Wednesday, April 4, 2018

John Bolton and His Middle East Solution

Looking back in time, we can see what lies ahead for U.S. foreign policy if John Bolton gets his way. As I showed in this posting, Mr. Bolton has very strong feelings about how the United States should handle both Kim Jong Un and North Korea.  He has also expressed his feelings on another nation that has shown great reluctance to fall into line as far as Washington is concerned as you will see in this posting.

First, I would suggest that you watch this short speech given by John Bolton at the Grand Gathering of the Iranian Resistance held in Paris on July 1, 2017, a meeting sponsored by Free Iran, a group that represents Iranian communities from around the world who want a free democratic, secular, non-nuclear Iran who believe that the only way to get this is to bring about regime change, spearheaded by Iranians:

You will notice that, right off the top, he expresses his admiration for the stance that Donald Trump has taken on the Iran issue.

Let's look at some key excerpts from the speech:

"Now there is under way as there often is in a new American administration a policy review to determine what US policy will be on a whole range of issues including how to deal with the regime in Tehran. But even as that review goes on Congress is moving with a great speed to enact new economic sanctions legislation against the regime in Iran.

These sanctions, when they are put in place will be because of the regime’s suppression of its own people and because of their continued support for terrorism around the world. They will not be related to the nuclear issue although the regime in Tehran has said if these sanctions are enacted into law they will considered a breach of the agreement.

Well that's nothing new since the regime has been in breach of the agreement for two straight years. And it's also it's also critical as we look at this policy review to understand what we want the outcome to be and what in the United States many of us are working toward, the outcome of the president's policy review should be to determine that the Ayatollah Khomeini's1979 revolution will not last until its 40th birthday." (my bold)

Let's step back for a moment and look at Mr. Bolton's assertion that the Iranians have been in breach of the JCPOA (aka "the agreement") for the past two years.  Here's the latest quarterly report from the International Atomic Energy Agency from February 22, 2018 which looks at Iran's compliance with its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA):

As far as the IAEA is concerned, Iran has met all of the requirements of the JCPOA which include monitoring its production and inventory of heavy water, has not enriched uranium above 3.67% U-235, has not exceeded 300 kilograms of UF6, has not operated more than 5060 centrifuges at the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant and 1044 centrifuges at the Ferdow Fuel Enrichment Plant.  Iran has also not operated any of its declared facilities for the purpose of re-converting fuel plates or scrap into UF6.  Iran has also continued to permit the IAEA to use online enrichment monitors and electronic seals which communicate the status of its nuclear sites.  

Interestingly, since the JCPOA was signed, Iran has launched as many as 23 test ballistic missiles as shown on this table:

This could be what John Bolton is complaining about and it is an obvious concern, however, the JCPOA did not impose any restrictions on Iran's ballistic missile program and was strictly related to Iran's nuclear capabilities.  The ballistic missile issue is dealt with in United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 from 2015 which states the following:

"Paragraph 3 of Annex B of resolution 2231 (2015) calls upon Iran not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology." (my bold)

Note the use of the words "calls upon".  That is the only reference to Iran's ballistic missile program and, since the words "calls upon" are used, is non-binding.

Let's go back to Mr. Bolton's speech:

"The fact is that the Tehran regime is the central problem in the Middle East. There’s no fundamental difference between the ayatollah Khamenei and president Rouhani, they're two sides of the same coin.

I remember when Rouhani was the regime’s chief nuclear negotiator, you couldn’t trust him then you can't trust him today. And it's clear that the regime's behavior is only getting worse, their continued violations of the agreement, their work with North Korea on nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, only continues to grow, and let's be clear even if somebody were to say to you that the regime is in full compliance with the nuclear deal it doesn't make any difference. North Korea is already perilously close to the point where they can miniaturize a nuclear weapon put it on an intercontinental ballistic missile and hit targets in the United States and the day after North Korea has that capability the regime in Tehran will have it as well simply by signing a check. That's what proliferation is that’s what the threats about and that’s why Donald Trump's views on North Korea are so similar to his views on the regime in Tehran."

So, what is the solution according to the man who never saw a war that he didn't like (except for the conflict in Vietnam when there was a chance that he would be drafted)?

"I had said for over 10 years since coming to these events that the declared policy of the United States of America should be the overthrow of the mullah’s regime in Tehran. The behavior and the objectives of the regime are not going to change and therefore the only solution is to change the regime itself and that's why before 2019 we here will celebrate in Tehran."

Let's close with a look at what John Bolton had to say about getting out of the Iran nuclear deal in August 2017, a move that would certainly increase the geopolitical pressures in the region:

"U.S. leadership here is critical, especially through a diplomatic and public education effort to explain a decision not to certify and to abrogate the JCPOA. Like any global campaign, it must be persuasive, thorough, and accurate. Opponents, particularly those who participated in drafting and implementing the JCPOA, will argue strongly against such a decision, contending that it is reckless, ill-advised, and will have negative economic and security consequences.

Accordingly, we must explain the grave threat to the U.S. and our allies, particularly Israel. The JCPOA’s vague and ambiguous wording; its manifest imbalance in Iran’s direction; Iran’s significant violations; and its continued, indeed, increasingly, unacceptable conduct at the strategic level internationally demonstrate convincingly that the JCPOA is not in the national-security interests of the United States. We can bolster the case for abrogation by providing new, declassified information on Iran’s unacceptable behavior around the world.

But as with prior Presidential decisions, such as withdrawing from the 1972 ABM Treaty, a new “reality” will be created. We will need to assure the international community that the U.S. decision will in fact enhance international peace and security, unlike the JCPOA, the provisions of which shield Iran’s ongoing efforts to develop deliverable nuclear weapons. The Administration should announce that it is abrogating the JCPOA due to significant Iranian violations, Iran’s unacceptable international conduct more broadly, and because the JCPOA threatens American national-security interests." (my bold)

The components of Mr. Bolton's plans are as follows:

"1. Early, quiet consultations with key players such as the U.K., France, Germany, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, to tell them we are going to abrogate the deal based on outright violations and other unacceptable Iranian behavior, and seek their input.

2. Prepare the documented strategic case for withdrawal through a detailed white paper (including declassified intelligence as appropriate) explaining why the deal is harmful to U.S. national interests, how Iran has violated it, and why Iran’s behavior more broadly has only worsened since the deal was agreed.

3. A greatly expanded diplomatic campaign should immediately follow the announcement, especially in Europe and the Middle East, and we should ensure continued emphasis on the Iran threat as a top diplomatic and strategic priority.

4. Develop and execute Congressional and public diplomacy efforts to build domestic and foreign support."

I guess we have to assume that abrogating the deal with Iran will enhance international peace and security just like invading Iraq did in 2003, a war that came with John Bolton's blessing.

Unless things change dramatically, I suspect that we will experience a significant elevation in anti-Iran rhetoric coming from Washington and an ultimate discarding of the JCPOA.  With Washington's newfound and unconditional love of the Saudi regime, an avowed enemy of the world's largest Shia nation, it is looking increasingly likely that conflict with Iran will erupt and one thing we can be sure of; John Bolton will be nowhere near the front lines of the battle.

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