Bolton: Top Priority Is Ensuring Iran Never Obtains Nuclear Weapons

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) shakes hands with visiting US national security adviser John Bolton during a press conference at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem on August 20, 2018. - Bolton arrived in Israel on August 19 for talks with PM Benjamin Netanyahu at a time of shared …
SEBASTIAN SCHEINER/AFP/Getty
DEBORAH DANAN

TEL AVIV – The United States is pressuring European allies to take a stronger stand against Iran’s nuclear weapons program following Washington’s withdrawal from the “wretched” nuclear accord, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton said while on a visit to Jerusalem Monday.

“I think it is of the highest importance for the United States that Iran never get nuclear weapons capabilities,” Bolton said from the Prime Minister’s Office prior to a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“This is why President Trump withdrew from the wretched Iran nuclear deal. This is why he has imposed economic sanctions. This is why we are working with our friends in Europe to convince them of the need to take stronger steps against Iranian nuclear weapons,” he said.

This is also, Bolton added, the reason why “we continuously worry about Iran’s role as the central banker for international terrorism, this is why we worry about Iran’s belligerent military activity in Iran, in Syria, with Hezbollah in Lebanon and in Yemen.”

Bolton, who is pro-Israel and has always been vociferously opposed to the Iran deal, has met with Netanyahu twice since arriving Sunday on his first visit to the country since taking office in April.

Iran presents “global threats that pose a risk of international terrorism, especially terrorists’ possible use of weapons of mass destruction,” Bolton said.

Bolton added that the relations between Israel and the U.S. have “never been stronger,” with President Donald Trump ensuring that the ties between the two countries remain “a cornerstone of his foreign policy.”

He said it was “very important and helpful for the United States” to continue to hold regular meetings with senior Israeli officials.

Bolton opened his remarks by commenting on the “privilege and honor to be in Jerusalem, Israel’s capital,” to which Netanyahu quipped: “Say that again.”

“Israel’s capital,” Bolton said again, adding that he looked forward to visiting the newly relocated embassy in Jerusalem

Netanyahu welcomed Bolton by thanking him personally for his decades-long support and friendship, and the United States’ steadfast support.

“It’s a wonderful alliance and Israel believes that it has no greater friend and ally than the United States and I believe that the United States has no greater friend and ally than Israel,” Netanyahu said.

He added that Israel is a “peculiar” ally because of its defense policy.

“It’s a peculiar kind of ally. We’ve consistently increased our defense spending. We insist on defending ourselves by ourselves and appreciate all manner of American support, but we believe that the alliance is the alliance of the strong and like-minded, and we share America’s values of freedom and liberty.”

Netanyahu said that under Trump the countries’ alliance is stronger than ever, and that Bolton’s visit provides the opportunity to “align our policies even more closely on Iran, on Syria, on Gaza and on the many challenges that face both our countries in this region.”

He thanked Trump for walking away from the “terrible deal with Iran,” saying this was “nothing less than a hinge of history.” He also hailed the Trump administration’s “determination to re-impose tough sanctions on Iran and those doing business with Iran. I know that that view is shared by all our Arab neighbors, or practically everyone in this region.”

Netanyahu said that “all countries who care about peace and security in the Middle East should ratchet up the pressure on Iran, because the greater the pressure on Iran, the greater the chance that the regime will roll back its aggression.”

He also thanked the U.S. for its unequivocal support for Israel in international forums.

“We hear it every day, on the podiums in the White House, in the State Department, at the United Nations,” he said. “This is deeply, deeply appreciated, and deeply valued.”

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