OTR Interviews

What the Crisis in Egypt Means to the United States

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," January 28, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton joins us. Good evening, Ambassador. And if President Mubarak goes, something has to replace it.

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: I think we need to distinguish between the fundamental source of power in Egypt, which is the military, and the Mubarak regime. Mubarak is a former general, former head of the air force. He is closely allied with the military. But honestly, at this point, whether he goes or stays is less important than whether the military stays in control.

There's a lot going on here. This is a very complex, very fast-moving situation. And I would beg to disagree a little bit with that last reporter. We are not on the verge of the dawning of the age Aquarius in Egypt if only the demonstrators get their way. It's a lot more complex than that.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you know, I was reading today about was the protest also going on in Jordan. And in Jordan, it -- I mean, it seems that there's very perilous there, too. And it's one thing if these two -- if these protests leads to democracy in both countries. But I don't get the sense, looking at a lot of the protesters, that's really where we're headed. And what's so painfully dangerous about that is these are the two Arab countries that have peace agreements with Israel. So I'm all in favor of democracy, but I don't get the sense that that's where we're headed.

BOLTON: Well, this is a critical point for why the United States has enormous strategic interests here. People talk about the economic grievances of the protesters, as opposed to what, the economic situation in Egypt for the last 500 years or so, as if there was an era of democracy that they now yearn for in the past. All of this has existed for a long time.

I don't have any doubt the demonstration in Egypt was triggered by what happened in Tunisia. But I also don't have any doubt the Muslim Brotherhood has watched this. Today, after the Friday prayers, the Muslim Brotherhood's supporters went out into the street, too, which explains the increase in violence. We're in a very, very dangerous situation here.

VAN SUSTEREN: How is this different -- similar to and different to what happened in Iran in June of 2009, when they had the election of Ahmadinejad and the protesters took to the streets?

BOLTON: Well, one notable difference is the reaction the President of the United States. But I think, fundamentally, the situations are really quite different, from the U.S. strategic point of view. The opposition in Iran, if we had been supporting it, might well have been in a position to split the Iranian military and bring the regime down.

Here, as of now, we don't see any evidence that the military is splitting. Mubarak has sent his family to England. I don't read that as lack of confidence, I read that as Mubarak clearing the decks and getting ready to fight.

VAN SUSTEREN: So what's going to happen, do you think?

BOLTON: Well, I think the military will now bend every effort to split the Muslim Brotherhood away from those idealistic student demonstrators, which is going to be hard given the curriculum at most Egyptian universities, with a lot of radical Islamic theology. They've arrested some Muslim Brotherhood leaders already. I think they will now arrest hundreds, or even thousands.

VAN SUSTEREN: Won't that set some people on fire, if that's done? I mean, that -- won't that further enrage some?

BOLTON: I think it could the supporters of the Brotherhood. But what the military will try and do is get the middle class and the students back off the streets and try and retake control. And again, let's distinguish between who's been out on the streets so far, the police and interior department militia, versus the military, where the real power is.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why have we been propping up Mubarak all these years?

BOLTON: Well, I don't think it's really propping up Mubarak. I think it's a regime that's been in power since the overthrow of King Farouk in 1952...

VAN SUSTEREN: We've been generous with money.

BOLTON: We've been generous in money beginning in the Carter administration because of the Camp David accord. We have a profound interest in the stability of the Israeli-Egyptian peace relationship. We've got an enormously strong relationship with the Egyptian military. Mubarak, while no Jeffersonian democrat to be sure, has been an American ally for 30 years. These are not things you toss away lightly against the promise, the hope, the aspiration for sweetness and light and democratic government.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is this -- I mean, if you're sitting in the middle of the country tonight, where you've got unemployment level of over 9 percent, why should you care about this?

BOLTON: Well, the price of oil went up dramatically today as people worried about the prospects for instability not just in Egypt but around the entire Arab world. Egypt is the largest Arab country, over 80 million people. But if the Muslim Brotherhood can bring down the government here and install a radical Islamic regime there in control of the Suez Canal, one can only wonder what will happen in the oil-rich kingdoms of the Arabian peninsula. So there's a lot that rides on the outcome of this that will have a direct impact on America's economy and America's security.

VAN SUSTEREN: Ambassador, thank you, sir.

BOLTON: Thank you.