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President Obama cannot effectively handle the growing crisis in Syria because of his unwillingness to address Iran’s central role, charged former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton in an interview today with talk-radio host Michael Savage.

Bolton told Savage that the administration’s Syria policy fell apart last weekend when Russia and China vetoed a U.S.-backed Security Council resolution condemning Bashar al-Assad’s crackdowns on his people “that wouldn’t have done anything other than satisfy the need for some sort of rhetorical statement.”

The vetoes caught the administration “completely unaware,” said Bolton, who is serving as an adviser to Republican Gov. Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.

“At this point they don’t really know what they are doing; they were so stunned by the vetoes that they’re still recovering,” Bolton said of the Obama administration.

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Bolton explained that the political conflict in Syria is very different than the upheaval in the other Arab countries caught up in the so called “Arab Spring” revolutions over the past year.

The big difference, he said, is the Iranian mullah-led Shia regime’s active support of the Assads’ Basque party dictatorship.

“Syria is part of Iran’s influence in the region, and the Iranians will shed a lot of Syrian blood to keep the Assad family dictatorship in place,” Bolton said.

Even if Obama were inclined to act in Syria, Bolton said, “the only sensible way to look at it is in the larger picture of Iran’s role there.”

“And I just don’t think – to be frank about it – I don’t think Obama is up to dealing with that challenge.”

Savage asked Bolton what he would do if he were to become secretary of state under a Romney administration.

Explaining that he was giving his personal views, not the views of the Romney campaign, Bolton said that regime change in Syria and Iran should have been U.S. policy for some time.

He pointed out that the civil war in Syria now is a proxy contest for a larger struggle in the region that encompasses Islam as a whole, between the Persian Shia and the Arab Sunni factions.

Undoubtedly, he said, Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations will arm the opposition in Syria.

But at the moment, Barack Obama is the occupant of the White House, he said, “and I don’t think this president is prepared to take Iran on.”

Bolton said he thinks the Obama administration has no intention of taking military action to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons.

He noted that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta essentially admitted recently that Iran is on the verge of gaining nuclear weapons capability, possibly within a year.

“I think it could well be less than that,” Bolton said.

The administration’s Plan B, then, he said, appears to be: We don’t like a nuclear Iran, but we can contain and deter it.

“Personally, I think that’s a very dangerous and foolish position,” Bolton said.

The U.S. position effectively leaves the job to Israel.

“They’ve got to make the extraordinarily difficult and risky decision whether they’re going to use military force in preemptive self-defense,” Bolton said.

He pointed out that Israel has destroyed nuclear facilities “in the hands of sworn enemies” twice before, in Iraq in 1981 and in Syria in 2007.

Savage asked whether Saudi Arabia would support an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear capability.

“Most Arab countries don’t want Iran to have nuclear weapons any more than Israel does,” Bolton said. “They may condemn Israel publicly, but in private they will be applauding.”

He noted that the Saudis believe the U.S. is too weak to accomplish the task, “so that leaves them, paradoxically, to rely on Israel.”

Turning to Iraq, Bolton said the administration of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki essentially is doing the bidding of Iran when it comes to regional policy.

It’s one reason, he said, why it was a mistake for the U.S. to withdraw troops from Iraq.

“The Savage Nation” airs live Monday through Friday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern. It can be heard online through stations such as KSTE in Sacramento.

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