With Bolton’s departure, an Iran hawk leaves the chessboard

(Reuters) John Bolton’s departure from the White House removes an obstacle to the possibility of U.S.-Iranian nuclear talks, but the odds of such a dialogue leading anywhere remain low, current and former U.S. officials said on Tuesday.

President Donald Trump fired his national security adviser, a hawk on Iran who as a private citizen had advocated military action to destroy its nuclear program and who disagreed with his boss on policies from Afghanistan to Russia while in office.

Trump’s third national security adviser, Bolton had argued for driving Iranian oil exports to zero and against Trump’s desire to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

“Bolton has been ‘Dr. No’ when it comes to talks with Iran,” Cliff Kupchan, a former State Department official now at the Eurasia Group political risk consultancy, wrote in an analysis.

While Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei probably would not allow a meeting at this month’s U.N. General Assembly, Kupchan said: “There’s upward pressure on the chance of a meeting. If it does happen, we’d see more downward umph on the oil price.”

U.S. oil prices fell more than 1 percent on the news of Bolton’s departure, with investors betting that it increased the odds of the United States easing sanctions on Iran and reduced the odds of any possible U.S. military strike.

With Bolton’s support, Trump last year abandoned the 2015 multilateral agreement reached by his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, under which Iran agreed to limit its nuclear program in return for the easing of economic sanctions.

Trump has since restored U.S. sanctions and moved in May to try to cut Iran’s oil exports, historically its main source of foreign exchange and government revenues, to zero.

The Republican president argued the 2015 agreement did not do enough to keep Iran from eventually obtaining a nuclear weapon and he criticized it for failing to address Iran’s ballistic missile program and support for regional proxies.

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