Former U.N. Ambassador Bolton on the Pirate Standoff and New Iran Nuke Chatter

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," April 10, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

JAMIE COLBY, FOX NEWS GUEST HOST: What should our government and the military be doing to end this hostage standoff? Moments ago, America's former ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, joined me and went "On the Record."


COLBY: Ambassador Bolton, thank you so much for being with us tonight.


COLBY: You've been following the developments with the pirate takeover. I want to ask you what your thoughts are. Is this a situation that can be solved through negotiations?

BOLTON: Well, I think you should distinguish between the immediate circumstances of this captain who's being held by the terrorists and the bigger question. There's a lot we don't know about how the captain actually got in this situation. I think our immediate focus has to be to get him out safely. There are a variety of ways to do that that don't necessarily involve negotiation that we probably shouldn't talk about publicly.

But I think first, we solve this problem. Then we have to address the larger question. And here I think we have a clear case for the use of force by the United States and anybody who will join with us against these pirates. I am very concerned, however, that both the administration and many of our friends in Europe have fallen into the trap of seeing this as a law enforcement question, which it most certainly is not. This is a case where the use of force is justified and I think the prudential response.

COLBY: You've hit on a number of things I wanted to ask you. How new is the pirate phenomenon in this region? Are these ships not equipped to take pirates on when they're under attack? And why hasn't the military gone in forcibly so far? They're surrounding the area, but why don't they just try to take the pirates out?

BOLTON: Well, this has been going on for quite some time, and it's something that the merchant marine ships themselves are really not capable of addressing. They're not trained for this. They're not equipped for it. It really is something for the navies of the world, and particularly the leading navy in the world -- namely, the United States -- to handle.

But I think even our navy has looked at this as a law enforcement question. There was testimony recently that they're waiting for the approval of the Department of Justice to take action. And they've approached our European allies, who unbelievably responded that they didn't want to take military action -- or at least were reluctant to -- because they were afraid that European human rights institutions would come after them for violating the human rights of the pirates.

Now, that's very hard to believe, but it shows why I think we've got to be prepared to lead as the United States in this matter and hope that others come along with us.

COLBY: Are there countries that we can rely on in a situation like this to come to the rescue of our innocent sailors? And how important is this channel? Are there not other routes we can take, or are we left to be at the pirates' mercy, as we were in this case?

BOLTON: Well, this is a very heavily traveled sea route. Since the piracy problem has grown, they've tried to move the transit lanes further out to sea, but the pirates have grown more sophisticated, as well. I mean, I think, honestly, this is a case where the French actually would come along with us. They apparently took action today involving one of their own hostages that turned out tragically for the hostage. But between France and Britain, I think if we had a coalition of the willing here that we could inflict substantial damage on the pirates, and that would have a deterrent effect on other would-be pirates in that region.

COLBY: It is somewhat disconcerting that you raise the human rights of the pirates by some countries who say they have to be concerned about that. I'm curious, then, in these situations, who can we rely on? We have one of the best forces -- you were right on the money -- our own Navy. Why aren't we patrolling the area now that problem is so significant and taking out these ships? And finally, is there any connection do you see in this situation to al Qaeda, either funding or being directly involved?

BOLTON: Well, I think that the question of the pirates is something that our Navy could handle, and I think if we demonstrated leadership, other countries would come to our side, whether it's in patrolling or in actual military force against the pirate operations.

Many people have said, Well, it's -- pirates are different from terrorists. I don't think, fundamentally -- the pirates are using force against innocent civilians. They may be doing it for economic reasons, rather than ideological or religious reasons, but the consequences are the same.

Some people have said we'll never end the problem of piracy until Somalia is once again a whole nation. I think if that's what we're waiting for, we're going to wait an awfully long time. I think that taking action here, while it cannot solve the problem totally, will have a profound impact when the people who are engaging in the piracy know they are at grave risk for their own lives if they continue that activity.


COLBY: And next, more with Ambassador Bolton. He has some fiery words about the presidential bow controversy. Does he think President Obama bowed to the Saudi king? And has the White House reacted to that question responsibly?

Plus: Senator Rick Santorum says President Obama is contemptuous of American values. Whoa! The former senator will tell you what has him so fired up.


COLBY: Well, we continue now with former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton on Iran now and the presidential bow controversy.


COLBY: I want to ask you about dealing with Iran, the ratcheting up of rhetoric, again, that they're making progress with enriching uranium. They're going to proceed with what they intend to do. Is it verifiable that they actually are going forward, or is this just talk?

BOLTON: No, I think they clearly are continuing to make progress. I would take everything Ahmadinejad says with a grain of salt. How many centrifuges are actually enriching uranium is a matter of some debate. But the fact is, Iran has mastered the entire nuclear fuel cycle. They have all the scientific and technological knowledge they need to fashion a nuclear weapon. It's really only a question of time.

And I think we're past the point, unfortunately, where economic sanctions are going to slow them down. So the Obama administration's announced policy of negotiating with Iran simply gives Iran even more time to perfect their nuclear weapon and to continue work on their ballistic missile program, so that ultimately, they can marry the warheads with the missiles and have a worldwide delivery capability.

COLBY: A question about the administration's position of diplomacy with Iran in a second. But first, educate us. How much uranium do you need for peaceful purposes, and how much uranium do you need enriched in centrifuges produced for a nuclear weapon production?

BOLTON: Well, it depends in part how many reactors they put in place. But we should remember that even reactors that are producing electricity, as a consequence of the nuclear reaction inside the reactor, are producing in the spent fuel plutonium, which can be reprocessed chemically and itself used for nuclear weapons.

The problem with Iran is that it has lied consistently for close to 20 years about what it's up to and clearly is operating under the guise of a peaceful civil nuclear power program to create a break-out capability to have a number of nuclear weapons quickly. By what we know publicly through the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran already has enough reactor- grade enriched uranium which if they brought it up to weapons-grade levels would amount to one -- one weapon. And estimates are that by the ends of the year, they'll have two or three more.

And let me stress that's just on what the IAEA knows. If there are other facilities that the IAEA is not aware of, which is entirely possible, Iran could be a lot farther along.

COLBY: President Obama has said a sitdown will come. Doing that without preconditions and without insisting that the IAEA is able to go in and reexamine, what is your advice for the administration? And do you think we can count on Russia, as they've said, to be behind us on swifter and stricter sanctions?

BOLTON: Well, negotiation has already been going on for close to six years because of the Europeans. So the idea that the Americans sitting down at the table is going to make a fundamental difference I think is a flawed assumption. I think negotiation gives the Iranians an asset they couldn't buy for love or money, and that's time. In a proliferation situation, time always benefits the would-be proliferator, to give them more opportunity to advance their weapons program.

COLBY: When you look at the video of President Obama bowing or not bowing, as the White House has said, to the Saudi king, any danger in a message that might be read into that, even if it was not a bow?

BOLTON: Well, I've looked at that tape several times, and it sure looks like a bow to me. All I can say is no American, president or average citizen, bows to foreign royalty. I mean, we fought a revolution about this question. And this is not a breach of protocol, this is just a mistake. So I think it would be better if the White House just admitted it was a mistake and said, We're moving on, it wasn't intended to signify anything politically. Because until they address it, there will be a misperception around the world and it will hurt the president.

COLBY: All right. Thank you very much, Ambassador.

BOLTON: Thanks a lot. Glad to be here.

COLBY: Take care.


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