OBERLIN — The U.S. must wage war with Iran to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons, former U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said Wednesday in a speech at Oberlin College.
“We would do it much better than Israel. That’s why the Israelis want us to do it,” Bolton said in a question-and-answer session after the speech. “It would not involve anything like a military invasion. It would be airstrikes against key aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle (to) slice Iran’s control over the nuclear fuel cycle.”
Bolton, ambassador from 2005-06 duringthe Bush administration, spoke before some 260 people. He was invited by the Oberlin College Libertarian and Republican Club, whose previous guests have included Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich and conservative pundit William Kristol.
While U.S. intelligence experts have found no evidence that Iran is developing nukes — “Our intelligence makes clear that they haven’t made the decision to develop a nuclear weapon,” Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said earlier this month — Bolton disagreed.
Besides developing its own nuclear weapons, Bolton said Iran has been aiding North Korea and Syria in developing nukes.
“When you hear the phrase, ‘Axis of Evil,’ it’s much more than a metaphor,” said Bolton, who inaccurately had said in 2003 that Iraq had maintained an “aggressive” nuclear weapons program prior to the start of the Iraq War.
The U.S. has about 5,100 nuclear warheads and Israel has 75 to 200, according to the Arms Control Association, and Bolton acknowledged that Iran would face certain annihilation if it launched a nuclear missile.
However, Bolton said that wouldn’t deter Iran’s leaders.
“If you’re a regime who believes that life in the hereafter is better than life here on Earth, you’re not subject to deterrents,” said Bolton, who works for the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington, D.C., think tank. “My tolerance for nuclear weapons in the hands of fanatics is zero.”
Bolton accused President Barack Obama of appeasement and naivety in dealing with Iran, which has had three of its nuclear scientists murdered in the last year and whose Natanz nuclear enrichment center was victimized by the Stuxnet computer virus last year.
Israel is suspected to have been responsible for the virus.
While Israel has continued to expand its settlements in the West Bank in violation of United Nations Resolution 242, which calls for it to withdraw to its 1967 borders, Bolton said Obama was unfairly pressuring Israel to make concessions.
Bolton said the Obama administration had concluded the greatest threat to peace in the Middle East was not Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program but expansion of Israeli settlements in Jerusalem.
“This is like looking at the region through the wrong end of the telescope,” he said. “By focusing on the wrong thing, the administration has not simply failed to achieve progress in the Middle East peace process, it has actually set that process back.”
Bolton’s approximately 30-minute speech was interrupted several times by hecklers.
“This is what the Obama presidency has brought us,” he said after one heckler walked out. “Another four years of Obama, and it’s only going to get worse.”
Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or firstname.lastname@example.org.