Over the last week, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has given several interviews to prominent Western media outlets, talking about what he called a “B team” of US and Middle Eastern officials who are working together to push US President Trump into a military conflict with Tehran.
Speaking to Fox News’ Chris Wallace on Sunday, US National Security Advisor John Bolton reacted to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif calling him part of a “B team” that includes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, Bolton joked he has been called a number of things this week.
“In the past few days the North Koreans have also called me ‘dim-sighted’, the Cubans said that I’m a ‘pathological liar’, — I’d say it was a pretty good week”, Bolton said sarcastically.
Speaking on a more serious note, he deemed Zarif’s accusation of war-mongering “completely ridiculous’, calling the entire interview a “carefully prepared propaganda script”, aiming to sow disinformation.
“The fact is that the President [Trump’s] policy on Iran has been clear well before I’ve arrived in the administration, it is to put maximum pressure on the regime to get it to change its behaviour, and I think it’s working”, he said.
Wallace recalled that in 2017 Bolton gave a speech to People’s Mojahedin Organisation (MEK), an Iranian opposition group that at one point was listed as a terrorist organisation, in which Bolton talked about regime change in Iran. He asked Bolton if he really believes the Iranian authorities are capable of “behaviour change”.
“First, let me say on the MEK — do you know who took MEK off the list of foreign terrorist organizations? Hillary Clinton — that well-known right-wing Republican”, Bolton Said, opening an unknown page of Hillary’s past political history.
It is unclear whether Advisor Bolton meant it as sarcasm, because he kept a straight face throughout this part of the interview.
Back in 2016, Hillary Clinton said that “every piece of legislation, just about, that [she] ever introduced (in the US Senate) had a Republican co-sponsor”. Politifact fact-checking investigation determined that in reality some 30% of Clinton’s sponsored bills were co-sponsored by Republicans. According to campaign spokesman Josh Schwerin, the former US Secretary of State likely meant to say “Just about every Republican senator I served with co-sponsored a piece of legislation I introduced”.
What were you talking about, Mr Bolton?
Returning to US-Iranian relations, Bolton tried to dodge the question about his desire for regime change in Tehran.
“The Iranian regime continues to oppress its own people, it continues to be the world’s largest financier of international terrorism, it continues to pursue ballistic missiles, whose only purpose is delivering nuclear weapons when they get that capability”, Bolton said. “There’s no doubt this regime is the threat in the region”.
“That’s why we think the pressure campaign has had a significant on their ability to carry these tasks out”.
According to Bolton, the US president wants Iran to sit down and talk about all these issues.
“When they are ready to talk, then the US president is ready to talk”, Bolton said.
When pressed by Wallace whether he would like to see a regime change in Iran, Bolton said that “the people of Iran deserve a better government — there’s absolutely no doubt about it”.
“The trouble is, it’s not just the theological dictatorship, it’s a military dictatorship, too. That’s a very difficult circumstance”, he said, adding that the US has yet to see the effects of economic pressure on Iran.
When asked about a US decision not to extend waivers for several countries which allowed them to buy oil from Iran as well as China’s and Turkey’s negative reaction to that, Bolton said he’ll “see what happens”.
“There have been statements by Chinese companies that have been importing Iranian oil that they are gonna stop it. I met (with [Secretary of State] Mike Pompeo) with Turkish Foreign Minister [Mevlut Cavusoglu] some weeks back who was already talking about the steps they were going to take to avoid buying Iranian oil… We’ll see how it plays out. We’ve made our position clear”.