The hawkish US national security advisor John Bolton beating the drums of economic warfare against Iran nowadays owes his current sensitive job to his efforts in devising a blueprint on “how to get out of Iran nuclear deal,” which the Trump administration has since adopted, without any clue about its significant flaws.
Initially published in National Review exactly one year ago, after Bolton had failed to gain an audience with Trump and to submit his proposal through the official channels, per his own admission, Bolton’s article (1) deserves a close scrutiny not only for better understanding of the disastrous course of action that Trump has taken vis-a-vis Iran, carrying the potential danger of a close combat in Persian Gulf, but also for the fallacy of Bolton’s predication of the consequences of US’s unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA on the ground of “significant violations” by Iran.
Of course, the latter is a pure lie and a dozen reports by UN’s atomic agency has confirmed Iran’s full compliance with its JCPOA obligations. No matter, Bolton in his blueprint sticks to it as a veritable proven fact that can be the basis both for US’s turning its back on an agreement it had co-authored as well as for creating a new “international coalition” against Iran. At the same time, anticipating some global resistance to US’s unilateral move, Bolton proposes a make-believe olive branch offered Iran in the form of an offer to talk, something that Trump has also followed by his recent offer of talk without preconditions.
According to Bolton, “Iran is not likely to seek further negotiations once the JCPOA is abrogated, but the Administration may wish to consider rhetorically leaving that possibility open in order to demonstrate Iran’s actual underlying intention to develop deliverable nuclear weapons, an intention that has never flagged.” Elsewhere in his narrative, Bolton calls such moves as “tactical.” His wild claim about Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is also reflected in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s 12-point demand from Iran that is openly articulated as part of a “maximalist” pressure on Iran to “change its behavior,” although the real policy of “regime change” operating behind this facade is plenty obvious.
Unfortunately for Bolton and other Iran hawks in the Trump administration, none of his prediction on the rise of a new international coalition led by the US against Iran has materialized and, on the contrary, save Israel and Saudi Arabia, the rest of the international community had denounced Trump’s turn against the JCPOA and for all practical purposes this has turned into a “US versus the world” political embarrassment for the administration, in light of the steadfast European resolve to preserve the JCPOA. Unable to count on Europe, or China, or Russia, i.e., the other signatories of the deal, US is indeed isolated as Iran’s leaders have repeatedly reminded Washington, where sadly Iran’s policy has been forfeited in the ideological hands of Iranophobics such as Bolton, who has repeatedly threatened Europe with secondary sanctions and has also vowed to bring Iran’s oil exports “close to zero.”
But, the latter too is wishful thinking on Bolton’s part, in light of China’s clear signal that it has every intention to continue purchasing Iran’s oil; India too, whose Iran oil imports have peaked in the recent months, is strongly disinclined to follow the US’s oil embargo on Iran. Instead of zero, Iran’s oil exports may decline by around 1 million barrels a day, down from the approximately current 2.5 million b/d. Bound to trigger a spike in oil prices due to the tight supply market, Iran can partially offset this decline by the price differential. In other words, none of Mr. Bolton’s predictions on which the erroneous Iran policy is based have come true, even more so if Europe, which is the third largest recipient of Iranian oil, ignores Washington’s threat and continues its energy ties with Iran (moderately likely).
In turn, the egregious flaws in Bolton’s blueprint raises the question of how long can the Trump administration continue following its proposed tactics and strategy, which have clearly backfired in the international community? To put in a word, Bolton’s blueprint-turned-US policy on Iran represents a clear case of foreign policy mistake, based on false assumptions and questionable assertions about the reactions and consequences, which needs immediate correction, not in the least because it can be a blueprint for a major disaster, that is, another calamitous war in the Middle East.
In the scholarly literature on foreign policy mistakes one notices the criterion that such mistakes to qualify and be recognized for what they are, the policy must meet two criterion. First, the policy undertaken must have been perceived as counterproductive in it own time, and second, a feasible alternative course of action must have been available. With respect to Trump-Bolton’s Iran policy, both criteria are fully present, reflecting a new case of foreign policy blunder. The sooner this mistake is corrected, the better since the present course of action is a ‘road better not taken’ and has foisted the ominous cloud of war on the horizon.
(1) How to Get Out of the Iran Nuclear Deal | National Review