While Iran's refusal to forgo nuclear weapons technology poses a growing threat to United States security and international stability, the U.N. Security Council has yet to demonstrate that it can forge the consensus needed to resolve such disputes, Bolton said in a speech at the University of Delaware.
"It's clear at the present time the United Nations is a troubled institution," he said.
It remains to be seen, Bolton added, whether the Security Council can address the challenge posed by Iran, or whether it will remain gridlocked, as it often was during the Cold War.
"I must say the early returns are not encouraging," said Bolton, noting that it took almost three weeks for council members to agree on a statement calling on Iran to comply with resolutions of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The IAEA itself took almost three years to refer the matter to the Security Council, he added.
"Yet almost from the minute of that vote, ... we ran into difficulties," he said, without specifically mentioning the reluctance of Russia and China to go along with the tougher stance against Iran sought by the other permanent members of the council, the United States, France and Britain.
"We think there's still the possibility of applying pressure, diplomatic and otherwise, through the Security Council," he said.