Bolton Losing Ground on Venezuela, Iran – But Far From Down and Out

by | Jul 9, 2019


The wave of wishful thinking articles, including some by friends of mine whose judgment I usually respect was entirely wrong. President Donald Trump has not fired John Bolton for the failed fiasco of his latest inept attempt to topple the legitimate democratically-elected government of Venezuela: At least not yet.

Bolton remains National Security Advisor of the United States with his fingerprints all over the latest “incident” of limpet mine attacks on the two oil tankers in the Persian Gulf.

That is not to see that daylight has perceptibly opened up between Trump and Bolton, first on Venezuela and now on Iran. It most clearly has.

Had Trump still been fully in Bolton’s pocket, he would by now have ordered the ferocious air strikes against Iran that Bolton desperately craved. It is greatly to the president’s credit that he did not.

The failure of Bolton – eagerly supported by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Special Envoy Elliott Abrams and Vice President Mike Pence – to secure the toppling of President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela a month ago clearly cost him badly. Trump is a lifelong businessman. He would have gone for what he regarded as a good deal – the toppling of Maduro in a US–orchestrated coup – but Bolton and his gang made an utter hash of it.

Bolton was therefore eager to turn the president’s attention – and that of political Washington – to Iran as soon as possible. The compliant, spineless jellyfish of the US Mainstream Media (MSM) accommodated him as always. Not a whisper of doubt about Bolton’s evident incompetence in the Venezuela Escapade has been allowed to appear in the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Instead, the MSM has settled for fluff gossip stories about how much Trump still loves or does not love his national security adviser.

Bolton retains the strategic support of his wealthy, enormously influential political sponsors: The neocon clans that ran US foreign and national security policy so catastrophically under President George W. Bush and whom President Barack Obama shamefully and complacently allowed to stay in power and perpetrate the destabilizations of Ukraine and Syria and the toppling of the government of Libya.

Bolton also continues to enjoy the total support of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. If Netanyahu fails to secure a governing coalition in the September elections in Israel, it is extremely possible that Bolton will lose the crucial Israeli allies he has taken for granted for so long.

Since the days of Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli military has profoundly distrusted the war hungry wild delusional schemes of the neocon chicken-hawks in Washington as much as their opposite numbers in the Pentagon. Netanyahu’s most likely successor, Blue and White coalition leader General Benny Gantz, a former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff can be a counted in their number.

Indeed, the key takeaway from the events that did – and more importantly did NOT – happen between the United States, Iran, and Venezuela over the past three months is that the senior generals in the Pentagon, especially in the US Army – resisted the neocon super-hawks led by Bolton and his allies.

Senior US generals in my observations are not caricature, irresponsible militarists at all but sober professionals who recognize clearly the real rising challenges they face and the need to try and prevent having to fight several full scale wars on multiple fronts at the same time.

That is why the departure of General James Mattis as Secretary of Defense and of General John Kelly left such a worrisome gap at the apex of US strategic policymaking.

Yet the past three months have shown that the departures of Kelly and Mattis did not give Bolton and his fellow warmongers a free hand: The warmongers thought it did, but they blew it. Bolton is not gone yet by a long shot. But the myth of his supposed “genius” (which I have addressed elsewhere in these columns) has been badly damaged. Trump himself is beginning to see through it.

A man as fanatical and relentlessly energetic as Bolton – the mark of the dangerous fool in the estimation of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery – should never be dismissed from consideration until he is finally gone. As long as he still has the chance to whisper in the ear of the President of the United States – and the president lets him – he remains a danger to world peace and the survival of humanity.

The good news is that Venezuela has been granted a brief stay of execution. Iran, which Bolton has obsessed with destroying for 40 years, still remains his primary target. Yet Trump, Bolton’s own president, refused to play by Bolton’s appointed Gulf of Tonkin script on the latest manufactured Gulf crisis.

Bolton and his allies are obvious, brutal, predictable and straightforward: But they are also energetic, never-resting and relentless. They clearly have not given up in their efforts to manipulate Trump into launching a full-scale war with Iran and more provocations can be expected to follow relentlessly each piled upon another.

Bolton is down. But not out. After a strong start, he has suffered several stinging reversals. But his will power is not dented. Nor is his determination to drag his country headlong into multiple needless and avoidable conflicts whose only end can be utter destruction.

Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.


  • Martin Sieff

    Martin Sieff is a national columnist for the Post-Examiner online newspapers in Los Angeles and Baltimore. He has received three Pulitzer Prize nominations for international reporting. Mr. Sieff served as Managing Editor, International Affairs, Chief news Analyst, Defense Industry Editor, and Chief Political Correspondent at United Press International

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