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Trump appoints hostage negotiator Robert O'Brien as national security adviser

O'Brien, hawkish opponent to Iran nuclear deal, replaces John Bolton who was sacked last week
O'Brien's appointment comes amid rising tensions between the US and Iran (AFP/File photo)
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Washington

President Donald Trump has appointed his administration's top hostage negotiator, Robert O'Brien, as national security adviser to replace the hawkish John Bolton, who was fired last week.

"I am pleased to announce that I will name Robert C. O'Brien, currently serving as the very successful Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs at the State Department, as our new National Security Advisor," Trump wrote in a tweet early on Wednesday. 

'President Obama has paved the way for a nuclear Iran and given the Mullahs over $100 billion in sanctions relief as an incentive to agree to Western appeasement'

- Robert C. O'Brien in 2016 book

"I have worked long & hard with Robert. He will do a great job!"

O'Brien, who does not need to be confirmed by the Senate, will aid the president on foreign policy and security issues.

In a 2016 book titled, While America Slept,  O'Brien outlined his hawkish foreign policy views, advocating greater US interventions and more military spending.

Views on Iran

The appointment comes amid rising tensions with Iran, as the US administration considers options to respond to an attack on Saudi oil facilities on Saturday that American officials have blamed on Tehran. 

In While America Slept, O'Brien voiced strong opposition to the multinational Iran nuclear deal, which saw Tehran scale back its nuclear programme in exchange for lifting economic sanctions. 

O'Brien called then President Barack Obama "naive" for signing the accord, describing it as "the worst diplomatic deal since Munich", the 1938 agreement between European countries and Nazi Germany. 

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"President Obama has paved the way for a nuclear Iran and given the Mullahs over $100 billion in sanctions relief as an incentive to agree to Western appeasement," he writes.

Iran is a "sworn enemy" of the US, O'Brien adds.

"It is a revolutionary regime committed to changing the contours of the Middle East and destroying America's key regional ally, Israel... There is simply no evidence to support the idea that we can trust revolutionary Iran to give up its long-term goal of developing a nuclear weapon and delivery system," he says in the book.

O'Brien sent a letter to Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif earlier this year asking for the release of American detainees in the Islamic Republic.

"We are closely monitoring the conditions for Americans wrongfully detained by Iran in Evin prison," O'Brien wrote on Twitter on 5 September. 

"Foreign Minister @JZarif should tell prison officials that they are responsible for the detainees’ safety in the jail & that the world is watching."

Hawkish views

O'Brien put his hawkish views on full display in While America Slept. The book is largely dedicated to criticising Obama policies that he claimed emboldened "autocrats, tyrants and terrorists".

The book denounced Obama for "supporting" Egypt's Mohammad Morsi. It also endorsed the 2013 bloody coup that toppled the democratically elected Egyptian president, led by now-Trump's "favourite dictator", Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

"When General Sisi was elected President of Egypt on a platform of rooting out Islamic extremism, Washington was indifferent at best and hostile at worst," O'Brien says.

"The Gulf Arabs were truly taken aback by such an approach to the clear and present danger of radical Islamists controlling the Arab world's largest country and its cultural hub."

By "radical Islamists", O'Brien was referring to Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, which is not designated as a terrorist group by the US State Department.

Sisi began his reign in Egypt by killing hundreds of protesters who opposed the coup in Cairo. Since then, he has snuffed out all forms of opposition, jailing as many as 60,000 dissidents, including US citizens.

Trump faced criticism in July when he sent O'Brien to Sweden to support the rapper A$AP Rocky, who had been detained in Stockholm after a street brawl.

Last week, the Washington Post described the new adviser, who was a Los Angeles-based lawyer before joining the government, as a "safe choice" with "affable demeanor", citing an administration official that said Trump wanted a "team player" for the job.