Saturday 21 September 2019

Trump sacks ‘hawk’ Bolton over hardline foreign policy

President and his ex-security chief clashed over Iran and North Korea

Fired: John Bolton was Donald Trump’s third national security adviser. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Fired: John Bolton was Donald Trump’s third national security adviser. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Steve Holland and Matt Spetalnick

US President Donald Trump abruptly fired his national security adviser John Bolton amid disagreements with his hardline aide over how to handle foreign policy challenges such as North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan and Russia.

"I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House. I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration," Mr Trump tweeted, adding he would name a replacement next week.

Mr Bolton, a leading foreign policy hawk and Mr Trump's third national security adviser, was widely known to have pressed the president for a harder line on issues such as North Korea.

A chief architect of Mr Trump's strident stance against Iran, he had also advocated a tougher approach on Russia and Afghanistan.

Mr Bolton, who took up the post in April 2018, replacing HR McMaster, had sometimes been at odds with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, one of Mr Trump's main loyalists.

Offering a different version of events, Mr Bolton tweeted: "I offered to resign last night and President Trump said, 'Let's talk about it tomorrow'."

Mr Trump had sometimes joked about Mr Bolton's image as a warmonger, reportedly saying in one Oval Office meeting that "John has never seen a war he doesn't like".

Mr Trump's North Korea envoy, Stephen Biegun, is among the names being floated as possible successors for the role.

"Biegun [is] much more like Pompeo, [he] understands that the president is the president, that he makes the decisions," said a source close to the White House.

Ambassador

Also considered in the running is Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, who had been expected to be named US ambassador to Russia.

White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said "many, many issues" led to Mr Trump's decision to ask for Mr Bolton's resignation. She would not elaborate.

The president would sometimes chide the adviser about his hawkish ways in meetings, introducing him to visiting foreign leaders by saying: "You all know the great John Bolton. He'll bomb you. He'll take out your whole country."

Officials and a source close to Mr Trump said the president had grown weary of his hawkish tendencies and the bureaucratic infighting he became involved with.

Mr Bolton travelled widely in the role and on his travels, for example, he warned Russia against interfering in US elections and promoting strong ties with Israel. He had opposed a State Department plan to sign an Afghan peace deal with the Taliban militia, believing the group's leaders could not be trusted.

Troops

Sources familiar with his view said Mr Bolton believed the United States could draw down to 8,600 troops in Afghanistan and maintain a counter-terrorism effort without signing a peace deal with the Taliban.

US officials have said it was Mr Bolton who was responsible for the collapse of a summit in February between the president and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi by recommending the presentation of a list of hardline demands that Mr Kim rejected.

North Korean media in May referred to Mr Bolton as a "war maniac" who "fabricated various provocative policies such as designation of our country as 'axis of evil', pre-emptive strike and regime change."

Mr Bolton's departure comes a day after North Korea signalled a new willingness to resume stalled denuclearisation talks with the United States, but then conducted the latest in a recent spate of missile launches.

A source familiar with Mr Trump's views said Mr Bolton had ruffled a lot of feathers with other key players in the White House, particularly White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney because "he doesn't play by the rules".

"He's a kind of a rogue operator but that's kind of how he is," the source said.

Irish Independent

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