Bolton is likely to push for the creation of a new sectarian state out of Syrian and Iraqi territory, now that the groundwork has been laid and the path largely cleared to building a “new Middle East.” Iran is currently the only country in the region with the potential to foil that plan.
This article is Part II of a series exploring the past of soon-to-be National Security Adviser John Bolton and what his appointment will mean for U.S. foreign policy, with a focus on the Middle East, Latin America, and the Koreas. Part I examined Bolton’s past advocacy for Israel, often at the U.S.’ expense. Part II details how that same commitment to Israel has shaped his vision for the Middle East, a vision that calls for regime change in Iran, the division of both Syria and Iraq, and the creation of a new Sunni state.
WASHINGTON – The announcement that John Bolton – perhaps the best known advocate for war with Iran in American politics – would soon replace H.R. McMaster as National Security Adviser received mixed reactions within the United States and, as MintPress recently noted, great praise from Israel. However, news that Bolton would soon have a key role in the Trump administration caused panic among Iranians and Iranian-Americans as well as anti-war advocates.
In response to Bolton’s appointment, Trita Parsi, the president of the National Iranian American Council, issued a statement, warning:
Donald Trump may have just effectively declared war on Iran. With the appointment of John Bolton, and nomination of Mike Pompeo at State, Trump is clearly putting together a war cabinet.”
However, regime change in Iran through war is just a stepping stone in Bolton’s plan to create a “new Middle East” by redrawing the borders of both Iraq and Syria and ending all possible obstacles — like an independent Iran — to fundamentally changing the region’s balance of power.
Bolton’s Iran plan
Though some may dismiss Parsi’s response as exaggerated or bombastic, Bolton’s actions and rhetoric over the years have made it clear that he is adamant in his desire to topple the current government of Iran by any means necessary.
Indeed, Bolton’s past indicates a near obsession with clearing the way for U.S. military action against Iran. As journalist Gareth Porter recently noted, from 2002 to 2004, while he was the Bush administration’s key policymaker on Iran, Bolton — by flouting State Department protocol and taking several unannounced trips to Israel — “actively conspired […] to establish the political conditions necessary for the administration to carry out military action.”
Bolton’s behind-the-scenes dealings led Iran’s nuclear program to become a matter overseen by the United Nations Security Council, as opposed to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). He engineered that handoff because the then-director general of the IAEA, Mohamed El Baradei, posed an obstacle to framing Iran as a nuclear weapons threat. Bolton eventually used fabricated evidence, provided to him by an Iranian terrorist group that Bolton still openly supports, to convince the United Nations that Iran was secretly developing a nuclear weapon.
That terror group, Mujahedeen Khalq (MEK), was listed a “Foreign Terrorist Organization” by the United States government from 1997 and 2012 and, in the past, has conducted terror acts to accomplish its goals, killing Iranians as well as Americans in the process. More recently, MEK has worked with Israeli Intelligence to murder Iranian scientists. Since its removal from the government’s terror group list, MEK has sought to reinvent itself as a “moderate” Iranian opposition group even though it has next to no support within Iran and has consistently been characterized as both “cultish” and “authoritarian.”
In its bid to become the likely successors to the current Iranian government were Western-backed regime change to take place, MEK has garnered a slew of admirers across both parties of the U.S. political establishment due to its generous speaking fees. That is especially true in the Trump administration, as several key figures in his cabinet and advisers to the President have been linked to the group. For instance, Elaine Chao, Trump’s Transportation Secretary, received $50,000 in 2015 for a five-minute speech.
Bolton is just one more of the group’s many high-profile “admirers” in the U.S. At a MEK gathering in France last year, Bolton told supporters and members of the group:
The declared policy of the United States should be the overthrow of the mullahs’ regime in Tehran. […] The behavior and the objectives of the regime are not going to change and, therefore, the only solution is to change the regime itself. […] And that’s why, before 2019, we here will celebrate in Tehran!”
Since he first made the accusation in 2003, Bolton has continued to accuse Iran of having a covert nuclear weapons program, an accusation for which there is no evidence. Indeed, both Israeli intelligence and U.S. intelligence have long acknowledged that Iran has had neither the intention nor the capability of developing a nuclear weapon. Despite this, Bolton has called repeatedly to preemptively bomb Iran in order to stop a weapons program that does not exist.
Since Trump’s election, Bolton has directly influenced Trump’s Iran policy as well as Trump’s recent decision to unilaterally scrap the Iran nuclear deal this upcoming May, despite Iran’s total compliance with the agreement.
Reports have also indicated that Bolton was responsible for what some regarded as the most threatening line in Trump’s debut speech at the United Nations, where he warned that he would pull the U.S. out of the deal if Congress and U.S. allies did not agree to renegotiate it entirely. According to Politico:
The line was added to Trump’s speech after Bolton, despite Kelly’s recent edict [restricting Bolton’s access to Trump], reached the president by phone on Thursday afternoon from Las Vegas, where Bolton was visiting with Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson. Bolton urged Trump to include a line in his remarks noting that he reserved the right to scrap the agreement entirely, according to two sources familiar with the conversation.”
With Bolton now set to have a top position in Trump’s administration, his influence on the President’s decision-making is likely to grow.
However, beyond Bolton’s past and rhetoric, his commitment to the Israeli government – even when that commitment directly conflicts with the positions of the U.S. government – confirms that war may well be on the horizon. For instance, Danny Gillerman, the former Israeli ambassador to the UN, stated last Sunday that Bolton, while he was serving in the Bush administration, was prone to “direct fire on his own forces,” — i.e., the U.S. government — in order to advance the goals of Israel.
In addition, Bolton’s close relationship with Republican billionaire donor Sheldon Adelson, who has financially backed both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Donald Trump, also indicates that war with Iran is on the agenda. As MintPress recently reported, Adelson has long promoted Bolton and is the man largely responsible for H.R. McMaster’s exit and Bolton’s subsequent appointment. Unfortunately, Adelson’s views on U.S. foreign policy, particularly in regard to Iran, are extremely dangerous.
For instance, while the negotiations that eventually led to the Iran nuclear deal were taking place, Adelson advocated for a U.S. nuclear attack on Iran without provocation, so the U.S. could “impose its demands [on Iran] from a position of strength.”
Per Adelson’s plan, the U.S. would drop a nuclear bomb in the middle of the Iranian desert and then threaten that “the next one is in the middle of Tehran” to show that “we mean business.” Tehran, Iran’s capital, is home to nearly 9 million people with 15 million more in its suburbs. Were Tehran to be attacked with nuclear weapons, an estimated 7 million would die within moments, significantly more than the number of Jews killed during the Holocaust of World War II.
Any sort of diplomatic engagement with Iran, according to Adelson, is “the worst negotiating tactic I could ever imagine.”
In other words, Adelson – who is currently one of the most influential men in U.S. and Israeli politics – has called for dropping nuclear weapons on a country, including its heavily populated capital city, for no reason other than to show that the U.S. “means business.” Given their close relationship, it is unsurprising – but nonetheless alarming – that Bolton has more or less echoed Adelson’s positions, calling for preemptive strikes against Iran by either the U.S. or Israel and flatly rejecting a diplomatic solution.
Adelson — as well as the far-right Israeli government and, by extension, Bolton — wants regime change in Iran for two main reasons. First, Iran is a major supporter of Palestine and the Palestinian cause. Palestine resistance group Hamas has consistently praised Iran’s aid to Palestine, and Iran’s foreign policy — a foreign policy born out of Iran’s many decades under the brutal rule of a U.S.-backed dictatorship — has demonstrated time and again its support of self-determination and its resistance to U.S. empire,. Of course, Israel, as well as the U.S., are diametrically opposed to self-determination, particularly in Palestine.
Second, Iran has become a regional economic power, even when it was under heavy sanctions, which led the country to diversify its economy. Since the sanctions were lifted after the adoption of the Iran nuclear deal, Iran’s economic clout has continued to grow, as have its natural gas exports. In addition, Iran is set to become a major supplier of natural gas to the European Union, with European gas companies recently leading the push to develop the world’s largest gas field – jointly held by Iran and Qatar. Thus, Iran is an economically resilient and powerful country that is not only fully capable of resisting the ambitions of Israel — as well as the Gulf monarchies that have become increasingly allied with Israel — but also intent on doing so.
Syria and Iraq partition: playing with the map
Beyond pushing for regime change in Iran, John Bolton has long demonstrated his commitment to helping Israel and its allies entirely remake the Middle East and thus fundamentally change the region’s balance of power. A key part of this has been the partition of other secular, independent nations in the Middle East, namely Syria and Iraq. It is largely for this reason that Bolton, a major advocate of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, still stands by the disastrous war — because it was an essential precursor to Iraq’s partition.
A major part of the groundwork for partition, the invasion of Iraq, and the current Syrian conflict, was laid out in the neo-conservative manifesto “A Clean Break,” whose lead author Richard Perle is Bolton’s mentor, and who, along with Bolton, later co-founded the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). Another co-author, David Wurmser, also went on to become an advisor to Bolton.
The title of the document comes from its suggestion that Israel make a “clean break from the slogan ‘comprehensive peace’ to a traditional concept of strategy based on the balance of power.” The manifesto states:
Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq — an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right — as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions.”
“A Clean Break” also calls for “reestablishing the principle of preemption” — i.e., preemptive war — as well as the creation of a “new Middle East.”
The 2003 invasion of Iraq that Bolton helped manifest (and that he continues to support) fulfilled several of the objectives laid out in “A Clean Break,” by removing Saddam Hussein from power and altering the region’s “balance of power.” Yet, now, with Saddam long gone and Syria weakened after years of fighting off foreign-funded proxies, the next step needed to cement this “new Middle East” is the partitioning of both Syria and Iraq.
The first argument for partitioning Iraq was made in 1982 by Zionist strategist Oded Yinon, whose plan – often called the Yinon plan or the plan for “Greater Israel” — calls for dividing Iraq into separate statelets for Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. It similarly calls for the division of other secular Arab states, like Syria, into smaller states divided along ethnic or sectarian lines that are constantly at war with each other in order to ensure that Israel “becomes an imperial regional power.”
Unsurprisingly, Bolton has, since leaving his post in the Bush administration, consistently advocated for partitioning both Syria and Iraq. In 2014, Bolton asserted that Iraq was inevitably “headed toward partition.” In 2015, on Fox News, Bolton stated:
I think our objective should be a new Sunni state out of the western part of Iraq, the eastern part of Syria run by moderates or at least authoritarians who are not radical Islamists.”
A few months later, Bolton – in a New York Times op-ed – detailed his plan to create the Sunni state out of northeastern Syria and western Iraq, which he nicknames “Sunni-stan.” He asserts that such a country has “economic potential” as an oil producer, would be a “bulwark” against the Syrian government and “Iran-allied Baghdad,” and would help defeat Daesh (ISIS). Bolton’s mention of oil is notable, as the proposed area for this Sunni state sits on key oil fields that U.S. oil interests, such as ExxonMobil and the Koch brothers, have sought to control if the partition of Iraq and Syria comes to pass.
Bolton also suggested that Arab Gulf States “could provide significant financing,” adding that “the Arab monarchies like Saudi Arabia must not only fund much of the new state’s early needs, but also ensure its stability and resistance to radical forces.” He fails to note that Saudi Arabia is one of the chief financiers of Daesh and largely responsible for spreading “radical” Wahhabi Islam throughout the Middle East.
Notably, Bolton directly mentions who would benefit from this partition, and it certainly isn’t the Syrians or the Iraqis. “Restoring Iraqi and Syrian governments to their former borders,” Bolton writes, “is a goal fundamentally contrary to American, Israeli and friendly Arab state interests.”
Control of northeastern Syria, currently occupied by U.S. forces, is set to be given to Saudi Arabia if the Saudis commit to spending $4 billion to “rebuild” the area, a first step towards preventing the reunification of Syria and creating an “independent” sectarian state. Bolton, as national security adviser, is likely to push for the creation of a new sectarian state out of Syrian and Iraqi territory, now that the groundwork has been laid and the path largely cleared to building a “new Middle East.” However, as previously mentioned, Iran is currently the only country in the region with the potential to foil the plan to fundamentally reshape the Middle East.
Bolton dangerous and in a hurry
Bolton as Trump’s National Security Adviser not only means that war with Iran is imminent. It is a portent of coming attempts to entirely remake the Middle East in service to Israel’s ambitions and quest to become an “imperial regional power.”
However, given Bolton’s recent statements, neither war with Iran nor attempts to redraw the borders of the Middle East are events to be delayed to some distant future. Indeed, Bolton recently promised Iranian opposition groups that regime change in Iran would occur before next year. Not only that, but the groundwork for partitioning Iraq and Syria has already been laid, thanks to the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the Trump administration’s current attempts to turn control of occupied Syria over to the Saudis.
Thus, Bolton’s appointment is as timely as it is dangerous. As Richard Painter, the former chief White House ethics lawyer in the George W. Bush administration, recently remarked:
Hiring [Bolton] as the president’s top national security advisor is an invitation to war, perhaps nuclear war. This must be stopped at all costs.”