This is a rush transcript from "The Journal Editorial Report," July 12, 2008.
PAUL GIGOT, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Welcome to "The Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot. Iran test fired a series of long and medium-range missiles, including several capable of reaching Southern Europe, Israel and U.S. troops stationed in the Middle East. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the tests proved that Iran is a real threat but downplayed the possibility of war. He said U.S. leaders remained committed to using diplomatic and economic pressure rather than military means to persuade Iran to halt its nuclear programs. John Bolton is the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. He joins me now from Washington. Ambassador, good to have you back again.
JOHN BOLTON, FORMER U.N. AMBASSADOR: Glad to be here.
GIGOT: What did we learn that's new this week about the Iranian missile threat?
BOLTON: I don't think we necessarily learned anything that's new. I think what Iran is up to here is trying to brush back the possibility of American or Israeli military action against the nuclear program through these tests and through some pretty aggressive rhetoric by commanders of the Revolutionary Guard's corps. But I think what they've actually undertaken is not anything new.
GIGOT: So you think that the timing here is not coincidental and the fact it happened a couple week after an Israeli military exercise in the Mediterranean, that many people perceived something of a test run for any possible attack on Iran.
BOLTON: Right. I think the Israelis are actively considering it. I think this was part of the Iranian response. I think there's another aspect to Iran as well and that's a less visible but no less active charm campaign to try and keep diplomatic activity with the Europeans going. This gives the Iranians the ability to say there's no rush here, no need for military action. We're still trying to resolve this diplomatically. Of course the diplomatic activity buys Iran time which it needs to continue to work on its nuclear program and continue to upgrade its military defenses.
GIGOT: How much of a threat do these missiles pose if any, actually pose to the United States mainland?
BOLTON: I think they do pose a threat. There were reports in this series of tests that they launched from sea platform. They've done this before in other exercises. And it's entirely possible they could put a missile on a Tran steamer, sail it up the East or the West Coast and that would put them in range of the United States.
GIGOT: Well not obviously the nightmare scenario is a nuclear warhead as opposed to a conventional warhead. But what about this possibility of what people are saying might be an EMP weapon or an electromagnetic pulse weapon or warhead that could be put on top of a missile, explode on top of an American city or on the East Coast and take down a lot of the American electrical energy grid?
BOLTON: Well, I think it's a very real possibility. How far along the Iranians are, I don't think we know. But this is an answer to the people who say, look, you're just being overwrought about an Iranian nuclear capability. They know they would never attack the United States because we would destroy them in retaliation. But really ask yourself say under an Obama administration, what would be the American response to the threat of or actual use of an EMP weapon? Not directly on an American city but as you suggest to cause disruption to our business and other communications. It puts it in a very different light, gives the Iranians another capability.
GIGOT: Well you were in the U.S. government. Sometimes this EMP weapon, when people talk about it, seems futuristic but it's really not. There have been reports that the Iranians have worked on this technology.
BOLTON: That's true. And I think it poses another threat, not just to the United States but in Europe as well. That's why I think President Bush's initial national security strategy remains exactly right, not to allow the world's most dangerous weapons to fall into the hands of the word's most dangerous people. The problem with the administration policy now is they seem to have forgotten that original insight.
GIGOT: How likely do you think that it is that Israel will in fact attack Iran maybe sometime later this year or after the election?
BOLTON: Well, I think Israel's very actively considering it. I think they have concluded correctly that the United States under President Bush is not going to use military force against Iran's nuclear program. I think the president has just given up on that possibility. So that puts the pressure on Israel to come to their own decision. And just as they struck that North Korea reactor under construction in Syria last September, they thought that Iran was really close to having a nuclear capability. I don't doubt they have the will and the capability to go after that Iranian effort.
GIGOT: But wouldn't that require at least U.S. acquiescence, giving flyover rights for example over Iraq and we would certainly know in advance that something like that was going to take place. How much in advance I don't know but we would probably have some kind of inkling that it was going on. Wouldn't we have to more or less at least say OK?
BOLTON: Well, I think what the Israelis would like would be for us simply to stand back. It's not actually necessary to fly over Iraqi air space. They might want to fly back over Iraqi air space after the raid was over, which poses a different question. But the Israelis have looked at this very carefully. It's obviously a risky operation. And not something that's terribly attractive from either their point of view or ours. The reason people are looking at it seriously is considering the other option, which is an Iran with nuclear weapons, which is even more unattractive.
GIGOT: And you don't have any doubt that if there were such an attack, Iran would respond with some of these missile firings, probably aimed at major Israeli cities?
BOLTON: Certainly the Israelis would have to take that into account. But ask yourself this question. If the Iranians are prepared to attack Tel Aviv or Jerusalem or the Israeli nuclear facility with conventionally tipped warheads, what would they do if they had a nuclear weapons capability?
GIGOT: Well OK, all right, thank you, ambassador. Good to have you back.