WASHINGTON (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 20th September, 2019) US President Donald Trump picked hostage negotiator Robert O'Brien to replace John Bolton as national security adviser to boost efforts to engage diplomatically with countries like Iran and North Korea, former White House staffer and middle East expert Gwenyth Todd told Sputnik.
Trump appointed O'Brien on Wednesday just as the White House weighs bombing Iran after blaming the Islamic Republic for involvement in recent attacks on Saudi oil facilities, despite the fact the Houthis claimed responsibility for the incident.
"I see O'Brien as Trump's effort to appease [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo and the hawks while hoping to find, finally, a guy who will doggedly support and even contribute to Trump's efforts to negotiate with countries like Iran and North Korea," Todd, who served as a member of the White House National Security Council during the Clinton administration, said.
Trump fired Bolton, his third national security adviser in less than three years, last week due to disagreements over a range of US foreign policy issues related to Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, among others.
Although O'Brien is expected to be less of a hardliner than Bolton, he does have hawkish tendencies. In his 2016 book "While America Slept: Restoring American Leadership to a World in Crisis" O'Brien expressed hostility towards Russia and was critical of the nuclear deal with Iran.
Todd said that while appointing a hostage negotiator as security adviser "seems" like a positive step as the administration seeks new deals, it remains to be seen "if O'Brien is Trump's man or Pompeo's man."
"Pompeo will likely dominate every Principal's Committee meeting but all that matters is how the National Security Adviser words the ensuing recommendations to Trump, who wants to be offered options that include minimal kinetic solutions but maximal deal-making solutions," she explained.
"Bolton was always there as a prop to placate the hawks. He has always been a despised blowhard in Washington and was there to be fired if Trump needed a scapegoat. I found people's panic over Bolton's absurd stances rather amusing because it was all for show," she said.
"It would be a matter of the US kicking a hornet's nest and then disappearing, leaving the region, including our thousands of US families deployed in the Gulf, open for a devastating retaliation from Iran, as well as from millions of Arab Shi'a and other sympathizers," she said. "That would be horrendous for Trump's image and legacy, which is really all that concerns him."
"He always pulls the rug out from under the hawks at the last minute and they are left with no traction," she said.
On Saturday, a drone attack on two Saudi oil facilities resulted in a more than twofold drop in the country's net oil output. Although Yemen's Ansar Allah movement, also known as the Houthi, claimed responsibility for the attack, the United States and Saudi Arabia have blamed Iran. Tehran has rejected the allegations.