It’s almost as if Mitt Romney adviser John Bolton is rooting for a war with Iran. That’s sure what it seems like when the hawkish former U.N. ambassador cheers the lack of concrete progress in diplomatic talks with Iran over its nuke program, and then goes on to fear-monger about Iranian advances. And that’s exactly what Bolton did in a new Washington Times op-ed.
First, Bolton started off by expressing his relief that the last round of talks in Baghdad between Iran and the West yielded no breakthroughs:
Fortunately, however, the recently concluded Baghdad talks between Iran and the U.N. Security Council’s five permanent members and Germany (P-5+1) produced no substantive agreement.
War isn’t the only alternative to immediate success in the diplomatic negotiations in Baghdad (indeed, there’ll be another round of talks for later this month in Moscow), but Bolton’s record indicates that’s clearly what he’s aiming for. Since at least 2008, Bolton has been calling for the U.S. to support an Israeli attack on Iran — even suggesting a nuclear attack. He’s also called for a U.S. attack, and any old excuse will do. (Mubarak falls in Egypt? Bomb Iran.) Bombing is, as Media Matters put it, his “default setting” — even though he acknowledges it might not work.
It’s no surprise, then, that Bolton turned to some baseless fear-mongering on the Iranian nuclear program. U.S., Israeli, and U.N. estimates all reportedly indicate that Iran has not made a decision to build a nuclear weapon. But Bolton, at every turn, asserts that objective without evidence. In the Washington Times, he cited the latest International Atomic Energy Agency report on Iran’s program:
The most eye-catching item was evidence from the deeply buried Fordow facility of U-235 enrichment up to 27 percent, which Iran quickly dismissed as a technical glitch. Alternatively, of course, Iran could have been experimenting to find the most efficacious path to weapons-grade U-235 levels.
Iran wasn’t the only one to dismiss this as a “technical glitch.” The AP, which published the initial report on the traces of uranium enriched to 27 percent purity, cited the “diplomats who had told the AP of the existence of the traces before publication of the confidential report” as saying that “the higher-enriched material could have been a mishap involving centrifuges over-performing as technicians adjusted their output rather than a dangerous step toward building a bomb.” And the New York Times reported that U.S. officials and nuclear experts shared this view:
“It’s definitely embarrassing but not nefarious,” David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington research group that tracks the Iranian nuclear program, said in an interview.
A senior Obama administration official agreed that “the most likely explanation” for the discovery was technical.
Don’t count on Bolton, though, to explain those perspectives to his readers. Doing so wouldn’t bolster his long-standing calls for war. And don’t count on him for airing any of the possible negative consequences of war either (in line with the Romney campaign’s modus operandi), not least of which that an attack may spur Iran to actually build a bomb.
Those consequences and the intelligence estimates are the reasons the Obama administration, despite its view that a potential Iranian nuclear weapon would constitute a threat to the U.S., its allies and the non-proliferation regime, pursues its dual-track of pressure and diplomatic engagement. And that’s why the administration, instead of cheering for diplomacy to fail like Bolton, considers a negotiated diplomatic solution to be the “best and most permanent way” to end the standoff with Iran over its nuclear program.
The Obama campaign released a statement by former Defense Department official Michèle Flournoy that said in part:
Bolton has made it clear that he’s rooting for American diplomacy to fail and has repeatedly called for a rush to war with Iran. Gov. Romney needs to be clear with the American people: Does he believe there’s still time for diplomacy to work? Or is he ready to take us to war, like his advisor John Bolton is advocating? …If Gov. Romney shares his advisor John Bolton’s views that it is time for the US to go to war with Iran, the American people deserve to know.