Donald Trump Defies John Bolton On Iran’s Presence In Syria

Donald Trump reiterated his stance on US exiting Syria, leading to frustration from his security advisers

In his first Cabinet meeting of the year, President Donald Trump stuck a dagger in a major initiative advanced by his foreign policy team: Iran’s leaders, the president said, “can do what they want” in Syria.

With a stray remark, Trump snuffed out a plan from his national security adviser, John Bolton, who this fall vowed that the United States would not leave Syria “as long as Iranian troops are outside Iranian borders.”

The president’s statement offered the latest illustration of the dramatic gyrations that have characterized his foreign policy and fueled questions about whether his senior advisers are implementing his policies or pursuing their own agendas.

The president’s order last month to withdraw troops from Syria, which prompted the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, had already exposed a stark gap between Bolton’s plan to use the country as a theater to push back against Iran and the president’s eagerness to wash his hands of the war.

Critics say the shifting plan, which has rattled key U.S. allies, will embolden Russia and Iran, the Syrian government’s main foreign supporters. It also sets the stage for a confrontation between NATO ally Turkey and Kurdish-dominated Syrian forces that have been the chief U.S. partner against the Islamic State.

An Iran-centric plan, that John Bolton (pictured here) and Mike Pompeo unveiled earlier, is absent from…

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