Former President Donald Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton said the Biden administration is making a “stunning mistake” in its pursuit of a nuclear deal with Iran.
Bolton, a longtime Iran hawk, argued the deal would make Iran a “better partner” for Russia and pose a threat to not just the Middle East region, but also the world.
“I think the immediate consequence, obviously, will be the unfreezing of billions of dollars of Iranian assets, which will go back under their control, with their discretion to spend it on their nuclear program, their support for international terrorism in the Middle East and beyond,” Bolton said. “It’s really a stunning mistake by the Biden administration.”
Last year, signatories of the original pact began the first of what would become many rounds of negotiations in Vienna to revive the deal since the U.S. withdrew from it in 2018 under the Trump administration.
Under the 2015 agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA, Iran would have dismantled much of its nuclear program and allowed more international inspections in exchange for economic sanctions relief.
Iran, which was the fifth-largest crude oil producer amongst the OPEC members in 2020 may raise additional oil supplies upon the materialization of a deal, according to some analysts. That would offer some relief to a strained global energy market.
However, Bolton argued that increasing North American oil output would have a greater impact compared with a potential increase in Iranian oil production from a revived nuclear deal.
A closer Iran-Russia relationship
Bolton also warned that lifting sanctions could lead to Iran establishing closer ties with Russia.
“I think it just stands to reason that relieved from international sanctions, a richer, stronger Iran will grow closer to Russia… By helping free Iran from the economic sanctions, it makes it a better partner for Russia.”
Bolton noted that Russia and China have an existing “entente” and that a three-way partnership between Russia, China and Iran would have global implications.
“China’s providing economic aid directly and indirectly to the Russians, in their concern about the sanctions over Ukraine. I think China would expect Russia to do the same if it decided to go after Taiwan,” said the former U.S. national security advisor.
The Chinese Embassy in Singapore did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“In the Middle East, where they have overlapping interests, their preferred partner is Iran. So it’s a kind of three-way arrangement that I do think has global implications.”
Impact on Middle East
Bolton also argued that an Iran deal would harm key U.S. allies in the Middle East.
“The allies of the United States that are most worried about Iran are… the Gulf Arab States and Israel,” he said. “And those are the countries that, I’m afraid, the U.S. is selling out here by not taking into account the Iranian regime’s ultimate objectives to get hegemony across the Middle East.”
In June, the White House emphasized it is determined to make sure Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon.
“We think a diplomatic agreement is the best way to do that. We think a mutual return to the JCPOA is in the interest of the United States and our partners,” current national security advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters. “And there is a deal available on the table to Iran, and it’s up to Iran to decide whether or not it wants to take it.”
Bolton’s on the heels of escalated protests in Iraq on Tuesday, after powerfulShi’ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr announced his resignation from politics.
“What’s going on now in Baghdad should strengthen our resolve not to go back into the Iran nuclear deal, not to do anything that empowers the regime in Tehran but work together with our Arab friends and our Israeli friends to try and counter this menace, which is the real source of the instability we see in Baghdad.”