John Bolton, who served as the United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations from August 2005 to December 2006, spoke with IsraelNationalRadio's Tovia Singer about the recent Bush Administration intelligence report on Iran's nuclear capabilities. The controversial diplomat said the report was more political than intelligence-based, and that it was meant only to undercut President Bush's policies on Iran.
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Singer began by asking Bolton, author of a recent book entitled, Surrender is Not an Option: Defending America at the UN and Abroad, "How did you manage to maintain your sanity while working in such a hostile environment as the UN?"
Chuckling, Bolton replied, "It was truly a target-rich environment there, and not the most hospitable. But it was important to have someone stand up for American interests, and make sure that we're not turned into a well-bred doormat there at the UN and that our foreign policy options are not constrained."
Singer: "But it certainly got you in an enormous amount of trouble, for you've always been outspoken, and you're not hostile to the Jewish State, and you believe in the war on terrorism - basically, you drive the left crazy! Why do you do it?"
Bolton: "I like to think that Sen. Joe Biden actually tipped his hand a little back in 2001 when he opposed my confirmation for my first job in this administration as Undersecretary for Arms Control; he said that his trouble with me was that over the years, I have been 'too competent.' They were worried that I might actually change things."
Not Quite an "Intelligence" Report
When Singer said he wanted to bring up the recent American intelligence report that downplayed the Iranian nuclear capabilities and brought great joy to Iran and to the left, Bolton said, "I don't think we should call it an intelligence report, but rather a document of the Executive Branch. It was a highly-politicized document, written by some who are not even intelligence community professionals, but rather from the State Department... In theory, they all work for the President, but they don't like his policies and they think that he's too belligerent towards Iran - though my own personal view is that the President was not tough enough - and this paper was intended to undercut the Bush position. This report has put Bush's policy on the bottom of the ocean."
"Let me just take one specific example to show how distorted it was," Bolton said. "The headlines all over the world after the report were that Iran has no nuclear weapons program - but in fact the document refers only to a halt on weaponization - putting a nuclear device on top of a ballistic missile, which is just a sliver of the all-out nuclear program. It's an important piece, yes, but it's just a small part. Since 2003 Iran has made steady progress towards all the technology it needs for a nuclear weapon, and it can turn its program back on - if it was ever turned off - in a snap. This report will be very harmful to the cause of stopping Iran from getting a nuclear weapon."
Bolton went on to say that the job of the intelligence community is merely to "provide the facts, and what we do not need from the intelligence people is their view on how to put those facts into a political policy; for that, we have government leadership. Unfortunately, this report shows that the intelligence community has gone way beyond its legitimate boundaries."
North Korea: A Criminal State
Singer asked why Iran, with its enormous oil reserves, does not just send ten billion dollars over to cash-strapped North Korea and buy a nuclear weapon?
Bolton: "It's possible; North Korea is a criminal state, and would sell anything to anyone for hard cash. But my judgment is that Iran wants a sustained nuclear capability; they want to master everything so that it doesn't have to be dependent on a place like North Korea."
Israeli Censorship on Attack on Syria is Mistake
"I think we should all be paying more attention to the site that Israel struck in Syria back on September 6. You know, you in Israel are operating under extraordinary censorship about that, but I think this is a mistake - we need to get the facts out about what was going on there at that site near the Euphrates River. We need to know more about the nuclear partnership between Syria and North Korea there."
Singer: "Has this report buried the strategy of imposing sanctions against Iran?"
Bolton: "Yes, certainly for the short term. But I have faith in the Iranians that they will soon do something that will tip their hand again and do something to show that they are working towards nuclear capability. I don't think the report will stand for very long, but let's face it, it's done a lot of damage."
Message to Israel
Singer: "You are now speaking to many Jews and non-Jews throughout the Land of Israel, from the Jordan to the Mediterranean. Your message to them?"
Bolton: "I think it's important to keep your focus on national security and not get diverted by political rhetoric and the demands of people who are out trying to build legacies for themselves. You have to keep the long-term and your national interest in mind and remember who your friends are."
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