Bolton’s Creative Attack on Iran-Nuke Deal

The neocon foes of the Iranian nuclear accord are reaching for any argument imaginable but few have been as creative as John Bolton, a longtime enemy of the UN who fears the Iran deal might somehow erode the principle of Security Council vetoes, notes ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar.

By Paul R. Pillar

As implacable opponents of the nuclear agreement with Iran continue to scramble for any argument that has a chance of helping to shoot the deal down, a prize for originality ought to go to John Bolton for a new idea he tries out on us in a New York Times op-ed.

The idea involves sanctions, and it involves the United Nations. Bolton got a recess appointment in the George W. Bush administration as ambassador to the United Nations for a little more than a year, although it would be more accurate to describe his role then as ambassador against the United Nations. One of Bolton’s more notable comments about the global organization was that if ten stories were removed from the 38-story U.N. Secretariat building, “it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.”

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton.

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton.

It should not be surprising that the posture of Bolton, hard-core neocon that he is, regarding sanctions against Iran is that the more of them there are, and the longer they can be kept imposed on Iran, the better. And part of his opinion piece is about the possibility, as he sees it, that any lifted or suspended international sanctions would not be reimposed with sufficient certainty and swiftness in the event of any Iranian violation of the agreement.

One could reasonably think that one aspect of the agreement about which Bolton would not be complaining is the procedure for dispute resolution whereby if any party to the agreement believes a violation has occurred and the matter has not been resolved at other levels, it would take a positive vote of the U.N. Security Council for any further lifting of sanctions.

In other words, the bias is in favor of not lifting sanctions, and sanctions against Iran would stay in place as long as anyone who has the power to stop Council action wants them to stay in place. The subtext for the writing of this provision is that if the United States believes that Iranian behavior warrants a halt to sanctions relief, it will get its way even if Russia or China (or Europeans hungry for economic deals with Iran) want sanctions relief to continue.

But, says Bolton, and here is his original notion, there is a “hidden danger” in this for America. “By concocting a procedure that elides the Russian or Chinese vetoes,” Bolton writes, “Mr. Obama has surreptitiously accomplished a prized objective of the international left, which always disapproved on principle of the veto power.

“Through 70 years of United Nations history, one lodestar emerges clearly: Washington’s only immutable protection has been its Security Council veto. Mr. Obama’s end-run around the veto poses long-term risks that far outweigh whatever short-term gain is to be had from boxing in Russia and China now.”

Set aside any search for the “international left” that supposedly has been waging a 70-year campaign against Article 27 of the U.N. Charter and reflect on a couple of other things. One is that far from representing any weakening of “Washington’s only immutable protection,” the provision Bolton is criticizing is a recognition of, and bowing to, U.S. veto power.

Even if the United States were to stand entirely alone in its interpretation of an alleged Iranian violation and everyone else on the Council wanted sanctions relief to continue, the United States could use its veto and sanctions would stay in place. If Bolton were to have his former job back, one could picture him, mustache twitching, in the Council chamber, casting his lonely “no” vote to stop giving any further sanctions relief to the perfidious Iranians.

In his op-ed Bolton is being more solicitous of Russian and Chinese veto power than U.S. veto power. It is odd for an American, and a neocon at that, to frame things that way. But we needn’t feel sorry for the Russians and Chinese; they were parties to the negotiation that produced the agreement with Iran. Far from being end-runned by President Obama, Russia and China participated in writing the very provision that Bolton is knocking.

Bolton then tries to make a comparison with the “Uniting for Peace” procedure during the Korean War, in which recourse was made to the General Assembly to get around a Soviet veto of any action on the subject by the Security Council. But the comparison isn’t valid at all. No one is talking about taking any compliance issues on the Iran agreement to the General Assembly. And what happened during the Korean War was, quite unlike the Iran agreement, very much an end run around the Soviets, who strenuously opposed both the procedure and any U.N. involvement in the war.

Perhaps there are three takeaways from this strange offering from Bolton. One is the comic relief we can get from such a bizarre argument.

A second is validation of the wisdom of those in the U.S. Congress who opposed the confirmation of someone who doesn’t know, or doesn’t care, about such distinctions as the one between positive and negative action by the Security Council, and who demonstrably was unfit to represent the United States before the preeminent global organization.

The third is the conclusion that resort to sophistry such as this demonstrates that the die-hard opponents of the Iran agreement really are short on valid arguments.

Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is now a visiting professor at Georgetown University for security studies. (This article first appeared as a blog post at The National Interest’s Web site. Reprinted with author’s permission.)

17 comments for “Bolton’s Creative Attack on Iran-Nuke Deal

  1. Joe L.
    August 6, 2015 at 16:47

    When I think of Mr. Bolton I think back to his interview with John Pilger where Mr. Pilger was asking some hard questions and at the conclusion of the interview Mr. Bolton said, “Are you a Labour Party member… Are you a Communist Party member?” It just never ceases to amaze me at how many morons hold political offices.

    • Mortimer
      August 7, 2015 at 11:16

      It just never ceases to amaze me at how many morons hold political offices.>>> Joe L
      Many of the morons drank the kool-aid stirred up by the insane John Nash with his “Game Theory”.

      The key to understanding the neocon’s warmaking way is the role of the “national greatness” project within the comprehensive neocon scheme. And the point of national-greatness conservatism?

      In the end, the neocons want to “remoralize” America by creating a new patriotic civil religion around the idea of “Americanism”—an Americanism that will essentially redefine the “American grain.” The neoconservative vision of a good America is one in which ordinary people work hard, read the Bible, go to church, recite the Pledge of Allegiance, practice homespun virtues, sacrifice themselves to the “common good,” obey the commands of the government, fight wars, and die for the state.

      Many neocons, I’m sure, earnestly believe American global hegemony is the way to worldwide peace, democracy, and liberty. However, it is also thought that striving to fulfill this role will save Americans from the amoral meaninglessness of liberal-democratic capitalism. Making war in the attempt to dominate the globe offers otherwise pathetic average American something to live for.

      The neoconservatives’ policy of benevolent hegemony will, according to William Kristol and Robert Kagan, “relish the opportunity for national engagement, embrace the possibility of national greatness, and restore a sense of the heroic.” In other words, the United States should wage war in order to combat creeping nihilism. In the revealing words of Kristol and Kagan, “The remoralization of America at home ultimately requires the remoralization of American foreign policy.” …The neocons therefore believe that a muscular foreign policy—one that includes military intervention abroad, war, regime change, and imperial governance—will keep the American people politicized and therefore virtuous. By saving the world from tyranny, America will save herself from her own internal corruption.

      Moreover, war offers ubermenschen the enlarging opportunity to enrich the lives of their fellow citizens by treating them as pawns in a megalomaniacal game, “statesmanship”, we plebes couldn’t possible understand.

      By keeping America perpetually involved in nation-building around the world, neoconservative rulers will have the opportunity to exercise their statesmanlike virtues. There can be no statesmanship without politics and there can be no truly magnanimous statesmanship without war, so the neocons fear and loathe moral principles that might deny them this outlet. A condition of permanent war, a policy of benevolent hegemony, and the creation of a republican empire means that there will always be a need for politics and statesmanship.

      I know. This sounds totally insane. But I’ve spent enough time in Washington wonkland, and I’ve read enough of the Straussean/neocon classics to say that, yes, this is a fair representation of what much of the neocon elite believes. They also believe the elite shouldn’t admit to believing this, so expect denial. But it’s true: there really are people who go on television and argue America should go to war against Libya at least in part to combat the imagined nihilism of modernity.

  2. Uncle Mike
    August 5, 2015 at 12:09

    I have never understood why the issue of this scumbag’s material support of a registered Iranian terrorist organization was never pursued. He publicly admitted to not only lobbying the U.S. Government on their behalf while they were on the official terrorist list, but to personally profiting from the hundreds of thousands of dollars they spent on neocons lobbyists. How many people have had their lives ruined for unknowingly donating money to groups they had perceived as humanitarian aid organizations?

  3. alexander
    August 5, 2015 at 07:53

    Dear Mr Pillar,

    After having proven himself as being one of the leading “defrauders” for the catastrophic Iraq war….its extermination of perhaps “millions “of innocent Iraqi people, and its obscene draining of trillions of dollars from our nation’s balance sheet…..Mr Bolton should be breaking rocks in Guantanamo Bay for 30 to life…all his assets taken….and his “opinions” reserved for his appeal board in 2030.

    • Mortimer
      August 5, 2015 at 11:09

      Who can forget all of that flag waving, back-slapping aggrandizement over “liberating the Iraqi people” ! Those Dumb press conferences by Rumsfeld. Those constant assertions that the lie-based assault on Iraq had nothing to do with OIL?


      Could this be the reason Bolton was sent to Florida on a mission to Stop The Count of “hanging chads” and other types of vote rigging that happened in the Y2K election? — Of Course!


      In 2000, Big Oil, including Exxon, Chevron, BP and Shell, spent more money to get fellow oilmen Bush and Cheney into office than they had spent on any previous election. Just over a week into Bush's first term, their efforts paid off when the National Energy Policy Development Group, chaired by Cheney, was formed, bringing the administration and the oil companies together to plot our collective energy future. In March, the task force reviewed lists and maps outlining Iraq's entire oil productive capacity.

      Planning for a military invasion was soon under way. Bush's first Treasury secretary, Paul O'Neill, said in 2004, "Already by February (2001), the talk was mostly about logistics. Not the why (to invade Iraq), but the how and how quickly."

      In its final report in May 2001 (PDF), the task force argued that Middle Eastern countries should be urged "to open up areas of their energy sectors to foreign investment." This is precisely what has been achieved in Iraq.

      read more…

      • Anonymous
        August 5, 2015 at 11:29

        Then came 9/11, the New Pearl Harbor achievement, the doorway into A New Middle East.

        This is all Criminal stuff, pure industrialized/hostile takeover for the sake of Greed, Dominion and Imperialism.

        yet we charged Saddam with war crimes and executed him – “Legally”
        and we-the-people of America cheered for the atrocity.

        How ignorant are we???

        • zman
          August 6, 2015 at 11:43

          Pretty darn, if past performance is any indication.

      • Joe L.
        August 5, 2015 at 11:36

        Did you also ever notice that Iraq, Libya, Iran etc. all dropped the US Dollar in sale of their oil (or were in the process of)? I believe that Iraq stopped selling oil in US Dollars back in December 2001 and was attacked by the US in March 2003. Whereas I believe that Libya was in talks with the countries of Africa to develop a gold dinar for which it would sell its’ oil and not US Dollars. Lastly, I believe that Iran stopped selling oil in US Dollars back in 2007 or 2009. The US Dollar is intrinsically linked to oil since Nixon closed the gold window in the 1970’s. The sale of oil in US Dollars creates huge demand for the US Dollar and US Debt which ensures that the US Dollar stays the world’s leading reserve currency and all of the benefits that a reserve currency enjoys (US Petrodollar). Something to think about…

        Oh and you could also look into how the Pentagon found $1 Trillion worth of resources in Afghanistan such as lithium, gold etc. –

        One other thing that I find disturbing when it comes to these wars in the amount of civilian casualties. I read an article on the Unicef website which cites:

        “Civilian fatalities in wartime climbed from 5 per cent at the turn of the century, to 15 per cent during World War I, to 65 per cent by the end of World War II, to more than 90 per cent in the wars of the 1990s.”

        Well this means that our militaries are overwhelmingly intentionally targeting civilians in their warfare and this is probably why we only hear about our casualties but not from the other side along with the need for “embedded” journalism.

        • toby
          August 6, 2015 at 20:50

          Remember the last Israel attack on Pals?? The rockets that Israel claims Hamas indiscriminately fired into civilian areas filled 65 soldiers and 6 civilians. The shelling that Israel retaliated with killed over 1500 civilians. 66% of the Israel kills were civilians that cannot get out, but were hiding in hospitals, schools.

          Israel targeted civilians.

  4. Andrew Nichols
    August 5, 2015 at 07:18

    hrough 70 years of United Nations history, one lodestar emerges clearly: Washington’s only immutable protection has been its Security Council veto.

    Funny how the US and is shameless acolytes only whine about the veto when the Russians or chinese use it…

  5. Nexus789
    August 5, 2015 at 05:03

    He should be in a strait jacket and locked up.

  6. Anonymous
    August 4, 2015 at 16:46

    This man along with bush blair Cheney and the neo cons should be arrested as war criminals. But he is in the New York times oped

    • Zachary Smith
      August 5, 2015 at 09:28

      Yes, it was the worthless New York Times who published the jackass Bolton.

      Without the efforts of that rag and the Washington Post, millions of dead people would be alive now.

      I really do wonder why none of the August Authors ever get excited about that.

      • Francesco
        August 10, 2015 at 15:43

        You can definitely add the following traitors to your list: Cartoon News Network, False Oily Xenophobes, BSNBC, See BS, All Bull Crap, British Bullshit Corporation, National Premenstrual Radio, and the Pubic Broadcast Network. Anyone who has a cable or satellite TV contract – you are paying these treasonous bastards. Please stop!

  7. Aarky
    August 4, 2015 at 14:06

    First Off, Bolton should be on trial as one of the 20 liars who helped get the US to attack Iraq in 20013. Bolton has missed out on the erosion of the sanctions against Iran. If the US were to be controlled again by the neo-cons and attempt to impose sanctions again, Most of the countries of the world would act jointly to tell the US to take a hike. Putin of Russia, decided to send a message to the Israelis and their puppets in the US Congress by agreeing to ship S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Iran and also entered into a barter arrangement to trade Russian goods for 500,000 barrels of oil a day from Iran. That Victoria Nuland wasn’t fired and prosecuted after being caught on tape plotting the coup against Yanukovych of Ukraine really PO’ed Putin and was only one of the reasons for ignoring the sanctions.

    • navy
      August 8, 2015 at 13:56

      Friedbert Pflüger, der Angela Merkel Berater damals, seine damalige Ehefrau M.M. der Deutschen General Klaus Naumann gehören für die damaligen Lügen hinter Gitter

  8. August 4, 2015 at 13:59

    A frightening scenario would have Jeb Bush (a founding member of PNAC) getting elected president, and putting George W. Bush’s neocon group back in power to stage another false-flag, 9/11-type attack.

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