Despite talks this week in Geneva between Iran and six world powers, the Islamic Republic's abandonment of its nuclear weapons program is "not going to happen," former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton tells Newsmax.
He also asserts that the Obama administration's belief that a nuclear Iran can be contained the way the United States contained the Soviet Union during the Cold War is "a bad misreading of history" — and "very dangerous."
Bolton served as U.N. ambassador during the George W. Bush administration from August 2005 to December 2006. He is now a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a frequent contributor to Fox News and The Wall Street Journal.
In a recent op-ed piece in The New York Post, Bolton wrote that "Obama sees negotiations as deflecting the threat of Iranian nuclear weapons. Iran sees them, by contrast, as helping ensure success for that very weapons program. The West's efforts to negotiate with Iran are doomed to failure because the parties' objectives are utterly incompatible."
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax TV on Wednesday, Bolton was asked what options the United States and its allies might have now.
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"I don't think there are any good options," Bolton says. "If 10 years ago we had started on a very stringent program of economic sanctions that were universally applied and enforced militarily, then it might be possible that the sanctions could have driven Iran to give up the nuclear weapons program.
"But that's not going to happen now. The program is too close to its objective of deliverable nuclear weapons. Iran wants [relief] from the sanctions — that's perfectly understandable — but not at the price of giving up their nuclear weapons program. That's why the objectives of the United States and Iran are completely irreconcilable.
"Iran can see these negotiations as a way to buy time, to get some relief from the sanctions and basically continue to make progress on the nuclear program. So they're happy to make superficial concessions. They're happy to string this thing along because it just leads them ever closer to their objective."
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Wednesday that a deal is still possible.
Bolton comments: "The fact is that the Europeans who are in this negotiation will follow America's lead. That's why it was so stunning 10 days ago when France stopped that earlier session in Geneva from coming to agreement.
"But we're past the point where there's going to be disagreement. The odds favor signing something in Geneva tomorrow, the next day perhaps.
"Why is Obama so eager to negotiate? Because ultimately, although they may say they don't want Iran to have nuclear weapons, the Obama administration believes that you can contain and deter nuclear Iran as we contained the Soviet Union during the Cold War. That's a bad misreading of history, a misreading of the regime in Iran.
"But what it reflects is that Obama fears an Israeli military strike against Iran's program more than it fears an Iranian nuclear weapon. That's looking at the world through the wrong end of the telescope, but that's how the Obama team sees it.
"So they want a deal, they want a negotiating process in place because it will help them pressure Israel against resorting to the military option."
People generally underestimate the impact we'll see in the world once Iran does have nuclear weapons, Bolton asserts.
"Number one, almost certainly as Secretary of State Clinton said before she left office, if Iran gets nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia will get nuclear weapons, Egypt will, Turkey will, perhaps others. So then in a relatively short period of time you're going to have half a dozen new nuclear weapon states in the already volatile Middle East.
"And number two, Iran doesn't have to use the nuclear weapon to be a threat to Israel, to our Arab friends in the region, and to the United States.
"Let me just give you one example. Iran is the world's central banker for international terrorism. It is the leading state sponsor of international terrorism. What if it financed, directed, supported a terrorist attack on the United States? We trace it back to Iran and we're thinking about taking retaliatory action as we did against the Taliban and al-Qaida for 9/11. You don't think our calculation wouldn't be a lot different from what happened in 2001 if we knew that Iran, the source of the terrorist attack, had nuclear weapons? The answer is absolutely.
"So the weapons capability really enhances Iran's ability to resort to terrorist attacks. It doesn't have to detonate the nuclear device in order to take advantage of it."
It is also possible that Iran could give a weapon to a terrorist who explodes it in an American city and we wouldn't be exactly sure where the weapon had come from, Bolton warns.
"It's one thing when you launch a nuclear weapon on top of a ballistic missile. You can trace where that missile came from," he says. "But if you put a nuclear device in a truck, put it on a trans-steamer and sail it into New York Harbor, you could not necessarily say with complete conviction what the origin of that nuclear weapon was."
Bolton maintains that Iran could develop a nuclear energy program but not pursue a nuclear weapons program "only if there were a revolution in Iran and it got rid of the ayatollahs.
"This regime has lied about its nuclear program for over 20 years. It has tried to deceive the international community. The evidence is overwhelming, and essentially undisputed outside of Iran, that the only purpose of this program from its inception has been a weapons objective.
"The notion that you could trust this regime with any aspect of a nuclear program, which President Obama seems fully prepared to do, is very dangerous. If you had regime change and the establishment of a new regime which proved its trustworthiness over a period of time, at that point I might be willing to look at something. But not as long as this regime is in power."
As for the sanctions against Iran, they have had "the most dramatic effect against the middle class in Iran, which is the element of society most opposed to the regime. So the irony here is that while there's no doubt there's been a significant economic effect, it's actually hurt the part of the Iranian population most inclined to share the view that this regime needs to go. And that's one of the reasons why sanctions ultimately are not going to stop Iran's nuclear weapons program."
A tentative agreement was reportedly reached this week between Afghanistan and the United States that would continue an American military presence there beyond next year. Bolton is skeptical.
"The president basically wants to withdraw from Afghanistan as he did in the case of Iraq," he tells Newsmax. "He's looking for an excuse to get out. So it won't surprise me if these negotiations ultimately break down.
"He's basically let the military have its way because they understand that the battle with the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan will continue for some time. But that's not where the president's heart is, and he'd be perfectly happy if the negotiations collapse."
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