National security adviser John Bolton told FBN's Maria Bartiromo on Monday that sanctions have had an "enormous" effect on Iran’s economy, driving them into a depression.
“We’ve already seen the consequences in Iran,” Bolton told FOX Business Network's Maria Bartiromo. "The rial, the currency, has declined by 70 percent since the sanctions, inflation has quadrupled. The country is in recession.”
MARIA BARTIROMO, MORNINGS WITH MARIA HOST: Joining me right now is National Security Advisor, John Bolton, and it is good to see you, Ambassador. Thank you so much for being here.
JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR OF THE UNITED STATES: Glad to be here.
BARTIROMO: So tell me really the teeth on these sanctions. What is it going to do to Iran practically speaking?
BOLTON: Well, I think the sanctions in the aggregate are already having an enormous effect on Iran. You know, when the president announced we were withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal in May of this year, big businesses that had prospects or even some trade and investment with Iran weren’t going to wait for the sanctions actually to take effect. They’ve pulled out. They’ve cut back in many ways, and I think we’ve already seen the consequences in Iran. The rial, the currency’s declined about 70 percent since the sanctions, inflation has quadrupled, the country is in recession. You’re seeing riots and demonstrations all around the country just provoked by ordinary citizens. So I think this is going to cut into Iran’s ability to continue their nuclear program, the financed terrorism, and to engage in military activity around the Middle East, and I think we’re already seeing that.
BARTIROMO: Now look, obviously it’s taken some oil off the market, but the criticism as The Editorial Board and The Journal wrote over the weekend, one complaint is that the administration has exempted eight countries from sanctions on oil exports from Iran. Are they Japan, South Korea, China, and India?
BOLTON: Well, I think those are going to be announced today. Look, the president’s policy here is maximum pressure, and I think what he means by maximum pressure is maximum pressure. The aim is to drive Iranian oil exports to zero. We're working with other countries to get alternative supplies for countries that are buying and I think that's critical over an extended period of time.
But let's be clear, we're going to have sanctions that even go beyond this. We're not simply going to be content with the level of sanctions that existed under Obama in 2015. More are coming and even more important, perhaps, is we are actually going to have very strict, very tight enforcement of the sanctions that do exist.
Iran, right now, is in the escape and evasion mode. They're going to try and get around the sanctions, we're determined to prevent that.
BARTIROMO: I know you're going to announce later today that country specifically and the exemptions, but why the waivers? Why put some in a category of having these waivers and others not?
BOLTON: Yes, look, I think we've said for a long time, zero should mean zero. But some countries that, for the last three or four years, had been able to purchase oil from Iran needs some time to get down to zero.
These are not permanent waivers, no way, we're going to do everything we can to squeeze Iran hard. As the British say, to make -- to squeeze them until the Pips (ph) squeak.
BOLTON: And we're going to do everything we can. They're choice and the Mullahs (ph) in Tehran either change their behavior dramatically or face economic disaster.
BARTIROMO: This weekend I spoke with Prince Al-Waleed of Saudi Arabia, tell us the importance of the relationship with the one stability in the region, we thought, which was Saudi Arabia, as we face off this behavior from Iran.
BOLTON: Look, we've had a deep and important relationship with Saudi Arabia since Franklin Roosevelt. It is a cornerstone of our policy in the Middle East and we want to get to the bottom of what happened to Khashoggi, we want the truth, there's no question about it. It's unacceptable behavior but the relationship is foundational for the United States and we're going to try everything we can to see it through.
The other oil producing monarchies in the Gulf region are going to depend on that. Israel sees Saudi Arabia as an important and stabilizing factor and in the struggle for what is really causing tension and danger in the region Iran, we want Saudi on our side.
BARTIROMO: I want to get back to that in second, but here's an op-ed from Rick Perry, Energy Secretary Perry writes this in "The Wall Street Journal," the op-ed titled "The World Can Live Without Iranian Oil."
So, did America's new role as this energy powerhouse factor into this decision? Maybe the U.S. is at such a level in terms of it's own production, we don't need Middle Eastern oil from Iran anyway.
BOLTON: Yes. Well, Rick Perry and the Energy department have done a fantastic job since the president pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal to talk to other countries, to get their production up, to find oil that's suitable for the refineries in countries that had been purchasing from Iran. We've ramped up our own production in America. I think we can get to a point where nobody responsible needs to buy oil from Iran.
BARTIROMO: So, let me get back to Saudi Arabia and the Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. The sons of Khashoggi did an interview recently and they've asked for their father's remains to be returned to the U.S.
As I mentioned, Prince Al-Waleed, yesterday with me on "Sunday Morning Futures" in an exclusive interview, here's what he said about that investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRINCE AL-WALEED BIN TATAL, PRINCE IN SAUDI ARABIA: I think some people intelligence that commit -- that follow these orders and sent a group of people to Turkey to engage with Jamal Khashoggi and clear something went wrong over there, whereby he was murdered.
It does give some time for the investigation to finish and I ask Saudi (ph) (inaudible) publically through a program to have the investigation made public as soon as possible. So whereby, I believe that the Saudi companies will 100 vindictive and exonerated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARTIROMO: Investor, I realize the relationship with the Saudis is critical, very important in this neighborhood, if you will, but is it NBS to lead? I mean one year ago we were there in Riyadh, he told me in an interview and to the world, he wants to modernize Saudi Arabia. Two weeks later he imprisons all of these ministers, Prince Al-Waleed included, and then a month ago we learn this horrific murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Is he the guy?
BOLTON: Look, we have heard both from the king and the crown prince very strongly in a number of conversations directly with President Trump that they had no involvement with this and that they're both committed to getting to the bottom of it. That's what they've said to us and we take them at their word that they're going to do that.
BARTIROMO: What are you going to do in terms of monitoring Iran's behavior and whether or not it warrants further sanctions?
BOLTON: No, this is the critical phase we're in now. As I say, escape and evasion by Iran. They're going to try and infiltrate the banking systems of other countries. They're going to try and use front companies and cut-outs to evade the sanctions. They're going to do all kinds of things.
This is what I would say to American companies and any foreign company that wants to do business in the United States, and I'd say it particularly to their investors and to their independent directors on their boards of directors, if you see you company engaged in a transaction that has the word Iran anywhere associated to it, it ought to be like a fire bell in the night. Not only will we have the incredibly important civil enforcement from the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, the Justice Department criminal investigators are going to be all over this. They’ve already got a number of important cases against Iran sanctions violators. I think they’re going to put – make this a big priority. There’s a lot of risk for any company that comes anywhere close to Iran.
BARTIROMO: So you’re willing to go as far as sanctioning European companies, European investors if they’re doing business with Iran.
BOLTON: If they violate our sanctions, but I tell you even though we’ve heard a lot about how the European government still wish we were in the Iran deal –
BOLTON: – European businesses have spoken with their feet. They’re out of Iran. That’s one of the reasons why the Iranian economy is tanking right now, and we’re going to ramp this up. This is going to be a big squeeze. That’s what President Trump means when he says maximum pressure.
BARTIROMO: Should we expect retaliation from Iran?
BOTLON: Well, I think they’re going to have to make some very hard decisions. You know, if they change their behavior, the president said he’s happy to engage them on the whole range of their behavior – support for terrorism, ballistic missiles, conventional military activity in Yemen and Iraq and Syria. We’re prepared to do that. They need to change their behavior or they will face the economic consequences.
BARTIROMO: Let me turn to the caravans headed toward the U.S. Mexico has started to receive people from the migrant caravan as U.S. troops are now there, set up barbed wire on the southern border. From a national security perspective, how should we view this caravan and the need to put barbed wire up already?
BOLTON: Well look, this caravan that we’re talking about and others that are being formed is a very politicized effort to make a point about the United States. You know, there are groups and Latin America groups around the world that talk about a borderless society, that people can come into any country they want any time they want. We should have a philosophical discussion about that. That’s not the American view. I personally think there ought to be more immigration into the United States, but controlled and legal immigration that we get to decide. And control the southern borders, not just an immigration issue alone. It’s also a national security question. Human trafficking, drug trafficking, the risk of weapons of mass destruction and terrorists coming across the border. I think this is something people are rightly concerned about, and I think President Trump’s got the answer for them.
BARTIROMO: Ambassador, I want to end where we began and that is on Iran. There was a report on Friday that China is looking to buy oil from the United States as opposed to Iran, and this is going to be the beginning of a new trade deal that the president’s going to talk with President Xi about when he sees him at the G20. Truth?
BOLTON: I think there’s a lot of possibility. I think the American production of oil and gas and the potential for export is enormous. It’s a strategic alternative for the Europeans from buying Russian oil and gas. Could be a strategic alternative in the far east as well. You already see Chinese banks that are stopping clearing Iranian financial transactions because they’d rather do business in the United States. The same is true for many other Chinese businesses. The reach of American economic power’s enormous, and that’s what the president’s using here.
So how significant would that be in the middle of this fight with China over the theft of intellectual property? And this sounds like this could be a really big deal.
BOLTON: Look, the president probably is going to be able to see Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 meeting in Argentina at the end of this month. The president’s used the trade weapon here in ways that have never been used before. I think he’s caught the Chinese off balance. They say, “woah, an American president who doesn’t act like a well-bred doormat when we trample all over WTO rules.” So I think the president’s really changed the dynamic with China. We’ll see what happens here.