Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton looked ahead to America’s diplomacy and national security challenges in 2018 on Thursday’s Breitbart News Daily with SiriusXM host Raheem Kassam.
“I think in the Middle East it’s going to be particularly dangerous because, while the ISIS caliphate has been largely destroyed, ISIS itself has been expanding in many other parts of the world,” Bolton began.
“It’s one of the consequences of the slow-motion approach that Barack Obama’s military offensive against ISIS entailed,” he continued. “A lot of the ISIS people got out to Libya, to Yemen, to Afghanistan. We just saw this morning a major terrorist attack in Afghanistan, claimed credit by ISIS. The terrorist threat, unfortunately, is not diminishing. It’s just spreading around and growing more complicated.”
“Perhaps even more significantly for Israel and for our Arab allies, Iran has come out of this conflict against ISIS the real winner, maybe along with Russia,” he warned.
“The Pentagon—although it was freed from very restrictive rules of engagement imposed by Obama when they were fighting against ISIS, there was a real determination to do what should have been done much earlier, which is destroy ISIS as rapidly as one can prudently do it. Unfortunately, the Pentagon did not change one of the central elements of the Obama strategy, which is support for the government in Baghdad, largely if not completely controlled for these purposes by the ayatollahs in Tehran,” Bolton explained.
“The Iraqi army, along with the Shia militia that were also part of the offensive against ISIS, were marching not just to retake Mosul and other areas of Iraq, take them back from ISIS, but to extend Iran’s influence. So now at the end of this conflict, with the ISIS caliphate largely gone, Iran has an arc of military control that extends from Iran through the Shia-controlled areas of Iraq to the Assad regime in Syria and to Hezbollah in Lebanon, buttressed by Russian bases,” he said.
Bolton pointed to “a new airbase constructed in Latakia, Syria under the Obama administration,” and noted that “just a few weeks ago, the State Duma in Moscow agreeing to substantially expand the longstanding Russian naval base at Tartus in Syria.”
“So while we have just reason to celebrate the destruction of the ISIS caliphate, make no mistake: Iran has increased its threat in the region. That’s only made worse, obviously, by its continuing nuclear program, which barely paused for breath after the 2015 Obama nuclear deal,” he concluded.
Kassam cited recent examples of Islamic State radicalization occurring in refugee camps—including emigrants from the region radicalized by merely visiting the camps—to argue that the ISIS terrorist threat continues to change and grow, even as their physical “caliphate” in Syria and Iraq is obliterated.
Bolton added an older, and exceptionally horrific, example of immigrants radicalizing during visits to their old countries: the Boston Marathon bombers. He said it was unsurprising the U.S. media fails to appreciate the dimensions of the problem.
“The Wall Street Journal once famously called the mainstream media ‘stenographers for the Obama administration,’” he recalled. “Now they’re just largely stenographers for the liberal establishment. Obama didn’t understand the threat of radical Islamic terrorism, and neither do the media.”
“We’ve just had some very interesting examples this past week—Josh Meyer in Politico with an unbelievable story about how Obama suppressed Drug Enforcement Agency investigations of Hezbollah’s drug trafficking and money laundering in order not to upset the ayatollahs in Iran and potentially jeopardize the nuclear deal. You didn’t see that in the famous investigative reporting pages of the Washington Post or the New York Times, not that Politico is so friendly to conservatives either,” he said.
Bolton noted the disconnect between satellite imagery that appears to show Chinese tankers violating U.N. sanctions by transferring oil to North Korean ships, and the Reuters news organization writing a story that applauded China for helping to make sanctions against North Korea work.
“And what was Reuters’ source for its story? Why, Chinese export statistics! What an amazing coincidence!” he exclaimed sarcastically. “Talk about being stenographers for the wrong side in this thing—that’s about as good an example of blindness as you can get.”
“We’re still waiting for China to do something dramatic, which it has the unique capability to do as these oil transfers demonstrate, to bring the North Korean regime to its knees—if it wanted to. The president certainly made that point clearly to them, and they have not yet complied,” said Bolton, noting that more sanctions-evading transactions between China and its North Korean client state were probably occurring beyond the watchful gaze of U.S. reconnaissance satellites.
“This is evidence of, at a minimum, China turning a blind eye to what’s obviously a pretty common practice, or worse simply being complicit with it,” he said. “There’s also been evidence reported in the mainstream media about Russia violating the sanctions. You can bet your last dollar that Iran is doing everything it can to help North Korea go on. They couldn’t care less about sanctions violations. They violate the sanctions imposed on them—why should North Korea sanctions slow them down?—and they’ve got plenty of oil to meet North Korea’s needs.”
“Absent some dramatic steps by China, the North Koreans continue to make progress toward being able to hit any target in the United States they want with thermonuclear weapons,” he cautioned.
“I think the president clearly doesn’t want to use military force if there’s any way to avoid it. That’s perfectly understandable and reasonable. But the alternative, very soon I’m afraid, could come down to either using military force preemptively or seeing North Korea with deliverable nuclear weapons, which would be a threat in and of itself, but which they could also sell to Iran, to terrorist groups, to other rogue states that aspire to be nuclear powers,” Bolton said.
“What we’re going to see here in 2018, I think, is not simply the question of what happens with North Korea, but whether a half-century of American-led Western efforts to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons is going to come down to a crashing failure,” he predicted. “This is what the Trump administration was left with. They inherited 25 years of ineffective American counter-proliferation policy against North Korea and Iran. The bill is about to come due, I’m afraid.”
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