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Trump’s new national security adviser John Bolton – a threat to the Iran Nuclear deal

The Bolton threat to the Iran nuclear deal, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Ariane Tabatabai, 29 Mar 18  On the campaign trail, Donald Trump often denounced the failures of the US foreign policy establishment, including the trigger-happy Washington insiders who, too often, had led the country down the path of devastating wars. In particular, leading up to and since his election, President Trump has often invoked the example of the 2003 invasion of Iraq as a monumental mistake in contemporary US foreign policy. But, recently, President Trump appointed one of the architects of the Iraq war, John Bolton, to serve as his third national security adviser, replacing H.R. McMaster, a three-star general with a moderate outlook. Bolton’s track record in the nonproliferation space—as the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security affairs from 2001 to 2005, his brief tenure as the US Ambassador to the United Nations in 2005 to 2006, and his writings and media appearances in recent years—all point to the end of the nuclear deal with Iran and a generally more aggressive stance on the Islamic Republic……….

McMaster’s ousting and Bolton’s arrival, potentially coupled with Mike Pompeo’s ascendance at the State Department as Tillerson’s replacement, make it much likelier for the administration to pull out of the nuclear deal and potentially even confront Iran militarily.

To understand why this may be the case, it’s imperative to examine Bolton’s worldview, nonproliferation track record, and stance on Iran.

Bolton largely sees the US foreign policy toolkit through the prism of what most national security professionals view as the last resort: military action. Indeed, Bolton has long advocated for bombing countries to settle disputes and mitigate threats, before such options as negotiations, sanctions, and naming and shaming on the international stage are fully exhausted. In particular, Bolton famously called for attacking Iran to address the challenge stemming from the country’s nuclear ambitions—and this, as the negotiators were working toward a comprehensive agreement achieving strict limits on those ambitions. Likewise, Bolton has often brushed aside the need for multilateralism. In fact, Bolton seems to distrust and disdain negotiations, particularly those requiring American concessions. Multilateralism and the use of the broad American foreign policy toolbox—including incentives, economic and political pressure, the threat of the use of force, and diplomacy—were central to the nuclear talks and resulting agreement. And they also yielded more lasting results at a lower cost than military action would have entailed.

Bolton’s nonproliferation track record is predominantly one of missed opportunities and outright failures.  ……….

But perhaps most troubling is Bolton’s cozy relationship with the Mujahedin-e Khalq (meK), an Iranian opposition group that he hails as a viable alternative to the Islamic Republic, a champion of democracy and human rights, and an agent for a change of behavior by Iran. But the MeK is neither a viable alternative to the current Iranian government nor a force for democracy and human rights, as I have written elsewhere. Instead, it’s a cult-like organization that has abused its own members and is already publishing lists of journalists for its sympathizers to target. It enjoys little support inside Iran and is responsible for a number of terrorist attacks on Iranians and Americans alike. Moreover, there’s no guarantee that the MeK would adopt a policy on the country’s nuclear program or other nefarious activities that is different from the current regime’s. More important yet, the very idea that regime change, Bolton’s preferred foreign policy option to deal with Iran, would be successful and yield a sustainable outcome is put in question by the legacy of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In that sense, Bolton’s worldview and approach to Iran differ from President Trump’s “America First” policy, which seeks to minimize American involvement in various theaters. But with moderate voices largely isolated and sidelined in the Trump administration, the nuclear deal’s days seem numbered and a potential confrontation with Iran likely………..

March 28, 2018 - Posted by | general

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