Monday, June 22, 2020

Bolton: Trump told Netanyahu he’d back Israeli military action against Iran

In a leaked manuscript of his forthcoming book, former US National Security Adviser John Bolton said US President Donald Trump gave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the green light to attack Iran.

Trump told Bolton in June 2017 that he had already pledged his support for such Israeli action in direct talks with Netanyahu, but asked Bolton to remind the Israeli premier of his stance, according to the excerpts of Bolton’s White House memoir, “The Room Where it Happened.”

Writes Bolton: “I warned Trump against wasting political capital in an elusive search to solve the Arab-Israeli dispute and strongly supported moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, thereby recognizing it as Israel’s capital. On Iran, I urged that he press ahead to withdraw from the nuclear agreement and explained why the use of force against Iran’s nuclear program might be the only lasting solution.

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“‘You tell Bibi [Netanyahu] that if he uses force, I will back him. I told him that, but you tell him again,’ Trump said, unprompted by me,” Bolton goes on.

The former US national security adviser, a hawk on Iran, also described the events of the G7 conference in August 2019 of world leaders, when Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif unexpectedly flew in to Biarritz for talks with French President Emmanuel Macron, and rumors flew that Trump and the Iranian foreign minister would sit down for a meeting.

This was a step strongly opposed by Bolton and Israel. But not, according to Bolton, by the US president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who, Bolton said, blocked phone calls from Netanyahu to Trump last summer when the Israeli premier wanted to persuade him against a summit with  Zarif.

“Trump asked [Mick] Mulvaney and Kushner what they thought. Mulvaney agreed with me, but Kushner said he would have the meeting because there was nothing to lose,” he wrote.

According to Bolton’s account, Kushner later actively blocked Netanyahu from reaching Trump to discuss the issue.

John Bolton, left, and US President Donald Trump’s White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, right, during a bilateral meeting with Trump and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi at the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France, August 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
“By then I had an e-mail from Pompeo, who had again spoken to Netanyahu. Netanyahu had heard about the possible Zarif meeting and was pressing to call Trump at five thirty p.m. Biarritz time, which was fast approaching. After arriving at the hotel, I spoke again with Pompeo while waiting to meet Trump in his suite. I told him I would do what I could about Netanyahu’s call, but I was determined to make one more effort to talk Trump out of meeting with Zarif. Netanyahu and Israel’s Ambassador Ron Dermer were also calling me, so I asked Pompeo to tell them I felt like the Light Brigade, outcome TBD. On Trump’s floor, I found Mulvaney and Kushner.

“Kushner was on the phone to David Friedman, US Ambassador to Israel, telling Friedman that he was not going to allow Netanyahu’s call to go through. (Now we knew who was stopping all those calls to Trump!) When he hung up, Kushner explained he had stopped this and an earlier effort by Netanyahu because he didn’t think it was appropriate for a foreign leader to talk to Trump about whom he should speak to.”

Elsewhere in the book, he wrote that Trump had wanted to speak to Zarif,  among others.

“Trump often complained that people all over the world wanted to talk to him, but somehow they never got through. So not surprisingly, he eventually began musing about opening discussions with Iran. That country’s Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, gave a series of interviews in New York saying Trump wanted to talk, but that Bibi Netanyahu, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and I were trying instead to overthrow the ayatollahs’ regime.  If only.

“Beyond that, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani wanted to talk, Putin wanted to talk, everyone wanted to talk to Trump, but someone was cutting him out. Of course, neither Putin nor Rouhani had made any effort to contact us, and to the extent Zarif and others spoke to the media, they were playing to Trump’s vanities.”

‘Israel could not conduct military action against Iran alone’
Though Washington gave Israel the nod to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, according to Bolton, Russian President Vladimir Putin — who is allied with Iran in Syria, but also maintains military coordination with Israel on its strikes in the country against Iran-backed fighters — was said to be skeptical that Israel would take action against Tehran.

“On Iran, he scoffed at our withdrawal from the nuclear deal, wondering, now that the United States had withdrawn, what would happen if Iran withdrew? Israel, he said, could not conduct military action against Iran alone because it didn’t have the resources or capabilities, especially if the Arabs united behind Iran, which was preposterous. I replied that Iran was not in compliance with the deal, noted the connection between Iran and North Korea on the reactor in Syria the Israelis had destroyed in 2007, and said we were carefully watching for evidence the two proliferators were cooperating even now,” wrote Bolton.

Netanyahu had pushed Putin for a permanent border between Israel’s Golan Heights and Syria, wrote Bolton, referring to the Israeli leader’s talks on frequent trips to Moscow.

“Putin made clear he was talking only about stiffening enforcement of the disengagement lines, not real ‘borders,'” he recalled.

A copy of ‘The Room Where It Happened,’ by former national security adviser John Bolton, is photographed at the White House, June 18, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Bolton also addressed the fallout of Trump’s surprise announcement that he was withdrawing US troops from Syria in October 2019, which was strongly opposed by Israel. “Israel’s Ambassador Ron Dermer told me that this was the worst day he had experienced thus far in the Trump Administration,” he wrote.

The book excerpts also confirm frequent Israeli strikes in Syria on arms shipments headed for the Iran-backed Hezbollah terrorist group and other Iran-backed militias. Bolton also discussed the Israeli Mossad intelligence agency mission to retrieve a nuclear archive from Iran, which saw Israel flag additional covert sites as nuclear facilities covered up by the regime.

“In Israel, I reviewed where things stood on Iran. Netanyahu and his team focused on the latest information gleaned from Israel’s daring raid on Iran’s nuclear archives, and the subsequent International Atomic Energy Agency inspection of the Turquzabad site, which revealed human-processed uranium. It was not enriched uranium, but perhaps yellowcake (uranium oxide in solid form), and certainly evidence contradicting Tehran’s repeated assertions it had never had a nuclear-weapons program. Iran had tried to sanitize Turquzabad, as it had tried to sanitize Lavizan in 2004 and the explosive test chambers at Parchin between 2012 and 2015, but it had failed again.”

Netanyahu also said skeptical of Kushner on peace plan
According to Bolton’s revelations, revealed last week, Netanyahu also had reservations about Kushner as the architect of the Israeli-Palestinian peace plan. Netanyahu “was also dubious about assigning the task of bringing an end to the Israel-Palestinian conflict to Kushner, whose family Netanyahu had known for many years. He was enough of a politician not to oppose the idea publicly, but like much of the world, he wondered why Kushner thought he would succeed where the likes of Kissinger had failed.”

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, center, listens during an event with US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the East Room of the White House in Washington, January 28, 2020, announcing the Trump administration’s much-anticipated plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Following the publication of Bolton’s claims on Kushner last week in US media, the Prime Minister’s Office on Thursday said that Netanyahu “has complete faith in Jared Kushner’s abilities and resolve and rejects any description to the contrary. Kushner has greatly contributed to furthering peace in the Middle East.”

The PMO statement credited Kushner with formulating the White House peace plan, contributing to Trump’s decisions to move the US embassy to Jerusalem and recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and advancing Israel’s ties with the Arab world.

“With these accomplishments alone and under President Trump’s leadership, Kushner has already achieved what others before him did not accomplish. We are confident that working together we can achieve the lasting and secure peace that we all desire,” said the statement, which did not directly mention Bolton’s claims.

Bolton’s book, titled “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir,” is to be released Tuesday by Simon & Schuster.

A federal judge ruled Saturday that Bolton could move forward in publishing his tell-all book despite efforts by the Trump administration to block the release because of concerns that classified information could be exposed.

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