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Sunday, February 08, 2009

Bolton slams Condi Clueless, says Israel must go it alone on Iran

There's an interview with former American ambassador to the UN John Bolton in Friday's JPost, which has taken a little while to get online. Bolton's bottom line: Israel has to go it alone on Iran. We won't get any help from the US. And he slams Condi Clueless for good measure.
Speaking of Rice, she seemed to have shifted to the left over the course of the Bush administration, particularly in its second term, when she became secretary of state. Does it really make a difference, then, whether it's Bush running the show or Obama?

Sadly from my perspective, there will be a lot of continuity between the Obama and Bush administrations where Middle East policy is concerned - generally on Iran, and specifically on a range of other issues. That doesn't warm my heart. It shows that mistakes were being made, especially during the second term of the Bush administration, many of which were made at secretary Rice's behest.

Was this because Bush came to rely on her so heavily, or did he actually hold with her views?

He did trust and rely on her very extensively in the second term, when a number of major voices of the first term left the government in one way or another and others, like vice president Cheney, had a much lower profile. I believe historians will judge that Rice was the dominant - in fact, nearly exclusive - voice advising the president on foreign policy in his second term.

Was he personally under her spell in some way, or did he change his mind about his own doctrine?

I can't explain it, quite frankly. It was a big disappointment to see the changes that were made in a variety of policy areas. It was one reason for my not seeking another appointment at the UN, and I thought it appropriate to leave in December 2006, because the administration had shifted on too many important foreign policy issues.

At last year's Herzliya Conference, you responded cynically to the suggestion that Bush might bomb Iran before the end of his presidency. Why, at the time, were you so certain he wouldn't do it?

Well, I had changed my view on that subject. I originally thought that president Bush was prepared to use military force. He had said repeatedly during his first term that an Iran with nuclear weapons was unacceptable. And, being a man of his word, I thought that his use of the word "unacceptable" meant it was not acceptable, and therefore if diplomacy failed - which I was sure it would - that left the robust response as the only option. I think what happened was that the president was persuaded by secretary Rice that a military answer to the Iranian nuclear threat would have provoked Iran to respond in Iraq, by increasing its destabilizing activities. I happen to think that analysis is incorrect - that Iran, if it retaliated at all, would retaliate by having Hizbullah launch attacks on Israel. But I think that secretary Rice persuaded the president that his biggest legacy in Iraq could be threatened and undermined if Iran stepped up its destabilizing activities.


The danger of a nuclear Iran is an issue around which there is consensus across the Israeli political spectrum. In the event that it becomes necessary, would it be legitimate for Israel to take military action alone, if doing so were technically feasible?

Absolutely. With the end of the Bush administration, the possibility of US use of military force against Iran's nuclear program has dropped essentially to zero. The diplomatic effort failed years ago, and I don't think any renewed American effort is fundamentally going to make any difference. Iran has all the scientific and technological knowledge it needs right now to create a nuclear weapon. We can tell from publicly available information from the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran has enough low-enriched uranium which, if enriched to weapons-grade levels, would allow it one nuclear weapon now, and possibly another one or two this year. Let me stress here: That's what we know publicly from the IAEA - no James Bond involved in that calculation - and there may well be additional activities we don't know about, which would make Iran's capability even more substantial. So, if the diplomatic option has failed, that leaves only regime change or the use of force. And with no likelihood of American use of force, that leaves Israel.

Of course, the military option is a very unattractive one. It's risky. You could end up with the worst of both worlds: taking action without breaking Iran's control over the nuclear fuel cycles, and yet incurring the disapproval of governments all over the world.

But you have to have the military option front and center, because the alternative is far more unattractive.

Now, there are people who will say that Israel can't do it without American approval, or that it's not possible technically. I don't believe any of that is accurate, though I don't mean to downplay the risk involved. But there's another thing that you have to keep in mind: The military option is declining over time. This is because Iran will undoubtedly take steps to disperse and harden its facilities even further. It will increase its air defense capabilities by purchases from Russia. It will do many things to make it even more difficult for the US or Israel to take military action in the future.

So there's a very narrow window. If it closes, then you have to contemplate what to do with a nuclear Iran. I've tried to stay away from theorizing about how you deal with a nuclear Iran, because once you start theorizing about it, in a way you're accepting it. But if the reality is that Iran is now unimpeded - except for the possibility of a military strike - then you have to start thinking about it. That's why regime change starts coming back into the picture. The only long-range way to deal with this problem is regime change. You can't contain a regime of religious fanatics. Their calculus on the value of human life is very different from ours. If you prize life in the hereafter more than life on earth, the deterrent value of retaliation isn't very persuasive.

Look at the people who carried out 9/11. What threat of retaliation would have deterred them from the suicide attack? The answer is none. So, we're at a very grave point here. There's not much time left to deal with Iran if you want to keep in non-nuclear. And once it becomes nuclear, the entire balance of power in the region shifts - not just for Israel, but for the Arab states in the Persian Gulf as a whole. It will be a dramatically different region, because of the substantial increase of influence that nuclear capability will give the Iranians.


Mitchell has said that all conflicts can be solved, pointing to Northern Ireland as his prime example. What can Israel expect from his efforts on this front?

The Good Friday Agreement did not solve the Northern Ireland conflict, which, after all, in one form or another, had been going on for 500 years. It was solved by the British army thrashing the IRA. What was negotiated in the Good Friday Agreement were the terms of surrender. That hasn't happened in the Gaza Strip or the West Bank, which in any case is a very different environment. As for what to expect, well, this is probably the last major assignment of Mitchell's career, so he has a strong incentive to reach a deal and do it quickly. This means that its substance will be less important than the deal itself, and that if reaching it drags out too long, it will be seen as a failure on his part. This should be of particular concern to Israel.
Read the whole thing.


At 3:16 AM, Blogger Daniel434 said...

Thank God for John Bolton and guess what? He is a Christian. Thank God for Christianity slowly but surely turning the page against Antisemitism and supersessionism (minus Roman Catholicism or Catholicism in general).

He would be on my Mount Rushmore because he was born in Baltimore! He's a bmore baby! Gotta love it. Go Ravens and Go Orioles!

BTW, my word verification says "puzzle" - is this normal? hhhhhh

At 4:41 AM, Blogger sheik yer'mami said...

All well and good, but Bolton is a one man show.

So where does that leave us?

At 5:05 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Israel will have to take on Iran herself. Israel cannot subcontract out her security to the world, as Israel's mindlessly stupid and clueless leaders keep forgetting over and over and over again.

The only country that will defend Israel is Israel itself. Let's hope Israel's next government gets it.

At 7:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bolton has already shown his tremendous fault.

He is not the genious I thought he would be.

Nice, intelligent, well meaning guy, though.

At 9:03 PM, Blogger Stephen Barnes said...

"The Good Friday Agreement did not solve the Northern Ireland conflict, which, after all, in one form or another, had been going on for 500 years. It was solved by the British army thrashing the IRA. What was negotiated in the Good Friday Agreement were the terms of surrender."

WHAT COMPLETE RUBBISH! The GFA came about by both sides realising they were stuck in a vicious circle that neither side coule possibly win. They realised the only way out was to compromise and respect each other's community and culture, and the only way to do this was through dialogue.

I suggest you research your facts before you write such innane drivel.

Stephen (Northern Ireland)

At 6:35 AM, Blogger Daniel434 said...


I honestly believe Bolton does not believe it is about the "land" but he has no other option except to admit there will be no peace until either Islam or Israel ceases to exist. There will never be peace as long as Islam controls what is known as "Palestine". Maybe Bolton does believe he can solve the problem with land, but every indication otherwise seems to be that he does not believe what he himself espoused in that link you provided and which I forgot about!

Bolton is too smart a man to convince himself that the struggle in Israel is just about "land", or is he?


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