Former U.N. ambassador John Bolton took stock of President Trump’s foreign policy on Thursday’s Breitbart News Daily with SiriusXM host Alex Marlow.
“The president, during the campaign, always talked about an America First foreign policy. What he said expressly he meant by that was that American national interests have to dominate what a president does – not abstract ideas about the way the world order should look, but concentrating on threats to America and dealing with them,” Bolton recalled.
“In the case of Syria, as we’ve discussed before, I think a lot of people were worried that the retaliation for the chemical weapons attack was just the first step toward a much greater involvement in the Syrian conflict. Those who wanted that said there was a change of policy, and they liked it. Those who opposed it said there was a change in policy and they didn’t like it,” he said.
“But, in fact, I don’t really think there was a change in policy,” Bolton continued. “I think this was a response to the use of chemical weapons, just as we would respond if it were nuclear weapons or biological weapons. It’s a threat to American national security when anybody uses weapons of mass destruction. So Trump’s response – which so far, at least, has been confined to the one strike at the Syrian airbase, although obviously, it took place in Syria – was not a shift in policy on the civil war.”
“Then when you look at Korea – look, this is one of the consequences of eight years of Obama’s failed foreign policy. He pursued what he called ‘strategic patience’ vis-a-vis the North Korean nuclear program, which was nothing more than a synonym for doing nothing at all. The consequences are right before us: the North Koreans are now very close to being able to drop a ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead on a U.S. target,” he said.
“I think Trump’s response was entirely appropriate,” he argued. “I think where he has not stepped up to the plate yet, at least his administration hasn’t, is the Iranian nuclear weapons program. Despite his very strong view during the campaign that the Obama nuclear deal was a debacle, just yesterday Secretary of State Tillerson signed a letter to Speaker Ryan, in compliance with the congressional reporting requirement, saying Iran was in compliance with the deal.”
Bolton said this assessment of Iranian compliance was “just patently false.”
“Now, they say the NSC is reviewing it. They’re looking at further sanctions because of Iran’s terrorist activity, but there’s plenty of evidence out there already publicly that Iran is violating the deal,” he contended. “It’s not just a problem, as Tillerson said later in the day, that ultimately, the deal just delays Iran’s nuclear weapon; it doesn’t prevent it. It doesn’t delay it, either, if they’re violating it, which I think they’re doing.”
Marlow highlighted Bolton’s recent New York Post editorial calling for the Trump administration to name and sanction Iranian terrorists and terror-supporting institutions.
“The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, as its name implies, is the military wing of the Iranian theocracy, to guard the 1979 Islamic revolution there,” Bolton explained. “It reports directly to the supreme leader. Forget President Rouhani or the election coming up later this spring; the real ruler in Iran has always been the supreme leader, since the ’79 revolution.”
“The IRGC, as it’s called, is really the principal means by which the ayatollahs are trying to get a hegemony in the Middle East, through a variety of mechanisms. The Quds Force, which is really the tip of the spear, they were responsible in an earlier incarnation for the bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon going back to 1983. They’ve been killing Americans for a long time,” he said.
“The nuclear weapons program in Iran and the ballistic missile programs are under the control of the IRGC,” he said. “If we name them as a foreign terrorist organization, all kinds of statutory sanctions kick in. I think it will have a dramatic impact on the Iranian regime. Opponents of naming the IRGC as a terrorist organization include many in the administration who don’t want to admit Iran is violating the nuclear weapons deal and who are afraid that if we name the IRGC, that Iran will pull out of the deal.”
“What a shame if that were to happen!” Bolton added sarcastically.
“The point is, Iran’s behavior has not changed at all, despite what the Obama administration said all through the negotiations: if we can just solve this nuclear program, they’ll start behaving like a civilized nation. The ayatollahs have made a joke of that contention for the past now going on two years, since the deal was signed in 2015,” he said.
“I think there’s still hope for the Trump administration on this. Their utterly inexplicable finding that Iran is in compliance with the nuclear deal – I mean, that’s kind of an embarrassment. Fred Fleitz, a former colleague of mine, has an excellent article up on the Fox News opinion website on what’s wrong with that finding. I urge people to take a look at that. This has got to be stopped. Otherwise, I think it will risk embarrassing the Trump administration, given the president’s very strong stand against this deal in the campaign,” Bolton advised.
He said it was not surprising that the first mandated 90-day status report on the Iran nuclear deal from the Trump State Department would falsely declare compliance because “the State Department is almost genetically incapable of saying foreign governments actually violate their treaties.”
“I had this experience in arms control deals when I was in the Bush 43 State Department,” Bolton recalled. “I understand what Tillerson’s putting up with, but you’ve got to stand against this because just the inertia of the people who negotiated the deal, the people who supported it, are very reluctant to admit they were wrong and that Iran, in fact, is violating it because it’s a way of undercutting all of their efforts.”
“That’s what political appointees and presidential appointees are designed to do, to pierce through that bureaucratic inertia and get to the truth that the Iranians are violating it on the ballistic missile side, they’ve violated it on the heavy water side, they’ve violated it on the enriched uranium limits – and that’s just what’s been reported publicly,” he noted.
“What do we know, in fact, about Iranian cooperation with North Korea?” Bolton asked. “How much of the Iranian program is really being conducted in North Korea, where our intelligence is, unfortunately, even worse than it is inside Iran? There are a lot of questions here.”
“I think it was a mistake to certify compliance, but as I say, it’s exactly what the State Department did in the early Bush administration with the agreed framework with North Korea. Despite mounting evidence of North Korean violations, they kept wanting to certify that North Korea was in compliance. Eventually, we broke that. This game isn’t over yet, but that first certification was a disappointment,” he said.
Turning to North Korea, Bolton said the communist nation’s latest threats to unleash a “super-mighty preemptive strike” on the United States were standard rhetoric.
“Within the next few days, you can expect them to say they’ll unleash a ‘sea of fire’ across the Korean Peninsula,” he predicted. “They’ve got a whole handbook of these phrases that they use. This is how they talk before – at least we think before – they have the capability to launch ICBMs that can hit the United States.”
“Our troops in South Korea are vulnerable. They’ve got thousands of tons of chemical weapons. South Korean civilians are vulnerable. That’s why my view has long been that really the only solution to the nuclear problem in North Korea, and, in fact, the North Korean problem generally, is to reunify the peninsula. As long as this regime is in power, its irrational threats can someday actually come to fruition, with horrible consequences,” he warned.
“This regime is not going to change its behavior,” he stressed. “It has three times in the past 25 years made unequivocal statements it would give up its nuclear weapons program. It has violated them every time, usually before the ink was dry. That’s the pattern Iran is watching. They see this: there are no consequences really for North Korea. Even in the Bush administration, the administration lifted sanctions against North Korea that now we’re looking at reimposing. If this is the way North Korea behaves before they can hit the United States with a nuclear weapon, imagine how they’re going to behave once they’re able to.”
Bolton looked at the presidential race in France, judging it “very close, with several non-conventional candidates, to say the least, possibly making the two-person runoff.”
“I would guess, in a year or period when political opinion polling has not been exactly accurate, it’s going to be very hard to say with any certainty who comes out in the top two spots this coming Sunday. But it’s possible Marine Le Pen would be one, as you correctly say, and the other would be a candidate of the extreme left actually backed by the French Communist Party. Melenchon is his name,” he told Marlow.
“So you could have a runoff between these two candidates, neither of whom obviously represents one of the major standing French political parties of the center-right or the center-left. I think that is the kind of scenario – a proto-Communist, basically, versus Marine Le Pen – where she could win. In any event, no matter who the last two are, I think that things are so volatile in France and across the European Union that while I still think it’s unlikely Le Pen would win in the final round, I don’t think you can discount that yet,” said Bolton.
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