John Bolton on assassination plot, nuclear talks and regime change in Iran

Former national security adviser John Bolton joins Yahoo News Investigative Correspondent Jana Winter to discuss charges filed against a member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in connection with a plot to murder Bolton and others within the United States. Bolton tells Yahoo News that the assassination plot “shows the real nature of the [Iranian] regime.” The former national security adviser adds that he believes the U.S. should withdraw from nuclear talks with Iran and that the Biden Administration should adopt a policy to remove Iran’s current leadership.

Video Transcript

- How do you feel just generally about the government negotiating with a regime that's literally trying to kill you?

- This plot, this effort to kill me, and I'm certainly not alone in this, they're after plenty of people, including average citizens, not just former government employees, it shows the real nature of the regime. It's a look inside their soul. And it's a confirmation. They can make a lot of commitments about their nuclear weapons program, they have no intention whatsoever of honoring them.

I think in the White House, their brains are compartmentalized. Here, you have the nuclear problem. Here, you have the terrorist problem. They're not compartmentalized in Iran. And, unfortunately, Iran is the adversary that's threatening us. So just because at a conceptual level in the White House they can distinguish between the nuclear program and attacks on Americans on American soil, that's not how they see it in Tehran.

- What do you think the Biden administration should be doing or could be doing that they're not doing right now to protect you and the many others on this list, and also just US citizens in general while they're restarting the nuclear talks?

- Well, I wouldn't restart the nuclear talks, that's the first thing. I mean, they've been in Vienna for about 10 days now, we don't know exactly where things stand. You hear public statements, some are optimistic, some are pessimistic. To me, going back in the deal is a huge strategic mistake for the United States.

So what I would do would be to terminate the discussions. I don't think you're ever going to achieve peace and security in the Middle East as long as the current regime in Tehran is in power. So my policy would be removing the regime. I think it's more unpopular inside Iran now than it's been since 1979, I think it's far more vulnerable than people think, I think there's enormous dissatisfaction across the country. The government has the weapons, that's the problem. The people don't have the weapons, so it's a difficult situation, but nobody should think this regime is rock solid. It definitely is not.

- How would one remove the regime?

- I think you fracture it at the top. There's number regime in history, authoritarian or otherwise, that doesn't have rivalries among the top officials. And there have to be leaders in Iran, there have to be leaders somewhere, even in the Revolutionary Guards who can see the destruction that the regime has caused for their fellow citizens. And I think finding those potential dissident military officers, in particular, and very carefully communicating with them to separate the regime at the very top is the way with careful planning, I think you can bring it down.

It's not going to happen overnight, it's why we should be working on it, though. It takes time, it's hard, it's very risky. But for the people of Iran who would be the first beneficiaries, not the only beneficiaries, but the first beneficiaries of the new regime, I think you'd find a lot of people eager to take the lead.

- Do you think that that's something that this administration is interested in or maybe that--

- Zero chance. Zero chance.

- Did you try to do this?

- Look, my view has been very clear for a long time. I think that until you get a new regime in Tehran that reflects the will of the Iranian people, the regime will be a threat, it will be a threat on nuclear weapons, it will be a threat in support of terrorist groups, it will be a terrorist state itself. And it intends to seek regional hegemony in the Middle East and be a threat worldwide to the United States, and particularly "The great Satan" as they call us, which tells you a lot about how they view us.