“Tehran should not view the US decision to hold back from launching a retaliatory military strike against Iran as a sign of weakness”, said US National Security Advisor John Bolton told reporters in Jerusalem lately. Bolton spoke after a historic trilateral meeting with his Russian and Israeli counterparts, Nikolai Patrushev and Meir Ben-Shabbat, about regional security. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu headed the Israeli delegations at the talks.
Bolton repeated twice to reporters that Iran “should not mistake restraint as a sign of weakness.” Iran must halt its pursuit of nuclear weapons and “all options are on the table” until it does, Bolton told reporters.
“They should give up their pursuit of deliverable nuclear weapons. They should make that strategic step, they have not done it yet,” Bolton said
Prior to the meeting, Bolton said, “US President Donald Trump has held the door open for real negotiations, to completely and verifiably eliminate Iran’s nuclear weapons program, it’s pursuit of ballistic missile delivery systems, its support of international terrorism and its other maligning behavior worldwide.”
Bolton noted that other top US officials – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US envoy on Iran Brian Hook – were also in the region to discuss Iran with Arab leaders. “As we speak, US diplomats are surging across the Middle East seeking a path to peace,” Bolton said. “
In response Iran’s silence is deafening,” he added.”Iran’s provocations, which also include threats to and acts upon American personnel and assets in the Middle East, are the external manifestations of the essential threat Iran poses, namely its continued pursuit of deliverable nuclear weapons,” Bolton said.
“There is simply no evidence that Iran has made the strategic decision to renounce nuclear weapons and open realistic discussion to demonstrate that decision,” he added.
“In just a few days – perhaps by the weekend – Iran has threatened to exceed the key limits possessed by the inadequate 2015 nuclear deal, exposing once again the fatal deficiencies of that failed agreement,” Bolton said.
“All around the Middle East, we see Iran as the source of belligerence and aggression,” he said, giving as examples its support of Hezbollah in Lebanon, its assistance to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, the arming of militia groups in Iraq, the weaponizing of the Houthis in Yemen, its support of terrorist activities against US forces in Afghanistan and its threat to oil supplies.
Bolton said that the trilateral meeting was taking place at a “particularly critical moment.” The US envoy also spoke glowingly of Netanyahu’s leadership and the role he plays in maintaining Israeli security.
The trilateral meeting, Bolton said to Netanyahu, “is a tribute to your leadership and a recognition of the central role that Israel does and must play in securing international peace and security.”
He added that, “through your strong relationships with both [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin and President Trump, there is a substantially greater prospect for coordination of our perspective policies in order to achieve a secure and lasting peace in the region.”
The trilateral talks will include discussions in particular on Iran’s military presence in Syria. Israel and Russia are at odds over that presence, with Israel pushing for Iran to be ousted from Syria. Moscow holds that Israeli security is important but believes that the Assad regime has a right to open its doors to Iran
Patrushev pledged his support to the joint battle against terrorism, which his country is waging alongside Israel and the US, particularly against ISIS.
“It is extremely important to guarantee Israel’s security,” he said, recalling that there are two million Russians living in Israel.But he said that it is also important to respect other regional powers, hinting at Iran and noting that, “if we ignore them, we won’t achieve results.”
Russia is opposed to Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and Patrushev hinted at that opposition in his remarks. “There should be a peaceful, prosperous and sovereign Syria,” he said.
Netanyahu said the trilateral meeting showed that there was “a wider basis for cooperation between the three of us than many believe. This summit represents a real opportunity to help advance that stability in our region, particularly in Syria.”
“Israel has acted hundreds of times to prevent Iran from entrenching itself militarily in Syria,” Netanyahu said, adding that, “Israel will continue to prevent Iran from using neighboring territory as platforms to attack us and Israel will respond forcibly to any such attacks,” he said.
Netanyahu thanked Russia for working out a deconfliction mechanism with Israel, which allows it to operate in Syria without the risk of harming Russian forces in Syria.“All three of us [Israel, Russia and the US] would like to see a peaceful, stable and secure Syria,” Netanyahu said.
“We also have a common objective to achieve that goal… that no foreign forces that arrived in Syria after 2011 remain in Syria,” Netanyahu said. He counts Iran as one of those foreign forces. Russia believes that Iran is not included in that list, because it is there at the request of the Assad regime.
“We think there are ways to achieve that common goal. I believe the outcome that I have just described – the departure of all foreign forces from Syria, who entered after 2011 – will be good for Russia, good for the US, good for Israel and good for Syria,” Netanyahu said.
Ben-Shabbat stood behind Netanyahu, saying that regional stability could not be obtained without stopping Iran.