Iran's continued acts of aggression against the U.S. and its allies in the Middle East are not signs of a nation seeking peace, and it should never be able to obtain nuclear weapons, said U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton on Monday during a press briefing with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Against the backdrop of escalating tensions between the United States and Iran, Bolton spoke in Jerusalem ahead of a three-way meeting of security advisers from Israel, the U.S. and Russia about Syria’s future.
Referring to Trump’s last minute decision not to attack Iranian missile batteries following the downing of a U.S. drone over the Strait of Hormuz, Bolton said that “prudcene and discretion” should not be interpreted as weakneess. He said that United States’ military is “ready to go,” but that in the menatime more sanctions were added on Iran on Saturday night.
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Standing alongside Bolton, Netanyahu slammed the 2015 nuclear deal between the United States and Iran, saying that removal of sanctions allowed Iran to wage a “campaign of terorr and aggression across the region," funding and arming terror groups such as Lebanon's Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad in Gaza.
He expressed support for U.S. withdrawal from the agreement, saying removing sanctions "Will not moderate Iran,” who has been “empire building” by “devouring states in the Middle East.”
Bolton later met with Israeli National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat. The two re-affirmed the countries' shared "priority of confronting Iranian aggression throughout the region by continuing maximum economic pressure and increasing the cost of Iran’s malign activity," according to National Security Council Spokesman Garrett Marquis.
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Russian security officer Nikolai Patrushev will also participate in the talks with Ben-Shabbat about Iranian influence in Syria, particularly through the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds force.
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Netanyahu has aspired to hold such three-way talks ever since Russia boosted its presence in the region, in search of closer cooperation toward the goal of reducing Iranian influence in Syria.
Netanyahu will meet with Patrushev on Monday and will also attend talks with aides to Patrushev and Ben-Shabbat on Tuesday.
A diplomatic official told Haaretz that “this unprecedented meeting of two world powers with Israel, in Israel, underscores its global standing and sends a powerful message to the region, especially to our enemies. The meeting is a climax of many political steps, among them Netanyahu’s meetings with presidents Trump and Putin. These meetings created the opportunity for a historic meeting such as this, which will contribute a great deal to Israel’s security interests in the region.”
Jerusalem estimates the talks will continue past this week’s meetings, on the basis of principles that will be agreed upon there.
Russia is expected to ask the United States to recognize Assad’s renewed regime and lift global sanctions. Washington is expected to press in return for distancing the Iranians from Syria. Stronger European Union member states have rejected any recognition of Assad while others have demanded significant reforms before any discussion.
Israel believes that holding such talks in Jerusalem makes it a central regional partner in world powers’ discussions about their interests in Syria, and that this sends a public message to Iran’s leaders.
The Russians have thus far been ambivalent about Israel’s demands with regard to Syria. They have hoped that Israel would not disrupt efforts to stabilize Assad’s regime, but have not made any commitment to getting Iranian forces out of Syria.
Moscow has at times limited Israel’s military moves in the region through other means of coordination and deterrence. Such restrictions have especially grown since Syria’s downing of a Russian aircraft last year, during a confrontation with Israel, in which more than a dozen Russian servicemen lost their lives.