Did the U.S. Try to Provoke Iran to Expel UN Inspectors or Leave the NPT?

04/20/2007 11:37 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Hill reported this week that supporters of requiring President Bush to secure congressional approval for any preemptive strike on Iran are regrouping for a new push, with Senator Jim Webb and House Democrats considering attaching a provision barring an unauthorized attack on Iran to the defense authorization bill.

Many fear that influential people in the Administration, particularly in the Vice-President's office, have a primary motivation of promoting military confrontation with Iran. That is, rather than seeing military threats as a tool to address U.S. concerns with Iran's nuclear program or U.S. concerns about Iran's role in Iraq, these Administration officials see the conflict over Iran's nuclear program and Iran's role in Iraq as an opportunity to promote military confrontation with Iran.

The transcript of a conference call with John Bolton, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., adds evidence for this claim.

In January, Bolton briefed members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on his views of the United Nations Security Council resolution that passed in December. You can listen to Bolton here. Here is the transcript:

Former Ambassador Bolton: "Let me turn now to the question of Iran and
what I think the situation is there. The Security Council just passed
a resolution. The resolution that the Security Council passed at the
end of last month imposing certain limited sanctions on Iran,
obviously the product of a long effort based on Iran's refusal to
comply with the earlier Security Council resolution that gave them
until August 31st to cease their uranium enrichment activities. I'd
have to say because I'm a private citizen and therefore a free man
again, and these are my personal views, now, that this sanctions
resolution is very disappointing. It is not as tough as I would have
liked to have seen it. In many respects the Russians did an
outstanding job from their point of view in protecting Iran, in
narrowing the scope of the sanctions, in limiting the effectiveness, I
think, of many of the things that we wanted to try and do to prevent
the Iranians from continuing to make progress on their nuclear and
ballistic missile programs.

I think the Iranian reaction to the sanctions resolution has been very
telling in that respect, although they've passed a resolution in
parliament to re-evaluate their relation with the International Atomic
Energy Agency, they have not rejected the sanctions resolution, they
have not done anything more dramatic, such as withdrawing from the
nonproliferation treaty, or throwing out inspectors of the
International Atomic Energy Agency, which I actually hoped they would
do - that that kind of reaction would produce a counter-reaction that
actually would be more beneficial to us."

Bolton seems to be saying that the fact that Iran didn't pull out of the NPT or throw out inspectors proves that the resolution was too weak. He seems to be saying, our plan was to provoke Iran into doing these things, but the Russians thwarted us.

Bolton prefaces the most damaging remarks by saying that he is a private citizen and therefore free to say what he wants, but when he says "I hoped" he is referring, at least in large part, to a time when he was the representative of the United States at the United Nations. UNSC 1737 was in draft form in March. Bolton resigned on December 4, and left the UN some time before the 20th. UNSC 1737 was passed on December 23. The web site that posted this video dates it as January 5th, 2007. The transcript makes clear that Bolton made these remarks in January. No more than a month had elapsed since Bolton had been the representative of the United States at the UN.

Of course, we can only speculate what the Bush Administration might have done, had the Russians and the Iranians performed according to Mr. Bolton's script, recalling the rhetoric of the Bush Administration in January, and the role of the withdrawal of UN inspectors in the invasion of Iraq.

At the time the negotiations in the Security Council were taking place, Russia and others expressed the concern that the U.S. was trying to lay the groundwork for war. Some dismissed Russia's concerns as motivated by economic interests in Iran. Bolton's remarks lend credence to Russia's claim.

Perhaps Senator Webb will raise the issue of Mr. Bolton's motivations when he was representing the United States at the UN in pushing the Senate to take action to constrain the Administration.


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