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11 Jul 2020, Edition - 1824, Saturday

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World News

Trump replaces National Security Adviser HR McMaster with John Bolton

bbc.com

President Donald Trump is replacing US National Security Adviser HR McMaster with Bush-era defence hawk and former United Nations ambassador John Bolton.

Mr Trump tweeted to thank Gen McMaster, saying he had done an “outstanding job & will always remain my friend”.

Mr Bolton, who has backed attacking North Korea and Iran, told Fox News his job would be to ensure the president has “the full range of options”.

Gen McMaster is the latest high-profile departure from the White House.

Why did Trump dump his security adviser?

The White House revolving door

Last week, Mr Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson by a tweet, replacing him with former CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

Mr Bolton, whose appointment does not require US Senate confirmation, will be Mr Trump’s third national security adviser in 14 months. He will take the job on 9 April.

Responding to the move, Mr Bolton said he was looking forward to working with President Trump and his team “to make our country safer at home and stronger abroad”.

Who is John Bolton?

Mr Bolton, 69, has been a foreign policy hawk in Republican circles for decades, having served in the administrations of Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush and George W Bush.

The second Bush appointed him as US envoy to the UN, during which time diplomats privately criticised Mr Bolton’s style as abrasive.

A strident neo-conservative, Mr Bolton helped build the case that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, which turned out to be wrong.

Known for his walrus moustache, Mr Bolton does not appear to have greatly moderated his views since his last spell in government.

He stands by the invasion of Iraq and has advocated in newspaper op-eds using military force against North Korea and Iran.

Mr Bolton – a hawk’s hawk

Analysis by BBC North America reporter Anthony Zurcher

Earlier this month, Donald Trump tweeted: “I still have some people that I want to change”. He wasn’t kidding.

Since then chief economic adviser Gary Cohn, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, personal lawyer John Dowd and now National Security Adviser HR McMaster have headed to (or been shown) the exits.

One explanation is that the president feels more comfortable in his job – and more willing to challenge the advice given him by his closest aides.

He has chafed at the perception that he is being “handled” by those around him, and is installing men who agree to action, instead of preaching caution.

When it comes to Iran, Mr Bolton and the president are on the same page. Coupled with Mr Tillerson’s exit, the US is heading toward a much more confrontational relationship with the Islamic Republic.

In other ways, however, the former UN ambassador is an unusual choice.

Mr Trump frequently has called the Iraq war a colossal mistake – the same war that Mr Bolton enthusiastically promoted during his time in the George W Bush administration.

Candidate Trump regularly espoused non-interventionism. Mr Bolton is a hawk’s hawk.

Now that hawk has a perch in the Oval Office.

Why is Trump replacing McMaster?

In a brief statement on Thursday, Gen McMaster thanked President Trump for appointing him and said he was applying to retire from the US Army later this year.

The 55-year-old three-star general is leaving after just over a year as national security adviser.

The White House said Mr Trump and Gen McMaster had “mutually agreed” that he would leave. He had been rumoured for weeks to be on his way out.

Gen McMaster’s departure came a day after someone at the White House leaked to media that Mr Trump was advised this week in briefing documents not to congratulate Russian President Vladimir Putin on his recent re-election, but did it anyway.

White House reporter Tara McKelvey says Gen McMaster seems happy about his decision.

She says she saw him recently joking with colleagues in the West Wing, and he had already worked out his exit strategy.

The president had reportedly found Gen McMaster’s briefings to be grating. He was also described as aggressive and prone to lecture.

Gen McMaster replaced Lt Gen Michael Flynn, who was fired after less than a month in the job for misleading the White House about his contacts with the Russian ambassador.

How have Washington foreign policy circles reacted?

Republican Senator Lindsay Graham described Mr Bolton’s appointment as “good news for America’s allies and bad news for America’s enemies”.

Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat, said the new national security adviser’s stance on Iran and North was “overly aggressive at best and downright dangerous at worst”.

Abraham Denmark, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for East Asia in the Obama administration, said: “Bolton has long been an advocate for pre-emptive military action against North Korea, and his appointment as national security adviser is a strong signal that President Trump remains open to these options.”

Bonnie Glaser, from the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said: “Bolton has long supported regime change in North Korea and closer ties with Taiwan. Fasten your seat belts.”

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