OTR Interviews

Bolton on Iran agreement: Everything is still up for grabs over the next three months

President Obama assured Americans that the 'historic understanding' with Iran on its nuke program is a 'good deal,' but is a doublecross in the works?


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," April 2, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Israeli leaders are not happy about the deal, the general framework with Iran. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warning the deal will leave Iran just months away from being able to build a nuclear bomb.

Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton joins us. Good evening, sir. Your assessment of this framework? We don't have the specifics, but we have a framework.

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Well, I don't think so we have a framework. I mean, a framework implies something that all the parties have actually agreed to. And looking at the statements and the documents that have been issued today, I can only see one to which more than one party has affixed its name. That's the joint E.U./Iran statement, which is short and vague, to say the least. Everything else is assertions by the parties of where they think things are. And I think as a practical negotiating matter, what that means is everything is up for grabs, again, in the next three months. I think that's exactly what Iran wanted. I think it just buys them more time. You know, we have been directly or indirectly negotiating with Iran for 12 years, 12 long years. And we're still negotiating and the centrifuges are still spinning.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Suppose that President Obama likes what he sees on June 30th, can he go it alone or is this a treaty and should go to two-thirds ratification as the Constitution says or should he get some sort of agreement from Congress? I know they are the ones that have to lift the sanctions, the congressional sanctions, but does he have the authority to make this deal himself?

BOLTON: Well, politically, he would probably be better advised to get cooperation from Congress, but constitutionally it's far from clear. Look, scholars count things in different ways but there's no real dispute that since 1945, over 90 percent of the international agreements that the United States has entered into have been executive agreements of one form or another. The Senate has receded from its constitutional responsibility. That's a problem they have helped create. And it's very hard to get it back in one step. There is no bright line between executive agreements and treaties. This will be, as Professor Corwin, I think it was, said, an invitation to struggle.

VAN SUSTEREN: What do you think tonight that Prime Minister Netanyahu is saying to his closest advisors?

BOLTON: He is saying we have been sold out. The Americans have given the Iranians everything they have wanted. They have given them more political legitimacy. They've essentially legitimized their uranium enrichment program, which whatever constraint you want to put on it is the long pole in the tent for a would-be nuclear proliferator.

And it's all based on two incorrect assumptions. Assumption number one, we know everything we need to know about Iran's nuclear program today. And assumption number two, we will know everything they too for the next 10 years. Those are both false. When you start off with foundations that are that flawed, it's only a short time before the thing falls apart.

VAN SUSTEREN: We have a map up showing Iran, with all of their known facilities. I should add, "known." They have hid some before so I don't know if there are more on that map that we don't know. What did we get out of this deal?

BOLTON: Well, I think we really got very little. I think the president has other objectives in mind here. And I think if Congress wants to focus on what to look at with this deal, it ought to insist that all parts of whatever understandings there are with Iran be made public, not just what the perm-5, plus Germany have agreed with Iran. Are there other agreements? Is there an agreement to take them off the list of state sponsors of terrorism? Is there an agreement to establish full diplomatic recognition? In other words, is there a Cuba deal here?

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, is it possible there is a deal to take them off the state sponsors of terrorism and that would not be included in what they publicly disclosed as of June 30th? I mean, do you think they would try to slip that one in?

BOLTON: Look, the deal that is announced in the -- the deal -- we shouldn't call it a deal. What was announced in Geneva today was the result of the negotiations between the perm-5 plus Germany and Iran. They don't have any role, the rest of them, in our bilateral dealings with Iran. I think it's at least Congress -- it's worth Congress asking the question, are there other issues on the table, the terrorism issue, diplomatic recognition, other strayed restrictions that we have been discussing bilaterally with Iran and something that you contemplate doing in the near future?

VAN SUSTEREN: So what happens? Congress comes back the 13th. They have some chatter and talk about -- they fire some words back and forth across the aisle. Some Democrats don't like it though. And then along comes June 30th, and then what?

BOLTON: Well, I'm not sure that on June 30th we won't still be negotiating for another parameter of another joint comprehensive program. I think that what Iran wants here is relief from the economic sanctions for obvious reasons. But they are not prepared to give up anything significant on the nuclear program. And I think this -- these various statements that have been made today show they haven't given up anything significant.

VAN SUSTEREN: If the U.N. gives up its sanctions, but the U.S. Congress sticks to the guns on their own, I mean, that's essentially giving Iran everything it wants on the sanctions. Doesn't that sort of bust the sanctions that the rest of the world doesn't have sanctions?

BOLTON: Yeah. I don't think pounding our chest and saying we are going to impose more U.S. sanctions really accomplishes much. The only way the economic sanctions can be effective is if they're comprehensive, they are universally applied, and they are rigorously enforced. European countries are bending over backwards already to get rid of these sanctions. Countries like Russia and China have helped Iran evade the sanctions ever since they were put in place. And I think we've got to recognizance that the very fact of these negotiations has encouraged people to think that the sanctions are coming down and that's encouraged them to evade them already.

VAN SUSTEREN: Ambassador, thank you.

BOLTON: Thank you.