Secret Fears on Iran Realized

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," February 18, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Well, everyone needs to listen up on this one, because last week, we all heard the news rocking the world that Iran is enriching uranium. Then the president of Iran promptly announced Iran has reached the 20 percent enrichment point, going on maybe to 90. And today, the news just got worse. The IAEA says Iran has been doing secret research on a nuclear weapon warhead.

Former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton joins us. Ambassador, it's disturbing news. Obviously, the 20 percent is not enough for a nuclear weapon, but getting from 20 to 90 apparently isn't that sophisticated or difficult. Now we've got this news. That's pretty lousy news.

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Well, the most amazing thing is this is not new news. The IAEA report, their conclusions, is new and important because now the IAEA is more concerned about Iran than the American intelligence community. But the basic facts that underlie this report were known to the U.S. government five or six years ago and provided to the IAEA some years later. The point being that our decision makers for a long time have known this and not acted on it effectively.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, will this, though, sort of light the U.N. on fire in terms of sanctions...

BOLTON: Oh, come on!


VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I mean -- all right. Well, I mean, the -- you know, the United States is trying to get a fourth round of sanctions. We've got Russia that says, well, OK, they've made some noise saying they'll go along for -- with sanctions. China is a huge hold-up, a huge problem. But I mean, at least now it does seem that this has now been escalated. We're -- you know, each day, we're getting a step further to -- closer to this bomb.

BOLTON: Well, it takes away the cover that countries like Russia and China would like to hide behind. And it reflects, finally, a change in the International Atomic Energy Agency. The previous director, Mohammed elBaradei, repressed many of these same conclusions. The new director general has allowed it to come out, and I think that's important.

But I really think that when you contrast this with the famous 2007 National Intelligence Estimate that said, oh, Iran had given all that stuff up, it wasn't pursuing weapons -- look at the contrast and the highlighting this report gives for the inadequate, highly politicized U.S. intelligence committee -- community conclusions.

VAN SUSTEREN: So where does this leave us, though, because I mean, it's -- I mean, it's not like, you know, we can say that, you know, the IAEA -- we've got a new head of the IAEA, maybe that's why (INAUDIBLE) announcement now that the U.S. knew it before. We got the U.N. OK, well, they're weak and they're not doing anything. But the fact is that as much as, you know, we can sort of say, you know, no one's -- you know, nothing's happening, the fact is, is that Iran is moving forward.

BOLTON: Absolutely. They're closer and closer to a nuclear weapons capability. It's further evidence that the most likely outcome is that they will get nuclear weapons. But as I say, a lot of this was known to the U.S. It was classified. But one thing that was public in September of 2004, Jonathan Karl of ABC News reported on the work being done at the Parchen (ph) armor facility in Iran to shape high-explosive charges for a nuclear weapon. That was a year after our intelligence community believed that Iran had stopped its weaponization efforts.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I -- and I guess we should make plain is that going from 20 percent to 90 percent, to enriched uranium so you can make a bomb, is apparently not -- that's...

BOLTON: It's trivial.

VAN SUSTEREN: That's trivial. Now -- and the problem with this warhead is that that begins the delivery system so that you can actually take this 90 percent, once you make it into a bomb, and you can deliver it someplace.

BOLTON: Right. All of this work that the IAEA has been looking at is the engineering, basically, to go from having highly enriched uranium to actually fabricating it into a weapon and then fitting that weapon onto the top of a ballistic missile. These are all important steps, obviously, but not that hard to do.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, so, I mean -- I mean -- so where are we? How far away are we from this? And certainly, Israel is watching this with enormous interest because of what Ahmadinejad has said about wiping Israel off the map. So I mean, what's the timetable?

BOLTON: I think they're very close in Iran to getting a deliverable nuclear weapon. I'd emphasize again there's much in Iran that we don't know. That shouldn't make us feel better. What we don't know probably takes them closer to that capability.

One reason that Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel was in Moscow this week was to try and persuade the Russians of the seriousness of the situation and to have the Russians continue to withhold delivery of sophisticated new air defenses that the Iranians need.

VAN SUSTEREN: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who's in the Middle East now -- she uses very tough words. She seems to be quite hawkish on this. I don't know if she -- you know, what's she's going to do or what she can say. President Obama -- how do you characterize his approach to this?

BOLTON: Well, I think he still wants to try and negotiate with Iran. And I must say, I was disappointed -- I had higher hopes for Secretary Clinton earlier in the week, but I see in the past days, she has apparently taken off the table the possibility of U.S. military action, which is something that at least rhetorical, the administration had kept on before. I really do think, given the proclivities of the Obama administration, the possibility of military force is limited to a decision by Israel. That's where the pressure now rests.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, so we should admit that Iran's going nuclear.

BOLTON: I think that is the most likely outcome. I don't like coming to that conclusion, but I don't see the Obama administration or the United Nations doing anything to stop them.

VAN SUSTEREN: And of course, then that starts the whole arms race.

BOLTON: Exactly. It doesn't end with Iran. If they get nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, other countries will, as well.

VAN SUSTEREN: Ambassador, thank you, sir.

BOLTON: Thank you.

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