Bolton warns Iran of ‘hell to pay’ in impassioned NY speech

Using unusually harsh language even for Trump administration, US national security adviser tells Tehran: ‘We are watching, and we will come after you’

US National Security Adviser John Bolton speaks at a Federalist Society luncheon at the Mayflower Hotel September 10, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee/Getty Images/AFP)
US National Security Adviser John Bolton speaks at a Federalist Society luncheon at the Mayflower Hotel September 10, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee/Getty Images/AFP)

US national security adviser John Bolton warned Iran of “hell to pay” and “serious consequences” if it defies the US, using some of the most aggressive language employed by administration officials in recent decades.

Bolton delivered the speech Tuesday in New York, hosted by an organization that opposed the 2015 nuclear deal that the Trump administration withdrew from earlier this year. The speech, which saw excerpts released before the delivery, features rhetoric that is tough even by the standards of an administration fiercely opposed to Tehran.

“According to the mullahs in Tehran, we are ‘the Great Satan,’ lord of the underworld, master of the raging inferno,” Bolton told the annual summit of United Against Nuclear Iran. “So, I might imagine they would take me seriously when I assure them today: If you cross us, our allies, or our partners; if you harm our citizens; if you continue to lie, cheat, and deceive, yes, there will indeed be hell to pay.”

“The Iran deal was the worst diplomatic debacle in American history,” he continued in the speech, which coincided with the annual UN General Assembly. “It did nothing to address the regime’s destabilizing activities or its ballistic missile development and proliferation. Worst of all, the deal failed in its fundamental objective: permanently denying Iran all paths to a nuclear bomb.

“The United States is not naive. We will not be duped, cheated, or intimidated. The days of impunity for Tehran and its enablers are over. The murderous regime and its supporters will face significant consequences if they do not change their behavior. Let my message today be clear: We are watching, and we will come after you.”

Earlier Tuesday, US President Donald Trump urged the international community to isolate Iran, during a combative address before the UN General Assembly in which he accused the Tehran regime of sowing “chaos, death, and destruction.”

US President Donald Trump addresses the 73rd session of the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York, September 25, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm)

“We cannot allow the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism to possess the planet’s most dangerous weapons,” Trump said, citing Iran’s “threatening Israel with annihilation” and chants of “death to America.”

“We ask all nations to isolate Iran’s regime as long as its aggression continues and we ask all nations to support Iran’s people as they struggle to reclaim their religious and righteous destiny,” he added.

In May, Trump withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal with Iran, which was forged under his predecessor, Barack Obama. The administration tore into the deal for its sunset clauses that allow certain restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program to expire, its failure to prevent Iranian ballistic missile testing, and the partial access it provides for inspectors into Iran’s military sites.

Trump’s pullout from the deal was met with intense criticism from world leaders, especially those of the other countries — Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia — that brokered the accord.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani responded to Trump’s fiery speech by calling the reimposed sanctions “economic terrorism” and claiming the United States was plotting to overthrow Tehran’s regime.

“It is ironic that the US government doesn’t even conceal its plan for overthrowing the same government it invites to talks,” he said.

Eric Cortellessa contributed to this report.

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