A senior Iranian official said on Sunday it was “shameful” that U.S. President Donald Trump had named John Bolton as national security adviser because of his ties with rebels whom Iran sees as “terrorists”, the state news agency IRNA reported.
“For a seemingly superpower country, it is shameful that its national security official would be receiving a salary from a terrorist sect,” said Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, according to IRNA.
Bolton has been a supporter of the exiled Mujahideen-e Khalq (People’s Mujahideen) armed opposition group which Iran sees as terrorists, and has spoken at the group’s events.
Garrett Marquis, a spokesman for Bolton, said on Sunday that Bolton “doesn’t respond to propaganda from a government long included on the United States’ list of state sponsors of terrorism.”
There was no immediate comment from the White House.
In Paris, the group’s spokesman Shahin Ghobadi said in response to the Iranian official’s statement that “the notion that the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran has funded ambassador Bolton or any other American officials is simply a lie and is a mere joke.”
In a speech at a Mujahideen-e Khalq event near Paris in July, Bolton expressed hope that Iran’s government would be toppled “by 2019”.
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Mujahideen-e Khalq, which had bases in Iraq since the 1980s, originated as a group of Islamist leftists opposed to Iran’s late Shah, but fell out with Shi’ite Muslim clerics who took power after the 1979 revolution.
It was one of the largest factions immediately after the revolution. But diplomats and analysts say it is difficult to determine the level of support for the group inside Iran these days, as many Iranians cannot forgive it for siding with Saddam Hussein during Iran’s war with Iraq in the 1980s.
The U.S. government designated the group a “terrorist” organization in 1997, but the designation was lifted in 2012.
Following Bolton's appointment last week, commentators speculated the move was a definitive sign the U.S. was preparing to pull out of the nuclear deal and would not support a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine. Recently, a former Israeli defense minister said Bolton once tried to convince him to bomb Iran.
The White House has since told Haaretz that despite Bolton's stances on Iran and Palestine, there is no change in Trump's position on a two-state solution being viable.