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Iran policy: Donald Trump's irritation with top aides grows



The likelihood of such an opening appears slim. But Trump has raised concern with the heightened rhetoric, believing a large-scale military intervention with Iran would be devastating to him politically, people familiar with the situation said. His campaign promises to wind down foreign entanglements. And he's chafed at suggestions his aides, led by national security adviser John Bolton, somehow leading him to war.

As last week, Trump was calling outside advisers to complain about Bolton, people familiar with the conversations said. is frustrated that Bolton has allowed the Iran situation to reach a point where it seems like armed conflict is actually a real possibility, but his frustrations with his national security advises, earlier this spring over Venezuela, when a similar dynamic ̵

1; Bolton and other aides openly hint at military options – caused Trump to warn his team to tamp down the rhetoric.

As tensions with Iran have escalated over the past week, National Security Council officials close to Bolton were initially dismissive of the need to draw up decalation options, including during a meeting late last week with State and Pentagon officials.

But in a follow-up session on Wednesday with the same group, those NSC officials were singing at different tune, according to an administration official. Instead, the officials asked the Pentagon to draw up additional deterrence and decalculation options for the President to review, according to an administration official.

Trump denied on Wednesday there was any "infighting" about his Middle East policy. But he reiterated his desire to open talks with Iran, a wish he's been advocating heavily in meetings over the past week.

"Different opinions are expressed and I make a decisive and final decision – it is a very simple process. , views, and policies are covered, "he tweeted. "I'm sure that Iran will want to talk soon."

"Narrative on Iran questioned as allies call for & nbsp;

 US narrative on Iran questioned as allies call for & # 39; restrained & # 39;

Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, denied Thursday there were any divisions inside the administration over Iran. But she made clear that Trump's views would prevail.

"The president is the ultimate decision maker and he is going to take all of the information and intelligence that is given to him and he will make the decision that he thinks is best to keep Americans safe. It's that simple," she told reporters. "There was only one person who was elected to make those decisions and that was the President. He'll be the one that decides."

Even as Trump says he wants to cool tensions with Iran, it was his desire to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and ramp up sanctions on Iran – against the advice of his earlier national security advisers – that has brought Trump closer to the conflict with Iran.

on Iran's economy, believing that he could pressure Iran's leaders to negotiate a better nuclear deal with him. But while that pressure strategy has done damage to Iran's economy, it has done more to back Iran into a corner – and caused it to lash out – rather than draw it back to the negotiating table.

Now, Trump is taking more active steps to open diplomatic channels. On Thursday, Trump will meet with the president of the Swiss government in order to try to establish a channel with which he can speak to Iranians as tensions between the country and the US, according to a person familiar with ongoing discussions inside the White House

Trump will meet with Ueli Maurer, the Swiss government president, at the White House to discuss the nations' relationship and matters such as Switzerland's role in facilitating diplomatic relations and other international issues, "the White House said in a statement

The US and Iran do not have an official diplomatic relationship, but Switzerland serves as the protecting power for the US in the country. That means they represent US interests in Iran, performing services for US citizens in the country like visa processing. They also serve as a channel for diplomacy between the two nations though there are other mechanisms for the two nations to communicate.

Last week, after Trump publicly appealed to Iran to call him amid heightened tensions with Tehran, the White House contacted the Swiss to share the number of the Iranians could call the President, according to a diplomatic source familiar with the move.

The source said the Swiss probably won't hand over the number unless the Iranians specifically ask for it and it's thought they are very unlikely to do so. White House officials say Trump's overtures are sincere.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, even though he is an Iran hawk, has also pressed to open up diplomatic channels with Iran. The top Trump administration hostage negotiator sent a letter to Iran earlier this year saying that the US would enter into negotiations on prisoners if Iran released the ailing 82-year-old Baquer Namazi. The Iranians said they would not meet with any preconditions. Since then, the Iranians have been shown in public opinion, and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said this week that negotiations with the US would be a "poison."

Trump has been advocating heavily for some type of diplomatic contact behind the scenes, even as his national security team scales up its rhetoric on Iran and weighs military options.

Latest developments

Last week, the Pentagon posted an aircraft carrier strike group and B-52 bombers in the region, and the White House has updated plans to include the deployment of more than 100,000 US troops to the Middle East in the event that Iran strikes American forces in the region or speeds up its development of nuclear weapons.

On Wednesday, the US announced it was ordering a partial evacuation of the US embassy in Baghdad and the US consulate in Erbil, Iraq, based on new threats in the region.

A number of US allies have questioned the response to the new intelligence, however, and have not ordered similar evacuations of their diplomatic compounds. Even within the US administration, officials describe an increasing level of concern in recent months among career staffers at the direction of the Trump administration's Iran policy.

Bolton and his coterie of Iran's hawks at the NSC have been pushing for "action for action's sake," one administration official involved in the discussions said, without a clear strategy or set of goals. The concern is that there is simply a desire to scale up the pressure on Iran, escalating tensions with no clear off-ramp. Before re-entering government as Trump's national security adviser, Bolton openly advocated for regime change in Iran.

Now, there is serious wariness emerging over Bolton among Trump's circle of outside advisers, who enjoys open access to the President and spends hours with him each day.

"We need to be careful of his judgment," one of Trump's outside advisers said of the national security adviser.

Another advised said Trump has "no interest in doing that at all" when it comes to getting into a military conflict with Iran.

Trump campaigned heavily in 2015 and 2016 against becoming involved in foreign wars, and lambasted President George W. Bush's decision to invade Iraq, later determined to be based on faulty intelligence about weapons of mass destruction. Bolton was serving as Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security at the time.

Bolton's ratcheting penchant has at times caused anxiety in other areas of administration, according to people familiar with the matter. The former Fox News pundit enjoys an open-door policy with the president and spends more time with him than any other member of the national security team, which sources said.

Trump was initially hesitant to put Bolton into his national security realm an official capacity. Instead, the man with the distinguishable mustache was often seen walking past the cameras on the White House driveway and into the West Wing for routine foreign policy meetings with the President. When Trump finally did her Bolton, Trump directed to tell people Bolton promised him he wouldn't start any wars. Trump regularly jokes to world leaders, ambassadors and military officers that Bolton wants to invade countries and start wars.

Those hawkish tendencies and easy access to Trump have sometimes left other members of Trump's foreign policy circle scrambling. Last year, Bolton's request for military options for Iran caused concern among some of CNN's

The dynamic was not pronounced when key administration posts were filled with officials viewed as steadying forces – such as forms Defense Secretary James Mattis or former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson – according to the people familiar with the matter. But with those officials gone, Bolton has appeared to have a more handy hand – leaving some officials at the State Department and the Pentagon mindful of taking steps that would keep him in check.

Pompeo and Bolton have a strained relationship, people familiar with it say, even though they are largely alined on policy. Both are hawkish, but Pompeo believes he is more deft and diplomatic in his approach, according to the sources. The secretary of state often rolls his eyes when he is asked about Bolton.

Trump, meanwhile, has long chafed at any suggestion his decisions or actions are being manipulated or orchestrated by someone other than himself. Asked last week about Bolton in light of recent turmoil in Venezuela, North Korea and Iran – all places where the US has taken a strong stand without much progress – Trump said his national security adviser has "strong views" but that " temper John. "


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