US national security adviser: Iran seeking nuclear arms
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US national security adviser: Iran seeking nuclear arms

In region, Bolton says Tehran has only one reason to boost uranium enrichment — ‘to reduce the breakout time to produce nuclear weapons’

US National Security Adviser John Bolton arrives to speak at the commencement for the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut., May 22, 2019. (AP/Jessica Hill)
US National Security Adviser John Bolton arrives to speak at the commencement for the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut., May 22, 2019. (AP/Jessica Hill)

US President Donald Trump’s national security adviser said Wednesday there was “no reason” for Iran to back out of its nuclear deal with world powers other than to seek atomic weapons, a year after the US president unilaterally withdrew America from the accord.

Speaking in Abu Dhabi, the Emirati capital, John Bolton said that without more nuclear power plants, it made no sense for Iran to stockpile more low-enriched uranium as it now plans to do. But the US also earlier cut off Iran’s ability to sell its uranium to Russia in exchange for unprocessed yellow-cake uranium.

“There’s no reason for them to do any of that unless that’s part of an effort to reduce the breakout time to produce nuclear weapons,” Bolton said. “That’s a very serious issue if they continue to do that.”

Iran previously announced it was backing away from the 2015 nuclear deal, which saw it limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Trump withdrew the US from the accord saying it didn’t go far enough in limiting the Iranian nuclear program, nor did it address Iran’s ballistic missile program.

In this frame grab from Islamic Republic Iran Broadcasting, IRIB, state-run TV, three versions of domestically-built centrifuges are shown in a live TV program from Natanz, an Iranian uranium enrichment plant, in Iran, June 6, 2018. (IRIB via AP)

Iran has set a July 7 deadline for Europe to offer better terms to the unraveling nuclear deal, saying that otherwise it will resume enrichment closer to weapons level.

Bolton declined to say what the US would do in response to that.

Iran long has insisted its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes. However, Western powers pushed for the nuclear deal to limit Iran’s ability to seek atomic weapons.

“This is just more graphic evidence that it hasn’t constrained their continuing desire to have nuclear weapons,” Bolton said. “It certainly hasn’t reduced their terrorist activities in the region that we just discussed or their other malign behavior in their use of conventional forces.”

Bolton, long a hawk on Iran, also claimed — without offering evidence — that the alleged sabotage of four oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates came from naval mines placed “almost certainly by Iran.”

He told journalists that there had been a previously unknown attempt to attack the Saudi oil port of Yanbu as well.

However, Bolton stressed that the US has not seen any further Iranian attacks in the time since, something he attributed to military deployments — America recently sent an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf.

He warned the US would strike back if attacked.

Damage to the Norwegian-flagged oil tanker MT Andrea Victory off the coast of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates, May 13, 2019. (UAE National Media Council via AP)

“The point is to make it very clear to Iran and its surrogates that these kinds of action risk a very strong response from the United States,” Bolton threatened, without elaborating.

Saudi officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Bolton’s claim on Yanbu, which is the terminus, or end point, of the kingdom’s East-West Pipeline. That pipeline was attacked in recent days in a coordinated drone assault launched by Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.

In recent weeks, tensions have soared as the US beefed up its military presence in the Persian Gulf in response to a still-unexplained threat from Iran.

The US also has accused Iran of being behind a string of incidents, besides the alleged sabotage of oil tankers near the UAE coast, including a rocket that landed near the US Embassy in Baghdad, while Yemen’s Iranian-aligned Houthi rebels have launched a string of drone attacks targeting Saudi Arabia.

Bolton declined to offer any evidence in blaming Iran for the attacks, citing ongoing investigations.

“Who else would you think is doing it?” he asked rhetorically at one point. “Somebody from Nepal?”

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