It’s Clashing With Trump on Iran That Cost Bolton His Job

Bolton tried to get Trump into war who finally had enough when the chickenhawk sanctioned Zarif and spoke against Trump sitting down with Rouhani

President Donald Trump discussed easing sanctions on Iran to help secure a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani later this month, prompting then-National Security Advisor John Bolton to argue forcefully against such a step, according to three people familiar with the matter.

After an Oval Office meeting on Monday when the idea came up, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin voiced his support for the move as a way to restart negotiations with Iran, some of the people said. Later in the day, Trump decided to oust Bolton, whose departure was announced Tuesday.

The White House has started preparations for Trump to meet with Rouhani this month in New York on the sidelines of the annual United Nations General Assembly the week of Sept. 23, according to the people. It’s far from clear if the Iranians would agree to talks while tough American sanctions remain in place.

One scenario, shared by two of the people, would be that Trump joins a meeting between Rouhani and French President Emmanuel Macron. The people said they had no indication it would actually happen.

Brent oil prices fell more than 2% to $61.05 a barrel on the news.

While Trump has made no secret of his willingness to sit down with Iranian leaders — a move that would break more than four decades of U.S. policy — there are considerable political hurdles Trump would have to navigate if he wants it to happen. Nevertheless, Bolton’s ouster on Tuesday improves the odds of a meeting.

Bolton built his career on a hard-line approach toward Iran, long calling for preemptive strikes on the country to destroy its nuclear program. His sudden dismissal immediately fueled speculation –– and worry in some quarters — that the U.S. “maximum pressure” campaign might ease in a bid to lure Iranian leaders to the negotiating table.

Easing any sanctions without major concessions from Iran would undercut the pressure campaign that not only Bolton, but also Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Trump have said is the only effective way to make Iran change its behavior.

America’s European allies, frustrated by Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear accord and stymied by U.S. sanctions in their bid to trade with Iran, have been desperate to find a way to broker a deal between Washington and Tehran. Macron even invited Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, to talks on the sidelines of the Group of Seven summit in France last month and won verbal support from Trump for a sanctions reprieve. Then nothing happened.

“Bolton made sure to block any and all avenues for diplomacy w/ Iran, including a plan being brokered by Macron,” Suzanne DiMaggio, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said on Twitter. “The French are offering Trump a facing-saving way out of a mess of his creation. He should grab it.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, on the other hand, may have lost one of its staunchest allies with Bolton’s departure. Israeli officials, worried about legitimizing Iranian leaders, are concerned that the chances for such a meeting are increasing. Their chief fear is that U.S. sanctions could be scaled back and pressure on the regime eased, an Israeli official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

But Iranian leaders, at least publicly, have spurned the suggestion of a Trump-Rouhani encounter, which would be strongly opposed by more conservative factions in Iran, especially if there’s no let up in sanctions essentially blocking Iranian oil sales. Mnuchin on Tuesday indicated sanctions will remain, saying, “We are maintaining the maximum pressure campaign.”

Pompeo, who last year set out 12 demands that he said Iran must fulfill in order to become a “normal country,” could still try to prevent Trump from softening his stance. Pompeo has, however, recently taken a more moderate tone in lockstep with the president, saying in a briefing Tuesday that Trump is prepared to talk without preconditions.

One thing all sides agree on is that tensions have soared in recent months, with a spate of attacks on oil tankers in and around the Persian Gulf that have been blamed on Iran. The Islamic Republic shot down an American drone it said was over its territorial waters, prompting Trump to consider military strikes that he said he called off at the last minute.

Charles Kupchan, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said that at the very least, Bolton’s exit reduces the chances of a military escalation.

UN Meeting

“It’s too hard to say if a meeting will happen given the question of whether it’s politically palatable for both leaders,” said Kupchan. “But the likelihood of a meeting has gone up because one of its main detractors is now out of a job.”

Top Iranian officials have in recent weeks sought to stamp out talk of a direct meeting between the leaders, with Zarif calling it “unimaginable” and Rouhani saying he’s not interested in a photo-op with the American president. That’s a subtle reference to America’s outreach with North Korea, which despite three meetings between Trump and Kim Jong Un hasn’t resulted in any breakthrough.

Oman Talks

For Rouhani, sitting down with Trump would be an immense political gamble with his nation’s economy weighed down by crippling American sanctions and no guarantee of an agreement that would allow Tehran to again legally sell oil. Mindful of the political risk of talks with the U.S., Iranians have long favored quiet discussions instead. The 2015 nuclear deal was preceded by years of back channel diplomacy among lower-level officials in Oman.

Nevertheless, Rouhani adviser Hesameddin Ashena tweeted on Tuesday that Bolton’s departure is a “decisive sign of the failure of the U.S. maximum pressure strategy in the face of the constructive resistance from Iran.”

Trump, with his 2020 re-election campaign already underway, would also have to step out of his political comfort zone. Isolating and weakening the Islamic Republic is one foreign policy issue Republican lawmakers and conservative national security experts broadly agree upon. It’s also a rallying cry for conservative Jewish supporters of Israel and key Trump backers, such as casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.

Obama Handshake

Regardless of whether a direct meeting takes place, diplomatic efforts to address Iran-U.S. tensions will be at the forefront of the UN gathering. Impromptu chats and sideline diplomacy are a hallmark of the annual gathering.

In 2015, a backstage handshake between President Barack Obama and Zarif generated headlines across the Middle East — and accusations by Iranian hardliners that Zarif was “unrevolutionary.” At this year’s assembly, Macron as well Japan’s Shinzo Abe plan to meet Rouhani as they try to break the impasse.

Bolton’s departure also leaves Pompeo, who had clashed with Bolton over several issues, in the unchallenged role as Trump’s closest aide on foreign policy. While Bolton often made his differences with the president clear, Pompeo has spent more than two and a half years in Trump’s orbit without letting much daylight come between himself and the president.

Asked on Tuesday if he could foresee a meeting between Trump and Rouhani during the UN meeting, Pompeo responded: “Sure,” adding, “The president’s made very clear, he is prepared to meet with no preconditions.”

Source: Bloomberg

  1. John C Carleton says

    Be nice if the evil child raping SOB’s from Sodom and Gomorrah on the Potomac, would stay inside the lines of their branch of the Rats crime cabal, The DISTRICT OF COLOMBIA, which is not associated with the rest of America, being incorporated under British Empire Law.

    USA/Washington DC are the zionist slave masters.
    Americans are the slaves/Usury Debt Cattle/cannon fodder, and sexual party favors to USA/Washington DC.

  2. jm74 says

    Why make excuses for the chickenshit called POTUS when trump announced during the presidential campaign that Iran was a problem that he will address. Bolton was not in the picture then; as usual trump is following his usual antics and blaming everyone else for his failures. It appears that Bolton was sacrificed to save face.

    1. CHUCKMAN says


      There’s still a kind of cult around Trump which chants about his really being a “good guy” or “great leader” who just needs to be unleashed.

      Utter and complete nonsense.

      Earlier, there were the “drain the swamp’ stupidities around Trump, reflecting an empty campaign slogan having been elevated into some kind of sacred promise.

      The only “swamp draining” Trump ever attempted was to hire some of the residents for big jobs.

      Now, we have supposed matters like Iran and Bolton.

      The Iran thing touches Israel closely. Indeed it is Israel’s entire creation and just Trump’s embracing it as he has is prima facie evidence of his subserverience.

      I don’t see a lot of room there to be fair-minded about serious talks with Iran. Israel is fair-minded about nothing. Iran also has made its position clear. This article strikes me both as naive and as promoting defensive material for Trump’s incompetence on every front.

      There seems to be no end to the stupidities people are capable of.


      1. jm74 says

        Where I come from the “buck stops at the top”.

      2. chris chuba says

        Agreed. Also, I don’t see how he can ever walk back most of the sanctions he put in place. How can you announce that the IRGC and most of Iran is a ‘terrorist organization’ and then remove sanctions. Is he going to say ‘just kidding’. His Neanderthal Republican base will abandon him.

        Once a nation or entity gets on the ‘terrorist list’ (almost always for political reasons) the never get off except after years of bribery and flying under ther RADAR like MEK did. Iran has been demonized for so long, good luck with that.

    2. David Bedford says

      You can tell Donald Trump has no foresight and is being led astray by the neoconservatives that surround him, John Bolton has been an Israeli firster for many decades and has never met a war he didn’t like, at one of the AIPAC conventions heat shared with glee that they will be celebrating a coup in the heart of Teheran (sorry for spelling).

      1. jm74 says

        If a POTUS is easily influenced by his advisors then he shouldn’t be POTUS. Being weak and absent minded is no excuse; one in a position of authority must know the difference between good/bad; true/false. trump lacks all the prerequisite qualities of a leader especially POTUS. US citizens have signed their own death warrant by electing him.

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