AMB. JOHN BOLTON: ‘Designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a Terrorist Organization’

Ambassador John R. Bolton, a diplomat and a lawyer, has spent many years in public service. From August 2005 to December 2006, he served as the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations. From 2001 to 2005, he was under secretary of state for arms control and international security. At AEI, Ambassador Bolton’s area of research is U.S. foreign and national security policy. Follow him @AmbJohnBolton. 

FRANK GAFFNEY:

Welcome to Secure Freedom Radio. This is Frank Gaffney, your host and guide for what I think of as an intelligence briefing on the war for the free world. There are a few people, whose intelligence I’ve admired more, as our countrymen and women have over the year, than that of our first guest. He is Ambassador John Bolton. He has served in a number of capacities in the United States government with great distinction including as our Ambassador to the United Nations. He is the author of Surrender is Not an Option. Simply countless op-eds, columns, and other contributions to the public debate about all the national security issues of our time, and a great friend and guest. We’re always glad to have him with us. Mr. Ambassador, welcome back.

AMB. JOHN BOLTON:

Glad to be with you.

FRANK GAFFNEY:

So much to talk about, so little time. Let me throw a couple of them at you. Russia, you have been very concerned, as I think the rest of have been, about what Vladimir Putin up to, at least his influence operations which are getting a lot of partisan press especially. Give us quickly sir, if you would, your thoughts on this meeting the President had with Putin, and what we have been learning since.

AMB. JOHN BOLTON:

Well, I thought it was extremely important that President Trump do exactly what he did, which is put to Putin right at the beginning of the meeting, and for apparently as long as forty minutes in a number of different aspects of the conversation why he was unhappy with Russian efforts to meddle in our elections. I thought that kind of straightforward talk by the President should have made it pretty clear to Putin how strongly we felt about it. But I thought maybe the most important lesson to come out of it for the President and Secretary of State Tillerson, who was in the meeting, was to watch, completely predictably, Vladimir Putin denied to their faces that Russia had tried to do anything to undercut Americans’ faith in their democratic institutions because that was the proof positive about how this Russian government performs international affairs. It will say or do whatever it thinks necessary, whether it is related to the truth or just happens to be coincidentally related to the truth to advance their interest. Therefore, whatever agreement you make with Russia, whether it’s ceasefire in Southwest Syria, an arms control agreement, dealing with them on the Iran nuclear weapons program, talking about their intervention in Ukraine, whatever it is what Russia says cannot be relied upon. I think once you reach that understanding negotiating with the Russians becomes a lot more realistic, and I think after eight years of Obama, we desperately need that.

FRANK GAFFNEY:

Do you agree with me, Mr. Ambassador that as we are hearing a lot of talk in connection with the Donald Trump Jr.  meeting with a Russian attorney, that this opens the door to in fact makes, absolutely obligatory, into the sorts of collusion others were having with the Russians? We certainly have evidence of Hillary Clinton, and for that matter Barack Obama, should those be a part of the investigations underway now?

AMB. JOHN BOLTON:

Well, I think either part of the investigation, or we need separate ones, because I think in many respects this really requires something that gives appropriate prominence to the various things being alleged here. I just think the Clinton campaign, the abuses of the Obama Administration, in trying to affect the election are equally serious from the perspective of preserving our Constitutional process. I mean, we still don’t know the extent to which the Obama Administration was acting in impermissible ways, but certainly one thing, their supporters in the Democratic Party have yet to explain, which is if this Russian hacking of our election were as serious as they say, why in God’s name didn’t Obama do anything about it? This to me is an existential threat to the United States. We are a country founded on an idea about human freedom, reflected in our governmental processes and embodied in our Constitution, and I do think that there is still a lot we do not know about what the Russians did but I think their fundamental premises was to undermine the faith in our institutions. They are doing it in other countries as well because then it doesn’t matter ultimately what candidate wins; our system is being undermined. So, if it is that serious, what was Barack Obama doing other than watching paint dry on his office walls?

FRANK GAFFNEY:

Let me ask you, you mention Syria and the so-called ceasefire coming out of the conversations with Putin last week, one of the other things that’s playing out in Syria as well as in Iraq of course what we are being told is the defeat at long last of the Islamic State. Knowing what you do about the ideology that is animating this outfit, do you believe that we’re actually at the point where we are seeing that ideology defeated, as well as for that matter one of its manifestations in this group the Islamic State?

AMB. JOHN BOLTON:

No, I still don’t think that we are addressing the ideology adequately. I think that from both press reports and what I pick up from in conversations with knowledgeable people it’s almost certain the Islamic State has already exfiltrated substantial members of its leaders to somewhere else, Libya, Yemen, or Afghanistan. There are a lot of possibilities.  I mean they could have left for a lot of different places to reestablish a new caliphate, and those who remained behind in Mosul, where there are some who are still holding out, in Raqqa the capital who are ready to get their martyrdom. Which they richly deserve, and the sooner the better, but it’s not going to end the ISIS threat. And in fact, I think that Obama’s “slow roll” strategy of dealing with the ISIS caliphate in Syria and Iraq has permitted ISIS the luxury of being able to regroup elsewhere. I think the President has a fundamentally different view of the conflict with radical Islamic terrorism. I just don’t think that his government has come along with him yet. And I think that it’s a problem that we will see in a number of different areas, most acutely in this one, that the permanent government is not yet under control.

FRANK GAFFNEY:

I want to ask you about not just the permanent government that’s bad enough, most especially the foreign service part of it, but even his cabinet officer over there, Rex Tillerson on the issue of a country that has been very much at the forefront of promoting, what Andy McCarthy calls ‘sharia supremacists’ ideology, namely Qatar. You have this sort of spectacle of the President saying that it’s a good thing that they drive out effectively Qatar if it won’t drive out the Muslim Brotherhood, Al Jazeera, on the one hand. And you have Rex Tillerson, not only saying, ‘Hey, everything is just hunky dory with Qatar, but we’re actually party to a memorandum of understanding about how we’re going to join forces with them in countering terrorism.’ What do you make of this, particularly based on your experience in the building?

AMB. JOHN BOLTON:

Anytime you have a split between the White House and the State Department or any major cabinet, defense, or intelligence community, our foreign adversaries take advantage of it. I actually think what the President did in Riyadh in the creation of a center against the extremism gave us an enormous opportunity to try to dry up terrorist financing from whatever source it comes from, and you can point a lot of fingers on this score because the terrorist, in their different manifestations, get it from a number of different places. Qatar has one significant point in its favor when it says, you know you accuse us of giving to the Muslim Brotherhood, it’s true, we don’t declare the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. But you know that the United States hasn’t declared it to be a terrorist organization yet either. So, to me this is how you take this mess in the Gulf, which I do think we need to clear up. We need a united anti-Iran front, and Qatar needs to come closer to its friends on the peninsula, us, the U.S., and Israel on that point. And in the meantime, let’s help Qatar along here. Why doesn’t the United States get on with the business of declaring the Muslim Brotherhood a foreign terrorist organization? And then that gives Qatar the excuse to go ahead and do it too, so we can cut off everyone’s funding for them, whether it’s in Egypt, the United States, or anywhere else in the world.

FRANK GAFFNEY:

Great idea! Mr. Ambassador, we hope from your lips to God’s ears as they say. Thank you for spending some time sharing with our audiences ears these important insights, and I know you’ll come back to us very soon. In the meantime, sir, stay very well.