-70 min ago
John Bolton's aggressive push for military confrontation combined with Trump's vengeful obsession to undo Obama's legacy could spell disaster for Iran's nuclear deal, which would boost nuclear ambitions for Iran and erode confidence around the world, says Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council
Trita Parsi was born in Iran and grew up in Sweden. He received a Master's degree in International Relations from Uppsala University, a second Master's Degree in Economics from the Stockholm School of Economics and a Doctorate in International Relations from Johns Hopkins University SAIS. He has served as an adviser to Congressman Bob Ney (R-OH18) on Middle East issues and is a co-founder and current president of the Iranian National Council (www.niacouncil.org). Dr. Parsi is the author of One Roll of Dice: Diplomacy of Obamas with Iran Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Relations of Iran, Israel and the United States and more recently, Losing an Enemy: Obama, Iran and the Triumph of Diplomacy . He has followed Middle Eastern politics for more than a decade, both through work in the field, and through extensive experience on Capitol Hill and the United Nations.
SHARMINI PERIES: It's the Real News Network. I'm Sharmini Peries coming from Baltimore. The appointment of John Bolton as national security adviser to President Donald Trump has worried everyone to advise the president to cancel the nuclear agreement with Iran. In his article in Foreign Policy, titled "Blame Trump when Iran competes for the bomb," Trita Parsi argues that canceling the agreement will make the United States less reliable for North Korea, for example, and that it will reach a disarmament agreement with Pyongyang very difficult if Trump, on a whim, simply cancels the agreement. It will also give Iran, Trita argues, that it will give Iran a strong incentive to rapidly develop a nuclear weapon. Here is Trump talking about Iran's nuclear agreement. DONALD TRUMP: The deal with Iran was one of the worst and most unilateral transactions in which the United States has ever participated. SHARMINI PERIES: Joining us now to talk about Bolton in the context of the agreement with Iran is Trita Parsi. Trita is founder and president of the National Iranian American Council. He is the author of several books, and his most recent is "Losing an enemy: Obama, Iran and the triumph of diplomacy." Thanks for joining me, Trita. TRITA PARSI: Thank you for receiving me today. SHARMINI PERIES: Trita, President Trump sees Iran's nuclear agreement as the distinctive agreement of President Obama, and that the deal somehow offended Israel and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Why is Trump so opposed to the nuclear agreement with Iran and what will Bolton add to this fierce opposition? TRITA PARSI: Well, Trump has listed several different reasons. But when you scratch the surface this really seems to be reduced to what you just mentioned, that this is Obama's deal. And everything he's been doing elsewhere, it's pretty clear he's eager to undo Obama's legacy, an almost vengeful approach. And this is the most important foreign policy achievement that the Obama administration had. Therefore, it seems to be largely driven as a result of that. John Bolton has a completely different reason. Ultimately, John Bolton wants the United States to enjoy a hegemonic position in the Middle East and to be dominant. Iran is a challenge, an obstacle to that goal. Then he has a very aggressive stance towards Iran. And any kind of agreement that solves problems between the United States and Iran is a problem in John Bolton's eyes because he wants a war. He has been very, very clear and honest about his desire for a military confrontation. And as a result, he does not want the nuclear agreement for that reason. I think he is now joining the administration because he believes he can manipulate Trump, Trump himself, to carry out a military action that it is not at all clear that Trump prefers to do on his own. SHARMINI PERIES: Trita, you say an aggressive stance towards Iran. Give us some examples of where you have done this. TRITA PARSI: Well, John Bolton has a very long career in which he seldom misses the opportunity to ask for military measures or other forms of confrontation with Iran. I had a piece in The New York Times that said not long ago that to avoid an Iranian bomb you have to bomb Iran. He has even had the piece in which he has defended preventive nuclear attacks against North Korea. So this is not a person who, unlike some of the supporters of war, is trying to hide his desire for war and who is essentially trying to claim that appearance, we are looking for a peaceful solution, but they are really pushing things towards military action. John Bolton is very frank and honest about the fact that he wants to have a military confrontation. He wants to have a regime change in Iraq. SHARMINI PERIES: It's fine. Now, the article that you referred to in the New York Times, bomb bomb, in Iran, the phrase came out of that article that was then repeated by people like Cheney during the Bush administration. Is there any more recent statement that Bolton said he cares about? TRITA PARSI: Every time he talks about the nuclear agreement with Iran, he says something. And just a couple of months ago he was at the conference of an organization called Iranian Mujahideen, which is a terrorist organization that has been responsible for killing a large number of Iranians, Iraqis and US personnel. UU But John Bolton has long been a supporter of this terrorist organization, and aware of the fact, the way they pay US officials to speak on their behalf. It would not be outside the scope of the possibility that he is actually a paid spokesperson for them. And in that meeting he made similar statements and then he said that, you know, in a year we will have this conference in Iran, which means that there will be a regime change that will probably be preceded by a military confrontation. So he has been very clear about this. Discussing their desire for war or non-war is very, very different when it comes to other voices that have been a bit more careful not to abandon their ultimate goal. With Bolton, at least in some way, maybe, it's a little easier because he's very frank about it. SHARMINI PERIES: Trita, now, at least there is a buffer in terms of this nuclear agreement. It is not a bilateral agreement with the Iranians. It is multilateral. There is P5 + 1. The Europeans have expressed very clearly their support and do not want to dismantle it. Is that going to have any influence on Trump-Bolton's efforts? I think I should take Netanyahu to the scene too. TRITA PARSI: I think there is an effort by Europeans and others to try to prevent Trump from going in this direction. For now, I think the probability of success is very small. Trump does not listen to many people who are even in his own administration, much less listening to Europeans or others. And the fact that he now surrounds himself with people who share his point of view and desire to kill the deal with Iran, like John Bolton, like Mike Pompeo, and the overthrow of individuals like Tillerson and McMaster who were not supporters of the deal, but at least he did not want the United States simply to move away from him, the internal balance within the administration is changing. It is very difficult to see how Europeans could be more successful than they have been in much better circumstances and try to protect the deal. I think that to some extent the Europeans missed an opportunity, because if they had been much firmer much earlier, and if they had pushed and cleared the way for investments, etc., to enter Iran, perhaps the deal would have been a little better. isolated at this moment from what is currently the type of attacks that the Trump administration presents. SHARMINI'S PERIODS: In your article in Foreign Policy you address the issue of how North Korea would react to the cancellation of the agreement. Give us a better idea of why North Korea would care, since they are not part of this agreement. TRITA PARSI: Well, I think the general opinion in Washington is that it would be absurd for Trump to kill the deal with Iran before going to North Korea because why would the North Koreans trust Trump if they had seen him renege on an existing situation? agreement. And I think that is very logical and makes sense. I just do not think Trump is particularly interested in following that kind of logic. I think the logic he sees is that if he really kills the agreement with Iran before he leaves and talks to the North Koreans, he will give them the signal that he is so rude that he is willing to uproot an existing agreement if he does not get what he wants. The North Koreans should not have any illusions that Trump will leave the negotiations if they do not give him what he wants. It is much more a kind of harbadment logic that I think he follows. Therefore, it is not unlikely that he will try to kill the deal, not only because he hates the deal, but also because he really believes that he would strengthen his position within North Korea. I think that is the wrong badysis. I do not think that's true. I think that's maybe the way I would deal with subcontractors in a real estate development project in Manhattan, which is the world that Trump perhaps knows a little better. But it is not the way it can deal with sovereign states, because sovereign states are not subcontractors of the United States. SHARMINI PERIES: Right. Now, Trump seems to be a person who, for example, considers himself to be the best negotiator, and therefore wants to renegotiate anything in effect, including NAFTA, various trade agreements, etc. If Trump had his way and he was able to renegotiate Iran's deal on his terms, what would he be asking for in his badessment? TRITA PARSI: There is no renegotiation of the agreement with Iran. You can never get to that point, and frankly I do not think that's really what you're looking for. Saying that you want to renegotiate is just a way of trying to pretend that you are not killing the deal when you are actually killing the deal. There is no reason for anyone else to participate in such negotiations, particularly when the way Trump is approaching this is saying that I want much more from the Iranians, but I am not willing to give them anything in return. The Iranians are not idiots. Actually they are pretty good negotiators. And they will not reach an agreement with someone as unreliable as Trump, who is offering them less than what Obama offered and demanding more. There is absolutely no incentive for them to do so. This is just a smokescreen for people to think that they are really trying to fix something that is not broken, while in reality they are moving towards a situation where they are just looking for an excuse to end the deal. SHARMINI PERIES: Trita, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, known as MBS, was recently in the United States. And while he was here, he made some very derogatory comments about Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, and compared him to Adolf Hitler. And there seems to be growing opposition to Iran, which is very worrying, especially considering that this alliance is being formed between Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States. This triangle is very dangerous when it comes to security and peace in the region. Give us an idea of why the United States is forging this alliance and what it means in the region. TRITA PARSI: Well, I think the reason why you are seeing this is unlikely, at least if you look at the region from an ideological perspective, it would be very difficult to imagine an openly Zionist state that would reach an agreement with an openly Wahhabi state. like Saudi Arabia. But that is because, at the end of the day, ideology and religion are not what is driving what is happening in the region. It is by geopolitics, and from a geopolitical perspective, the Saudis and the Israelis see a common interest in the sense that they do not want to see a nuclear agreement with Iran, not because of the details of the nuclear agreement, but because a nuclear agreement between the United States States and Iran and the other states will end three decades of isolation and containment of Iran. It would mean that the United States has accepted that Iran is an important power in the region and that it should be included in the political and economic processes of regional decision-making. And that is the nightmare scenario of them, because they prefer to see their rival content and isolated and weakened, not by their own power but by the power of the United States. And that is part of the reason, the main reason why I would say, that they have so strongly opposed the nuclear agreement. And with Trump they are seeing this opportunity to reverse what Obama did and bring back a geopolitical equilibrium in the region that existed not only before the nuclear agreement, but before the 2003 war, in which EE. UU It was in a hegemonic position, strong hegemony Israel and Saudi Arabia enjoyed maximum maneuverability because their regional rivals were controlled and isolated by the United States. Now, you can see why it might be attractive from a Saudi perspective. Why do not you want the superpower to essentially control your regional enemy, which you do not have the power to do for yourself? But from a US perspective, no one has been able to really address how it makes sense from a national interest perspective of the United States. Is it supposed that the United States is essentially a proxy army that is used at the will of the House of Saud or others in the region, or the US? UU Do they really have their own interests that should be the main factor that dictates their policies? SHARMINI PERIES: Thank you for joining us, and thanks for watching the Real News Network.
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