Issues

John Bolton and Dan Senor discuss Iranian Threat

MACCALLUM: Joined by Dan Senor, an adviser to George W. Bush and an adjunct senior fellow for the Council on Foreign Relations, and John Bolton, former ambassador to the U.N. and Fox News contributor. Thanks for being here today.

Ambassador, let me start with you. How do you think it went yesterday with President Obama in terms of what he said, and what he meant and what he’ll do in the future?

BOLTON: Well, I think the net-net after the meeting in the Oval Office is we were pretty much where we were 48 hours ago. I think it’s clear that Obama did not get assurances from Prime Minister Netanyahu that Israel will not attack, and I think it’s equally clear that Netanyahu didn’t get assurances from President Obama that the United States would cooperate supplying intelligence, providing logistical support and prompt resupply if Israel does decide to take military action. Despite all the rhetoric I think we are still confronted by the blunt political–physical reality that Iran is continuing its nuclear weapons program, and that diplomacy and sanctions have failed and are going to continue to fail.

MACCALLUM: I’ve spoken to Gen. Jack Keen about this in the past, and he claims, he believes that the intelligence that has come out has been interpreted by the Israelis in one way and by the United States in another way. Israel is clearly operating under its understanding of what’s happening on the ground and their fear that it’s going too fast and that they are getting too far too quickly.

SENOR: There are different timelines based on what you’re describing, what Gen. Keen was describing. If you notice President Obama chose his words very carefully in his speech. He talked about stopping Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. But the Israelis have a different criteria, they have a different red line. they want Iran to be stopped from developing a nuclear weapons capability. It sounds like a distinction without a difference but it has an important difference. meaning it sounds like the terms that President Obama is laying out if Iran has all the pieces and the parts and the processes for developing a nuclear weapon, but actually doesn’t go into assembly mode, then there is no need for action, there is no need for military action because Iran doesn’t have the bomb.

What the Israelis are saying even them just having the capability, the pieces, the parts and processes means that the bomb is within reach and it’s just as big a existential threat for Israel. The timeline for them having the parts and pieces and having the processes in place is far sooner than an actual weapon, so Israel’s fuse is much shorter than the Americans. This is part, not the only, part of the nub of the disagreement between the administration and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

MACCALLUM: I want to get both of your thoughts on this. I’ll start with Ambassador Bolton. It feels as if this subject is going to take a much bigger part of the stage. Once the GOP has its nominee in place and we start to see the head-to-head discussion developing between President Obama and whoever that nominee is, what do you expect as you look into your crystal ball for this summer, what do you expect Israel to do and what is the conversation going to be like here about it.

BOLTON: I still think the most likely outcome is that Iran gets nuclear weapons, because Obama will see that having failed with Benjamin Netanyahu here, he has to exert more pressure or he will see an Israeli attack. I think that is a decision that I’d be very surprised if Israel doesn’t make. I think Obama sees that as risking a massive spike in oil prices, direct threat to the shaky U.S. economic recovery, and something that he just can’t afford before the election. So I think his every effort will be to postpone an Israeli strike until after the election. I don’t think Israel has that long to wait. I thought Israel should have attacked in 2008 while it had a more favorable president in the White House. The great risk today is that Iran already has duplicate, deeply buried facilities that we don’t even know about, and that Israel could attack and not achieve its objective. That is the real risk.

MACCALLUM: we’ve heard a lot of evidence that points in that direction. Gentlemen, thank you. I hope you’ll come back and we’ll talk about this further very important topic right now. Dan, thanks to you.