to try to break apart one of the largest chemical weapons stockpiles in the world and to do it in record time? Friday is going to be a real test for the Syrians to see if they truly do come clean and detail what U.S. and Russian intelligence agree they have in their chemical weapons arsenal. So there's a lot of pressure that Secretary Kerry and the U.S. are trying to keep on the Russians to follow through and get their client, Bashar al-Assad, to hand over these chemical weapons. That's why Secretary Kerry travels from Israel on to Paris to meet with the Saudi, the British, the French, and the Turkish foreign ministers to say, I know a week ago I was asking for your help in a U.S-led strike. Now I'm asking to you help support us at the United Nations. But the Obama administration says that threat of U.S-led strikes still stands. It's still on the table.

SCHIEFFER: All right, Margaret. And all this will then shift in the coming weeks to the United Nations once he gets back to this country. Margaret Brennan, thank you so much. We want to go now to Damascus, where CBS news correspondent Elizabeth Palmer has been reporting for almost three weeks now, the only American television reporter there. Liz, what has been the reaction there to all these developments?

ELIZABETH PALMER, CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT: the remarkable thing is that there's been no reaction, Bob, no Syrian official has commented. The Syrian state-controlled news has covered the story as fact, giving all the credit for the diplomatic initiative to the Russians, but nobody has spoken up beyond that. The Russians, of course, don't want anything coming out of here at this stage that would complicate the deal. On the opposition side, no comment equally from opposition politicians, although the military command has spoken up, General Salim Idris making it very clear he was very disappointed. He said this has dealt a blow to our hopes of overthrowing President Assad. I have to say the reaction here, there's a lot of real skepticism that -- about Assad, because of his record, that he might just try to use this as some sort of a delaying tactic, that he might be planning something else behind the scenes. What can you tell us about that?

PALMER: Well, even Syrians say that. One opposition politician said to me other day, "Well, they've been lying to us for many years, and there's no reason to think this they're going to stop now." However, there's a lot riding on this, and don't forget, that the Russians really have the whip hand here. If they have said they're going to do it, they may be forcing a reluctant Syrian government and bureaucracy to get on with it, and there could be a quid pro quo in the background. Some of the Syrian officials will say to us off the record there are real rumblings that the Russians have promised Assad a new anti- aircraft system as a compensation for the fact that he's going to be losing his chemical weapons stock. So we shouldn't be surprised if that emerges sometime in the weeks to come.

SCHIEFFER: All right, Elizabeth palmer. Well, thank you very much, Liz, and be very careful. And we go now to two key voices on Syria in the United States Senate, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin. He's in Detroit this morning. The top Republican on the foreign relations will committee, Bob corker is in Chattanooga. I just want to get the reaction from both of you First. Senator Levin, you just heard Liz palmer say it may be that in order to force Assad to give up these weapons, the Russians are maybe going to give him a whole bunch of conventional weapons -- fancy new anti-aircraft systems. So is this a good thing that's happening here? How do you assess this?

LEVIN: Well, this represents significant progress. It would not have been achieved-- again, assuming it's fully implemented which is the key-- but assuming that it is fully implemented, this progress would not have been achieved without the threat of the use of a military strike by President Obama. It's no coincidence that after that threat was achieved and made, and after our Foreign Relations Committee on a bipartisan basis voted to authorize the use of force, that Russia finally decided that it would put some pressure on Syria and get involved. So this would not have happened and, without that threat -- and it will not be fully implemented, I'm afraid, without a continuing threat, and that's why it is so important that that continuing threat be very, very clearly available and the president did make that clear last night in his statement.

SCHIEFFER: Well, the Secretary of State John Kerry in Tel Aviv this morning spent a good part of a news conference there saying that the use of force, the threat of force is still on the table. Senator Corker, what's your first reaction to all this?

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