CNN brings on warmonger John Bolton to baselessly claim that Iran directed Hamas attack in Israel

Bolton has spent over a decade agitating for war with Iran

On October 12, CNN hosted John Bolton to discuss Hamas’ attacks on Israel and Israel’s ongoing siege of Gaza. Bolton repeatedly asserted, without evidence, that Iran had directed Hamas to carry out the attack, and lambasted the Biden administration for its supposed weakness toward Iran. 

Bolton, who previously served as former President Donald Trump’s National Security adviser, has a long history of agitating for war in Iran. His agitation for military strikes and intervention against Iran goes back over a decade, and he has consistently ignored the risks of such an action. In 2018, he again called for U.S. intervention in Iran, saying, “We need to bring that regime down.” 

Given his clear track record as an advocate for U.S. intervention in Iran, CNN must have known he would bring this message to its airwaves in discussions of the ongoing violence in the Gaza region.

In his conversation with co-anchors Poppy Harlow and Phil Mattingly, Bolton asserted that the Hamas’ attacks were really an “Iranian attack on Israel using Hamas as a surrogate.” Harlow asked Bolton whether he had any intelligence backing up his claims, to which he confirmed that the “administration certainly isn't sharing intelligence with me.” Harlow reiterated that Bolton’s views are “in opposition to what multiple sources tell CNN, the U.S. intelligence.” 

Bolton pointed to a Wall Street Journal report that “there is an intelligence estimate that indeed Iran did know.” The report refers to a “preliminary unclassified assessment by U.S. intelligence agencies” that claims Iran knew the attack would take place, but did not know the timing or scope. Bolton continued to assert that it is improbable that “Hamas acted on their own or without approval from Iran.” When Harlow asked whether it is “important to be absolutely sure,” Bolton responded that “this is not a court of law.”

Video file

Citation From the October 12, 2023, edition of CNN's This Morning

POPPY HARLOW (CO-ANCHOR): Let's begin with Iran because I think everyone knows where you stand on Iran. We will never forget the op-ed you wrote in 2015, “To stop Iran, bomb Iran." But I am struck by how differently even members of Congress see the intelligence out of Iran, that they were briefed on yesterday. Should the U.S. be exceedingly cautious at this moment? 

JOHN BOLTON (FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER): I think they have to look at particular elements of intelligence within the broader strategic framework. And I think what happened over the weekend was an Iranian attack on Israel using Hamas as a surrogate. 

HARLOW:  No question? 

BOLTON: None whatever. The only real question now is whether Hezbollah will join in at an appropriate time. Iran has supplied enormous quantities of weapons, material, financing, training to both Hamas and Hezbollah for decades. Really, they formed Hezbollah in the early 1980s. Hamas had a different origin, it's Sunni, not Shia. But in the last ten years they have been largely a surrogate for Iran. And many leading Hamas officials are embedded with Hezbollah in Lebanon and Turkey. Iran did not provide all that material, billions of dollars worth over the years so that Hamas or Hezbollah could deploy it when they saw fit. They gave them those weapons so that they would be deployed when Iran saw fit. And let's not forget, this attack occurred on the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur war. This is not accidental. 

HARLOW: I just want to be clear; that is in opposition to what multiple sources tell CNN, the U.S. intelligence -- I am just asking. You don't have any intelligence to that effect, do you? 

BOLTON:  Well the administration certainly isn't sharing intelligence with me.

HARLOW: Right, I just want to make it clear for our viewers.

BOLTON: But in the interest of national security, I would be prepared to buy a copy of the Wall Street Journal for the White House that will show them their story from Sunday quoting sources in Hezbollah -- 

HARLOW:  Which we have not confirmed, I want to make that clear. 

BOLTON: And now there is a new Wall Street Journal story today that says there is an intelligence estimate that indeed Iran did know that -- look, Israeli and American intelligence missed the attack. So why should anybody be surprised that they missed the piece of information about Iranian approval? They missed the haystack, why should they be surprised, anybody be surprised they missed the needle?


PHIL MATTINGLY (CO-ANCHOR): I just want to swing back around to this quickly. The direct connection between Iran and Hamas, I don't think there is any question about the level of support that Iran has provided. I think 100 to 200 million is often the number that's tossed around, U.S. officials have labeled them a terrorist organization as well. It is a different level of connection than Hezbollah has, I think the Sunni and Shia difference as you pointed out is notable. And I think, I guess my question beyond the Wall Street Journal story is deciding, this must be what they wanted. Iran to some degree thrives on the insecurity that these groups and their ability to create terror presents. This is a different situation, this is a potential geopolitical realignment depending how this turns out. Do you think Iran wants that?

BOLTON:  Of course. This is a struggle within Islam between the Shia side and the Sunni side. Israel happens to be in the center of it. The Ayatollah Khomeini, Supreme Leader of Iran, said a day or two ago, "I kiss the hands of the people who did this." You know, how exactly it was done, was there a written execute order delivered by the Iranians, we don't know that. But if anybody thinks that Hamas acted on their own or without approval from Iran, I think they misunderstand why Iran has given them all these weapons over the years. And let's also be clear. They fired thousands of rockets into Gaza, — from Gaza into Israel. Hezbollah is reported to have tens of thousands of rockets. I have seen public reports of 100,000 or more. So this is no cost to Iran, no Iranians have died, but 1,000 or more Israelis have died. They have used Hamas as cannon fodder. And I think both Israel and the United States need to take that into account strategically. The administration is twisting itself into a pretzel to avoid pointing the finger at Iran because they know if they do, then they are going to have to do something. 

HARLOW: Is it not important to be absolutely sure? 

BOLTON: This is not a court of law. The thousand Israelis who were killed —

HARLOW: Well given what the reaction could be — 

BOLTON: Well that’s right but where do the weapons come from? This is like saying, if you see somebody give somebody else a gun and insist that they actually have to pull the trigger before they are an accessory to murder. 

HARLOW: Can I ask you -- it's very notable that Secretary Blinken -- did you see the remarks? 

BOLTON:  I did.

HARLOW: It's notable that he added in standing side by side no daylight between him and Netanyahu but also saying how Israel does this matters. A real question of what is next and how it will be carried out. 

BOLTON: Well, I think it's going be very difficult in Gaza. When you have terrorists who are not only willing to commit terrorism against these Israelis but against their own people by storing missiles, ammunition in schools, and churches and mosques, when they have used their own people as human shields in the past, when they’re doing it right now, this is not going to be easy. And I think that comes directly from the Iranians as well. This is where they started the revolution, by seizing our embassy employees back in 1979. This is state-sponsored terrorism and the Iranians support it. I will just say it again. The Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader, those words mean something, said "I kiss the hands of the Hamas people." And the administration, I think, sent a craven signal to the Iranians by buying six -- five American hostages to the tune of $6 billion, 1.2 billion apiece. 


MATTINGLY: To the broader point you’re trying to make, one it's not a court of law but it is American lives. And I think caution, whether or not you agree with it, based on the last 20 years, I think there is some rationale for that to some degree. But also on the prisoner exchange, the counter is Americans are coming home and seeing their families. 

BOLTON:  And more Americans are in danger now, aren't they? Your blue passport is now worth $1.2 billion. The responsibility of the president is to take care of all Americans. And we, obviously, feel for the people who are hostage, whose families are worried about them. What about the Americans who have just been taken hostage? What about other Americans who will be taken hostage? The issue is not whether Israel strikes Iran right now. Not today. Not tomorrow. Do it at a time of its choosing. But right now Iran is getting this for free. And the lesson is, we are so cautious that we are not even willing to go back at least so far to announce we are going to enforce the sanctions which remain in effect against Iran and which they have been violating with impunity during this administration -- 

MATTINGLY: And there's a bipartisan move on Capitol Hill to do just that, which will be interesting to watch as well.