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News, September 2019
Oil Prices Fell as Soon as Trump Fired War Hawk John Bolton, Over Iran, Afghanistan, and North Korea Positions
September 10, 2019
John Bolton was fired, and the price of oil instantly fell
By Matt Egan, CNN Business
Oil prices fell swiftly on Tuesday after President Donald Trump fired Iran hawk John Bolton as national security adviser.
The surprise exit of Bolton prompted speculation that the tensions between the United States and Iran could ease, or at least that the chance of a military conflict had decreased.
Bolton was a strong proponent of the Trump administration's "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran. That campaign was built on tough sanctions that caused Iran's oil exports to plunge.
U.S. oil tumbled as much as 2.2% to $57.30 a barrel immediately after Trump tweeted out the firing of Bolton. Crude bounced off those lows and was recently trading around $57.75 a barrel.
"This is a knee-jerk reaction given that Bolton has been so adversarial with Iran," said Matt Smith, director of commodity strategy at ClipperData. "With his removal, there is an expectation there won't be as much vehemence in the tit-for-tat with Iran."
It's not clear that Bolton's departure was related to Iran policy. Trump was irked by reports that he had faced internal pushback from Bolton over his decision to host leaders of the Taliban at Camp David, multiple people familiar with his frustration told CNN. Trump announced on Saturday the meeting had been canceled.
© Sergei Gapon/AFP/Getty Images US National Security Advisor John Bolton answers journalists questions after his meeting with Belarus President in Minsk on August 29, 2019. (Photo by Sergei GAPON / AFP) (Photo credit should read SERGEI GAPON/AFP/Getty Images)
Trump did not mention Iran in his tweet announcing Bolton's firing. "I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration," said on Twitter.
Bolton had been scheduled to deliver a briefing along with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in the White House later on Tuesday.
Earlier this year, tensions between the United States and Iran soared to levels that prompted fears of a war. Oil prices jumped as investors feared that attacks on oil tankers risked a disruption of shipments in the Strait of Hormuz, the move important place on the planet to the global supply of oil.
Iran's oil exports have plunged by about 2 million barrels per day since the summer of 2018, according to ClipperData.
In spite of the standoff with Iran, oil prices have stumbled in recent months due to concerns about weak demand for energy driven by the U.S.-China trade war and global economic slowdown.
The sudden nature of Tuesday's drop in oil prices likely reflects the influence of trading driven by computer algorithms.
"Algo trading is more connected to Trump's Twitter account than actual market fundamentals," said Smith.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration dimmed its outlook for oil consumption on Tuesday due to concerns about the economy. The agency now expects global oil demand will increase by 900,000 barrels per day this year, potentially marking the weakest growth since at least 2011.
Fevered speculation over John Bolton's replacement as national security adviser
Fox News, September 10, 2019
Amid a number of disagreements with Bolton -- including over recently scrapped negotiations with the Taliban over the future fo Afghanistan -- President Trump announced in a tweet that Bolton’s “services are no longer needed” and said that he would be naming a new national security adviser next week.
Multiple sources tell Fox News that at least five people are believed to be in the mix. They include: the U.S. ambassador to Germany, Ric Grenell; U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook; Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun; the ambassador to the Netherlands Pete Hoekstra; and Rob Blair, an aide to White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.
A source close to the discussions said multiple senators called the White House on Grenell’s behalf on Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, the president signaled that he'd fired Bolton – a characterization Bolton himself challenged.
“I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House,” Trump tweeted.
He added: “I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration, and therefore I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning."
While Bolton swiftly challenged Trump's version of events -- saying he first offered to resign -- the two have had well-known disagreements on a range of hot-button national security issues, perhaps most significantly on plans for a troop drawdown in Afghanistan.
Bolton's removal comes after the hawkish adviser was reportedly sidelined from high-level discussions about military involvement in Afghanistan on the heels of opposing diplomatic efforts in the region.
“Simply put, many of Bolton’s policy priorities did not align with POTUS,” a White House official told Fox News on Tuesday.
While Trump announced a 4,000-troop increase in 2017 as part of an effort to break the stalemate in the country, he has been moving toward agreeing to a phased withdrawal of troops. Some 14,000 U.S. troops have remained in Afghanistan, advising and assisting Afghan forces and conducting counterterrorism operations.
Inside the administration, Bolton also advocated caution on Trump's strategy with North Korea, and was against Trump's decision last year to pull U.S. troops out of Syria. Bolton also led a quiet effort inside the administration and with allies abroad to convince the president to keep U.S. forces in Syria to counter Islamic State and Iranian influence in the region.
Bolton became Trump’s third national security adviser in April 2018, replacing H.R. McMaster, who had himself been named as successor to Michael Flynn.
Fox News’ Gillian Turner, Catherine Herridge Brooke Singman, John Roberts and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Breaking Point: How Trump and Bolton Finally Hit Their Limit
Time, September 10, 2019
As President Donald Trump prepared in recent weeks to meet in person with Taliban negotiators at Camp David and with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in New York later this month, National Security Advisor John Bolton grew increasingly frustrated. And on Monday, during a conversation between Bolton and the President, the two men reached their limit with one another.
© Associated Press FILE: National security adviser John Bolton listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis in the Oval Office of the White House, Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
In his 520 days as Trump’s third National Security Advisor, Bolton, a life-long hawk, had tried to steer the President toward a hard-line foreign policy. As Trump embraced the idea of meeting with two of America’s most ardent adversaries, Bolton objected increasingly vocally, according to several administration sources familiar with their discussions.
Then on Monday, Trump and Bolton spoke to try to clear the air. Bolton brought up the fact that he was left out of a meeting on the Afghanistan negotiations, a U.S. official who was briefed on the conversation tells TIME. As the discussion progressed, it began to spiral outward into Bolton’s broader questions about Trump’s willingness to meet with Iran’s president. “It was supposed to be a very, very limited,” discussion, the U.S. official says, “About how Bolton had been left out of a meeting on Afghanistan and it became a ‘Why are you meeting with Rouhani?’” conversation instead.
The two men offer different accounts of how things went from there. On Tuesday, Trump tweeted that he had asked for Bolton’s resignation on Monday evening, and had received it Tuesday morning. “I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House,” Trump wrote. Bolton later tweeted that it was he who had offered to resign Monday evening, and that Trump had accepted Tuesday morning.
Either way, Bolton’s departure represents a turning point for the Trump presidency. A blunt, famously effective bureaucratic knife fighter, Bolton had sometimes succeeded in steering Trump towards a tougher line in some parts of the world, including against Iran. Since joining the White House in April 2018, Bolton did away with much of the National Security Council deliberation processes and, in a break with his camera-shy predecessors, stepped into an outsized public role. He used his Twitter account to issue dire warnings in order to keep the America’s adversaries off-balance. In several instances, Bolton threatened Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro with imprisonment or worse unless he abandoned power. He issued formal written statements on military posture, most notably on May 5 when he announced the movement of U.S. forces the Middle East “to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime.”
Bolton, a former Fox News analyst, also found ways to insert himself into the 24/7 Washington news cycle. He rattled North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in June 2018 by suggesting his regime should follow the “Libya model” of nuclear disarmament. It was an unsubtle reference from Bolton, who has long opposed diplomacy with Pyongyang, knowing that Kim wasn’t eager to follow the path of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, who abandoned a nuclear program only to be toppled from power by Western military forces and executed nearly eight years later.
Now, with foreign-policy challenges simmering from the Middle East to the Korean peninsula to South America, the President’s national-security operation has lost one of its most powerful players.
“John got caught in the middle of the President’s bipolar foreign policy instincts,” says a senior U.S. official familiar with the relationship between the two men. On one hand, Bolton’s willingness to consider using military power to solve problems like Iran and North Korea appealed to Trump’s desire to be seen as a tough guy, the official says. “But Trump’s deal-making instincts have won out,” the official continued, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss internal administration deliberations.
From the start, the two were never well-suited on a personal level, says a U.S. intelligence official who attended meetings that included both men. Bolton had taken over from the stiff, process-oriented General H. R. McMaster, who had in turn taken the reins from Trump’s ill-fated first NSC chief, Michael Flynn. Bolton was less inclined than either to be deferential. “Bolton was an ideologue who sought to advance a world view,” says David Rothkopf, author of Running the World: The Inside Story of the National Security Council and the Architects of American Power. “Whereas Trump is a Trumpist—all about himself all the time, and very impulsive. It was a marriage that was doomed before the vows were spoken.”
The fact that the two men never clicked personally made Bolton’s influence during his time as National Security Advisor all the more remarkable. Bolton was most powerful when he was working issues that Trump wasn’t invested in or paying much attention to. Bolton, along with the allies he placed throughout the State Department and national-security establishment, was able to run U.S. policy on Venezuela, bringing U.S. sanctions and international pressure to bear against Maduro.
But over time, Trump grew to trust Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over Bolton. “The breach between Bolton and Pompeo kept growing, and Pompeo and his team took advantage of that, promoting the reports that Bolton’s star was falling,” the senior U.S. official said. “Bolton thought Pompeo’s top priority was not getting crosswise with the President because that might hurt his political ambitions.”
Pompeo allies were relieved to see Bolton go. Bolton had been “undermining the president constantly,” on both his outreach to North Korea and to the Taliban, a senior administration official in Pompeo’s camp says. Seeing an opportunity to sideline his opponent, Pompeo increasingly cut him out of the details of ongoing Afghan negotiations.
At the same time, Pompeo worked to coordinated interagency cooperation with the newly-confirmed Defense Secretary Mark Esper, a long-time Pompeo ally, and CIA chief Gina Haspel, Pompeo’s former deputy, the official added.
By the end, Bolton had reached his limit. “Bolton was screaming about the Taliban meeting,” says a national-security expert with close ties to White House officials. Bolton thought a meeting on U.S. soil would legitimize the Taliban and considered it tone deaf to schedule the summit so close to the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. The meeting was Trump’s idea, and he bristled that Bolton objected to it internally, this expert and other officials say.
Trump had already tired of Bolton’s hard-line ideas on Iran and Bolton’s internal revulsion to Trump’s stated willingness to meet with Rouhani, the expert says. While the Taliban Camp David meeting collapsed, Trump remains open to meeting Rouhani in New York later this month, and preliminary planning is already underway in case such a meeting comes through, according to a U.S. official familiar with the discussions.
Ultimately, Trump began to feel that Bolton was too far out of step with his instinct to meet with Iranian leaders, the official said. Internally, Bolton was ready to acquiesce to the meeting, but insisted that sanctions should continue to ramp up. As recently as Sept. 4, Bolton tweeted about new actions to block Iran’s oil shipments that generate cash for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and Iran’s support for armed proxy groups in the Middle East, according to a U.S. official familiar with the discussions.
Trump critics see the development as another sign of disorder in the President’s foreign-policy operation. “Protecting our country is about more than egos and who will deliver splashy summits,” says Brett Bruen, a former NSC official for President Barack Obama. “We desperately lack stability and strategy in our national security. This is dangerous and destabilizing for the United States and our allies, as our adversaries are able to exploit the constant trouble, turbulence, and transitions of this administration.
“While I may not agree with John on much, he attempted to apply a discipline and consistency to Trump’s erratic foreign policy moves,” Bruen says. “It is likely we will see a return to even greater extemporaneous diplomacy. While certainly more radical than most National Security Advisors, world leaders felt like he represented more of a rational actor than Pompeo’s sycophantic style. They will sorely miss him, as he was what counts for a brake on some of Trump’s more dangerous tendencies.”
That point underscores one consistent truth about the Trump presidency, agreed upon by critics and allies alike. Asked where Bolton’s departure leaves U.S. foreign policy, officials who spoke to TIME under the condition of anonymity had the same answer: where it’s always been, in Trump’s hands.
—With reporting by Tessa Berenson, Vera Bergengruen, Kim Dozier, W.J. Hennigan and John Walcott
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