John Bolton says that in late July, Steve Bannon asked him to draw up a plan to exit the Iran nuclear deal. Although candidate Trump had repeatedly complained about the deal, President Trump, through two certifications to Congress, had twice declined to pull out of it. Moreover, according to Bolton, no option to remaining in the deal had been presented to Trump.
Today, Bolton published his plan on NRO. The publication on that site is as much of a story as the plan itself, if not more so.
Bolton explains that “staff changes at the White House have made presenting [the plan] to President Trump impossible.” He adds that Trump was once kind enough to tell him “come in and see me any time,” but that “those days are now over.”
Bolton thus alleges something approaching a palace coup by certain generals. With Bannon and his allies ousted and Bolton claiming he can’t present his views to Trump, there is reason to fear that Trump will hear only one side of the debate over vital U.S. foreign, defense, and national security policy matters such as the Iran deal.
As for Bolton’s plan, he proposes that the administration “announce that it is abrogating the JCPOA due to significant Iranian violations, Iran’s unacceptable international conduct more broadly, and because the JCPOA threatens American national-security interests.”
It should explain in a “white paper” the many dangerous concessions made to reach this deal. These include allowing Iran to continue to enrich uranium; allowing Iran to operate a heavy-water reactor; and allowing Iran to operate and develop advanced centrifuges while the JCPOA is in effect. It should also emphasize the “utterly inadequate verification and enforcement mechanisms and Iran’s refusal to allow inspections of military sites.”
In addition, the administration “must highlight Iran’s unacceptable behavior, such as its role as the world’s central banker for international terrorism, including its directions and control over Hezbollah and its actions in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.” The reasons Ronald Reagan named Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism in 1984 remain fully applicable today, says Bolton.
To implement our exit, Bolton offers four steps: (1) early, quiet consultations with key players such as the U.K., France, Germany, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, (2) preparation of the aforementioned “white paper,” (3) a greatly expanded diplomatic campaign immediately following the announcement, especially in Europe and the Middle East, and (4) the development and execution of Congressional and public diplomacy efforts to build public support.
Bolton’s memo describes each of these steps in some detail.
It then discusses further steps that might be taken that go beyond abrogating the deal. They are:
End all landing and docking rights for all Iranian aircraft and ships at key allied ports;
End all visas for Iranians, including so called “scholarly,” student, sports, or other exchanges;
Demand payment with a set deadline on outstanding U.S. federal-court judgments against Iran for terrorism, including 9/11;
Announce U.S. support for the democratic Iranian opposition;
Expedite delivery of bunker-buster bombs;
Announce U.S. support for Kurdish national aspirations, including Kurds in Iran, Iraq, and Syria;
Provide assistance to Balochis, Khuzestan Arabs, Kurds, and others — also to internal resistance among labor unions, students, and women’s groups;
Actively organize opposition to Iranian political objectives in the U.N.
Bolton also mentions providing F-35s to Israel or THAAD resources to Japan.
There is plenty of room for debate over the specifics of Bolton’s plan and, indeed, the question of whether we should exit the deal. The concern is that such debate is being stifled by those who drove Steve Bannon and his allies out of the White House and who, according to Bolton, are making sure he has no access to the president.