Iran is one of the four countries the US is most concerned about meddling in its upcoming November midterm elections, National Security Adviser John Bolton said on Sunday.
Bolton, speaking from Jerusalem in an interview with ABC’S “This Week” program shortly before meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said the other three countries were Russia, China and North Korea.
Bolton said the US was taking steps to try and prevent meddling from each of those countries, though he did not go into specifics.
US President Donald Trump withdrew in May from the Iranian nuclear agreement, triggering significant economic and domestic political consequences for the Islamic Republic, and Tehran obviously has a clear interest in seeing Trump weakened politically in the US Congress.
Bolton also said during the interview that Israel, the US and Russia, at least according to President Vladimir Putin’s statements, share an interest in removing Iranian forces and their proxies from Syria and Iraq. He also said the three countries also want to see Iran end its support for Hezbollah.
Bolton on "Face the Nation: No decision on withdrawal from Iran accord (Reuters)
Iran and Syria were at the top of the agenda when Bolton met Netanyahu for dinner on Sunday evening, and are likely to be the key issues when they meet again Monday morning.
Netanyahu, who welcomed Bolton to his residence by saying he is a “tremendous friend of Israel,” and a “tremendous champion of the American-Israel alliance,” said the most important topic they would discuss would be “how to continue to roll back Iran’s aggression in the region and to make sure that they never have nuclear weapons.”
Netanyahu termed Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal, and his decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, as “momentous.”
Bolton, who arrived Sunday and will be here through Wednesday, said it has been “an exciting year and a half in the Trump administration with some of the things you’ve mentioned. Obviously we’ve got great challenges, for Israel, for the United States and the whole world. The Iran nuclear weapons program [and] the ballistic missile programs are right at the top of the list.”
The two were joined for dinner by Ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, and US Ambassador David Friedman.
This is Bolton’s first trip to Israel since assuming his new position in April, though he has been in the country on numerous occasions in other capacities.
Asked in the ABC interview about the Iranian presence in Syria, Bolton said that Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal “has put a real crimp into the Iranian economy.”
Bolton said this crimp is being felt in the ability of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards or its Quds Force “to conduct offensive operations in the region here and in Yemen as well.”
These Iranian military operations, he said, are “part of the problem with the Iranian regime generally and why it’s such a threat to peace and security, not just because of its nuclear program, but because of its military operations and its support for terrorism.”
Bolton said Putin told Trump during their meeting in Helsinki last month that Russia and Iran did not have the same interests in Syria, and that he would like to talk about ways to get the Iranians out of Syria.
Asked whether it was acceptable for Syrian President Bashar Assad to remain in power, Bolton said, “The interest that we’re pursuing in Syria and in Iraq is the final destruction of the ISIS territorial caliphate, dealing with the ISIS territorial threat and getting Iran’s forces back into its own territory.”
Following his brief visit here, Bolton is scheduled to travel to Geneva for talks with Russian officials, including his counterpart Nikolai Patrushev, to follow up on last month’s Trump-Putin summit. He is also scheduled to travel to Ukraine for talks there as well.
The situation in Syria, as Bolton indicated, was high on the agenda of the Trump-Putin talks in Helsinki. Israeli officials have said Jerusalem is closely coordinated with Washington regarding its position on Syria. The Russians say they have moved the Iranian and Shia forces 85 kilometers from the border with Israel.
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