When President Donald Trump announced in 2017 that the U.S. would leave the Iran nuclear deal, his administration already had a plan in place. The Trump team didn’t want to back away quietly from the accord. Instead, it wanted total economic annihilation of Tehran, the government’s military proxies, and its most powerful business sectors in order to compel the Iranians to renegotiate or to convince the people of Iran to rise up against the regime.
The White House and State Department pulled in outside experts from prominent hawkish think tanks to help. But the main architect of that policy was John Bolton. For years, Bolton had been steadfast in his strategy of maximum pressure against Tehran. And in April 2018, he found himself in a position to turn that advocacy into a reality after Trump tapped him to serve as his national security adviser.
The marriage was not to be. Though the Trump administration has increasingly adopted a hard line on Iran, the president himself gradually drifting away from the hawkish approach that Bolton personified.
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