WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal is not a prelude to a military confrontation with Iran, National Security Adviser John Bolton said on Tuesday, moments after the dramatic announcement that the US will pull out of the agreement.
Stressing that Tehran was currently in violation of the pact not to continue work on its nuclear program, asked if cancelling the deal signaled a future attack against the Islamic Republic, Bolton told reporters that those who believed that was in the offing “would be badly mistaken,”
Known as a hawkish proponent of American military confrontation — Bolton has previously urged an attack on Tehran’s nuclear facilities and was one of the key architects of the 2003 Iraq War — the former US ambassador to the United Nations sought to assuage concerns that Washington was gearing up for war.
Since Trump first suggested his intention to walk away from the landmark international agreement struck under former president Barack Obama, Iranian officials have said they would resume their uranium enrichment should the United States back out of the accord. Analysts have posited this could leave America in a position where it will either have to attack Iran to prevent it from crossing the nuclear threshold, or live with a nuclear-armed Iran.
But Bolton portrayed the deal as “fundamentally flawed” and unable to block Iran’s path to the bomb, as it is. “It does not do what it purports to do,” he said. “It does not prevent Iran from developing deliverable nuclear weapons.”
Forged in July 2015, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action removed harsh sanctions against Iran in exchange for a series of restrictions on its nuclear program. Since the. both the US intelligence agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency have repeatedly said that Tehran is honoring its commitments under the deal.
Supporters of the deal have argued that the Trump administration renewing nuclear-related sanctions against Iran — as the president says he has instructed his treasury department to do — will effectively render the US in violation of the agreement.
Bolton dismissed that accusation. “I don’t think we’re violating it, I think we’re withdrawing,” he said, instead accusing Iran of not fully complying with the deal’s terms.
“I think there are plenty of cases where we’re simply incapable of saying whether they are in compliance or not. There are others where I think the’ve clearly been in violation,” he said, citing Iran’s production of heavy water, which he claimed exceeded the limits permissible under the JCPOA.
“You cannot say that Iran is in compliance unless you are 100 percent certain that the IAEA and our intelligence are infallible,” he said, in an admission that even US intelligence agencies have failed to produce a smoking gun proving Iranian violations.
Speaking about the immediate consequences for European countries that do business with Iran, Bolton explained that the continent’s firms will have a months-long wind-down period to abrogate existing contracts. There will be a ban on any new contracts, which would be subjected to immediate sanctions.
“The decision that the president signed today puts sanctions back in place that existed at the time of the deal, puts them in place immediately,” he said. “No new contracts are permitted.”
The former Fox News personality repeated the president’s claim that the administration is willing to negotiate a new deal with the Iranians that satisfies their concerns — something virtually the rest of the world thinks implausible.
“We’re prepared, along with the Europeans and others, to talk about a much broader deal addressing all of the aspects of Iran’s conduct that we find objectionable,” he said. “We’re prepared to do that beginning right now.”
But the longtime critic of accord also seemed to take delight in one of his major policy goals coming to fruition, less that two months after being named to his current White House position.
“We’re out of the deal,” he said. “We’re out of the deal. We’re out of the deal.”