The world is witnessing a steady escalation in tensions playing out in the Persian Gulf. Regional experts are debating the drivers behind this conflict and the prospects of future lethal entanglements. Many on the Left blame Trump’s National Security Advisor, John Bolton, and his “war-monger” tactics, as the root of rising tensions. In the past two weeks, mainstream media outlets have attempted to disconnect Bolton’s hardline anti-Iran policy recommendations from those of the president. This tactic to disassociate Bolton’s views from the president’s views is clearly meant to undermine the administration’s Iran policy.
Those who are blaming Bolton as the sole arbiter for rising tensions are actually emulating the rationale behind the Iranian leadership. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has recently coined the “B”-team narrative, which refers to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince bin Zayed, Saudi Crown Prince bin Salman, and U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton. Zarif’s strategy to shift the world’s attention off Iran’s own aggressive actions and onto John Bolton is simultaneously sly and obvious. However, many on the Left are employing this exact strategy. During an interview with MSNBC, Bernie Sanders stated, “The architect of the effort right now to get us into war in Iran was the architect to getting us into war in Iraq. That is John Bolton. I worry about provocations on the part of the U.S. against Iran.” This declaration followed reports in which State Department officials confirmed threats in the region were in fact credible and based on intelligence that Iranian-backed militias were pursuing aggressive actions against the U.S. throughout the broader region. This tactic of ignoring Iranian belligerence and pointing the finger at Bolton instead is a common trend among the American Left today.
The fact that some Democrats are in agreement with the ayatollahs should be cause for alarm, but apparently supporting any Trump policy is more detrimental than echoing the words of one of the world’s most radical authoritarian dictators.
In late April, Zarif discussed a wide range of topics on the Asia Society’s stage in New York. Throughout the question and answer component of this panel, Zarif targeted the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia, labeling these countries as “clients” of the United States. He warned that “accidents — plotted accidents — are possible.”
Three weeks later, four oil vessels were attacked off the port of Fujairah on the Gulf of Oman. Two of the tankers were owned by Saudi Arabia and one was owned by the UAE. These attacks occurred outside the Strait of Hormuz, a critical and strategic waterway. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, almost a fifth of the world’s oil consumption passes through the Strait. The port of Fujairah itself is home to the exit point of the Adcop pipeline, which allows Saudi Arabia to bypass the strait and export its oil directly to the Arabian Sea.
In sabotaging these vessels, Iran was demonstrating to the U.S. that the regime is, in fact, capable of interrupting the flow of oil and upsetting the global economic market. To suggest that this is a politicized ploy created by Bolton to further escalate tensions is truly absurd, and only strengthens Ayatollah Khameini’s anti-American agenda.
Yes, Bolton does emphasize a tough line to Iran. However, the regime’s recent acts of belligerence, as well as overt and covert support of groups acting against U.S. interests, must be countered with strong rhetoric at the least. Democrats who aim to undermine the Trump administration’s efforts on this front are enabling Iran’s ruthless regime ambitions.
Maya Carlin is an M.A. candidate in Counter-Terrorism and Homeland Security at IDC Herzliya’s Lauder School of Government in Israel. She is also the Associate Producer at the Center for Security Policy, located in Washington D.C.