Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Security Advisor John Bolton in Jerusalem, June 23, 2019.
(photo credit: EMIL SALMAN/HAARETZ)
Iran should not mistake US “prudence and discretion for weakness,” US National Security Advisor John Bolton said on Sunday before meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, still in the shadow of the simmering Persian Gulf crisis with Iran.
“No one has granted them a hunting license in the Middle East,” Bolton said two days after US President Donald Trump called off a planned military strike against Iran in retaliation to Tehran’s downing of a US drone.
The change of heart was out of concern for a potentially disproportionate response. Bolton asserted “our military is rebuilt, new and ready to go – by far the best in the world.” He stressed that Trump “stopped the strike from going forward at this time.”
Bolton added that US sanctions on the Islamic Republic were biting, and that new sanctions, which have been in preparation for weeks, will be announced publicly on Monday. Reinforcing the American stance for the last few years, he said Iran “can never have nuclear weapons – not against the United States and not against the world.”
Bolton arrived on Saturday for three days of discussions in Jerusalem, including an unprecedented trilateral meeting on Tuesday with his Russian counterpart, Nikolai Patrushev, and Israel’s National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat. Netanyahu is scheduled to meet for bilateral talks with Patrushev on Monday. Bolton is also scheduled to meet Patrushev on Monday to prepare the groundwork for a meeting on Thursday between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 meeting in Osaka, Japan.
Although he is in Israel for the scheduled trilateral meeting, Bolton said “current circumstances in the region make our conversations even more timely.”
He praised the US-Israel security relationship under Trump and Netanyahu, noting that it has never been stronger. He added that in addition to the US administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the move of the embassy there, and the recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, the cooperation between the two countries has reached new levels. “These are not mere flourishes of rhetoric, which too often characterize international relations,” he said. “These are concrete realities, and I’m sure there will be more to come.”
Netanyahu, meanwhile, avoided addressing the recent developments in the Persian Gulf, including the lack of a US military response to the downing of drone and to the attack on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Instead, the prime minister bashed supporters of the Iranian nuclear deal, criticizing the argument that the infusion of cash into Iran’s economy as part of the deal would moderate Iran.
“They argued that Iran would become inward-focused, would start nation-building,” he asserted. “And in fact, the opposite has happened. The very opposite has happened. 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.”
Netanyahu said that those who believe Iran’s recent acts of aggressions were triggered by the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal and stepping up sanctions were “not living on the same planet.”
He said that “the one thing that has changed for those of us who live in the Middle East is not that Iran is attacking its neighbors or brazenly perpetrating wanton aggression; what’s new is that now, thanks to crippling American sanctions, Iran is facing unprecedented economic pressure as a result of its aggression.”
Netanyahu said that the trilateral meeting of US, Russian, and Israel national security advisers in Jerusalem was a “historic” meeting that “speaks loudly about the nature of Israel’s standing among the nations, and in this case among two of the greatest nations on earth.”
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