It was perhaps bound to happen, especially as months of bellicose threats against Iran now give way to mere new sanctions roll out, and the White House remains painted into a corner facing all "bad options" after the so-called 'maximum pressure' campaign has failed. Recently dismissed national security adviser John Bolton has for the first time ripped into his former boss, attacking Trump's foreign policy during a closed door lunch on Wednesday hosted by the conservative Gatestone Institute.
"He ripped Trump, without using his name, several times," one anonymous attendee told Politico. The blunt of Bolton's criticism focused on "doomed to failure" efforts at negotiating with North Korea and Iran, which he said would only result in softening sanctions but crucially with no change in the regimes' behavior.
Among the most specific anecdotes revealed a frustrated Bolton who was thwarted from the decision-making process during an escalating summer of crisis in the gulf. The story related to the US being very close to attacking Iran in June, after the IRGC shot down a US drone over the Strait of Hormuz.
Bolton told the audience, according to Politico:
After the attack in June, Trump was poised to launch a military response against the Iranians — strongly urged by Bolton — but pulled back after Fox News host Tucker Carlson and others warned him that it was a bad idea.
During Wednesday’s luncheon, Bolton said the planned response had gone through the full process and everybody in the White House had agreed on the retaliatory strike.
The former national security adviser followed with some biting sarcasm which appeared a further slam of Trump: But “a high authority, at the very last minute," without telling anyone, decided not to do it, Bolton complained, the report relates.
The report also notes Bolton's strongest criticisms related to Trump's plan, which the president had called off, to negotiate with top Taliban officials at Camp David. Bolton echoed the common mainstream media attacks on that one, saying the timing so close to the 9/11 anniversary was "disrespectful" to 9/11 victims and their families, and that it sent "terrible signal" to America's allies.
Trump for his part had previously described Bolton soon after the latter's dismissal as "holding [him] back" and making some "very big mistakes," and further wanting to use the disastrous "Libyan model" for everything.
Meanwhile, Trump told Fox News on Thursday morning, “If we could have a peaceful solution, that’s good, it’s possible that that won’t happen” — a statement sure to only frustrate hawks further given Trump's characteristic ambiguity when it comes to dealing with Iran.