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Tensions between Trump’s top foreign policy advisers escalate over Iran strategy

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The ongoing US-Iran tensions have exposed the growing strains among President Donald Trump’s top foreign policy advisers: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton, according to an American media report.

Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran has exacerbated fissures between the two men, especially “over the tight control Bolton has tried to exert over the national security decision-making process,” Politico, an online news service, said.

Pompeo and his special representative for Iran, Brian Hook, have indicated that the Trump administration’s goal in pressuring Iran is renewed negotiations with Tehran, according to Politico, citing two sources familiar with their thinking.

But Bolton is a deep skeptic of the value of negotiating with adversaries, the sources said.

“Though Bolton and Pompeo largely have the same hawkish instincts, when disagreements have arisen, Bolton has made clear why he has a reputation as bare-knuckled bureaucratic infighter,” Politico said in its report.

While Pompeo has worked to carry out the president’s foreign policy directives, Bolton has at times contradicted the president, as when he walked back Trump’s call for a rapid US troop withdrawal from Syria.

US officials say that in the case of Iran, Pompeo and Bolton’s divergent approaches to working with the impulsive president has strained their relationship as the US increases its military presence in the Persian Gulf.

Earlier this month, Bolton said that Washington was preparing for possible attacks by Iran or its allied forces in the region.
Citing those “threats,” Washington sent military reinforcements to the region, including an aircraft carrier strike group, a squadron of B-52 bombers, and a battery of patriot missiles.

Trump on Friday denied reports of conflict between Pompeo and Bolton, saying, “They say confidential sources. You ever notice they don’t write the names of the people anymore. Everything is ‘a source says’ … The person doesn’t exist, the person is not alive,” the president told a gathering of real estate agents in Washington.