U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Sunday that of "the great challenges" facing Israel and the U.S., "the Iran nuclear weapons program, the ballistic missile programs are right at the top of the list."
Upon receiving Bolton at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem for an official dinner Sunday evening, Netanyahu praised him as a "tremendous friend of Israel" and a "tremendous champion of the American-Israel alliance." Netanyahu went on to describe U.S. President Donald Trump's decisions to pull out of the "terrible" Iran deal and move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem as "momentous."
Netanyahu said the most important topic he will discuss with Bolton will be "how to continue to roll back Iran’s aggression in the region and to make sure that they never have nuclear weapons." U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer also attended the official dinner.
Bolton landed in Israel for a 48-hour trip on Sunday evening, the first stop on his three-country tour taking place this week. From Israel he will fly to Geneva, where he is scheduled to meet with his Russian counterpart, Nikolai Patrushev. The fact the Bolton is stopping in Jerusalem before meeting Patrushev could signal that the Trump administration wants to hear Israel's views and positions on Syria before discussing any possible agreement with Russia on the subject.
In an interview with ABC News' "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" earlier this week, Bolton said that Israel, Russia and the U.S. all want to see an end to Iran's entrenchment in Syria and to support for Hezbollah in Lebanon. Bolton noted that he would discuss the topic with Netanyahu.
"Certainly the objective of the United States, of Israel, President Putin said it was Russia’s objective is to get Iran – Iranian forces, Iranian militias, Iranian surrogates out of the offensive operations they’re in in both Syria and Iraq and frankly, to end Iran’s support for Hezbollah," Bolton said.
According to the U.S. official, the poor state of Iran's economy following U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to pull Washington out of the nuclear deal has hampered Tehran's ability to "conduct offensive operations" in the Middle East. Nevertheless, Bolton noted that sending Iranian and Iranian-backed forces back to the Islamic Republic continues to be Washington's main objectives.
"The interest that we’re pursuing in Syria and in Iraq is the final destruction of the ISIS territorial caliphate, dealing with the ISIS territorial threat and – and getting Iran back into – getting its forces back into its own territory," Bolton said, answering a question on whether Syrian President Bashar Assad remaining in power would be an "acceptable outcome" for the U.S.
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