In December, after the new NIE on Iran was released, former US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton established himself as one of the top hawks trying to undermine its credibility, going so far as to call for a congressional witch-hunt into anti-Bush “people in the intelligence community.”
During his trip to Israel this week for the the Herzliya Conference, Bolton has ratcheted up his criticisms of the report, saying on Sunday that the “illegitimate politicization” of the NIE was “a quasi-coup by the intelligence services.”
On Monday, Bolton said that the NIE put “pressure” on Israel to strike Iran because “the likelihood of American use of force has been dramatically reduced”:
“One can say with some assurance that in the next year the use of force by the United States is highly unlikely,” Bolton told AFP on the sidelines of the Herzliya conference on the balance of Israel’s national security.
“That increases the pressure on Israel in that period of time… if it feels Iran is on the verge of acquiring that capability, it brings the decision point home to use force,” he said.
Reacting to Bolton, a “senior Israeli security official” told Agence France-Presse that “one should listen very closely to what Bolton has to say.”
Asked about Bolton’s comments today, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice refused to refute him, only saying that Bolton is “a private citizen”:
QUESTION: (Inaudible) on Israel and he basically told us (inaudible) because they said the Bush administration (inaudible).
RICE: John Bolton is a private citizen. He can say what he wants.
Bolton’s comments join a chorus of conservative hawks who continue to argue, in the words of National Review’s Mark Steyn, that a “the bombing option is becoming the only one that will be left” in regards to Iran’s nuclear ambitions.