'Threat of nuclear Iran is very real'

John Bolton says US not aiming for regime change in Tehran, but warns that Iran has violated key elements of nuclear deal.

Arutz Sheva Staff, | updated: 14:06

John Bolton in Jerusalem
John Bolton in Jerusalem
Yoni Kempinski

US National Security Advisor John Bolton said the Trump administration is not aiming for a regime change in Iran, but is committed to keeping Tehran from achieving a nuclear weapons capacity, and reining in Iranian-backed terrorism.

Speaking at a press conference in Jerusalem Tuesday afternoon, Bolton summed up his three-day visit to Israel and the results of a trilateral summit between the national security advisers of the US, Russia, and Israel.

“The threat of a nuclear Iran is very real,” said Bolton. “We see continuing evidence, growing evidence of Iran’s violations of not just the nuclear deal, but the non-proliferation treaty itself. The IAEA has already found Iran in violation of the nuclear deal because of its exceeding the limits on sophisticated centrifuges.”

“Iran itself has threatened to blow through some of the key limits in the nuclear deal.”

“All this means that the threat of a nuclear Iran is very real, as are the threats of Iran’s support for terrorism, its ballistic missile program, and its other malign activities in the Middle East.”

When asked whether the US would consider lifting sanctions on Iran to encourage it to return to the negotiating table, Bolton said Tehran had given no indications it was prepared to alter its behavior.

“If Iran were serious about a solution, they wouldn’t be violating the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, it wouldn’t be the world’s central banker for international terrorism. It wouldn’t have its forces engaged in combat in other sovereign countries. And it would be a very different place. That’s why we put the sanctions in place.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Bolton met with his Russian and Israeli counterparts - Nikolai Patrushev and Meir Ben-Shabbat – in Jerusalem for trilateral talks, completing the Middle East security summit hosted by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

The summit opened just days after Iran shot down an American drone aircraft patrolling the Straits of Hormuz – the latest escalation in the region, following a string of suspected Iranian attacks on oil tankers in the strategic waterway.

In statements to the press before a trilateral meeting, Bolton blasted Tehran for its nuclear weapons program and acts of “belligerence and aggression.”

"Iran's provocations, which also include threats to and attacks on American personnel and assets in the Middle East are the external manifestations of the central threat that Iran poses, namely its continued pursuit of deliverable nuclear weapons."

Despite Iran's behavior, Bolton continued, President Trump has "held the door open for real negotiations".

"All Iran needs to do is walk through that open door."

Israeli Premier Binyamin Netanyahu also spoke at the summit Tuesday, warning Iran that Israel would “respond forcefully to any such attacks” by Tehran. “We have acted hundreds of times,” Netanyahu continued, alluding to Israeli airstrikes on Iranian forces stationed in Syria.

"Israel has acted hundreds of times to prevent Iran from entrenching itself militarily in Syria, while it actively and openly calls and works for our destruction. We have acted hundreds of times to prevent Iran from delivering increasingly sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah, or to form a second front in the north against us from the Golan Heights. Israel will continue to prevent Iran from using neighboring territory as platforms to attack us, and Israel will respond forcefully to any such attacks."