United States national security adviser John Bolton warned Sunday that Iran should not “mistake US prudence and discretion for weakness,” days after President Donald Trump called off a retaliatory military strike against Iran after the downing of an American drone.
Bolton also warned of the possibility of a strike against Iran in the future during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.
“Neither Iran nor any other hostile actor should mistake US prudence and discretion for weakness. No one has granted them a hunting license in the Middle East,” Bolton, who has publicly and repeatedly called for regime change in Tehran in the past, said.
Vice President Mike Pence told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” Sunday, “Iran should not mistake restraint for a lack of resolve. All options remain on the table.”
Pence reiterated Trump’s previous claim that there are doubts the order to shoot down a US drone by Iran was made at the highest levels.
“We’re not convinced that it was authorized at the highest levels,” Pence said.
After Trump was provided with casualty assessments for a retaliatory strike, Pence said the President “concluded that it was not a proportionate response to shooting down an unmanned American aircraft.”
After coming within minutes of military strikes, Trump stepped back from the brink of a dangerous escalation Thursday.
The President said Friday he called off an attack because he decided there would be too many deaths for a proportionate response to the downing of the US drone.
The President’s stance on the dramatic escalation in tensions with Iran has been in stark contrast to harsh public warnings from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and particularly the views of Bolton.
Referring to Trump’s decision to call of the strike, Bolton threatened possible military action in the future. “The President said, ‘I just stopped the strike from going forward… at this time,’” said Bolton on Sunday.
“As President Trump said on Friday, our military is rebuilt, new, and ready to go – by far the best in the world,” Bolton said. “Sanctions are biting, and more were added last night. Iran can never have nuclear weapons, not against the USA, not against the world.”
Bolton concluded his remarks by saying, “Stay tuned.”
Meanwhile the United Arab Emirates’ foreign minister said Sunday that a de-escalation of tensions in the Gulf region could only be achieved via a “political solution.”
“Tensions in the Gulf can only be addressed politically,” the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs for the United Arab Emirates, Anwar Gargash, wrote on Twitter, adding that the crisis requires “collective attention” to find a solution through “dialogue and negotiations.”
“Regional voices (are) important to achieve sustainable solutions” to a crisis which has been “long in the making,” he added.
In response to Bolton’s comments, Iran’s foreign minister said the “B team” – a term he has used to collectively reference Netanyahu, Bolton, UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – was “moments away from trapping [President Trump] into war” with Iran.
“Prudence prevented it,” Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said on Twitter Sunday, in an apparent nod to Trump calling off the attacks Thursday. But added that the Trump’ administration’s policy of maximum pressure “brings tension.”
He added that he had “more evidence” of a planned attack involving “encroachment of a MQ9 spy drone,” the purchase of speedboats and “phone calls planning to attribute ship attacks to Iran.”
’Make Iran great again’
Tensions have spiked in the region since the US withdrew from the Obama-era nuclear deal with Iran last year.
The US standoff with Iran escalated Monday when the Trump administration announced the deployment of 1,000 additional troops and extra military resources to the Middle East.
By Thursday, the Revolutionary Guard Corps said it had shot down an “intruding American spy drone” after it entered Iranian territory.
The location of the drone’s downing has been a point of contention, with the Trump administration insisting the drone was in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz.
The incident has left Trump caught between some Republicans demanding a response and congressional Democrats warning that the President – and the Iran policy hard-liners on his national security staff – could lose control of the situation and lead the United States into war.
He said Saturday that the US is putting additional sanctions on Iran and he would support a course of action to “make Iran great again” should Tehran agree to a nuclear weapons ban.
Pence said Sunday that Trump will announce new sanctions on Iran on Monday, but he declined to say what those sanctions would look like.
CNN’s Kevin Liptak, Nicole Gaouette, Nada Bashir and Kate Sullivan contributed to this report.