Since joining the Trump administration in April of last year, Bolton has taken the hardest line possible on every geopolitical flare-up. From advocating “humanitarian intervention” in Venezuela, to briefing journalists about a plan to deploy 100,000 troops to the Middle East, to rumors of him “sabotaging” Trump’s summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un last year, Bolton has trumpeted escalation and confrontation as a panacea to all of America’s foreign policy ills.
Now, former CIA agent Kiriakou writes, Bolton is falling out of President Trump’s favor. In the happy-hour bars of Washington DC, Kiriakou’s contacts within the Trump administration tell him a reckoning is coming, and Bolton’s head is next on the chopping block.
Bolton’s departure is “definitely not a done deal,” Kiriakou stressed, when contacted by RT. But in conversations with “mid-level” national security officials, he has learned that Bolton’s firing is being talked about. Concerned for his legacy, Trump is apparently willing to fire Bolton rather than get dragged into a reputation-tarnishing war, just over a year out from the 2020 election.
Trump himself has signaled in public that he sometimes disagrees with Bolton’s hawkish tendencies. With military confrontation with Iran and Venezuela on the cards last month, Trump described himself as “the one who tempers him, which is okay.” Days beforehand, Trump had expressed frustration that Bolton was trying to get him “into a war,” according to the Washington Post’s sources, at least.
The dissonance between Trump and Bolton’s world views can be seen in their response to the recent tension with Iran. According to Kiriakou:
We can’t allow ourselves to believe that Donald Trump is in some way ‘pro-Iran.’ But John Bolton is actively seeking war with Iran. And this is something that Trump has been very clear about not wanting.
Just a week ago, Trump stated that he was open to a sit-down with Iran’s leadership “without preconditions,” directly contradicting Bolton’s long history of advocating pre-emptive strikes on the Islamic Republic. A flow of leaks to the press indicate an unease in the White House too, with an anonymous Pentagon official telling the New Yorker that Trump is “souring” on Bolton, and another telling the Washington Post that Trump is angry with Bolton and “not comfortable with all this regime-change talk.”
However, whether Trump will remain cool towards Iran in light of Thursday’s oil tanker attacks remains to be seen.
Trump has also recently contradicted Bolton on North Korea, telling reporters that Kim Jong-un has “kept his word” on halting nuclear and missile testing. Hours earlier, Bolton had argued the exact opposite.
Of course, Bolton is far from the only hardliner in the Trump administration. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has pushed an equally hard line on Iran, and was quick to blame Tehran for Thursday’s attacks, reading out a litany of accusations against Iran at a press conference that day.
“Mike Pompeo is at least as much of a hawk, especially on Iran,” said Kiriakou. “But Bolton’s departure would isolate Pompeo. And one of the things that most observers are not paying attention to is the fact that most Republicans in Congress do NOT want to go to war with Iran.”
Nor do Americans have the appetite for further foreign wars. Withdrawing from the decades-long conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan were key campaign promises of Trump, and another foreign misadventure “would be a disaster that the US can ill afford,” the CIA whistleblower believes.
If the whispers are true, Kiriakou has heard several names mentioned as potential replacements, among them “several retired military officers and former intelligence officials.” None of them, he added, are “household names.”
Those expecting a complete reversal in the Trump administration’s foreign policy with Bolton out of the scene might want to keep holding their breath, however. “I don’t think we would see major changes in Trump’s foreign policy if Bolton leaves,” Kiriakou concluded. “Other than the fact that we would be far less likely to seek a fight against Iran.”