Written by David M. Halbfinger
President Donald 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 Trump to the brink of ordering a retaliatory strike over explosions on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman and the Iranian downing of a U.S. 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 U.S. officials said the drone had been over international waters.
“No one has granted them a hunting license in the Middle East,” Bolton said Sunday at an appearance in Jerusalem alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.
He echoed Trump’s warnings that the U.S. military was “rebuilt, new and ready to go,” and said that “biting” new sanctions would be imposed Monday, as 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,” Bolton said Sunday. “Not against the U.S.A., and not against the world.”
Bolton was in Israel for a trilateral meeting on Tuesday with his Russian and Israeli counterparts. “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, Netanyahu, who had crusaded against the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that Trump 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,” 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.
Neither he nor Bolton mentioned the “Peace to Prosperity” plan introduced 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.