The GOP Primary's Hawks Predict How Iran Would React to a U.S. Attack

Peter King and John Bolton have nightmare scenarios.
Photographer: Getty Images

NASHUA, N.H.—New York Representative Peter King and former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton occupy roughly the same small place in the wide Republican presidential field. Neither enjoys measurable support in polls. Neither has put together the kind of staff that can organize a primary state. Yet both are showing up at small and large New Hampshire media events to rip into the GOP's libertarian, non-interventionist wing.

That job looks less vital in 2015 than it did in 2013. In interviews, both men suggested that what could be termed the Rand Paul wing of the party had faded since voters awoke to the terror of ISIS. "People don't have the luxury of taking these ultra-libertarian views," said King. In his Q&A, after a pugnacious speech that attacked nameless Republicans (Paul, Cruz) who thought "the CIA was the enemy" and that "the NSA listened to your phone calls," King got one annoyed comment from a former state senator who said no one took him seriously.

The new question, if King and Bolton (or other hawks) run, might be how far they are willing to go. Several weeks ago, Bolton published a New York Times op-ed calling for airstrikes on Iran's nuclear facilities. "The inconvenient truth is that only military action like Israel’s 1981 attack on Saddam Hussein’s Osirak reactor in Iraq or its 2007 destruction of a Syrian reactor, designed and built by North Korea, can accomplish what is required," he wrote. "Time is terribly short, but a strike can still succeed."

Yesterday, after an event near New Hampshire's seacoast, Bloomberg News asked Bolton what the worst possible consequence to the United States might be if the country attacked Iran.

"They would come after our deployed forces in the region," said Bolton, with no hesitation. "We've got the fifth fleet in Bahrain, we've got the Air Force and other military unites in Qatar, the UAE, and Kuwait. They could try and close the Strait of Hormuz. Now, we would respond to all of those, but I think by process of elimination, even the Ayatollahs are not foolish enough to try one of those. If they attack us, even this administration has to attack with deadly force."

Asked that same question today, King took a moment to think. What was the worst Iran could do? "I would say, launch terrorist attacks in the U.S., because they don't have the nuclear capacity now," he said. "If they had nuclear capacity, then they could do something with that. I would say Hezbollah are the only really state-trained terrorists in the world, and Iran can unleash them. We assume there are Hezbollah agents throughout the U.S., and if a button is pressed, they will try to spring into action. Second, American interests around the world—consulates, embassies."

Hezbollah in the United States? "We have to assume that," said King, a member (and former chairman) of the House Intelligence committee. "Without going into detail, we believe there are people in this country who are affiliated with Hezbollah, have sympathies with Hezbollah, and on instructions could take action."

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