By Hollie McKay
Published September 11, 2019
Both loved and hated in the foreign policy establishment, this week’s sudden ouster of John Bolton as national security adviser is likely to be embraced by America’s adversaries, analysts say.
“Nations such as North Korea, Iran and Venezuela have some short-term reasons to be happy that Bolton is gone,” Harry Kazianis, a national security expert at Washington’s Center for the National Interest, told Fox News. “Clearly, his goal was to see the eventual demise of all of these regimes, or that their economies are so weakened by sanctions that they posse little-to-no threat to U.S. interests. So, at least for the moment, some of the pressure is off.”
The Iranian regime wasted no time in addressing the news, indicating that while his removal was a “sigh of relief” it would not pave the way to direct talks between Washington and Tehran.
“As the world was breathing a sigh of relief over the ouster of #B_Team’s henchman in the White House, Pompeo & Mnuchin declared further escalation of #EconomicTerrorism against Iran,” tweeted Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who was recently personally slapped with U.S. sanctions. “Thirst for war – maximum pressure – should go with the warmonger-in-chief.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani cautioned the U.S. to first “abandon warmongers and warmongering policies,” according to the country’s Tasnim News Agency. Tehran’s state-operated IRNA news agency, quoting their envoy to the United Nations, said Wednesday that the “departure of U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton from President Donald Trump’s administration will not push Iran to reconsider talking with the U.S.”
However, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in the aftermath of Bolton’s departure, told reporters that he could foresee a meeting between Trump and the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during the United Nations General Assembly this month. Iran’s government spokesperson Ali Rabiei asserted on Twitter that Bolton was perhaps the biggest obstacle to such diplomacy, referring to him as the “biggest proponent of war & economic terrorism.”
Bolton has long taken an aggressive stance against the Islamic Republic. He was a known evangelist for regime change and intervention.
He was also viewed as an obstacle between Trump and his quest to compel North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un to abandon his burgeoning nuclear weapons arsenal. After talks fell apart earlier this year, Pyongyang officials leveled the blame on Bolton and characterized him as “dim-sighted.”
Bolton’s firing – or resignation, as the departed national security advisor describes it – came after the dizzying revelation that Trump had canceled a secret meeting scheduled between himself and Taliban representatives in Camp David this week. Pompeo had been carefully crafting a peace deal with the Afghanistan-based group as a means of the U.S. exiting the 18-year war, while Bolton is reported to have firmly opposed such a diplomatic solution.
The ex-NSA’s hawkish stance and seeming appetite for military-centric approaches steadily fell out-of-fashion in the West Wing, experts observed.
“Bolton and Trump were clearly at odds when it comes to the basic formulation of defining U.S. interests," Kazianis said. "Trump wants a more restrained foreign policy with a focus on old fashioned great power politics, and that means less of a focus on the types of regimes America will negotiate with and more of a pure focus on bettering America's standing in the world.
“While John Bolton has vast foreign policy experience, his basic vision for America's role in the world belongs in the history books. We must remember why so many American's voted for Trump in the first place: to put America's interests first above all else.”
Yet closer to home, in Venezuela, Bolton’s farewell has many in the anti-Maduro camp feeling nervous. Bolton was a chief architect of squeezing the Caracas regime earlier this year. And although his combative strategy has failed to cause Maduro to fall, he was seen by many opposition advocates as a beacon of hope.
“Maduro officials took the news of the firing of John Bolton as a victory for the regime,” Arnaldo Espinoza, the Caracas-based Managing Editor of America Digital, told Fox News. “Economic Vice President, Tareck El Aissami, tweeted that Bolton was the ‘worst liar and the person who has done the most damage to our country. The truth beat out the demons of war.’”
Espinoza said that Venezuelan political analysts are taking a cautious approach, waiting to see who will step next into Bolton’s shoes.
Furthermore, Bolton was deemed a strongman standing in the way of warmer ties between Russia and the U.S.
The news of his removal also had the Kremlin clapping.
Dmitry Novikov, the first deputy chairman of the Russian State Duma's committee on international affairs, called the move “positive news,” the Moscow Times reported.
"Perhaps a figure will come who will advocate a more moderate policy toward Russia,” Novikov is said to have postured.
But whether this puts the United States in a stronger or more demure diplomatic standing in the world’s eyes remains to be seen.
“His removal is good news for U.S. security," said Defense Priorities Policy Director, Benjamin Friedman, in a statement. "President Trump has said he wants to end long-running U.S. conflicts abroad, negotiate an end to the nuclear crisis in Iran and North Korea, improve relations with other great powers, and ensure our allies contribute far more to their own defense. The incoming National Security Advisor should be someone who supports these positions and is committed to implementing – rather than thwarting – them.”
Trump is expected to announce the new NSA next week. The position does not require Senate confirmation.
But even with Bolton out, others say the White House is not likely to follow the same line.
“They (U.S adversaries) won’t be happy once they figure out it is Trump’s foreign policy, and Trump isn’t going to sign up for a bad deal. Don’t expect much change,” said James Carafano, an expert in national security and foreign policy challenges at The Heritage Foundation. “We should expect continued tough stances against Russia, China, Venezuela, and Iran going forward. Trump’s foreign policy is ‘America First.’ While his style is unconventional, his actual policies are not.”