Former National Security Adviser John Bolton says President Biden could be making a “treasonous” deal with Iran if his administration offers guarantees that future U.S. presidents would be constrained from exiting a renewed nuclear accord with the Islamic republic.
Mr. Bolton, an Iran hawk who worked closely with President Trump to withdraw from the Obama-era nuclear deal in 2018, said Wednesday that a future Republican administration undoubtedly would seek to overturn whatever agreement the current administration makes with Iran.
He made the assertions in an exchange with journalists in Washington amid reports that Iranian negotiators have sought “guarantees” from the Biden administration that Tehran would be “compensated” if an American president pulls out of whatever deal may be reached.
The Biden administration has not commented on the reports.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the administration is reviewing Tehran’s response to a “final text” that the European Union circulated recently with a proposed pathway for restoring the 2015 nuclear deal, which sought to limit Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.
It is unclear whether an agreement is imminent after more than a year of on-again, off-again negotiations against a backdrop of Iranian provocations toward the U.S., including suspected engagement in assassination plots against Trump administration officials such as Mr. Bolton.
Mr. Price said he could not comment on the state of negotiations with Iran, which have been held behind closed doors.
The State Department and White House have not confirmed that Iran specifically requested guarantees that future administrations would uphold the deal.
However, a report by CNN on Tuesday cited a regional diplomat who was briefed on the matter as saying Iranian negotiators remain concerned about a future U.S. pullout from a deal.
“The main issue facing the revival of the deal is the guarantees requested from the Iranian side ensuring Iran will be compensated in case future U.S. administrations decide to withdraw again from the deal and while no real solution has been put forth,” the diplomat said.
Mohammad Marandi, an adviser to Iran’s negotiating team, separately confirmed to CNN that Tehran is seeking guarantees that the U.S. will “have to pay a price” if a U.S. president withdraws from a restored nuclear deal, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Although it is unclear what specific compensation Iran would seek, Mr. Bolton said the Islamic republic could pursue various avenues to impose costs on the U.S. if Iranian officials determine that Washington is reneging on a deal.
“One is this idea of damages — that if a subsequent administration withdrew from the deal, they’d have to pay damages to Iran. That’s been reported in the press in the past couple of weeks,” Mr. Bolton said.
“There were earlier reports weeks and months ago of a proposition that Iran would be put back in possession of enriched uranium that it may have shipped out to Russia or other countries,” Mr. Bolton said. The Washington Times was unable to corroborate his claim of such reports.
The former national security adviser said that “if the Biden administration negotiated those kinds of provisions to harm the United States of America if a future president withdrew from the deal, that verges on treasonous.”
“It’s one thing to say we want to go into this deal and we hope future presidents stay,” Mr. Bolton said. “It’s another to impair the United States itself to reduce the possibility of leaving the deal.”
The Justice Department last week announced charges against an Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) operative accused of offering to pay contacts inside the U.S. up to $300,000 to kill the former national security adviser.
Mr. Bolton made the comments after a panel discussion in Washington on Iran’s nuclear program hosted by the National Council of Resistance of Iran. The organization is linked to the Mujahedin-e-Khalq, the exiled Iranian dissident group that exposed Iran’s secret Natanz nuclear site in 2002.
The Biden administration has been mired in months of stalled negotiations over restoring the 2015 nuclear deal. When Mr. Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018, his administration ramped up pressure on Iran by reimposing sanctions that had been lifted under the terms of the Obama deal.
The Trump administration also placed the IRGC on the official State Department list of foreign terrorist organizations.
Iran’s full written response to the European Union’s “final text” for a restored deal has not been made public. Tehran has made various demands in talks with U.S. and European officials over the past year.
Among other issues, Iran wants to limit an International Atomic Energy Agency investigation into suspected undeclared nuclear material inside the country. Iran also has indicated that it wants the U.S. and Europe to lift economic sanctions on the IRGC, the elite paramilitary group that the Justice Department claimed was linked directly to the plot to kill Mr. Bolton.
Mr. Price told reporters this week that the Biden administration is unwilling to entertain such a move, nor will it lift the IRGC’s designation as a terrorist organization. The State Department spokesperson blasted “highly inaccurate reporting” that indicated the U.S. would consider such steps to secure an agreement.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are looking at the administration’s attempts to restore the nuclear deal with skepticism. They have openly criticized the White House for keeping details of the negotiations with Tehran too close to the vest.
Mr. Biden has brushed aside the pushback from lawmakers and held firm in his commitment to resurrecting the deal.
Mr. Bolton noted Wednesday that opposition to the deal is growing among Democrats. “The issue of whether to go back into the deal now has more opposition on the Democratic side,” he said. “Far more opposition than existed to entering the deal in the first place in 2015. And I think there are a lot of Democrats, especially looking toward the fall, who are worried about having to defend essentially indefensible policy.”
He said any attempts to restrict a future president’s options toward a renewed deal inevitably would harm the U.S. “It doesn’t matter what this administration says. If a future president wants to withdraw, he’s going to get out, period.”