The Washington Post:
By Rick Noack
The departure of President Trump’s hawkish national security adviser John Bolton was expected to be widely welcomed by U.S. foes abroad on Wednesday, in an indication for how much they perceived him to stand between their interests and what they hope to be those of President Trump.
Western reactions were more ambiguous. Even though there was widespread skepticism when Bolton was named national security adviser last March — given his prior support for invasions and wars abroad — some came to consider him as a sometimes welcome check on the president’s spontaneous impulses in recent months.
Those impulses have at times been criticized for playing into the hands of authoritarian leaders such as North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, who was granted several historic photo-ops with Trump without having to make significant concessions.
Especially North Korea, Iran and Russia considered Bolton to be a key obstacle and are unlikely to miss him. But between the lines, their reactions to Bolton’s ouster also reflected analysts’ skepticism whether the disliked adviser’s ouster would really alter the Trump administration’s overall aims and strategy.
On his official website, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was quoted as welcoming Bolton’s departure as an opportunity for the Trump administration to “abandon warmongering and its maximum pressure policy.”
President Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal last year, angering U.S. allies in Europe who stuck to the agreement. As U.S. sanctions were stepped up in recent months, tensions increased in the summer when Iran was accused of attacks on tankers in the Persian Gulf and downed a U.S. drone in the region.
Throughout this, Bolton remained vehemently opposed to talks with the Iranian leadership. In response to the hard-line stance, Iran breached some of the restrictions it had committed to under the nuclear deal.
Bolton’s stance as national security adviser certainly shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone who had been following his past remarks. Months before becoming national security adviser, he openly advocated an overthrow of the Iranian regime, backed by the United States. “Our goal should be regime change in Iran,” Bolton told Fox News last January.
Though his departure from the Trump administration may pave the way for direct talks with the Iranian regime, Trump owns his withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. He himself had called for that deal to be torn apart. Even without Bolton, making substantial concessions to Iran is expected to remain difficult for Trump.
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