May 13, 2018
The administration said it expects U.S. allies will fall in line with its Iran policy but doesn’t exclude the possibility of punishing them.
Trump team sends mixed signals to Europe
National security adviser John Bolton on Sunday carefully doubled down on President Donald Trump’s threat that European countries could be sanctioned by the United States if they continue to be involved with Iran.
“It’s possible,” Bolton said during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Bolton’s statement came as he and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tried to amplify the reasons behind the Trump administration’s deal to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement and explain how it will work, given that the international community, other than Israel and some Arab nations, has not jumped on board with the president. Both Bolton and Pompeo suggested they believed the major European powers might eventually see the light.
Trump on Tuesday said he was going to reimpose sanctions on Iran — dealing a blow to what he called the “decaying and rotten” Iran nuclear deal. Those sanctions could involve secondary sanctions, which would penalize countries whose companies continue to trade with Iran. “Any nation that helps Iran in its quest for nuclear weapons could also be strongly sanctioned by the United States,” the president said.
After Trump’s announcement, the leaders of France, Germany and the United Kingdom said in a joint statement that they remain committed to preserving the Iran deal and urged the U.S. “to ensure that the structures of the [deal] can remain intact, and to avoid taking action which obstructs its full implementation by all other parties to the deal.” China and Russia also have affirmed support for the deal, which was designed to keep Iran from building nuclear weapons.
“I think the Europeans will see that it’s in their interest ultimately to come along with this,” Bolton said to CNN host Jake Tapper.
Despite the lack of support from other world powers, Bolton said he thought the U.S. sanctions would make a dent in and of themselves. “We’ve seen that Iran’s economic condition is really quite shaky, so that the effect here could be dramatic,” he told Tapper.
Bolton went on to say that despite Trump’s consistency in terms of saying he was going to get out of deal: “Many people ... thought we would never get out of it.”
“I don’t know how to explain why people could miss what the president was saying,” Bolton said. “So I think at the moment there is some feeling in Europe that they’re really surprised that we got out of it and really surprised at the imposition of strict sanctions. I think that will sink in, and we’ll see what happens then.”
Also Sunday morning, Pompeo said withdrawal from the deal wasn’t aimed at Europeans — that the Trump administration will continue to work with U.S. allies to fix the deal.
“I am hopeful in the days and weeks ahead we can come up with a deal that really works, that really protects the world from Iranian bad behavior — not just their nuclear program, but their missiles and their malign behavior as well,” Pompeo said on “Fox News Sunday.” “And I will work closely with the Europeans to try and achieve that.”
When pressed whether the U.S. is prepared to go against the companies of allied nations, Pompeo said the sanctions in place are “very clear about what the requirements are.”
“My mission that I’ve been given by President Trump is to work to strike a deal that achieves the outcomes that protect America,” he said. “That’s what we are going to do, and I will be hard at it with the Europeans in the next several days.”
Others were dubious that withdrawing from the nuclear deal would prove effective, particularly since it shattered the international alliance that worked to negotiate the deal with Iran.
“I don’t believe we will ever be able to put Humpty-Dumpty back together again,“ James Clapper, former director of national intelligence, said on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS.” He and fellow guest Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA, both said Trump’s move on Iran is apt to complicate matters with North Korea.
On “Fox News Sunday,” Pompeo said the U.S. could become more involved in North Korea if Kim Jong Un chooses the “right path.” Trump announced last week that his highly anticipated meeting with Kim will be June 12 in Singapore.
He said that more Americans from the private sector could help build the energy grid in North Korea and to work with them to develop infrastructure.
“All the things that the North Korean people need, the capacity for American agriculture to support North Korea so they can eat meat and have healthy lives,” Pompeo said. “Those are the kinds of things that if we get what it is the president has demanded, the complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization of North Korea that the American people will offer in spades.”
However, Pompeo said the U.S. is not yet at the place where “we should be remotely close to declaring that we’ve achieved what it is we want.”
Bolton shared a different sentiment on what the United States might be able to offer North Korea in negotiations, adding that North Korea shouldn’t look for economic aid from the United States.
“I think what the prospect for North Korea is to become a normal nation, to behave and interact with the rest of the world the way South Korea does,” he said on “State of the Union.”
The former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations also noted Sunday on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” that he doesn’t “think anybody believes you’re going to sign the complete ending of the nuclear program in one day.”
Trump is undergoing extensive preparations for his meeting with Kim, Bolton said, which included an extensive conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“I’ve been on the job about five weeks, I would say that Iran and North Korea probably taken up over half of my time, and a lot of that obviously … is helping him make the decisions and get ready for these meetings,” he said “So I think his preparations are very intense.”
Retired Adm. Michael Mullen, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Sunday said he gives the president “credit for getting to this point” on North Korea.
“He has moved the needle on this one that has not been done in the past,” Mullen said of Trump. “But I also think given the stakes it’s a very much high-risk, high-reward opportunity, and I think the downsides potentially are really significant as well.”
During a recent speech in Washington, Mullen warned that if the talks between Kim and Trump fall apart, “the failure is likely to stir the president’s most bellicose aggressive instincts.”
Mullen clarified that statement Sunday, saying that “the likelihood of options are dramatically reduced to potential conflict” if the talks don’t go as planned.
“Despite the progress that‘s been made to try to understand Kim Jong Un, there’s a lot we don’t understand,” he added. “And that he would be significantly different from his father and his grandfather to make the kind of changes that are being discussed would be a huge, huge shift, and I'm more skeptical than I am optimistic that he would do that. That said, it could happen.”
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