John Bolton: Some Trump Advisers Were ‘More Than Happy to Exploit Confusion’ to Keep Iran Deal Alive

Former United States ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton speaks during the Republican Jewish Coalition spring leadership meeting at The Venetian Las Vegas on March 29, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
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Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton joined SiriusXM host Alex Marlow on Monday’s Breitbart News Daily to discuss the fate of the Iran nuclear deal after President Trump’s announcement of decertification on Friday.

Bolton argued that the Iran nuclear deal is not “fixable.”

“The core provisions of the deal is what the problems are,” he explained. “It’s not peripheral issues that are subject to further negotiation – leaving alone the fact that the Iranians aren’t going to agree to any changes in the deal because it’s entirely to their advantage.”

Bolton referred to his new Wall Street Journal op-ed, entitled “A Slow Death for the Iran Deal,” in which he quoted Shakespeare to say that Trump has “scotch’d the snake, not kill’d it” – in other words, he wounded the Iran deal without destroying it completely.

“I nonetheless think that it’s inevitable that the United States gets out of this deal,” he said. “It’s not in our strategic interest. It’s a camouflage for Iran to continue to make progress toward nuclear weapons.”

“I think the president’s advisers didn’t serve him well by saying, ‘oh, we’ll leave it to Congress to fix.’ Congress isn’t going to fix it. Congress doesn’t negotiate with Iran. Congress negotiates with itself. All these things they are considering, we can go over in some detail if you’d like, doesn’t solve the basic problem, which is leaving Iran with any kind of nuclear program at all,” he argued.

“They’ve shown for 30+ years they want nuclear weapons – which, by the way, violates their commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Everybody talks about the nuclear deal,” Bolton noted. “They’re a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which forbids them from trying to get nuclear weapons – which we all acknowledge is what they’ve been doing for the last quarter century. So you can put one deal on top of another deal, you can sign as many deals with the Iranians as you like. They’re not going to change their game plan.”

Responding to Marlow’s suggestion that Trump promised more thorough repudiation of the Iran deal during his campaign, and some on the right appear far more satisfied with his action on Friday than they really should be, Bolton suggested that “the complications that are inherent in this whole arrangement have kind of been overwhelming.”

“I think, frankly, many of the president’s advisers were more than happy to exploit the confusion,” he charged.

“You know, the focus back in July, and then back in April, was the question of whether the president would certify to Congress under the Corker-Cardin legislation that Iran was compliant with the deal, that the deal was in America’s best interests,” he recalled. “There wasn’t much of a fight in April because the advisers just sort of overwhelmed the president, but it was clear in July that he was very unhappy that he wasn’t given alternatives. Although he ultimately did certify, it was clear he had not changed his view from the campaign trail that this nuclear deal with Iran is a disaster.”

“So what the advisers spent three months doing was trying to figure out a way to save the deal, but still not force the president to certify – contrary to reality – that the deal was in America’s national interest, and that’s what they did. I think people said, ‘My God, the president’s decertified the deal! Fantastic!’ not realizing we were still in the deal. Once that begins to sink in, I think the disillusionment will come as well,” he predicted.

Bolton revealed that he spoke with President Trump last Thursday about the nuclear deal.

“I broke through the iron wall, and he was courteous enough to speak with me. We talked about what he was doing at length,” he said. “I don’t think the president has changed his view on this deal one little bit. And let’s be clear: the odds of Congress getting anything constructive done are between slim and none, because they will negotiate between Republicans and Democrats, and whatever they propose won’t have any effect on the deal itself.”

“This is what I think the listeners need to understand,” he stressed. “However the deal is going to be dealt with will be the decision of the President of the United States. Congress plays no part in this. Legislation plays no part in this. Congress can sit up there and legislate to its heart’s content. The ability to reimpose sanctions lies with the president. The ability to get out of the deal lies with the president.”

“I think if Congress miraculously came back with a really tough hardline position, the president would be happy to embrace it. I think the odds of that happening, as I say, are remote. So really I think what we’ve done is punt for 60 days,” he judged.

“I would have preferred to have gotten out of the deal cleanly. That didn’t happen. Honestly, I cannot see Congress improving or changing the president’s perception of the deal while the ball’s in their court. I just think we’re wasting time, and of course time is to the advantage of Iran as it continues to make progress on its missiles and nukes,” he cautioned.

Bolton said it was a central flaw of the nuclear deal that Iran is still permitted to engage in any nuclear activity whatsoever.

“As I said, they violated the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. They shouldn’t be given any credence to have a so-called peaceful nuclear program. I think it’s all ultimately directed towards the weapons aspect,” he said.

“When the Europeans began negotiating with Iran on this in 2003, they said they wouldn’t even talk to Iran unless Iran completely suspended all uranium enrichment activity,” he recalled. “Their ultimate objective was to deny Iran uranium enrichment and plutonium processing capabilities. Europe collapsed, Barack Obama collapsed. The Iranians were intransigent, and they won. They won the negotiation hands down.”

“So you can talk about ending the sunset clauses, and doing this, and doing that – the fact is that Iran’s continued work in enrichment and across the nuclear fuel cycle just continues and expands their ability, ultimately, to break out and go to nuclear weapons,” Bolton declared.

“And of course, that assumes we know everything,” he added. “I’ll guarantee you right here and now we don’t know everything Iran is doing. The notion that our intelligence is infallible has been blown up all too many times, sadly, in the past 20 years. The notion that the International Atomic Energy Agency is going to find out what our intelligence can’t find out is ludicrous on its face.”

“We know that Iran and North Korea have cooperated for years on ballistic missiles. Quite likely they’ve done it on the nuclear side as well,” he observed. “A fair amount of Iran’s nuclear program today might be under a mountain in North Korea.”

“That’s why it’s very important in the president’s speech on Friday that he said, ‘I have directed the intelligence agencies to review all their data on North Korea and Iran.’ I hope he goes further than that and actually says, ‘I want to increase our intelligence collection on these issues.’ Because this just gives the lie to the idea that you’re dealing with a normal nation in Iran, that it makes commitments and it lives up to them. It most emphatically does not. It has committed to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and violated it, and lied about it, for decades, just as they’re willing to commit to a lot of things and just not simply live up to them,” he said.

Bolton expressed surprise that anyone advising President Trump still thinks the Iran deal is worth keeping after two years of debate have “demonstrated it’s completely unworkable, it’s totally tilted in favor of Iran and against us.”

“There are still a lot of provisions in this deal that have never gotten adequate public scrutiny,” he noted, citing Annex 3 of the JCPOA (the proper name of the nuclear deal) as an example. He explained Annex 3 envisions that “we’re going to cooperate with Iran’s peaceful nuclear efforts.”

“That means things like giving them light-water reactors, supporting their nuclear research programs – and the one to me that’s absolutely most important is helping them protect against nuclear security threats to Iran’s nuclear program. This is a provision that allows Russia or China to provide Iran with protection against nuclear security threats – and who are the nuclear security threats? Us and Israel!” he exclaimed.

“I don’t think people read it. Frankly, they may not have made it to Annex 3 all the way in the back. People like Tom Cotton, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz I think ought to repudiate Annex 3. The Trump administration should repudiate it. The Europeans should repudiate it. That should be just completely off the table,” he urged.

“That’s just one more example in the last six months we haven’t seen debated. There are more,” he warned. “This is a terrible deal. Every time you turn the page, you find something else wrong with it.”

Marlow turned the conversation to the rapidly deteriorating situation in Iraq, which appears to be on the verge of civil war.

“I support independence for the Kurds in Iraq,” Bolton declared. “It’s no surprise the State Department opposes that. I think the State Department and the Pentagon are still operating under the assumption you can put Iraq back together again. You can’t. The Baghdad government is Shia-dominated, and dominated even worse than that by the mullahs in Tehran.”

“The battle now going on around Kirkuk, which is defended by Kurdish peshmerga, is being attacked by Iraqi government forces and Shia militia dominated by Iran. Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Revolutionary Guards Quds Force, is actually in the Kirkuk area coordinating the Iran-dominated military effort against the Kurds,” he explained.

“I wish we could get through to the White House and say you should support Kurdish independence, because Iran – our enemy in the region – is now attacking the Kurds, our best friends, and we are doing nothing. It’s a tragedy,” he said.

Bolton said one tragic aspect of the campaign against the Islamic State, which President Trump “accelerated quite rightly, and which is close to success,” is that Trump “continued the Obama administration strategy of aiding the forces of the government of Iraq – which, as I’ve said, sadly is dominated by Iran.”

“I think we need to get off that kick,” he recommended. “The Kurds and Arab forces, really non-Iraqi forces, should be what we support against ISIS, and we should help the Kurds defend against these Shia militias, which are under the direction of the ayatollahs in Iran. The president should see that and support the Kurds.”

Marlow concluded the interview by asking Bolton for an update on the situation with North Korea.

“They’re continuing to make progress every day that we sit here and talk,” Bolton warned. “Their missile work continues. Their nuclear work continues. The possibility of them selling nuclear weapons and technology to Iran is as real as the conversation you and I are having right now.”

“The Secretary of State said over the weekend he wants to keep negotiating with North Korea until the first bomb drops. The only question is whether the first bomb is going to be launched by North Korea. There is no negotiation we’re going to do with North Korea that is going to make our situation better,” he said.

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