President Donald Trumps national security adviser warned Iran on Wednesday that any attacks in the Gulf will draw a “very strong response” from the United States.
John Boltons comments are the latest amid heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran that have been playing out in the Middle East.
Bolton spoke to journalists in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, which only days earlier saw former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis warn there that “unilateralism will not work” in confronting the Islamic Republic.
The US has accused Tehran of being behind a string of incidents this month, including the sabotage of oil tankers off the Emirati coast, a rocket strike near the US Embassy in Baghdad and a coordinated drone attack on Saudi Arabia by Yemens Iran-allied Houthi militia.
On Wednesday, Bolton described Tehrans decision to back away from its 2015 atomic deal with world powers as evidence it sought nuclear weapons, even though it came a year after America unilaterally withdrew from the unraveling agreement.
Bolton stressed the US had not seen any further Iranian attacks in the time since, something he attributed to the recent military deployments – America recently sent an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Gulf region. But he warned the US would strike back if again attacked.
“The point is to make it very clear to Iran and its surrogates that these kinds of action risk a very strong response from the United States,” Bolton threatened, without elaborating.
Bolton spoke before talks with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. He declined to have his remarks recorded by journalists.
A longtime Iran hawk, Bolton blamed Tehran for the recent incidents, at one point saying it was “almost certainly” Iran that planted explosives on the four oil tankers off the UAE coast. He declined to offer any evidence for his claims.
“Who else would you think is doing it?” Bolton asked at one point when pressed. “Somebody from Nepal?”
Irans Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has repeatedly criticized Bolton as a warmonger.
Abbas Mousavi, a spokesman for Irans Foreign Ministry, said later Wednesday Boltons remarks were a “ridiculous accusation.”
Separately in Tehran, President Hassan Rouhani said that the “road is not closed” when it comes to talks with the US – if America returns to the nuclear deal.
However, the relatively moderate Rouhani faces increasing criticism from hard-liners and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei over the collapsing accord.
Meanwhile, acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said some 900 troops coming to the Mideast over the perceived Iran threat to reinforce the tens of thousands already in the region would be placed in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Another 600 attached to a Patriot missile battery have had their deployment in the region extended.
“The Iranian threat to our forces in the region remains,” Shanahan said.
Speaking in Abu Dhabi, Bolton linked the rocket fire in Baghdad, the sabotage of the ships and the drone attack by Yemens Houthi militia, describing them as a response from Iran and its proxies.
“I think its important that the leadership in Iran to know that we know,” Bolton said.
Bolton also said the US would boost American military installations and those of its allies in the region.
The White House said Wednesday that Bolton will meet with his counterparts from Israel and Russia next month in Jerusalem to discuss regional security issues.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders did not disclose further details about Boltons planned meeting with Israeli national security adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat and Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Russian Security Council.
Earlier this month, on the first anniversary of Trumps withdrawal from the nuclear deal, Tehran announced it would begin to back away from the agreement.
The accord saw Iran limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Trump pulled out of the accord as he said it didnt go far enough in Read More – Source