Iran continues to pose a threat to the international community, and it would be a mistake for US President Joe Biden to ease sanctions on Tehran’s regime, former National Security Adviser John Bolton told Al Arabiya in an interview aired Thursday.
The veteran US diplomat cautioned Biden and his aides against repeating the Obama administration’s errors that Iran was the region’s great power.
“I’m afraid that the real inclination of the Biden presidency will be to repeat what Obama thought, which was that it was really Iran that was the great power in the region, and that it was Iran … that would ultimately be the rock of stability across the Middle East,” Bolton said in the wide-ranging interview.
“I think that’s entirely the reverse of the truth,” he said, adding that it had nothing to do with the people of Iran or the country. “So, the idea that somehow Iran, under its current regime, could be a responsible actor in the Middle East, is just badly misguided.
Biden has made no secret of his intentions to reenter the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed under the Obama administration in 2015.
Bolton was one of the main drivers behind convincing former President Donald Trump to withdraw from the deal three years later.
A maximum pressure campaign ensued, which entailed hard-hitting economic sanctions against Iran and those who supported the regime and its proxies globally.
And Bolton defended the Trump administration’s policy which he said imposed “much more” pain on the Iranian regime than people thought. “We were told that what multilateral sanctions couldn’t do, unilateral American sanctions couldn’t do either. But our sanctions turned out to be much more effective than the multilateral UN Security Council sanctions,” he said.
But he believes the US “didn’t go far enough. We didn’t put enough pressure.”
Asked what more could be done to force a change in the regime’s behavior, Bolton said the objective should be to split the regime.
This doesn’t require outside or military intervention, he said.
As for reentering the JCPOA, Bolton believes Biden and his team are finding it much harder than initially thought due to shifting political developments over the years.
If Biden reenters the deal and there is noncompliance from Iran, “it would be total surrender,” Bolton said. “But make no mistake, his objective remains the same, and that’s getting back into the deal.”
Biden’s ‘naive’ move to revoke terror designation of Houthis
Bolton launched a diatribe against the Biden administration for removing the Iran-backed Houthis from the terrorist list.
On Tuesday, the terrorist designations imposed on the Houthis and its leaders, including Abdel Malik al-Houthi, were removed.
“I do think it’s naive,” Bolton told Al Arabiya. He said the real danger in Yemen was Iran’s funding and providing weapons to the Houthis.
Admitting that negotiating with terrorists was “nearly an impossible assignment,” Bolton said Iran and the Houthis were exploiting the situation “very effectively.”
And now with the revocation of the designation, the Biden administration has lost another point of leverage.
The former NSA called out Biden and his team by seeking to get back into the nuclear deal by taking actions such as eliminating the terrorist designation of the Houthis “and by threatening to cut off arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.”
These moves would put all the pressure on Washington’s own friends in the region. “I think the ayatollah in Tehran understand that and I think they’re just going to continue doing what they’re doing in Yemen, and elsewhere … to see what additional concessions Biden may make,” Bolton said.