WASHINGTON — John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, said on Sunday that European officials should have known that President Trump would withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, despite months of negotiations to salvage the accord that they believed had brought them close to satisfying the president’s demands.
“Despite the complete consistency of President Trump in his opposition to the deal — opposed to it as candidate Trump, opposed to it as President-elect Trump, opposed to it as President Trump — many people, including apparently former Secretary of State John Kerry, thought that we never would get out of it,” Mr. Bolton said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “Now, I don’t know how to explain why people could miss what the president was saying. So, I think, at the moment, there’s some feeling in Europe that they’re really surprised we got out of it, really surprised at the reimposition of strict sanctions.”
“I think that will sink in, and we’ll see what happens then,” he said.
Mr. Bolton’s remarks could further exasperate the Europeans, who expressed disappointment when Mr. Trump abandoned the deal last week. They had dedicated top diplomats to the negotiations and believed that they had nearly worked out the specific fixes Mr. Trump had insisted on in a speech in January to remain in the agreement.
As recently as May 4, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had told his European counterparts that if he could win a few more days for negotiations, he believed that there was a chance that the two sides could come to an agreement on the last sticking point. In his confirmation hearings, Mr. Pompeo had said he supported a fix.
But many of the deal’s supporters and critics agreed that there was never much likelihood that Mr. Trump, who had derided the agreement as the “worst ever,” would go along with a fix. That view hardened when Mr. Trump, upon firing former Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, mentioned only their disagreement on the Iran nuclear deal, which Mr. Tillerson sought to save. It hardened further still when Mr. Trump hired Mr. Bolton, who has long argued that the deal was too flawed to be fixed.
The question of whether the Europeans believe Mr. Trump when he says he wants a new, more comprehensive nuclear deal is not academic.
They must soon choose whether to fight Mr. Trump’s decision to reimpose sanctions on Iran or accede to it, a decision that will help determine the success of the American strategy to again isolate Iran. And they must decide whether to engage in negotiations with the Americans on a new deal with Iran.
During an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Mr. Pompeo said he intended to work again with the Europeans for what he termed a “bigger deal” on Iran.
“We will be hard at that in the weeks ahead,” he said. The sincerity and durability of American negotiating efforts could also affect looming talks between Mr. Trump and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.
On “Fox News Sunday,” Mr. Pompeo said the Trump administration would accept nothing less than North Korea’s complete surrender of its nuclear weapons and capabilities before lifting sanctions.
“If we’re going to get to this historic outcome, both sides have to be prepared to take truly historic measures to achieve it,” Mr. Pompeo said.
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