US President Donald Trump's announcement on Twitter that he removed his national security adviser John Bolton caught many by surprise in Iran. As with most Iranian reactions to developments in US politics, the official response has been cautious. Still, excitement could be read between the lines.
President Hassan Rouhani addressed Bolton's removal by advising the US government to "come to the understanding that warmongering and warmongers do not serve a purpose." He also called on Washington to abandon its "maximum pressure" policy.
"We do not make comments on the internal affairs of the United States," said Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in his initial reaction when asked what he made of Bolton's removal. Later, however, tweeting criticism of a set of fresh US Treasury sanctions on Iran, Zarif was less diplomatic: "Thirst for war — maximum pressure — should go with the warmonger-in-chief." The Iranian foreign minister has seized every chance to write and speak against Bolton's anti-Iran policies, trying to sway world public opinion on what he viewed as efforts by Bolton to lure Trump into a military conflict against Iran. Zarif had also placed Bolton in the so-called B-Team of hawks, which also includes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and United Arab Emirates Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed.
"Although the US arrogance and its hostile policies will not change with the ouster of one person, Bolton being fired is an indication of the failure of Trump's pressure campaign," tweeted Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaee, the spokesman for the conservative and powerful Guardian Council.
There were also hard-liners who advised against getting too excited. "Our problem with the United States is about identity. … The issue won't be resolved with the replacement of chess pieces. Let’s keep in mind the 40 years of experience," tweeted Abdollah Ganji, the managing director of the ultraconservative Javan newspaper, which reflects the official views of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Bolton's departure was covered extensively by Iranian papers. To most of them, it heralds the beginning of the end of Iran hawks in the administration. "Few would have believed that individuals who were once Trump's bosom buddies and gave him advice are now finding their way out of the White House," read Reformist daily Arman-e-Melli's editorial on the "gradual downfall of the B-Team." Moderate Hamshahri reported that with Bolton gone, "Advocates of war lost one of their key members."
Bolton was a particular proponent of the US pressure campaign on Iran after he was named national security adviser in March 2018. But even before assuming the position, Bolton was already on the list of top adversaries of the Islamic Republic after repeatedly throwing his weight behind the Mujahedeen-e Khalq, an exiled opposition group that remained on the US list of foreign terrorist organizations until 2012. As a guest at the group's annual conventions, Bolton openly advocated regime change in Iran, and in one case promised that the Islamic Republic would not last long enough to see the 40th anniversary of its founding. Supporters of the Iranian government ridiculed those remarks when celebrating the 40th anniversary last February.
Iranian proponents of regime change in their country had been leaning on Bolton to advance their agenda in the White House and push the Islamic Republic to the point of collapse. Now, with Bolton's ouster, staunch regime supporters at the other end of the spectrum are expressing pity for them. "Bear in mind that Trump will depart as well, while the Islamic Republic will continue to survive. So stop counting on him!" tweeted one.
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