War-Mongering Over Iran And Israel

According to John Bolton, Israel has a deadline of August 21st to attack Iran's nuclear program. This is the fourth deadline he's set in the last three years.

If you believe former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, we’re less than a week away from war in the Middle East:

Former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton said he didn’t see “any signs whatsoever that President Obama would make the necessary decision” to strike Iran’s nuclear reactor, speaking in an interview with Israel Radio Tuesday.

Bolton claimed Israel has only three days to strike before Russia “begins the fueling process for the Bushehr reactor this Friday,” after which any attack would cause radioactive fallout that could reach as far as the waters of the Persian Gulf.

In an interview with Fox Business Network earlier Tuesday Bolton had said the deadline was eight days, but he revised it to three in the Israel Radio interview, saying Iran and Russia had announced they would begin fueling on Friday.

“It has always been optimal that military force is used before the fuel rods are inserted,” Bolton explained. “That’s what Israel did in Osirak in 1991, and when they attacked the North Korean reactor built in Syria.” Israel bombed the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq in 1981, and a Syrian reactor in 2007.

However Bolton didn’t see any indication that an Israeli strike was going to happen. “Obviously if Israel were going to do something it wouldn’t exactly be advertising it. But time is short.”

Bolton said that it would be “a much more dangerous world” if Iran were to gain nuclear capability. “That’s why I think it’s so critical. It won’t stop with Iran. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, perhaps other states as well.”

Here’s video of Bolton’s appearance on FBN (sorry for the ad at the beginning)

Sounds scary, especially given the probable consequences of an Israeli attack on Iran, doesn’t it ?

Yea, well, don’t panic too much:

[I]t’s worth noting that according to Bolton, right now is always the best time to attack Iran. In July 2009, he said that Israel would likely attack by the end of last year. In June 2008, he said it would have be before the end of the Bush administration. Way back in 2007, he was saying that “time is limited.”

Bolton doesn’t actually think that Israel will attack Iran this week, and believes that they have “lost this opportunity,” but something tells me this isn’t the last time that Bolton will give the Israelis an extension on their deadline.

Bolton doesn’t really strike me as having a lot of credibility here, so I’m not even sure that we should believe what he says about August 21st being a date beyond which any attack would necessarily have a devastating environmental impact because of the fuel rods. Honestly, if Israel really were going to attack Iran, do you think they’d care all that much if Iran itself experienced radiological contamination as a result ? I don’t, and I don’t think it would necessarily restrain them from attacking if they thought it was necessary.

File this one under “rumors of wars,” but I wouldn’t really worry all that much about it.

FILED UNDER: Middle East, US Politics, World Politics, , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Brummagem Joe says:

    Bolton is basically deranged. And George Bush chose to make him his UN ambassador.

    “Honestly, if Israel really were going to attack Iran, do you think they’d care all that much if Iran itself experienced radiological contamination as a result ? I don’t, and I don’t think it would necessarily restrain them from attacking if they thought it was necessary.”

    And if you are correct here Doug (which I don’t think you are) then the Israeli leadership is deranged. For any govt to create a toxic radioactive cloud over an entire region with unpredictable consequences is tantamount to insanity. Even if it only hovered over Iran and caused a few hundred thousand deaths I think you’d see a response from the Iranians that would probably result in the destruction of Israel and the rest of the world would applaud.

  2. Michael Reynolds says:

    If I’m not mistaken the prevailing winds in Iran blow west to east, so the nearest country likely to be hit with a dose of radioactivity would be Afghanistan.

    Then again, a conventional attack wouldn’t shoot radioactive particles very high into the atmosphere and it’s doubtful the radiation would spread beyond Iran itself.

  3. Andy says:

    Bolton really doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Let’s supposed for a minute the reactor at Bushehr was bombed before the fuel was loaded. Well, then Iran could (and probably would) withdrawal from the NPT, take that reactor fuel, convert it back to HEX, and enrich it to weapon’s grade. From a nonproliferation perspective, the quicker the fuel gets into the reactor and irradiated, the better.

    And this reactor isn’t any kind of threat. Power reactors like this one are not very good a making usable plutonium.

  4. EJ says:

    also keep in mind radiation leaks from nuclear reactors are NOT the same as fallout from nuclear weapons. The first is a slow decaying process of uranium from material that would mostly be cleaned up and restricted to the site. A nuclear explosion, based on whether its a fission or fusion bomb, creates alpha and beta particles, the product of the nuclear reaction, spread out over a large area due to being thrown up into the atmosphere.

    Though nuclear material could spread and evry well kill people, it would NOT be hundreds of thousands of people like in a nuclear attack.

  5. EJ says:

    the leak from a nuclear plant would be closer to a dirty bomb… radiactive material that does NOT go into a nuclear chain reaction.

  6. john personna says:

    we’re less than a week away from war in the Middle East

    So this would count as peace, now?

  7. ponce says:

    According to Bolton, which country is going to grant the IAF’s slow, unmanuervable, overloaded fighter-bombers permission to overfly their territory unmolested?

    Turkey? Saudi Arabia? Jordan/Iraq?

    My bet would be Israel loses 90% of their America-supplied Air Force if they’re dumb enough to try…

  8. EJ says:

    do their aircraft have the range to go down the red sea, into thr arabian sea and then iran? Similarly, who gave the IAF right of way when they bombed Iraq’s nuclear reactor?

    If Israel were to attack, I wouldnt be surprised if the Saudis, though publically denouncing it, allow the IAF to creap along their side of the border across the Arabian pennisella. The Saudis dont want a nuclear Iran either.

  9. I don’t know that any strike aircraft other than American B-2’s, and B-52’s has that kind of range w/o refueling to be honest

  10. Brummagem Joe says:

    EJ says:
    Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 19:48
    “the leak from a nuclear plant would be closer to a dirty bomb…”

    Oh well that’s alright then. The Israelis would only be creating a dirty bomb in Iran. Nothing much for us to worry about or any reason for the Iranians to be upset really.

  11. ponce says:

    “The Saudis don’t want a nuclear Iran either.”

    Why should they care…a few conventional missiles could halt most of Saudi Arabia’s oil production.

    If you were an Israeli pilot would you trust the Saudi’s promise not to attack you as you crawl over their airspace?

    “do their aircraft have the range to go down the red sea, into thr arabian sea and then iran?”

    Maybe with refueling, but five minutes after they take off the whole Middle East is going to know what they’re up to. A fighter attack anywhere along their route would force them to drop their bombs or die.

  12. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Well Doug, I guess your knowledge of the capabilities of military aircraft must come from your mentor, John Stewart. Funny, a comedian is a credible source of infromation for you but a man who served this nation as ambassador to the UN does not know what he is talking about because you disagree with him politically.
    Bolton is far far more knowledgable than you or any of the other progressive posters who comment here.
    Doug, when there are blogger conventions. Do they have you and your komrades get to sit with the adults or do you have a table in some small room safely away from the big people?

  13. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Typo, Should have been information

  14. Brummagem Joe says:

    Now the Saudis are going to collaborate in an Israeli attack on a fellow muslim state of 75 million people right next door. An entirely realistic notion.

  15. Brummagem Joe says:

    What seems likely to me here is that Bolton is doing a bit of Israeli primed pot stirring in the same way Goldberg was a couple of weeks ago. I missed that as I was in Europe.These guys are by inclination useful idiots for Israel. I can’t really discern what the Israeli motives are, probably just as simple as keeping Iran’s inexorable progress towards obtaining nuclear weapons on the US popular radar from where it has almost totally faded from view. If so it doesn’t seem to have been very successful outside the chattering classes and their echo chamber in blogland. Any Israeli attack on Iran seems highly unlikely if not impossible while a US attack is unthnkable. Perhaps it’s all much more simple. Bolton keeps up his visibility and collects a fee.

  16. mannning says:

    I suggest you look up the F-16I Sufa and the F-15I Re’em, the two combat aircraft Israel must use. Combined with Israeli air refueling capability, these a/c can fly to Iranian targets, have between 20 and 40 minutes over the area and return to base without refueling. The extension of range comes from the use of conformal belly tanks for a huge increase in capacity. Air refueling would take place before penetrating hostile airspace going in and again after exiting to extend very significantly the overfly time and combat time. These a/c represent a large improvement over the standard F-16’s and F-15’s that the US currently flies.

    There are few to no hostile pilots that want to tangle with the IAF in air-to-air combat, regardless of what they fly. F-15I, and F-16A,B, or C top cover would take care of protection of the strike force and the tankers quite well, I believe. The F-16I itself is quite a capable dogfighter as well and is armed with air-to-air missiles, so, even with a full fuel and weapons load it can defend itself!

    Further, the IAF has a confirmed 6 to 8 Boeing KC-707 a/c dedicated to the air refueling mission, and another 6 or 8 that could be used with some retrofit. The IAF has had lots of time to get ready for an Iranian strike, if called for., including such retrofits.
    Go read in GlobalSecurity.org to brush up on the IAF.

  17. Brummagem Joe says:

    “Go read in GlobalSecurity.org to brush up on the IAF”

    Does this mention that Iran is a fairly sophisticated country of 75 million plus people with about 7% of the world’s oil reserves and sitting athwart one of the most important narrow strategic waterways in the world whereas Israel is a country of roughly 7 million people (20% of them Arabs) surrounded by Muslim countries who whatever deals their leaderships may have made are deeply atagonistic to the Israeli state. And this leaves out of the equation Russia and China who would like nothing more than to see the US involved in third middle eastern debacle. If Israel were to launch a pre-emptive war against Iran they (and perhaps you) would rapidly learn the difference between a strategic advantage and a tactical one. The Luftwaffe destroyed most of Russian airforce on the ground in the first few days of it’s invasion and we know how that turned out. Iran is not Egypt.

  18. ponce says:

    “There are few to no hostile pilots that want to tangle with the IAF in air-to-air combat, regardless of what they fly.”

    This isn’t WWII where the noble fighter pilots peal off to deal with Jerry while the noble bomber pilot press on to bomb the crap out of some hapless civilians…

    There hasn’t been any serious dogfights anywhere in the world in more than 30 years.

    The Israelis will face wave after wave of surface to air missiles and their only defense will be to spray flares like a elephant with diarrhea and pray their buddy is the one that bites it.

    Trouble is…the more fuel and flares they carry, the fewer bombs they can carry.

  19. mannning says:

    @ ponce
    Dogfights? Who said anything about that? To tangle is to engage, most likely at extreme distances; that is, the range of their air-to-air missiles, once the enemy has been detected and tracked by radar. Gunfights have and do occur, however.

    Some time, you should take a look at the effective envelope of a SAM, especially the SAMs that Iran has, such as the SA-2, the SA-5, the Croatale, the HQ-1, etc. and see if you can devise an approach tactic that nullifies their effectiveness. That is what the IAF is going to do. Many of the known installations will be taken out by cruise missiles, of which Israel has a lot.

    The mission profiles for the raids would most probably be HLLH, with the last Low being at the bunt up to the attack. SAMs are not effective at low depression angles, and the RPG-7s, etc. are not very effective against fast low level attacks, especially if they are being attacked. They won’t have a good chance to send out a tailpipe shot.

    However, you are dead wrong about dogfights. They have occurred during each of the Gulf Wars. Our planes still carry a multi-barrel gun for that reason. I don’t know where you get your military information, but it needs an overhaul. We tried the all-missile route in Nam, and had to retrofit guns on the F-4s, etc. Lesson learned= carry a gun.

    @ JB
    Geez, now we are treated to a geopolitical smorgesborg of irrelevant issues, possibly to cover
    tracks. Of course little Israel is behind the power curve against its neighbors, and it is preparing every day to defend its very existence. This has been true for say, 52 years and three major battles, or is it four now?

    Does that mean we should back off and abandon them? Tell me straight. Do you believe we should leave Israel to its fate or not? I say no. What do you say?

  20. mannning says:

    I am not accounting for the use of newer weapons in any engagement between Israel and Iran. Such weapons would make all the difference if used first and furoiusly, and could simply take all of the surrounding enemies out of the equation for a long time. In fact, the best and only time frame for their use is prior to Iran obtaining nuclear weapon capability of sufficient flexibility.

    I am speaking of controlled EMP bursts that confine the effects to a fairly small area, and not one that takes out everything in the ME. (Not a good idea.) It would be technically possible to put Iran out of commission completely insofar as electronics are concerned, given the controlled, lower altitude burst weapon. No aircraft could fly, no tank could roll, nothing using electricals would work for some considerable time. Israel could then take its time to wipe out every military and industrial capability Iran has, and the same for any other nation that wants to party. Could this weapon be the great equalizer? Do the Israelis have it? Good question!

  21. tom p says:

    >>Bolton doesn’t really strike me as having a lot of credibility here,

    Bolton never had any credibility.

    All this talk of the Israelis bombing Iran is just so much hot air… In the hope of getting the US to do their dirty work for them. Any one with any kind of common sense already knows that such a scenario (bombing Iran) comes out bad for the rest of the world no matter who does it.

    The Iranians can (and will) choke off all the oil coming from the persian gulf if they are attacked.

    Manning, this is the elephant in the room that you are ignoring as you espouse the capabilities of the IAF.

  22. mannning says:

    Me ignore THAT elephant! Not likely, old Sod. Your statements are really a wan hope to get us off the hook. I believe the Israelis do have the right EMP weapon (useable for relatively short ranges) and is quite ready to deliver them to prevent the annihilation of their nation. They will suffer from it, surely, in world opinion,but Iran would cease to be a dire threat, and so would Syria if they poked their heads up.

    Then, too, any other nation that understands what EMP can do would think twice before
    going into battle with a nation that has long-range missiles, nukes, and EMP weapons at the ready. Russia has experimented with EMP and knows, as does China. So little Israel potentially carries some mighty big weapons.

    Do I know for sure whether Israel has an EMP weapon? No, I do not, but it isn’t hard for a nuclear power to make one.over the time Israel had had to work the problem.

  23. mannning says:

    So call it mannning’s speculation No 1. Time will tell if I have guessed right, and all of the geopol stuff goes out the window!

  24. Brummagem Joe says:

    @ JB
    “Geez, now we are treated to a geopolitical smorgesborg of irrelevant issues, possibly to cover”

    Really? The relative size and resources of Iran and the strategic isolation of Israel are totally irrelevant in what would inevitably become a war of attrition if Israel launched a pre-emptive attack on Iran? Sorry, but I prefer to base my observations on geopolitical realities rather than emotional hysteria and childish fantasies about nuclear wars and “super” weapons.

  25. Michael Reynolds says:

    Or maybe they have photon torpedoes.

  26. Michael Reynolds says:

    You do realize by the way that “EMP weapons” means nukes — albeit not used in the usual, city-burning way — and that now Manning is proposing an Israeli first use of nuclear weapons.

    Because that wouldn’t be a problem.

  27. Franklin says:

    See, this is one of the reasons I come here. I may disagree with some of mannning’s opinions, but you’d have to be dumb to ignore what he has to say.

    /Zelsdorf, on the other hand …

  28. ponce says:

    “I am speaking of controlled EMP bursts that confine the effects to a fairly small area, and not one that takes out everything in the ME. ”

    It’s a safe bet that both Israel and Iran have some pretty fancy untested modern weapons.

    Trouble is, Israel has to go all in to find out what cards Iran is holding.

  29. Michael Reynolds says:

    Testing. The site is spamming me. Just want to see if this comes popping through.

  30. Brummagem Joe says:

    Michael Reynolds says:
    Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 23:34
    “You do realize by the way that “EMP weapons” means nukes”

    Indeed they are tactical nuclear weapons. I assume that Israel has them as she has strategic nuclear weapons. But they are not going to use them because to do so would invite their own destruction. Those mesmerised by Israeli military expertise would also do well to remember the events of 2006 when the IDF dropped thousands of tons of high explosive bombs, did massive damage to infrastructure, killed hundreds, and attempted an invasion which failed. What was supposed to a demonstration of Israeli military superiority turned out to be demonstration of its ineffectuality. Within the last three months they couldn’t stop a vessel at sea without killing 9 people, creating a political firestorm and destroying relations with their only muslim ally. The IDF is undoubtedly very powerful, but in recent times has demonstrated severe tactical and strategic shortcomings. You could argue they haven’t won a decisive victory since 1973. It is also a finite resource that is incapable of withstanding a prolonged war of attrition against a deeply motivated opponent. The Iranians are not stone throwing kids in the West Bank or peace activists with sticks.

  31. mannning says:

    I am not proposing anything. I am merely speculating on the possibilities here. Yes, I see that it is entirely possible that Israel would use its nuclear weapons to thwart Iran, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine attacks. What did they build them for anyway? As a matter of survival of the nation and its people, they would resort to it, I believe. The aftermath would be rather ugly, but I do not believe that Russia or China would respond. I do believe that there would be further conflict with Hezballah and Hamas, and Syria.

    The question is fairly put as to what our US response will be, and what it should be.

  32. mannning says:


    Do you realize what the use by Isreal of EMP weapons would do to Iran? I suggest you look up the testamony before Congress on the effects of a single high-altitude EMP weapon on the US would be. Total devastation of our nation would result.

  33. mannning says:

    @ ponce

    That is why I said that Israel would have to use its EMP weapons first, if it has them. It would most likely neutralize just about any weapon the Iranians have that uses electronics, along with all vehicles, radios and other communications, navigation, guidance systems in missiles, radar, and on and on.

    I struggle to think of a weapon that would remain useable against Israel. Swords? Bow and arrow? A horde on horseback and camels racing across Iraq to get to Israel?

  34. mannning says:


    So you agree that it is entirely possible that Israel has EMP nukes. Interesting.