Iran's Zarif Says Bolton Book Shows U.S. Plot to Collapse Regime

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif cited former National Security Advisor John Bolton's new book as evidence that the U.S. "maximum pressure" campaign against Tehran is designed to bring down the regime entirely, rather than to pressure the government to adopt more moderate foreign policy and nuclear ambitions.

Zarif told the Iranian parliament Sunday that Iran is winning its battle against the U.S. and that the Trump administration was isolating itself on the world stage, according to the Mehr news agency.

"The Islamic Republic is a rising power and this has led the U.S. to wage all-out war against Iran," Zarif said, identifying what he said are key elements of a U.S. plot to bring down the regime. "If you read John Bolton's book, you will understand all these aims that are hidden in all U.S. policies against Iran which they call 'maximum pressure.'"

Bolton, a neoconservative hawk who served three previous Republican presidents, is well known for his tough approach to Iran. He has backed regime change to topple the Iranian theocracy, even backing a militant group dismissed by critics as an extremist cult with no support inside Iran.

In his new book, "The Room Where It Happened," published last month, Bolton details how he sought to steer Trump towards tougher measures on Iran and away from engagement with the regime.

Bolton even told how he personally intervened, on the urging of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to stop a proposed meeting between Trump and Zarif at the G7 meeting in France in 2019.

U.S.-Iranian relations have frozen over since Trump took up residence in the White House. He quickly withdrew the U.S. from the Obama-era Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, colloquially known as the Iran nuclear deal, and re-imposed sanctions on the country.

Trump has said he wishes to negotiate a new deal, one that includes stricter caps on Tehran's nuclear program plus limits Iran's ballistic missile research program and its use of proxy forces across the Middle East. In May, Trump urged Iran to make "the big deal" before the November presidential election.

But Iranian leaders have consistently dismissed Trump's appeals, framing his maximum pressure campaign as "economic terrorism" and calling on the international community to push back on America's aggressive stance.

The two sides have flirted with open conflict over the past year. After a series of sabotage attacks on commercial shipping in the Persian Gulf attributed to Iran, Iran shot down a U.S. drone over the waterway in June 2019. Trump said he ordered an airstrike on Iranian positions in retaliation but called it off when told of the likely casualties.

In December, a series of attacks by Iranian-backed militias on U.S. personnel and targets in Iraq prompted American airstrikes on Iranian-allied fighters. Days later, the U.S. assassinated Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in Baghdad.

Iran then launched ballistic missiles at U.S. troops in Iraq, injuring more than 100 service members, and announced it would no longer respect any of its JCPOA commitments.

The Trump administration has also sought to extend a JCPOA arms embargo on Iran which expires in October. But the U.S. has struggled to build support for the extension at the United Nations security council, much to Tehran's glee.

Zarif said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's failure last week to win the support of fellow UNSC members during a virtual meeting of the body shows that Washington, D.C. is "isolated." Other UNSC members reiterated their support for the JCPOA, which Zarif said highlighted that "the U.S. is pursuing a wrong approach."

Zarif also claimed that the U.S. is seeking to sow discord between the Iranian people and the regime. The government has struggled with popular discontent over poor economic conditions, corruption and the expenses incurred by Tehran's regional foreign policy.

Last year, the Department said Iranian security forces killed more than 1,000 in suppressing protests that erupted in response to a new fuel tax.

Amid its standoff with the U.S. in January, Iranian forces also accidentally shot down a passenger plane outside Tehran killing all 176 people aboard and eliciting fury and further protests from the population.

During his address, Zarif even had to endure heckling from Iranian lawmakers angry at the apparent collapse of the JCPOA and stubbornly poor economic conditions.

The conservatives won big in February's legislative election, meaning Zarif and moderate President Hassan Rouhani now face a more hostile parliament more keen to confront the U.S. and its allies.

Javad Zarif, John Bolton, Iran, Donald Trump
Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif takes part in a panel discussion during the 56th Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, on February 15, 2020. THOMAS KIENZLE/AFP via Getty Images/Getty