Transcript: John Bolton. Bombing Iran. Jun 10th 2008

Former US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton says that it would not be a war crime if the United States were to bomb Iran.


Thom Hartmann interviews John Bolton, 10 June 2008

[Thom]: Former US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton is with us. Ambassador Bolton, welcome to the program.

[Bolton]: Good to be here.

[Thom]: And pardon me for, we're just now going to a video stream and we're figuring out the audio end of it so things are running a little weird at times. You're on the record, you told the Telegraph back on May sixth, and essentially said the same thing on this show around that time, that you favor striking the nuclear facilities in Iran. I'm wondering if Thomas Pickering, Reagan's ambassador, former ambassador to Israel's support and and others within the Pentagon, support of this international group enriching uranium in Iran, that Iran has said that they will agree to do, has changed your mind on whether or not it's a good idea for the United States to attack Iran's nuclear facilities?

[Bolton]: Well I think what I have said every time I've discussed that possibility is that I think that the use of military force against Iran's nuclear program is a very unattractive option and to be used as a last resort. But when you consider the other alternative of an Iran with nuclear weapons then I think it has to be on the table. But I've never had any doubt that it was risky and something that I wish we could avoid. I'm just afraid that five years of failed effort at negotiations has left us with very few other alternatives unless we're prepared to see Iran with nuclear weapons.

[Thom]: So you think we're actually very close to the point where, if we don't strike them militarily, that they will be enriching uranium up to that ninety some odd percent threshold and producing nuclear weapons?

[Bolton]: Well they've already demonstrated they can enrich up to reactor grade level there's no doubt about it.

[Thom]: That's only 3%, though.

[Bolton]: Yes but that is, as any nuclear physicist will tell you, that is 70% of the work needed to get to weapons grade enrichment which is 90% enriched uranium. So they've already gone more...

[Thom]: Well, it's 70% of the work in as much as it's building the centrifuges.

[Bolton]: That they use the same centrifuges they use to enrich to 3 to 5%.

[Thom]: Right.

[Bolton]: So they've already got the capability. They've already demonstrated they can make that capability work and they've demonstrated they have control over the entire nuclear fuel cycle all the way from uranium in the ground to getting the highly enriched uranium that they need for nuclear weapons. So, they have very, very few other steps they need to take and that leads me to the conclusion that they are very close and that therefore further negotiation is only going to do what it's already done for the last five years which is give them additional time that they need to finish those final steps.

[Thom]: So then you favor striking them now.

[Bolton]: No, I don't necessarily favor striking them now. I think this is a very difficult question. My own preference would be to change the regime in Tehran. I think it's a very weak and unpopular regime and I think if we had been working on that with Iranian exiles and with dissidents inside Iran over the last five years, we'd be in a very different place than we are now.

[Thom]: Well, we have been funding those efforts. And also, wouldn't striking Iran's nuclear facilities solidify, I mean, the regime, my understanding is the majority of the average Iranian in the street, the majority of Iranians are actually pro American. That will change really fast if we drop bombs on their country.

[Bolton]: We we have not really been funding in the opposition. That's been part of the problem and let's be clear what we're talking about attacking. This would not be anything like what happened in Iraq. There'd be no ground forces of any size involved; it would be largely attacks on the well known uranium enrichment facilities at Natanz, the uranium conversion facility at Esfahan or the heavy water production facility and heavy water reactor at Arak. And I do think that if we were driven to the point of using military force, it certainly ought to be accompanied by a very vigorous public diplomacy campaign explaining to the Iranian people that this is directed solely at the nuclear weapons program and certainly not at them.

[Thom]: Ambassador Bolton, we have a little less than a minute. If we were to, there's no UN provision allowing us to attack Iran at the moment. This would be a war crime if we were to bomb Iran.

[Bolton]: Of course it wouldn't. That's ridiculous. Article 51 of the UN charter states that nothing in the charter is intended to contradict the inherent right of individual and collective self defense. So we would be operating under the inherent right recognized right in the UN Charter.

[Thom]: So you believe the possibility that they could enrich to react, to bomb grade, represents sufficient threat that we can invoke self defense ... preemptive strike?

[cross talk]

[Bolton]: You need to read the latest IAEA report; all public information that the IAEA has on Iranian work with shaped charges of high explosives clearly intended for a weaponization capability. There's very little doubt what they're aiming toward.

[Thom]: OK. Ambassador, former ambassador, US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton. He's working with the American Enterprise Institute, aei.org... check out his writings. He's a senior fellow of the American Enterprise Institute. Ambassador, thanks so much for dropping by.

[Bolton]: Thank you.


Article 51 of the UN charter

Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.

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