Iran should not take President Donald Trump’s decision to call off military strikes against the country as a sign of weakness, National Security Adviser John Bolton said Sunday.
Speaking alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Bolton said no one has granted Iran a “hunting license in the Middle East.”
“As President Trump said on Friday our military is rebuilt, new and ready to go,” Bolton said.
The comments come days after Trump confirmed that he was “cocked and loaded” to strike Iranian targets but deemed the loss of life would be disproportionate to the downing of an unmanned U.S. drone earlier last week.
The president said in an exclusive interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd for “Meet the Press” on Friday that a plan was “ready to go, subject my approval.” He said he asked his generals, “I want to know something before you go. How many people would be killed, in this case Iranians?”
The generals said approximately 150 people would be killed, the president said. “And I didn’t like it, I didn’t think, I didn’t think it was proportionate.”
Bolton, a longtime Iran hawk, emphasized on Sunday that Trump had only “stopped the strike from going forward at this time.'”
He said that sanctions will continue against Tehran and that the U.S. reserves the right to attack it at a later point.
“Iran’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons, its threats to exceed the limits set in the failed Iran nuclear deal in the coming days … are not signs of a nation seeking peace,” Bolton told reporters.
“Sanctions are biting, and more added last night,” he said. “Iran can never have nuclear weapons — not against the U.S.A. and not against the world.”
Netanyahu has himself been a vocal critic of Iran over the years. Israel considers Iran to be their greatest threat, but the prime minister and Trump ally has remained uncharacteristically quiet throughout the current crisis.
Trump said Friday that he doesn’t want war with Iran, but if it comes there will be “obliteration like you’ve never seen before.”
“But I’m not looking to do that,” the president added in his interview with NBC. He said there were no pre-conditions for U.S. talks with Tehran.
The drone strike and the aborted decision to strike Iranian targets followed weeks of rising tension and attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf last week.