Back in April, in a fantastic profile for The New Yorker, Dexter Filkins wrote of John Bolton that “people who have worked with him say that he is focused less on North Korea than on Iran, where his vigilance can sometimes seem out of proportion to the apparent threat”.
He wouldn’t be alone in that regard. Mike Pompeo is similarly predisposed.
But Bolton’s generalized hawkishness towards conflict abroad left him out of step with Trump on Afghanistan and, some say, North Korea. Ultimately, John was fired on Tuesday. (He says he resigned.)
Read more: Trump Fires John Bolton. And His Mustache.
Although it seems highly likely that Bolton recently clashed with Trump on Afghanistan (John was reportedly left out of discussions around America’s strategy and opposed the now-dead peace plan), his dismissal was apparently tied to disagreements with the president over Iran.
According to Bloomberg, Trump considering easing sanctions on Tehran, prompting pushback from the irascible Bolton.
“Trump and top advisers on Monday discussed easing sanctions on Iran to help secure a meeting with Hassan Rouhani at the UNGA”, Jennifer Jacobs said.
Predictably, Bolton “argued forcefully” against the proposal in the Oval Office. Trump accepted his resignation on Tuesday.
Jacobs also says Steve Mnuchin supported the proposal to lift some sanctions in the interest of facilitating a dialogue.
“The White House has started preparations for Trump to meet with Rouhani this month in New York on the sidelines of the annual United Nations General Assembly the week of September 23”, Bloomberg’s subsequent coverage reads. Jacobs cites two sources in writing that under “one scenario, Trump [would] join a meeting between Rouhani and French President Emmanuel Macron”.
Trump himself expressed an openness to talk during his post-G-7 press conference with Macron, who is spearheading the European effort to defuse tensions between Tehran and the West.
Tehran this month announced more steps down the road towards non-compliance with the nuclear accord and has variously insisted that if the country isn’t allowed to sell its oil, there will be no rapprochement.
Crude dipped on the new headlines, as speculation that Iranian crude will soon be back on the market prompts traders to abruptly reappraise the landscape.
Earlier Wednesday, Mitch McConnell said Bolton “understood the importance of holding adversaries accountable for their lives and misdeeds”.
“John appreciates the need to stand up to adversaries like Putin’s Russia and approach them from a position of strength”, McConnell went on to muse.
For his part, Rouhani has insisted that any meeting with Trump would need to be more than a photo op for the publicity-loving US president. “If someone wants to have their photo taken with Hassan Rouhani, it’s not possible”, he said, on August 27. “It’s possible to do it with Photoshop”, he added.