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Bolton’s removal removes a hawkish administration from Iran

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — The removal of John Bolton from the White House team is clearing an obstacle to nuclear talks between the United States and Iran, but the chances of such a dialogue leading to a positive outcome remain limited, current and former US officials said.

President Donald Trump sacked his national security adviser, a hawk on Iran. He was demanding, as a private citizen, military action to destroy its nuclear program, and he disagreed with the president on several policies from Afghanistan to Russia during his tenure.

Bolton, Trump’s third national security adviser, was calling for a complete halt to Iran’s oil exports and opposed Trump’s desire to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

“Bolton was ‘Dr. No (no)’ when it came to talks with Iran,” wrote Cliff Capchan, a former State Department official who now works for political risk consultancy Eurasia Group. Capchan was referring to a highly aggressive, destructive character in a James Bond film.

Although Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is unlikely to allow a meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly this month, Capchan said: “There is increasing pressure regarding the opportunity to hold the meeting. If that happens, we will see more downward movement in the price of oil.”

US crude oil prices have fallen more than 1 percent on news of Bolton’s departure as investors bet on a greater likelihood that the United States will ease sanctions on Iran and less likely a US military strike.

With Bolton’s support, Trump last year abandoned the multilateral agreement reached by his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama in 2015, under which Iran agreed to reduce its nuclear program in return for easing economic sanctions.

Since then, Trump has reimposed US sanctions on Iran and moved in May to try to cut off Iranian oil exports, the government’s main source of income in hard currency.

The Republican Trump argued that the 2015 deal did not go far enough to prevent Iran from eventually acquiring nuclear weapons and also criticized the deal for not addressing Iran’s missile program and its support for factions at the regional level.

Iran says its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes such as generating electricity, not bombs.

– “Totally agree” –

Speaking at a briefing, Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin said he and Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were “fully in agreement with the administration’s extreme pressure campaign.”

Administration officials believe the pressure will eventually force Iran to comply with their demands, which include more detailed inspections at nuclear sites.

Asked in the same statement whether Pompeo saw the possibility of a meeting between Trump and Rouhani this month, Pompeo said, “Certainly.”

“The president has made it very clear that he is ready to meet without any preconditions,” Pompeo said.

A former senior Trump administration official described Pompeo and Mnuchin as “less hawkish” on Iran than Bolton, saying that meant there was a chance to meet Rouhani if ​​the Iranians dropped their condition to lift sanctions first.

Other current and former US officials have said there has never been any doubt that the meeting could be held, at least from Trump’s point of view, but the chances of either side willing to make concessions are limited.

“The problem has never been in conceiving talks between the two sides,” said Phil Gordon, a former State Department official and the White House under Obama, explaining that Trump had demonstrated through his talks with North Korea.

He “likes to be at the forefront”.

“The problem is even a conception of a deal that both sides can actually agree to.” It is hard to imagine Iranians accepting the current US conditions, which include ending uranium enrichment forever, more rigorous and restricted ballistic missile inspections and a comprehensive change in Iran’s regional policy.”

“So in order to come to a deal, Trump will have to reduce his terms considerably, which would be difficult to market internally and in the region,” Gordon said. Bolton’s departure may remove an obstacle, but there are still many obstacles on the way.”

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