Saturday, May 18, 2019

John Bolton Is Exactly What Trump’s Iran Policy Needs

Eli Lake,, May 17, 2019

Pay attention to that man in the background.
Image from article, with caption: Pay attention to that man in the background. Photographer: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images North America

If there’s one thing Democrats and ayatollahs agree on these days, it’s that John Bolton is trying to start a war with Iran. President Donald Trump has said that he is open to negotiations and does not want a war, but his mustachioed national security adviser will not abide.
Popular as it may be in Washington, this theory has it backwards. Bolton’s antipathy toward Iran is well-known and longstanding, but the current administration strategy is not aimed at starting a war with Iran. It’s designed to avoid one.
Nevertheless, the anti-Bolton theme has been the centerpiece of a public diplomacy [JB emphasis] campaign for Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. He consistently derides what he calls the “B-team,” referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan and, of course, John Bolton. Zarif’s strategy is transparent: Blame Bolton to take the focus off Iran’s own escalations.
Many leading Democrats are on the same page. ...
For his part, Bolton seems to enjoy all the loathing. When he was undersecretary of state for arms control in the George W. Bush administration, Bolton displayed in his office the framed front page of Iranian newspaper denouncing him. ...
When Iran believes the U.S. will use force, however, it backs off. Iran has not mined the Persian Gulf, despite occasional threats to do so, because the U.S demonstrated three decades ago that it will destroy the Iranian navy if it tries.
This is where Bolton comes in: He’s kind of a one-man psychological warfare operation. If Iran’s leaders believe Trump’s advisers are trying to constrain him, they may assess they can get away with a proxy attack on U.S. positions. If they think Trump is trying to constrain his national security adviser, they may decide not to. ...

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