Last week was a most unusual one for US President Donald Trump’s administration. There was no high-level firing: The only dismissal of any note was that of the White House aide in charge of homeland security, who was forced out at the behest of John Bolton, who had just taken over as Trump’s third national security adviser in 15 months. Nonetheless, it may well have been the most turbulent week yet of Trump’s presidency.
Bolton’s appointment was enough to set much of Washington trembling with fear that he would reinforce Trump’s most pugnacious views, for example that the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement should be scrapped. Still, it has been widely speculated that Bolton, reportedly a bureaucratic whiz, was outmaneuvered by Defense Secretary James Mattis on the question of how far to take the military attack on Syria in retaliation for the latest alleged use of chemical weapons by Bashar al-Assad’s government. In the end, the attacks by the US, the United Kingdom and France were restricted to targets believed to be chemical-weapons and storage facilities.