(CNSNews.com) – U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton on Sunday rejected accusations by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif that he and a small cabal of Mideast hawks were pushing President Trump into a conflict with Iran. He also joked that he was having “a pretty good week” after verbal attacks by the regimes in Tehran, Pyongyang and Havana.
Bolton was speaking on Fox News Sunday about Zarif’s claim, made on the program and in several other appearances in recent days, that Bolton, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and the crown princes of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Mohammed bin Salman and Mohammed bin Zayed, were goading Trump to war. (Zarif dubbed the four the “B team,” based on the letter “b” in their names.)
“Foreign Minister Zarif says you’re part of the ‘B team,’” said host Chris Wallace. “A small group of leaders – you in the U.S., others in the Middle East, Bibi Netanyahu, Bin Salman, Bin Zayed – who are working to try to steer President Trump into a conflict with Iran. Your response?”
“Well, he also said in another interview he wished he were working with the ‘A team,’” began Bolton with a smile. “You know, in the past few days the North Koreans have also called me ‘dim-sighted,’ the Cubans have said I’m a ‘pathological liar.’ I’d say I’ve had a pretty good week.”
(North Korea’s foreign minister last weekend called Bolton “dim-sighted” for saying in an interview Pyongyang needs to give a “real indication” of its readiness to give up nuclear weapons before Trump will meet with Kim Jong Un for a third summit. Days later Cuba’s foreign minister described Bolton as a “pathological liar” over allegations of Cuban troops propping up Venezuela’s Maduro regime.)
Bolton disputed that he was fomenting a conflict with the Iranian regime, saying the president’s policy on Iran, one of “maximum pressure” to compel a change of behavior, had been clear well before he joined the administration a year ago.
In his interview with Wallace, Zarif accused Bolton and the others of having “shown an interest in dragging the United States into a conflict,” and said he does not believe that is what Trump wants, having run “on a campaign promise of not bringing the United States into another war.”
Bolton described Zarif’s interview as a “carefully-prepared propaganda script” designed to “sow disinformation into the American body politic.”
Zarif also brought up Bolton’s past associations with the exiled Iranian opposition group National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI)/Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK).
The group was a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization until delisted by the Obama State Department in 2012, citing its renunciation of violence and “the absence of confirmed acts of terrorism by the MEK for more than a decade.” It counts some high-profile Republican and Democratic figures among its supporters.
Zarif said Bolton had told the group at a rally “that he would celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Islamic revolution, in Tehran with that terrorist organization.”
(At an NCRI rally in Paris in 2017, Bolton said it should be U.S. policy to ensure that the regime in Tehran does “not last until its 40th birthday” – that is, 2019.)
Zarif said Bolton had made the same comment since becoming national security advisor.
In fact, since taking up the post, Bolton has stressed repeatedly that “regime change” in Iran is not this administration’s policy.
“You know who took the MEK off the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations?” Bolton said, when asked by Wallace about Zarif’s remarks. “Hillary Clinton, that well-known right-wing Republican.”
“Don’t you want to see regime change?” Wallace pressed. “Isn’t that the only way to get an Iran that isn’t a threat to the neighborhood?”
Bolton replied that the Iranian people “deserve a better government, there’s absolutely no doubt about it.”
“The trouble is, it’s not just a theological dictatorship, it’s a military dictatorship too,” he continued. “That’s a very difficult circumstance. We’ll see what happens as the economic pressure continues to grow.”