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Bolton: No Iran Strike Likely

2:15 PM, Nov 14, 2007 • By BRIAN FAUGHNAN
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Yesterday I joined several other conservative bloggers in a session with former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton at the Heritage Foundation. (Check out Tech Republican, Soren Dayton, and Quin Hillyer for more coverage of the event, as well as the American Spectator for video of his appearance there.) Bolton was extremely impressive--he spoke with ease and precision about a range of foreign policy and national security issues--including Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Israel, China, the United Nations and internal State Department politics. Bolton's appearance is intended to help promote his new book, Surrender is Not an Option.

In a ranging interview, I'm not sure how best to summarize what Bolton had to say. For simplicity's sake, I'll simply give bullet points on each topic.

• Iran: On Iran, the United States has for more than 4 years followed a failed policy of negotiation, following the lead of our European allies. Those negotiations have gotten Iran 4 years closer to having nuclear weapons, instead of 4 years closer to regime change in Tehran--which ought to have been our policy. Iran's regime is extremely fragile, and is having a hard time satisfying an overwhelmingly young and ethnically diverse population. With our responsible policy choices limited to regime change and targeted use of force against Iran's military program, the former would be preferable. Yet the United States has not pursued this effort, and will not use covert means to force a change in Iranian leadership.

When I asked Bolton specifically what he expected the administration to do with regard to Iran in the waning days of the administration, he expressed disappointment that President Bush is now hearing 'nothing but don't attack; don't upset the apple cart.' Soon he said, President Bush will be told not to strike Iran because of the way it will influence the presidential campaign, and after the election, he will be told to leave the challenge for the next president. Bolton said he is 'not optimistic.'

• North Korea: The problem of North Korea won't be eliminated until the North Korea regime is eliminated, the Korean peninsula is reunited, and the last anomaly resulting from World War II is corrected. China does not want North Korea to have nuclear weapons, because it encourages the nuclearization of Japan and South Korea, which is against China's interests. Beijing refuses to put too much pressure on Kim Jong Il, however, because it believes that the collapse of the regime would lead to reunification under the leadership of South Korea, with the potential for U.S. troops to be stationed along the Yalu River.

Bolton also attached great significance to the recent Israeli strike in Syria, against a facility associated with North Korea's nuclear program. He expressed a strong desire for the declassification of all the information about the strike that can be declassified. Bolton said that many questions remain and that at the very least, all Members of Congress should be briefed on it. Is Syria cooperating with North Korea on nuclear technology? They could not do so on their own, and would not do so without Iran's assistance. Is Syria then serving as a conduit for nuclear cooperation between North Korea and Iran? Bolton believes these questions must be addressed.

• The United Nations: The United Nations has a place; it is a tool in the diplomatic arsenal. It confers legitimacy on U.S. efforts (such as the rebuilding of Iraq), and helps build support for our policy goals. At the same time, it's political mechanisms are dysfunctional, and it interferes too much with policy decisions that legitimately belong to member states, as well as constrains U.S. foreign policy. The U.N. should be supplanted by another, more vigorous international organization--such as a NATO revamped to have global reach and expanded to include Japan, Australia, Israel, and other nations.

Further, the United States should encourage reform and responsiveness at Turtle Bay by adopting a policy of making its U.N. contributions voluntary, as opposed to 'assessed.' In this way the U.S. will support the U.N. and its efforts consistent with the value we attach to those. Right now contributions to the UNHCR, Unicef, and food programs are voluntary -- and these are the U.N.s most effective efforts. That approach should be extended to the entire body.