Iranian officials and state media expressed great pleasure at the termination of U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton, a trenchant critic of the Iranian regime long derided by Tehran as a “warmonger.” The Iranians appeared confident a softening in U.S. policy would accompany Bolton’s departure.
“The move shows that the hardline administration of the U.S. has come to realize that the era of warmongering is over and that if it is to interact with the world, its path is logic,” said Mahmoud Vaezi, chief of staff for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, on Wednesday.
“Since long ago, Bolton has been a very aggressive and warlike person and has not achieved any of his goals since taking office,” said Vaezi. He went on to accuse Bolton of being a paid agent of the Iranian opposition.
“The U.S. should understand that warmongering and warmongers are useless, discharge the warmongers, and abandon its policy of warmongering and maximum pressure,” Rouhani himself said at a cabinet meeting in Tehran on Wednesday, ensuring that no one would miss the point that Bolton was a warmonger.
One of Bolton’s loudest critics in Tehran, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, refused a request for comment on Wednesday, saying he would “not make any comments on the internal affairs of the United States.”
Zarif constantly hectored Bolton as a member of what he called the “B-Team,” a group of four people with influence in the Trump administration who were supposedly paranoid and unfair to Tehran. The other three are Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed.
Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Majid Takht Ravanchi, also described Bolton’s departure as an “internal issue” for the United States. Bolton was formerly the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, which will convene its 2019 General Assembly later this month.
“Whether or not the American policy of extremism will change depends on the various factors that influence the US foreign policy,” Ravanchi said of Bolton’s ouster.
“We have stated many times, as the respected president of the Islamic Republic of Iran has made it clear, that as long as these cruel sanctions and the economic terrorism of the US government against the Iranian people continue, there would be no negotiations,” he said.
Mohsen Rezayee, the secretary of Iran’s Expediency Council – a sort of parallel cabinet established by the clerical wing of Iranian government – declared on Wednesday that Iran “will not be deceived by sacrificing Bolton.”
Rezayee recalled being told by a visiting Chinese official that America is “a real tiger in tactics but a paper tiger in strategies,” to which he replied, “We will cage this tiger and tightly close its door.”
Opinions vary on what Bolton’s departure will mean for U.S. policy toward Iran. A Bloomberg News report on Wednesday cited “three people familiar with the matter” who said Bolton was dismissed for arguing too forcefully against President Donald Trump’s idea of easing sanctions against Iran to set up a meeting between Trump and Rouhani at the U.N. General Assembly.
Trump sounded pessimistic about the idea and suggested the ball is in Tehran’s court when reporters asked him about it on Wednesday.
“We’ll see what happens,” he said. “I think Iran has tremendous potential. They’re proud of their people. And we’re not looking for regime change. We hope that we can make a deal, and if we can’t make a deal, that’s fine too. But I think they have to make a deal.”