Bolton Warns Iran Not to ‘Mistake U.S. Prudence and Discretion for Weakness’

JERUSALEM — President Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, warned Tehran on Sunday not to “mistake U.S. prudence and discretion for weakness,” saying that military action against Iran remained very much an option even though the United States last week called off one military strike.

Tensions between the two countries had brought Mr. Trump to the brink of ordering a retaliatory strike over explosions on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman and the Iranian downing of an American surveillance drone.

The United States said there was no doubt that Iran was responsible for the attacks on the vessels near the Strait of Hormuz, but Iran has denied it. Tehran has also said that the drone breached its air space, though American officials said the drone had been over international waters.

“No one has granted them a hunting license in the Middle East,” Mr. Bolton said on Sunday at an appearance in Jerusalem alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.

He echoed Mr. Trump’s warnings that the United States military was “rebuilt, new and ready to go,” and said that “biting” new sanctions would be imposed on Monday, as Mr. Trump said.

Last week, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran said that the country would within 10 days have produced more low-enriched uranium — the sort used to fuel power plants — than allowed by the 2015 containment deal. The agency suggested that it might soon begin enriching the uranium to higher levels of purity, bringing it closer to what would be necessary to build a nuclear weapon.

“Iran can never have nuclear weapons,” Mr. Bolton said on Sunday. “Not against the U.S.A., and not against the world.”

Mr. Bolton was in Israel for a trilateral meeting on Tuesday with his Russian and Israeli counterparts, which Mr. Netanyahu called unprecedented.

“It speaks loudly about the nature of Israel’s standing among the nations, and in this case, among two of the greatest nations on earth,” the Israeli leader said.

In his remarks, Mr. Netanyahu, who had crusaded against the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that Mr. Trump eventually abandoned, ridiculed supporters of the pact, who he said had insisted that it would lead Iran to turn inward and focus on improving its economy.

“The very opposite has happened,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “Iran used those hundreds of billions of dollars to fund empire-building, not nation-building. That is, the stamping of one state after the other, and the devouring of one state after another in the Middle East.”

He cited Iran’s actions in Syria, Yemen and Iraq, and against Saudi Arabia and Israel.

“Those who described the recent actions as somehow opening a hornet’s nest are living on another planet,” Mr. Netanyahu said.

“In fact, the one thing that has changed for those of us who live in the Middle East: It’s not that Iran is attacking its neighbors or brazenly perpetrating wanton aggression,” he added. “What’s new is that now, thanks to crippling American sanctions, Iran is facing unprecedented economic pressure as a result of its aggression.”

Mr. Netanyahu said he was “pleased” to hear Mr. Trump make clear on Saturday that “that pressure will continue and that pressure will increase.”

Neither he nor Mr. Bolton mentioned the “Peace to Prosperity” plan unveiled by the White House on Saturday aimed at improving the lot of the Palestinians and their Arab neighbors, in the first public unveiling of the Trump administration’s long-delayed proposal to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Palestinian leaders have rejected it and are boycotting a conference this week in Bahrain where the Trump administration hopes to persuade Arab and Israeli business executives to embrace its call for some $50 billion in investment in the region.

Source: NYT

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