Bolton is­sues warn­ing to Iran

Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser says not to mis­take U.S. ‘pru­dence’ for weak­ness

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By ARON HELLER

JERUSALEM >> U.S. Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser John Bolton said Sun­day that Iran should not “mis­take U.S. pru­dence and dis­cre­tion for weak­ness,” after the U.S. abruptly called off mil­i­tary strikes against Iran in re­sponse to the shoot­ing down of an un­manned Amer­i­can sur­veil­lance drone.

Bolton’s tough mes­sage seemed to be aimed not only at Tehran, but also at re­as­sur­ing key U.S. al­lies that the White House re­mains com­mit­ted to main­tain­ing pres­sure on Iran. Is­rael, along with Arab coun­tries in the Gulf, con­sid­ers Iran to be their great­est threat, and Trump’s last-minute about face ap­pears to have raised ques­tions about U.S. will­ing­ness to use force against the Is­lamic Repub­lic.

The down­ing of the air­craft on Thurs­day marked a new high in the ris­ing ten­sions be­tween the United States and Iran in the Per­sian Gulf. The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has vowed to com­bine a “max­i­mum pres­sure” cam­paign of eco­nomic sanc­tions with a buildup of Amer­i­can forces in the re­gion, fol­low­ing the U.S. with­drawal from the 2015 nu­clear deal be­tween Iran and world pow­ers.

On Sun­day, Ira­nian Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani blamed the United States’ “in­ter­ven­tion­ist mil­i­tary pres­ence” for fan­ning the flames. He was quoted by the of­fi­cial IRNA news agency.

“The re­gion is very sen­si­tive and se­cu­rity of the Per­sian Gulf and Gulf of Oman wa­ter­ways is im­por­tant to many coun­tries. We ex­pect in­ter­na­tional bod­ies to show

proper re­ac­tion to the in­va­sion move,” Rouhani said about the down­ing of the U.S. drone.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump says he backed away from the planned strikes after learn­ing 150 peo­ple would be killed. But Bolton, a long­time Iran hawk, em­pha­sized that the U.S. re­served the right to at­tack at a later point. He also said a new set of sanc­tions on Iran are ex­pected to be an­nounced Mon­day.

“No one has granted them a hunt­ing li­cense in the Mid­dle East. As Pres­i­dent Trump said on Fri­day our mil­i­tary is re­built, new and ready to go,” Bolton said in Jerusalem along­side Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu, him­self a vo­cal critic of Iran over the years.

“And as he made clear yesterday, re­fer­ring to his ear­lier re­marks, the pres­i­dent said, ‘I just stopped the strike from go­ing for­ward at this time,’” Bolton added.

Bolton is vis­it­ing Is­rael for three-way talks with his Is­raeli and Rus­sian coun­ter­parts that are ex­pected to fo­cus on Ira­nian in­volve­ment in con­flicts across the re­gion, in­clud­ing in neigh­bor­ing Syria.

Is­rael’s prime min­is­ter has been a vo­cal critic of Iran over the years, ac­cus­ing the Is­lamic Repub­lic of sin­is­ter in­ten­tions at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity.

But Ne­tanyahu, a long­time op­po­nent of the nu­clear deal, has re­mained un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally quiet through­out the cur­rent cri­sis be­tween the U.S. and Iran. The Is­raeli leader ap­pears to be wary of be­ing seen as push­ing the U.S. into a new Mid­dle Eastern mil­i­tary con­flict.

Stand­ing along­side Bolton, Ne­tanyahu sided with the Amer­i­cans. He said Ira­nian in­volve­ment in con­flicts across the re­gion had in­creased as a re­sult of the nu­clear deal, which gave the coun­try a new cash in­fu­sion, and had noth­ing to do with the U.S. exit from the agree­ment.

“After the deal, but be­fore re­cent events, Iran has been on a cam­paign of ag­gres­sion,” he said. “Those who de­scribe the re­cent ac­tions as some­how open­ing a hor­net’s nest are liv­ing on an­other planet.”

Ne­tanyahu made no men­tion of the called-off airstrike and said he was “pleased” by U.S. plans for in­creased eco­nomic pres­sure. But Is­raeli com­men­ta­tors said that Trump’s about-face was a cause for con­cern.

“It fur­ther un­der­mined the al­ready lim­ited con­fi­dence of other West­ern lead­ers in Trump’s judg­ment, it cast the U.S. pres­i­dent as a pa­per tiger and pro­vided a mo­ment of tri­umph for the ay­a­tol­lahs in Tehran and it raised new doubts about the ra­tio­nale be­hind Ne­tanyahu’s drive to per­suade Trump to aban­don the 2015 nu­clear deal,” wrote Haaretz colum­nist Chemi Shalev.

Ne­tanyahu has re­peat­edly ac­cused Iran of seek­ing to de­velop nu­clear weapons — a charge Tehran de­nies.

Mean­while, Iran’s for­eign min­is­ter said Bolton was try­ing to force the U.S. into a con­flict with Iran. Javad Zarif tweeted that the pres­i­den­tial ad­viser was “mo­ments away from trap­ping” Trump into a “war,” be­fore the U.S. pres­i­dent called off the strikes against Iran.

A top Ira­nian mil­i­tary com­man­der warned Sun­day that any con­flict with Iran would have un­con­trol­lable con­se­quences across the re­gion and en­dan­ger the lives of U.S. forces. Maj. Gen. Gho­la­mali Rashid’s re­marks, pub­lished by the semi-of­fi­cial Fars news agency, were made while ad­dress­ing Iran’s pow­er­ful Revo­lu­tion­ary Guards Corps dur­ing a field visit to a com­mand cen­ter for Ira­nian radars and mis­sile sys­tems. The gen­eral over­sees and co­or­di­nates joint mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions in the Ira­nian Armed Forces.

U.S. mil­i­tary cy­ber forces on Thurs­day launched a strike against Ira­nian mil­i­tary com­puter sys­tems, ac­cord­ing to U.S. of­fi­cials. The cy­ber­at­tacks dis­abled Ira­nian Revo­lu­tion­ary Guard Corps com­puter sys­tems that con­trolled its rocket and mis­sile launch­ers, the of­fi­cials said.

Through­out the re­cent cri­sis, Trump has wa­vered be­tween bel­li­cose lan­guage and ac­tions to­ward Iran and a more ac­com­mo­dat­ing tone. His ad­min­is­tra­tion is aim­ing to crip­ple Iran’s econ­omy and force pol­icy changes by re-im­pos­ing sanc­tions, in­clud­ing on Ira­nian oil ex­ports.

How­ever, Trump said Satur­day he ap­pre­ci­ated that Iran did not fire on a U.S. spy plane with a crew of over 30 peo­ple that was fly­ing Thurs­day over the same area as the drone that was shot down.

He also dan­gled the prospect of even­tu­ally be­com­ing an un­likely “best friend” of Amer­ica’s long­time Mid­dle Eastern ad­ver­sary.

Ira­nian law­mak­ers on Sun­day chanted “death to Amer­ica” dur­ing an open ses­sion when act­ing par­lia­ment speaker Ma­soud Pezeshkian con­demned what he said was the vi­o­la­tion of Ira­nian airspace by the U.S. drone.

The re­gional ten­sions have prompted ma­jor in­ter­na­tional car­ri­ers, in­clud­ing Saudi Ara­bia’s state air­line Sau­dia, to di­vert flight routes away from the Gulf of Oman and Strait of Hor­muz.

The U.S. Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s on Fri­day barred U.S.-reg­is­tered air­craft from op­er­at­ing over parts of the Per­sian Gulf.

The U.S. blames Iran for ap­par­ent at­tacks on six oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman in re­cent weeks, which Iran de­nies. Ira­nian-al­lied rebels in Ye­men have also re­cently launched at­tacks on a civil­ian air­port in Saudi Ara­bia, a de­sali­na­tion plant and key oil pipe­line in the king­dom. The king­dom has been at war in Ye­men against the rebels since 2015.

TSAFRIR ABAYOV

U.S. Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­vi­sor John Bolton gives state­ments to me­dia in Jerusalem, Sun­day, June 23, 2019.

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