John Bolton on Rising Tensions in Middle East

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," July 11, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: And welcome to "Hannity & Colmes". We get right to our "Top Story" tonight.

Tensions continue to rise today in the Middle East. The Pentagon denied a report in the — Jerusalem post that Israeli war planes have been practicing for a potential strike against Iran by using Iraqi-controlled airspace and landing at U.S. air bases.

Now this comes just days after Iran reportedly test-fired several missiles that they claim had the range to reach Israel.

Now we say reportedly because there have been questions raised about the test. It was widely reported that photos from the test appeared to have been doctored. Now instead of four missiles, it is believed that the photo is actually of one missile photographed from four different directions and then cropped together.

Initial reports also suggested that the Iranians had test-fired a Shahab-3 missile supposedly possessing the range to reach Israel, but there are also reports tonight that even that claim is being questioned. And there is speculation tonight that the whole incident was fabricated as an elaborate bluff.

But don't let that fool you. An Iranian rhetoric, well, it's just as vicious as ever. According to the Middle East Media Research Institute, one of the Iranian ayatollahs also gave a sermon today that has been translated into English.

Among those things that were said, quote, "So Iran is not a threat. Well, that's what regional and even Western states have said. And they say Iran is ready for talks. Don't raise hue and cry against Iran. Oh! The world's liars! Oh the liar Israel! Oh the liar White House! If you wish you to attack Iran, well, we'll give you a response that will make you regretful."

Joining us tonight with more on this developing story, former ambassador to the United Nations, FOX News contributor John Bolton.

Mr. Bolton, good to see you.


Video: Watch Sean and Alan's interview with John Bolton

HANNITY: Your reaction.

BOLTON: Well, I think what Iran is trying to do is use these harsh words and however many missiles they actually launched to try and brush back Israel and the United States from considering the use of military force against that nuclear program, but they're also engaged in a charm offensive, too.

Less visible, but just as active to try and get diplomacy going to provide further cover for them, so they can say no need for military force, we're in negotiation, remain calm. They've used this before very successfully.

HANNITY: All right. Israel's defense minister has hinted at the readiness of Israel to strike Iran. Condee Rice says the U.S. will defend the gulf, so obviously people are prepared.

I have a very strong indication and belief that I don't think Israel's going to wait much longer in light of the rhetoric. Do you expect that this is going to be fairly forthcoming in terms of Israel's response?

BOLTON: Well, look, the point here is that they fear based on substantial evidence that Iran is very close to having a deliverable nuclear weapons capability, and in a country as small as Israel, two or three nuclear devices means the end of the country.

So if faced with an existential threat, yes, I think Israel will use force. They have not hesitated in the past as recently as last September. They pulverized a North Korean reactor being built in the Syrian desert, and if they believe that Iran is as far along as I think Iran is, I don't doubt that they're looking at the use of force very, very seriously.

HANNITY: All right. Let me bring a little politics in to here, and I'm not asking for your political opinion, Ambassador, but more just to inform our audience and get your thoughts on Barack Obama who once claimed that we're air-raiding villages and killing civilians in Afghanistan, who said one time that it would be a profound mistake to use nuclear weapons under any circumstances, who talked about Iran being a tiny country and not a serious threat, and then he flipped and flopped and said it was a grave threat. and that he would meet without preconditions with Ahmadinejad on top of potentially invading Pakistan, an ally.

When you hear all of this, what does it mean if Barack Obama becomes president for national security for the country in the Middle East?

BOLTON: Well, I suppose the best you could say was that he's grown incoherent as the days have gone by, but I think, honestly, his initial statements really are the best reflection of what he actually believes, and I think that means that he thinks that Iran has a sense of grievances against the United States and Israel and that much of Iran's conduct is justified.

So I don't see a President Obama being very sympathetic to an Israeli use of force.

HANNITY: Yes, well — I just ask this. If Ahmadinejad continues to threaten Israel, and their very existence, and threatens to wipe them off the map, do they have any alternative but to strike before they get nuclear weapons?

BOLTON: I don't think so. I mean you — when you do strategic analysis, it's an analysis of capabilities and intentions. We can hear what the intentions are. It's not just Ahmadinejad, it's lots of other Iranian leaders as well, and we also have a pretty good idea of their developing capabilities.

So either Israel strikes before the capability reaches fruition or they are at the leadership of Iran's mercy, and I don't think that's the position the Jewish state wants to allow itself to be in.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Yes. Mr. Ambassador, welcome to the show.

When did Obama ever say that he supported or agreed with what Iran was doing?

BOLTON: That's not what I said. My point is that he has exhibited a characteristic of many on the left in America and in Europe that think that Iran's grievances are the real source of its conduct.

This pursuit of nuclear weapons has a lot more to do with its effort for (INAUDIBLE) in the Middle East and within Islam as well as being directed against Israel and the United States, and negotiating with them and talking about their sense of grievance isn't going to divert them from that strategic objectives.

COLMES: Well, you've said — statements over the last few months that either you believe the Bush administration is going to strike or that you would like if there were a first strike against Iran.

Would that be an accurate reflection of your view?

BOLTON: No, it would not be an accurate reflection of my view. In fact, I've said most recently I don't think the Bush administration will use force, and I have always said, Alan, always said, that the use of force against Iran's nuclear program is deeply unattractive.

It's very risky. It's a hard job to do operationally. The reason that we're looking at the use of force is because the alternative — an Iran with nuclear weapons — is even more deeply unattractive.

COLMES: Now, you know, you have Maliki, our guy in Iraq, who said that he would not permit the United States to use Iraqi land or Iraqi airspace and waterways for an attack. And he says that diplomacy with Iran is the probably the best way to go. He doesn't believe military force is a good idea at all.

What does it tell you that Iraq, a country — where we've lost American lives, that you cannot use our area as a staging place?

BOLTON: Well, frankly, it sounds a lot like the policy of the Bush administration which keeps saying despite all the evidence that it thinks diplomatic tools will work to stop the Iranian nuclear program.

I don't believe that, and I don't think there's any chance after five years of experience. This is not a novel idea. The Europeans have been negotiating with Iran for over five years and have failed to dissuade them from their continued pursuit of nuclear weapons.

So that's a view, I think, that might have been worth a little bit more aggressive activity five years ago, but isn't going to do anything today.

COLMES: Let me ask you a question about Iraq, because let me put up on the screen what the Iraqi nation.

BOLTON: Don't you want to talk about Iran some more?

COLMES: We talked a lot about Iran. I want to ask you a question about Iraq.


COLMES: . which is something — is there something you want to say about Iran?

BOLTON: No, go ahead.

COLMES: OK. Iraqi National Security advisor who basically says this, "We're unambiguously talking about their departure," meaning the United States. "We're waiting impatiently for the day when the last foreign soldier leaves Iraq."

Now both John McCain and George Bush are on record as saying if the Iraqi government asks us to leave, we're going to leave. Here you have the Iraqi government, basically, saying we want a timeline, we want to get Americans out, so should they live up to their own words and listen to them?

BOLTON: Well, I think you've oversimplified what the Iraqi government is saying, but I think it is a basic fact that we're there with the permission of the Iraqi government, the Iraqi government that we created after all and helped put in place through representative elections. I think a lot of what's happening is domestic Iraqi politics, and I think that's a positive.

They now have that kind of politics just as we do. The fact is even the statements you've quoted go on to say they expect to have an American presence at bases In Iraq for years to come.

COLMES: But they want a timeline to get the soldiers out. Should we listen to them?

BOLTON: That's not what they're saying, Alan, if you go through their entire statement.

COLMES: Well, it did actually that. I do have that quote that he did say that.

All right, Ambassador. We thank you very much for being with us.

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