Bolton wanted at­tack on Iran

The Dominion Post - - World -

The US con­sid­ered mil­i­tary strikes on Iran af­ter a mor­tar at­tack close to its em­bassy in Bagh­dad in Septem­ber, Amer­i­can of­fi­cials said yes­ter­day.

John Bolton, the na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, called a se­ries of meet­ings af­ter the at­tack – which one of Tehran’s proxy mili­tias in Iraq claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for – and is be­lieved to have asked the Pen­tagon to draw up op­tions for bomb­ing Iran. A sec­ond at­tack by an un­known group two days later tar­geted the US con­sulate in Basra. There were no in­juries nor dam­age in ei­ther in­ci­dent.

Un­named US of­fi­cials told The Wall Street Jour­nal that Bolton’s hawk­ish re­sponse to the Septem­ber at­tack ‘‘rat­tled’’ the Pen­tagon and state depart­ment. Be­fore he took of­fice in April Bolton was known for his fiery anti-Iran rhetoric, in­clud­ing call­ing for regime change.

His re­quest was not fol­lowed through, but it did re­veal how will­ing some mem­bers of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s cir­cle are to en­gage Iran in direct mil­i­tary con­flict, which could eas­ily spi­ral into a full-blown war and in­flame a se­ries of proxy con­flicts across the Mid­dle East.

Iran is em­broiled in con­flicts in Syria and Iran, and backs mili­tias in Le­banon and Iraq. Its pres­ence in Syria, where mem­bers of the Is­lamic Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guards Corps are fight­ing along­side As­sad’s forces, has height­ened ten­sions with Is­rael, which shares a dis­puted bor­der with the war-torn coun­try.

Is­rael fears that its old en­emy Hezbol­lah, one of Iran’s proxy mili­tias, may soon use its strongholds close to the fron­tier to launch mis­sile at­tacks on its ter­ri­tory.

Bolton was the driv­ing force be­hind the Amer­i­can with­drawal last year from the Iran nu­clear deal, a corner­stone of Trump’s for­eign pol­icy. His ag­gres­sive rhetoric is at odds with that of Mike Pom­peo, the sec­re­tary of state, who has said that Trump’s strat­egy in Iran does not in­clude regime change.

Pom­peo, vis­it­ing Qatar yes­ter­day dur­ing his eight-day trip to the Mid­dle East, told a con­ser­va­tive news­pa­per that Iran’s planned launch of satel­lites into space was a cover for test­ing ad­vanced mis­sile tech­nol­ogy ca­pa­ble of car­ry­ing a nu­clear war­head.

‘‘You’ll see in a hand­ful of days the Ira­ni­ans in­tend to launch a space launch ve­hi­cle,’’ he told the Wash­ing­ton Free Bea­con.

‘‘The claim is that it is to put some satel­lites in the air. The truth is this will be an­other step in their un­der­stand­ing of how it is you can launch an in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile.’’

Euro­pean pow­ers and the UN are try­ing to keep the nu­clear deal alive but it could be jeop­ar­dised by an an­nounce­ment from the head of Iran’s nu­clear pro­gramme of ‘‘pre­lim­i­nary ac­tiv­i­ties for de­sign­ing’’ a mod­ern process for 20 per cent ura­nium en­rich­ment for its re­search re­ac­tor in Tehran. En­rich­ment at that level would breach the terms of the 2015 deal. How­ever, Ali Ak­bar Salehi’s com­ments to state tele­vi­sion ap­peared to be telling the world that Iran would restart its pro­gramme slowly, in ac­cor­dance with the agree­ment.

John Bolton

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