GP Insights

GP Insights # 49, 29 May 2019

John Bolton wants a regime change in Iran. Donald Trump disagrees
Mahath Mangal

What happened?

Recently, the US deployed warships and bombers to the Middle East amid rising tensions with Iran. Donald Trump, contradicting the stance of the United States’ preparations to fight a war with Iran if necessary, announced that the US was not looking for a regime change in Iran. Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton was all in favour of removing the Ayatollahs from power. The US had issued warnings against travelling to Iran two weeks back. The tensions rose to levels where the US withdrew its non-essential staff from its embassy in Iran. Thus, Trump’s tweet has left the world confused about the US’s game plan in the Middle East.

What is the background?

One year after the US pulling out of the Iran Nuclear Deal, the tension in the Middle East is rising. The US designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps a ‘foreign terrorist organisation’ and announced that it would end waivers for countries wishing to purchase Iranian oil. The US deployed warships and bombers, and the subsequent response from Iran was that Tehran itself would partially withdraw from the deal. Iran gave a window of 60 days for the other countries party to the JCPOA to save the deal, failing which Iran would start enriching the uranium stockpile.

What does it mean?

Donald Trump has, from the initial days of his campaign, showed himself to be an unusual politician. Once in the Oval Office, his policy seemed to have been to go against the doings of the Obama administration. From healthcare to foreign policy, Trump seemed to take a different track. About Iran, Trump was on the offensive in the beginning. After pulling out of JCPOA, he made threats and tried to push Iran to approach the US for a renegotiated deal through Twitter. With his NSA John Bolton, who is infamous for his pro-war stances, the US doesn’t seem to have a solid, unwavering policy towards Iran.

Trump and Bolton could be playing the good cop-bad cop with their counterparts, especially in negotiating deals. The international community was not in favour of US’s pro-war stance, and Trump is not on terms with the decisions of Bolton. While big powers of the world would always play by the rules, the US’s policy shift is unexpected. The tension in Iran must have taken an undesirable pathway than what was planned from the US’s perspective, and Trump’s statement must be to de-escalate it. While a fallout within the White House is suspected with the latest development where Trump reneged on Bolton’s stance in other issues as well, the international community is watching closely the direction of USA’s policies.

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