Bolton Admits That ‘Things Could Go Wrong’ After Military Strike On Iran

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"Bolton Admits That ‘Things Could Go Wrong’ After Military Strike On Iran"

Earlier this month, John Bolton claimed that “Iran simply has no intention of being talked out of its nuclear weapons program” and that “very severe sanctions” will not work. “There are two outcomes,” Bolton concluded, “one is Iran getting its nuclear weapons, the other is Israel or somebody uses military force to stop it.”

Back in December, Bolton argued that a simple “campaign of public diplomacy” would prevent Iranian civilians from rallying around the regime after a military strike on the country’s nuclear facilities. Yesterday at CPAC, ThinkProgress asked Bolton if this strategy would work if civilians are killed in a military campaign against Iran’s nuclear program. “I don’t accept that” civilians would be killed, Bolton replied. However, he later admitted that he’s unsure if civilians would die, but even then, his “campaign of public diplomacy” would still work:

TP: So if there is a military strike by us or the Israelis or whomever, you don’t think there’ll be any civilian casualties?

BOLTON: I can’t say that for sure. Things could go wrong.

TP: That’s what I’m saying. If they do, would a public diplomacy campaign work?

BOLTON: Yes! I think it would! I think it would. I think it has to be explained that this is, this will be an effort and that’s the military regime’s nuclear weapons program, not directed against the people of Iran at all.

Watch the interview:

Indeed, things could go wrong. “[I]f you like Iraq and Afghanistan, you’ll love Iran,” retired Gen. Anthony Zinni has said about possible military action against Iran. ThinkProgress asked Bolton to respond to Zinni’s comment. “I don’t think there’s any prospect or any need for any kind of substantial ground forces by us or by Israel,” Bolton said. “I don’t know what he means by that. I’ve heard that comment and I just disagree with it.”

A top defense official told ThinkProgress last year that an attack probably would “incentivize the Iranians to go all the way to weaponize” their nuclear material and have “a number of destabilizing” consequences for the region. And, as the Wonk Room’s Matt Duss has noted, a strike on Iran would do much to “extinguish Iran’s reform movement.”

Transcript:

TP: You said that in order for a military campaign to be successful on the American side that what we would need and all we would really need is to have a, accompany it with a public diplomacy campaign.

BOLTON: That’s not quite what I said. What I said was, if it were made clear, especially given the visible level of opposition to the government in Iran that the people have demonstrated, that if we could make it clear that the attack was directed only against the nuclear weapons program than I don’t think it is at all likely that the popular reaction in Iran would be to rally around the government. I think they understand increasingly that this is an authoritarian government, it’s a military dictatorship, even Secretary Clinton says that, and they don’t want that. The people of Iran increasingly don’t want that.

TP: If civilians are killed in a military strike do you think a public diplomacy campaign would have any effect?

BOLTON: Well I think we could take a lot of steps to avoid civilian casualties given the location of these plants, whose locations we know very precisely and I think that’s something we do in the U.S. and I think the Israelis do as a matter of basic morality.

TP: Right but I think it’s an eventuality that you’re going to have civilian casualties. Do you think…

BOLTON: I don’t accept that and I think that it’s important that we take every step possible to avoid that kind of outcome. And I think we’ll be successful given where these plants are located, which we know; I think it’s very possible to do that.

TP: So if there is a military strike but us or the Israelis or whomever you don’t think there’ll be any civilian casualties?

BOLTON: I can’t say that for sure. Things could go wrong.

TP: That’s what I’m saying. If they do, would a public diplomacy campaign work?

BOLTON: Yes I think it would! I think it would. I think it has to be explained that this is, this will be an effort and that’s the military regime’s nuclear weapons program, not directed against the people of Iran at all. That happens to be the truth so it’s always a good story to tell and I think we can make that story convincing.

TP: So if the people who are against the regime after a military strike rise up against it, what does the West do in that situation?

BOLTON: Well I think they’re in a very difficult position. I’m not sure they can accomplish regime change without more assistance from the outside. I think we should have been giving more outside assistance for 10 years

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