US President Donald Trump thought China was “the greatest cheater in the world”, he was “not sympathetic” to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the waiver to Iran oil sanctions, and was worried about Pakistan if Taliban regained control in Afghanistan, former US National Security Advisor John Bolton has claimed in his new book.
If Bolton’s claims in his book, The Room Where It Happened — a White House Memoir, are to be believed, he felt that the post-Balakot crisis was “never really” a crisis, but he had chosen not to ignore it since India and Pakistan were nuclear-armed neighbours.
Bolton also claimed that US envoy to the UN Nikki Haley wanted to go to India and visit the Dalai Lama, but was not allowed.
In the 290-page book, the US National Security Advisor from April 2018 to September 2019 wrote that Trump told officials “why he thought China was the ‘greatest cheater in the world’ as recently proven by their behavior in the trade negotiations, thus precipitating a riff on economic power as the basis of military power”.
On the US sanctions against countries trading with Iran, Bolton claimed, “One important loophole for Iran was the oil waivers granted to eight countries (Taiwan, China, India, Japan, South Korea, Italy, Greece, and Turkey) when renewed sanctions took effect in November 2018, six months after US withdrawal from the nuclear deal… Taiwan, Greece, and Italy quickly halted purchases of Iranian oil, so not renewing their waivers was a given. State’s bureaucrats found endless reasons to extend the other waivers, as ‘clientitis’ took hold. ‘But India is so important,’ or ‘Japan is so important,’… One of the worst cases involved India, which, like the others, was buying Iranian oil at prices well below the global market because Iran was so desperate to make sales.”
“India complained it would be disadvantaged not only because of having to find new suppliers, but also because the new sources would insist on prevailing market prices! India’s making this argument was understandable, but it was incomprehensible that US bureaucrats echoed it sympathetically,” he claimed.
“He said expressly in the Oval on March 25, ‘I’m ready to cut them off,’ and on April 12 said, ‘Increase the sanctions. Max them out, do it right away, including on the oil,’ and on April 18 said, ‘Go to zero.’ In a phone call with Pompeo, Trump had not been sympathetic to India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying, ‘He’ll be okay’,” Bolton wrote.
On the Nikki Haley incident, he wrote, “Haley asked him (Trump) about a trip she wanted to take to India to visit the Dalai Lama. The purpose of this trip was unclear, other than getting a photo op with the Dalai Lama, always good for an aspiring pol. But the minefield she strayed into by raising the China trade issue showed a political tin ear: once Trump wondered how China would view Haley’s seeing the Dalai Lama, the trip was essentially dead.”
On the post-Pulwama Balakot episode, he wrote, “…After hours of phone calls, the crisis passed, perhaps because, in substance, there never really had been one. But when two nuclear powers spin up their military capabilities, it is best not to ignore it…”
On Pakistan, he recalled explaining to Trump “why we should counter terrorists in their home base and why Pakistan’s nuclear-weapons program made it imperative to preclude a Taliban haven in Afghanistan that might accelerate Pakistan’s falling to terrorists”.