Lahav Harkov – Jerusalem Post June 21, 2020
US President Donald Trump expressed willingness to support Israeli strikes on Iran, according to his former national security advisor John Bolton.
In Bolton’s book The Room Where it Happened, expected to be released this week, he describes a 2017 meeting in which Trump made the comments.
Bolton, who was not yet a member of the Trump administration, was brought in to meet with the US president in 2017, and Israel was one of the topics that came up.
“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,” Bolton wrote. “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.”
Though Bolton did not mention Israel using force, Trump responded by saying that he would support Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doing so.
“You tell Bibi [Netanyahu] that if he uses force, I will back him. I told him that, but you tell him again,” Trump told Bolton.
Bolton also said that in an October 2018 meeting in the Kremlin, Russian President Vladimir Putin doubted that Israel could attack Iran.
“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,” Bolton wrote.
Putin doubted that the US withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal was productive, but Bolton told him 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. In any event, reimposing sanctions on Iran had already taken a heavy toll, both domestically and in terms of their international troublemaking.”
Another section of Bolton’s book deals with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif paying a surprise visit to the August 2019 G7 meeting in France.
Bolton wrote that Trump first raised the matter with French President Emmanuel Macron – “who lived for the Iran nuclear deal,” Bolton said – after Zarif said in an interview that Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman were trying to stop him from talking to Trump.
This came at a time when Iran was escalating militarily in the region, arming Houthis in Yemen and Iraqi Shia militias, as well as propping up Assad in Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Additionally, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced that Iran would disregard key parts of the nuclear deal.
WHILE AT the G7, Bolton sent a note to Trump that Zarif was about to land in Biarritz on France’s southwestern coast, and got a note back that Macron invited Trump to meet with Zarif and that “POTUS definitely wants to do this.”
Netanyahu told US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that he wants to speak to Trump about the possible Zarif meeting. Then Netanyahu and Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer called Bolton as well.
On the way to talk to Trump, Bolton found Trump’s Special Adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner on the phone with US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, saying that he would not allow Netanyahu’s call to go through to the president.
“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,” Bolton wrote.
Bolton told Trump that he thought meeting Zarif was a bad idea, in part because “once we took the pressure off Iran, it would be very hard to put it back on.” Kushner, however, thought there was nothing to lose in meeting Zarif.
“These people had an attention span no longer than the deal in front of them,” Bolton lamented about Kushner.
Though Trump did not meet with Zarif, Bolton was concerned that Kushner or Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin may have met with Zarif, adding that “this latter hypothesis was something that I believed agitated and worried senior Israeli officials, and which of course made Pompeo livid.”
A US judge denied on Saturday a request by the Trump administration for an injunction to block publication of Bolton’s book, pointing out it is already in newsrooms around the world and extensive excerpts have been published.
However, US District Judge Royce Lamberth also accused Bolton of having “gambled with the national security of the United States” by proceeding to publish without waiting for prepublication review by the government.
A civil suit is pending against Bolton that seeks to force him to give the United States the right to all the profits from the book.
Trump called Bolton’s actions “treasonous” in a Fox News interview, saying “he should go to jail for that for many, many years.”
Reuters contributed to this report.