This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," August 3, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: There is breaking news involving Bill Clinton. President Clinton is going to North Korea to help secure the release of two woman, American journalists being held prisoner in that communist country. A senior U.S. official tells FOX News that a deal to release the women has been worked out and President Clinton is going to North Korea or may already be there at this moment to finalize the details.
The two journalists were sentenced to hard labor in a prison camp after being convicted for what North Korea called "grave crimes."
The women were arrested on the border of North Korea and China in March. We're going to bring you the very latest on this as we get it into Fox.
And Ambassador John Bolton thinks it's crunch time for Israel on Iran. Is Israel about to launch an attack on Iran? And is the U.S. going to try to stop Israel?
Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton joins us live. Ambassador, we want to talk about Iran, but first, your thoughts on President Clinton and North Korea, securing the release of these to women?
JOHN BOLTON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: I had flashback to 1994 when former President Jimmy Carter's suddenly showed up in North Korea in the middle of very difficult negotiations over the North's nuclear weapons program and came out with something very different than what President Clinton wanted. So I had visions of the same thing.
But I think given that Mrs. Clinton is secretary of state, this is probably better, a little bit better coordinated. And it sounds like a deal has been worked out. I don't think they would send the former president in unless he was going to come out with the two reporters.
VAN SUSTEREN: And I had forgotten that President Jimmy Carter had been there in '94 when I spoke to Jennifer Griffin. It will be interesting to see if he does return with those two women, and certainly a stunning development in that story.
All right, Iran and Israel. Is Israel likely, in your view, to take unilateral steps against Iran?
BOLTON: I don't think Israel has really made a decision. But I think if you look at the history, Israel has not been afraid to take preemptive military action when it has seen an existential threat to the state of Israel.
It destroyed the Osirak reactor outside Baghdad in 1981. It destroyed a North Korean reactor in Syria in September in 2007. If anything, the threat posed by Iran's nuclear program is even graver.
So based on that history, you would have to bet they probably would.
VAN SUSTEREN: It's interesting, President Obama has given North Korea -- not North Korea, but has given Iran until September to say whether they will have discussions about nuclear weapons. What happens after the date passes, if Iran just basically blows us off?
BOLTON: Well, the theory then, at least as articulated by the administration, is we then turn to sanctions, perhaps against refined gasoline being imported into Iran, perhaps others. All of that is very interesting, and, in fact, would have been a great idea about six years ago.
Whether those sanctions can be put in place and have any impact on Iran's nuclear weapons program today is a very different story.
But the administration is itself running out of time, I think they are very aware of that. But the Israelis who are running out of time, too, because the military option against Iran is declining option over time.
VAN SUSTEREN: The report today is that Iran says that they can a nuclear weapon in six months, or they have enough uranium enriched within six months, and a nuclear weapon within a year and a delivery system, which is a key thing, and they can actually deliver it.
Do you believe those are real --- is there any way to know whether these are realistic timetables?
BOLTON: First off, these reports are based on what we think we know as opposed to what we do not know. And what we do not know about Iran really bothers me.
But one interesting aspect of this article in the "Times of London" was this discussion of the high explosive research that Iran has been doing.
This was reported as far back as the fall of 2004 by Jonathan Karl on "ABC News," and gives the lie to the famous 2007 National Intelligence Estimates that says that Iran had stopped work on that in the fall of 2003.
I think Iran is very close to actually being able to produce a weapon. I think they have mastered all of the science and technology they need. So the notion that they are close is, I think, accurate, and is really the pressure building on Israel to make this decision whether or use military force.
VAN SUSTEREN: And is the United States putting pressure on Israel to put the brakes on this? Or do we have a hands off on this, letting Israel make its own decisions?
BOLTON: It's very definitely a lot of pressure being applied by the administration. Defense Secretary Gates was in Israel last week along with former Senator George Mitchell, National Security Adviser Jim Jones. There was a traffic jam of American convoys in Jerusalem on the subject.
I think the Obama administration understands that if Israel uses military force, the chances of negotiation with the regime in Iran are pretty thin. And I think their view is that they want to do what they can to have these negotiations.
I must say that the Israelis have no reason to think that negotiations are going to change Iran's determination to get nuclear weapons.
VAN SUSTEREN: If you look, Israel is in a horrible place geographically. They are very close to Iran, and Iran can reach them. So they have that concern.
They don't want to offend us because we have been so supportive of them.
On the other hand, I do not get the sense that Israel thinks that negotiation is an option between the United States and Iran. Is that about right? Am I about right on that?
BOLTON: I think that's correct. I think from Israel's point of view, what makes it hard is that they know Iran is trying to increase its air defense capability, they know Iran is likely to be dispersing and further hardening it's nuclear program, which means that even if they successfully, let's say, destroyed Iran's uranium enrichment facility at Natanz, Iran could be building a duplicate facility a couple hundred miles away.
And that is what a military strike is not a complete solution to Iran's nuclear efforts. It will buy time, which is very important. But if you misperceive where Iran is in its nuclear program, you could find six months from now Iran has the bomb, and then all of these calculations change dramatically.
VAN SUSTEREN: It seems Iran has three choices. They can either build it and have it done within one year, or they can have negotiations, not build it, or they can have negotiations and lie and build it while we think that they aren't. Are those the three choices?
BOLTON: I think those are the three choices.
VAN SUSTEREN: The one where we sit and talk to them and they lie to us is the most terrifying to me.
BOLTON: Well, exactly. But that's where, I think, the Israelis fear the naivete of Obama administration most, this desperate effort to find somebody in Iran to sit down and negotiate with.
Inconveniently, they are having a political crisis in Iran now. I think it is very difficult for them to formulate a negotiating position.
So that is yet another reason why I do not think we will see negotiation by year's end and where Israel comes closer to that decision on whether or not to use force.
VAN SUSTEREN: Does Iran worry enough about those sanctions? Are those sanctions enough to strangle them not to do it?
BOLTON: There are not sanctions in place now that are having any material effect on Iran's decision-making. And even the strict sanctions the administration is talking about are too little, too late. You need widespread compliance. You need Russia and China onboard. There is a zero evidence that that will happen.
VAN SUSTEREN: So who is onboard? The French are onboard on this one.
BOLTON: Well, nominally, the French, the Germans, and the British. But I have seen this process over the last six years where they, "Yes, we are with you," right up until the point where Russia and China say, actually, we're not with you, and then you find the Europeans trying to mediate between the Russians on the Chinese on the one side and the U.S. on the other.
That's why these negotiations are a snare for the Obama administration and why Israel is skepticism that even acceding to them will permit enough progress to keep Iran from getting the bomb.
VAN SUSTEREN: Any theory on who is the tougher one on Iran between the president and the secretary of state?
BOLTON: The speculation is that Secretary Clinton is tougher, but I must say, at this point, we are so close to Iran actually getting a weapon that these fine calibrations that we have got, six months or eight months or 10 months, all you have to do is be wrong by one day, and once Iran has a nuclear capability, else changes, not only because of the threat Iran would then pose, but because of the near certain reaction of Arab governments in the region, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, that would then go on and get nuclear-weapons themselves.
VAN SUSTEREN: When China was not very helpful on sanctions on North Korea, sanctions had absolutely no effect. So if we can't get China onboard on this, it seems like the sanctions will have virtually no effect.
BOLTON: I think that is right, and Russia too, which has a huge interest in selling advanced weapons systems and nuclear reactors to Iran.
VAN SUSTEREN: Ambassador, always nice to see you. Thank you, sir.
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