Bolton: Israeli Strike Against Iran May Be Only Option to Stop Nuclear Program

'This is what 25 years of negotiations with Iran gets you'

President of Iran Hassan Rouhani
President of Iran Hassan Rouhani / Getty Images
August 31, 2017

Decades of U.S. diplomacy with Iran, including the Obama administration's landmark nuclear accord, may leave Israeli military action as the only option to prevent Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons, according to former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton.

"I don't make any disguise of the idea that ultimately it may take an Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear program to stop it," Bolton told the Washington Free Beacon. "I wish we weren't at that point, but this is what 25 years of negotiations with Iran gets you."

Bolton, a critic of the nuclear agreement implemented two years ago, first pushed the idea in 2009 after Iran's hardline mullahs and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps quashed a pro-democracy opposition movement that erupted in response to nationwide accusations that the presidential election was rigged.

In a Washington Post op-ed, Bolton wrote at the time that given the narrowed window for regime change, a targeted Israeli strike was the only time-sensitive option to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Bolton has since relaxed calls for a preemptive strike and now says the highest priority must be the abolition of the nuclear accord, which limited Tehran's ability to produce nuclear material in exchange for sanctions relief. Still, Bolton said an Israeli attack against Iran's nuclear facilities may be an inevitable deterrent option.

In a draft policy proposal for exiting the accord published in National Review Monday night, Bolton said President Donald Trump's national security team needs to discuss military options with Israel and "selected others" regarding Iran's "menacing behavior."

Bolton, once considered for secretary of state and national security adviser during the presidential transition, said he was asked last month by Trump's now-ousted strategist, Steve Bannon, to draft a policy proposal on how the United States could withdraw from the nuclear accord.

After Bannon's departure, Bolton said he was compelled to go public with his blueprint since he no longer enjoys regular access to Trump and can't deliver it to the president himself.

Trump has sided with Bolton on leaving the Iran agreement, vowing on the campaign trail to rip it up on day one of his presidency, but he has since been met with pushback from key members of his national security team, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Both Tillerson and Mattis have advised Trump against pulling out of the deal.

By law, the president must notify Congress every 90 days whether Iran is complying with the deal. Though Trump has twice recertified the agreement, he said he would not do it a third time when recertification comes up again in October.

The current American ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, last week traveled to Vienna to visit the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency to discuss Iran's nuclear activities. The IAEA is expected to release its quarterly report on Iranian compliance to the deal this week, raising uncertainties about whether Trump will take notice of its findings.