Prelude to a Revolution

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," June 16, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Well, it's big, tens of thousands, and it is violent, the protests in Iran. We haven't seen anything like this in Iran since the 1979 revolution. Protesters yelling that the presidential election was rigged and the government is lying in saying Ahmadinejad won 63 percent of the vote. And then after explosive public outrage, the ayatollah is now calling for an inquiry, and the Guardian Council says it will conduct a partial recount. Partial recount? Well, that's not satisfying Ahmadinejad's opponents. They are demanding a new election.

Meanwhile, what about the U.S.? What should we do? Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton joins us. Nice to see you, Ambassador.


VAN SUSTEREN: First, the president described this as watching a robust debate. I guess that's an understatement.

BOLTON: Yes, that's sort of a euphemism for rioting in the streets. I think we're clearly in a pre-revolutionary moment here. I think this has now moved well past the election debate and it goes to threaten the fundamentals of the regime itself. There's still a lot that remains to be seen, but this is more than an election contest.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, people have been -- you know, that we've been sitting in the United States the last 30 years, hoping that there would be some sort of revolution, there'd be a democracy there. If Ahmadinejad is overthrown, I mean, if there is another election or whatever, or if he's out, Mousavi, the replacement, isn't exactly Abe Lincoln.

BOLTON: Right. Exactly. I mean, the debate between moderates and hard-liners is a debate between whether you continue the nuclear weapons program and say publicly you to want to wipe Israel off of the map, or whether, for the moderates, you continue the weapons program and be quiet so you don't attract so much attention. I think, fundamentally, the idea here is to wait and see whether the Revolutionary Guards come on the scene. They have been very quiet in these four days since the election, and I think they're waiting to see what Mousavi does.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, Mousavi -- I was doing a little research. When he ran for president in the early 1980s, that apparently, there were a thousand of his opponents who were executed right before his election. So it's not exactly -- I mean, I'm not so sure that we have a real grip on what we're getting, even if there is a revolution.

BOLTON: Well, he was the Ayatollah Khomeini's prime minister. I mean, let's get started there. So that qualifies him. He is the person who negotiated with A.Q. Khan to set up the beginnings of the Islamic revolution's nuclear weapons program. He's fully committed to Iranian terrorism, a lot of it began under his administration. So whatever changes there might be inside Iran, make no mistake, the foreign policy would remain essentially the same.

VAN SUSTEREN: And if the viewers have forgotten, A.Q. Khan is a Pakistani who is -- who is the godfather of nuclear weapons in Pakistan and who is thought to have been also the Wal-Mart of nuclear weapons...

BOLTON: The great entrepreneur, exactly.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... with North Korea, spreading technology to North Korea. What should the United States be doing at this point?

BOLTON: Well, I think we should be doing whatever we can openly or covertly to support the dissidents in Iran. I think we should have been doing this for the eight years of the Bush administration, and we didn't do much of anything. I think the regime itself, the Islamic revolution of 1979, is illegitimate. I think that's the position we ought to take, and I think we ought to help overturn it. That's clearly not what the president's going to do. As he said today again, respecting Iranian sovereignty means hands off for the United States.

VAN SUSTEREN: But what exactly would we do, practical matter, what do we do?

BOLTON: Well, I think if we had started this a little bit earlier, we would be funding dissident groups. It's a very delicate thing. We don't want to make them into cats' paws of the United States. But this regime, the Islamic revolution, is not popular in Iran. And what you see here is not an election dispute, it's a reflection of that unpopularity. The regime itself is more fragile than people think, and if we had been working on it, we might actually be at the tipping point right at this moment.

VAN SUSTEREN: I guess, though, I'm sort of thinking, though, looking at the two -- looking at Ahmadinejad -- he's lousy for us. Mousavi -- he's lousy for us. Is there an option three? I mean, we've sort of been looking at it as, you know, one of these two men is going to be the winner. But is it possible there's a third option which might be more refreshing to us?

BOLTON: Well, the option for us is to sweep the entire structure of the regime out to sea. That...

VAN SUSTEREN: Is that possible under the circumstances?

BOLTON: I think we could be at a moment where it's about to happen. I think that the unpopularity of the regime, which goes back for a long time -- its economic policies are is lousy. The state of the economy in Iran is bad. The young people are very dissatisfied. There's a lot of ethnic dissatisfaction. I think it's a lot of dry tinder waiting to go off, and this obviously over-stolen election could well be what does it.

But I want to stress again, the Revolutionary Guards, the guardians of the revolution itself, have been silent for four days. They're waiting to see if Mousavi really goes a step beyond the legal appeal that he's entitled to of the election results. He has not crossed that line yet, but the moment of truth for Mousavi is whether he's prepared to do that, or whether he accepts the decision that there may have been fraud but not enough for him to win.

VAN SUSTEREN: And as an aside, is that Ahmadinejad is not even home in Iran tonight. He's in Russia, meeting with the Russian president.

BOLTON: To me, this is stunning. I mean, when you're confident, you're prepared to go out of the country. He postponed this trip from Monday, which indicated some hesitation. But he's gone today. I think he feels he's in pretty good shape.

VAN SUSTEREN: And of course, our president's going to be traveling next month to meet with the president of Russia. All right, let's go to the other side, to North Korea. The president of South Korea -- or the Korean peninsula, rather -- the president of South Korea's in the United States and he comes out and makes a statement today which says, We agreed that under no circumstances are we going to allow North Korea to possess nuclear weapons.

BOLTON: I didn't quite follow the verb tenses in that when he said it. The president, our president, was saying the same thing. It was all in the future tense. And so it...

VAN SUSTEREN: But they already have it.

BOLTON: Left unsaid, what these two nuclear detonations constitute is that they've already accomplished. They do have nuclear weapons. They may not be deliverable on ballistic missiles, but they can be put in the hold of a ship and sailed into a harbor and detonated there.

VAN SUSTEREN: But even -- but even more than that is that, you know, we keep saying -- the whole world, it's, like, we talk about how the North Koreans are doing all this saber rattling all the time. It's almost as though that we have saber rattling, too. Exactly what are we going to do? I mean, everyone says, No, we're not going to let this happen, and we -- you know, we -- everyone makes these pronouncements. The president of South Korea says it. We say it. The U.N. says it. But what is going to - - I mean, tell me what's going to happen.

BOLTON: I don't know under this administration, but it shows why nobody believes us. In the Bush administration, he said repeatedly it's unacceptable for Iran to have nuclear weapons...

VAN SUSTEREN: Everyone agrees on that.

BOLTON: For six straight years, they made progress toward nuclear weapons. You can say it's unacceptable, which normally means you're not going to accept it, but if you're prepared to do that, it just -- it enables people to go and continue their nuclear programs.

I think what we need to do is squeeze North Korea very hard and squeeze China to squeeze North Korea. There's no evidence that President Obama is really prepared to do that. All he keeps saying is, Come back to the negotiations and the six-party talks, which is a way of saying to North Korea, You're going to get a free pass with your nuclear test.

VAN SUSTEREN: The two American women journalists who are held there, apparently -- and I say apparently because we never know for sure what is fact and what is faction -- that there's video. They were shooting video, and the video shows them in North Korea.

BOLTON: Look, it could well be they were in North Korea. It wouldn't be surprising. The border is harder to find in some places than you might think. But even if they were in North Korea without visas or without the proper documentation, 12 years at hard labor is not an appropriate response. They should have been thrown out of the country, and that would be the end of it.

VAN SUSTEREN: I think we agree on that, but so now what's going to happen to them? I mean, I don't think anyone disputes that.

BOLTON: I think we've just lost interest in them. The State Department doesn't say anything except at the daily briefing, Well, we're concerned about it. The president doesn't say anything. North Korea has done to two American citizens what it's done over the years probably to dozens of people from Japan and South Korea. They've been kidnapped, and we're not doing anything to get them out.

VAN SUSTEREN: We can only hope that behind the scenes that -- that something's being done. That's where we cross our fingers. Ambassador, thank you, sir.

BOLTON: Glad to be here.

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