WASHINGTON - John Bolton, the outgoing American ambassador to the UN, said that his country should have launched efforts to topple the Mullahs' regime in Iran
four years ago. In a special interview, Bolton told Ynet that he was disappointed by Russia's support of Iran in the UN Security Council, and the failure of diplomatic efforts to address the Iranian nuclear threat.
Bolton served as undersecretary of state for arms control during George W. Bush's firs term in office, and has been the US ambassador to the UN in the past 17 months.
"I'd dealt with the Russians extensively…on a range of proliferation matters. In the discussions on the Security Council over Iran, Russia emerged as Iran's biggest protector, for a variety of reasons, some commercial, some strategic, some just political, as opposition to the United States.
"China I think was content to follow Russia's lead in the Security Council, just the reverse of what they did with North Korea where China was the main actor and Russia followed China," he stated.
Bolton explained that the Russians played a major role in helping Iran deal with the diplomatic steps taken against it.
"Russia helped Iran by trying to explain to them that they should not position themselves in a way that maximized the strength of the sanctions against them and to work out where Russia had commercial interests like the Busher nuclear power facility, and to protect and shield as much of that as they could," he said.
Why, in your opinion, did Russia pull out its experts
from the Busher nuclear reactor site?
"That was an interesting piece of information, I'd like to see if that really is borne out, but the Russians have been in a dispute over the fuel rods for four years, and we've been urging them for four years not to ship the fuel rods.
"There are obviously different points of view inside Russia, but I think that the nuclear scientists… know Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons. Maybe the Foreign Ministry hasn't yet figured it out."
According to Bolton, the US "should certainly be increasing the pressure, It's certainly got to be more than we got from the sanctions the Security Council has imposed or will impose in this next resolution.
"I think we've had some success in the financial institutions area, I think we should do more through the proliferation security initiative to deny Iran access to materials and technology that they need. But I think ultimately the only answer to Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons is to overthrow the current regime in Tehran. They've been pursuing nuclear weapons for almost 20 years.
"We do have historical evidence that when a regime that's been pursuing nuclear weapons changes that there's an opportunity to give up this pursuit. South Africa is one example, the collapse of the Soviet Union saw Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus give back to Russia Soviet-era weapons. Libya gave up its weapons after it saw what we had done to Saddam Hussein."
Are there any forces inside Iran that are working to overthrow the regime?
"I think there are a lot of Iranians that are unsatisfied with the regime, I think that there is more unrest there than what people believe, I think that the government is constrained because of the fall of oil prices and there is mismanagement of the oil sector of Iran's economy, they've got fewer resources to spread around to keep the populous happy.
"There's a large Iranian diaspora that know what the situation is. So, I think that there are a lot of possibilities. It won't necessarily be easy or quick, but that's not to say we shouldn't be pursuing it.
"In think it's very close to the point where Iran will have completely indigenous mastery over the fuel sites, that is to say the point in which stopping the things from the outside will not be sufficient, so I don't think we have much time. That's why all these negotiations with the Europeans have played to Iran's advantage, because time is on their side, time is not on our side."
How can the Iranian regime be toppled?
"Well, I wish we had started four years ago, but I think through internal dissent and outside pressure, those in general terms are what we have to do."
Not through military action?
"I don't think military force is the preferable way to go. I don't rule military force out because as unpalatable as military force might be, Iran with nuclear weapons is even worse. I think you have to show you have tried the alternatives, I think we've spent too much time on this EU-three diplomacy, I think now is the time to ramp up the pressure very dramatically."
What should Israel do? Wait for the world to resolve this?
"I think Israel has to make its own decisions…I think any country threatened with its own survival at stake has to be prepared to do what it has to do. I wouldn't second guess that."
What would be the world's reaction if Israel attacks Iran?
"I'm sure a lot of people would be outraged, they'd be outraged if the United States decided to attack. That's why, if you want to avoid that possibility, then increased pressure on Iran now is important, and the inability of the Security Council to pass strong sanctions resolutions doesn’t augur well for a peaceful outcome."
Is there a way to on monitor the use of nuclear weapons by terror organizations?
"It's very hard, and I think we're all acutely aware of the limitations on what we know, which is why it is so important and such a priority under the Bush doctrine to deny rogue states and terrorist groups nuclear weapons in the first place."
Bolton, who as ambassador to the UN pushed for the approval of Resolution 1701 in the Security Council, believes that the UN failed in implementing it.
"I was quite concerned during that entire process that we're going to end up with UNIFIL 2, which has been ineffective since it was put on the ground in 1979, and I'm afraid this is what we've come to, even though we call it enhanced UNIFIL, even though it's troops from Italy and France, in other words troops from real armies.
"It's not sealing the border with Syria, Hizbullah is being rearmed, we made a conscious decision in 1701 to put off the question of disarming Hizbullah until another resolution and we're nowhere close to coming back to that.
"So, I don't think 1701 has achieved what the United States at lease said at the outset was our objective, which was to use the conflict to change the strategic circumstances in the region and to avoid yet another Middle East ceasefire that represents simply a return to the status quo antebellum."