At an Iranian opposition event, John Bolton stood and told the thousands who had gathered: “We will celebrate with you in Tehran in 2019.” The words resonated with those inside the hall but did not receive much attention outside because the speaker was just a former ambassador.
His serious statement was not merely an interaction with the Iranian opposition's enthusiasm, but rather reflected his convictions, and this was clearly expressed three years ago in The New York Times when he wrote an article that triggered a storm of responses: “Bomb Iran!”
Bolton is the new national security adviser (NSA) appointed by US President Donald Trump as successor to H.R. McMaster. Reacting to his joining the White House team, opponents of the Trump administration have called it a “war cabinet,” because it includes such a large number of generals and conservatives.
The NSA is an important post. It was established at the beginning of the Cold War, and the holder chairs sessions covering important cases in the presence of key ministers such as the Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense. His office is in the presidential suite of the White House, and he is the one who briefs the president on many issues.
Bolton himself is well known for his hard-line positions, and he represents a school that believes in a strong America, at a time when Russia and China are escalating at the expense of the US, and small powers such as Iran and North Korea are threatening US security, interests and allies.
Because they do not want to discuss issues they cannot win with him, such as Iran and North Korea, Bolton’s opponents resort to throwing personal accusations at him, such as “he is racist,” and “he is against Muslims.” In fact, such descriptions are used in the media for character assassination.
Bolton certainly wants to get rid of Muslims such as those who are part of ISIS and al-Qaeda, and he wants to overthrow the clerical regime in Iran. He is against Hezbollah and the North Korean government led by Kim Jong-un.
Accordingly, let any Muslim reader who contradicts the opinion of Bolton in these cases raise a hand. I believe the majority of the 350 million Arab and Iranian Muslims are like Bolton: They share the same opinions. Even if my estimates are wrong, Bolton’s positions are the same as those of a large segment of the Middle East’s population. All of us are against extremism and extremists, both Muslim and non-Muslim. Those who accuse Bolton of racism are Khomeinists, Muslim Brotherhood supporters and Western leftists.
As for Bolton’s promise to celebrate in Tehran in 2019, he is not likely to be celebrated on time by overthrowing the clerical regime. But the government of Tehran has been in a state of anxiety for the past two days, since Trump’s announcement in a tweet on the appointment of Bolton. And now the Iranians realize that their trick of bending a little to the Europeans by offering small concessions will not succeed in stopping the “bulldozer” of President Trump in his march on Tehran.
Trump’s enormous pressure on Iran will increase, as will the pressure on its allied forces and organizations in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Sudan and Yemen.Abdulrahman al-Rashed
For those of us in the Middle East, and despite chaos and destruction, toppling the Iranian regime in a well-ordered way is an ideal solution to end the era of chaos that was started by Khomeini in 1979. He, the extremist Islamic groups and other regional regimes collaborating with them led the region to a series of crises, wars and a state of terror that have lasted for 40 years and made the entire world live in fear.
However, to avoid raising expectations too far, and to prevent my article from being misunderstood, the possibility of Trump and his hawkish government waging a direct war on Iran is unlikely, according to current crisis standards.
But this US administration might clash with Tehran if the Iranian regime dares to do what it did against the former administration, when it seized American sailors and humiliated them on television before the world. A foolish step like this could lead to war, and we know that the foxes of Tehran, despite their many adventures, fear the mighty. Germany and France would not succeed in softening the position of Trump, nor the positions of the rest of his Cabinet ministers: His adviser Bolton, his new Secretary of State, the new CIA director, or his Defense Secretary.
Trump’s enormous pressure on Iran will increase, as will the pressure on its allied forces and organizations in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Sudan and Yemen. It is more likely that the administration will increase its efforts to rid the Iraqi government of Iranian infiltration into its institutions, forces, and its security and financial apparatuses.
The pressure could reach Lebanon to weaken Hezbollah, and could increase pressure on organizational groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood. It could also end the adolescent behavior of Qatar, which lost almost everything because of its policies against the Anti-Terror Quartet and because of its alliance with Iran and Turkey against them. What I thought was far, I can see now quite close.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.